December 20, 2006
It sometimes is not all that much fun to get back to real life is it? But along with the tiresome and the mundane also comes the warm welcome of missed loved ones.
Things at work are not all that great right now, frankly. Joe, my main clerk is gone, having been transferred to another prison camp. Major bummer for me, as we have changed vendors and new ordering procedures must now be figured out. Also, my mail basket is full, after being gone a mere three weeks, and the store is running out of just about everything. I am grateful for the help of Jackie, the store clerk from Windy Camp who came out twice while I was away and ran store for the Calvin prisoners. She has left me a pageful of notes. I am unable to log onto my computer and while waiting for the help desk to answer their phone, I read through it. She tells me I may have log-in issues, due to her working from my location. Too right, but soon I am reset and ready to go. I work two hours over, and could have used at least two more. Not having had time to go to the grocery store, I hit up sisterinlaw Pat for the wherewithal for UltraDad’s dinner and next-day work lunch. She has a care package waiting for me to grab when I show up 5 minutes before UltraDad is due home. Today, Saturday, she and I go “to town” and I fill my grocery basket with food to stock empty cupboards and fridge.
My house is a stuff-everywhere-just-returned-after-a-three-week-absense mess, but I whirlwind through it. I’m about to have some very important company. Johnny, on break from Law School in Tennesee, Jim on break from College in northern Idaho, and, most importantly, his girlfriend Jessica, whom I have yet to meet. I get a call from Jim, en route. “Do you want me and Jessica to make pizza for dinner tonight? Do you have all the ingredients?” An emphatic “Yes” to the first question, and “I will by the time you get here,” to the second.
They arrive and noisily fill the house with their welcome presence. I like Jessica immediately; she gamely teams up with me as partner for Cranium and Catchphrase. And, I gotta admit, though the pizza crust recipe she uses is mine, she takes it to a new level. Hail the new pizza Queen. The boys have brought a football, and one afternoon, Jim, Johnny, Jessica and I head off to the park to play a little pigskin. Unlike the Thanksgiving day game, I am catching terribly, at least until I remove my gloves. I decide frozen hands are a small price to pay for good catching hands until my hands start feeling like two blocks of ice dangling from my wrists. Finally Jessica and UltraMom decide to watch from the car as the UltraBrothers throw long passes and attempt to kick the ball through the goalposts. At a Tabloid Teaser game a bit later, UltraMom dominates as the others are unable to differentiate her made-up tabloid headline from an actual one. UltraMom is justifiable proud of her prevarication skills.
Monday, UltraDad finally has a day off and takes the kids into Elko for dinner at the Star, a local Basque restaurant that serves the best steak sandwiches on the planet. When UltraMom gets off work, we all head back in for a Christmas Party put on by one of the prison officers. This house is the scene of nearly all the parties, and I have heard it described as the ultimate bachelor pad. Not an exaggeration. Lots of stuffed animals (real ones), drinking plaquards and slogans on the walls, a bar, and a large Elvis memorabilia collection. The food is awesome, including some gumbo made, as was most of the food, by the officer’s sister, who lives nearby and works as a nurse at the local youth correctional facility. We are given tickets for periodic drawings held throughout the evening. Jessica walks away with tons of prizes, including, to her delight, lots of chocolate.
On Tuesday, the kids head for Howe for other visiting and adventures.
UltraMom has her first Weight Watcher meeting since returning from Japan. The scale news isn’t pretty, but still within her weigh goal. There are a coupla new members, and everyone is welcoming. What a great group.
Wednesday morning, early, UltraMom and Pat head into the hospital. Pat is having some long-needed, long-put off surgery on her knee and toe. As we chat and wait in her surgery-waiting room, UltraMom keeps dozing off in her chair. Pat is envious; she will need drugs to fall asleep before going under the knife…..........and scope. Kathy, sister of Pat and UltraDad will come to town to drive Pat home and spend the night with her.
Work continues to be stressful; I work about 8 extra hours for the week, and am still not caught up. But Christmas is coming; UltraDad will have 4 days off in a row and the UltraYoungestSons will be home on Friday.
Dec 25, 2006
What a great day. The UltraSons made it home late Friday night, after taking Jessica back home to spend Christmas with her family. UltraDad and/or I are going over to Pat’s a coupla times a day to help with her dogs, though she is recovering nicely and says she will soon be able to manage on her own. Sunday we have lunch in Elko and do a little last minute shopping. We usually have “Hickory Farms” type snacks for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, but this year UltraJimbo is going to make his famous hamburgers. “I always feel a little sick after just eating sausage and cheese for dinner,” he comments. We all agree, and iin the end, have Jim’s famous burgers AND sausage and cheese. Not sure about the others, but I feel a little sick…...........
Then its time for our traditional Christmas Eve program. It is one we have done in my family since I was a child, and we have continued the tradition with our own kids. UltraDad reads the program, stopping in appropriate places for carols to be sung, Bible passages read, and lines recited while candles are lit. The story is ageless; the birth of Jesus to a virgin, Mary and laid to rest in a manger in a stable because there was no room in the Inn. God sent his son so that we might be reconciled to him. We end by praying for loved ones not with us.
Christmas morning starts out a bit anti-climactically. but once chores are done, breakfast eaten, and UltraMom has cleaned up the broken glass from the small snow globe she knocked to the floor, we are ready to start anew. Jim has been sleeping in the living room where the tree is, but I hustle him and Johnny back into the hall so they can enter the room and pretend to be surprised by the stuffed stockings. Both of these youngest UltraSons were born in December, and at that time, the Hospital Auxilory made a red Christmas stocking for each child born in that month, large enough to contain a bundled baby, and packaged with a tiny Santa baby-head-sized hat. The boys always lay out these stockings for “Santa” and the pets usually use the hats. Rowdy sneaks up and pulls the treats out of his “stocking” and is going for Murphy’s before I intervene. Soon everyone, including UltraDad is dumping oranges, nuts, candy and small toys out of their stockings.
Now its time to unwrap gifts. True to tradition, we take turns selecting gifts, and open them one at a time, savoring. Some are tricky, as a note inside may direct you to look elsewhere or give that gift to someone else. UltraDad gets an awesome Cabella’s walking stick and a lounge chair. UltraMom gets a leather jacket and a nano. UltraMom is spoiled. Jimbo gets a digital camera and, from the girlfriend, is blown away to open the GPS of his dreams. Johnny gets a new football game for his Game System and a New Orleans Saints freezer mug.
We bring Pat over and have ham dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, and peach pie. Perfect.
Later, we play a little pinochle. The only team combination not tried thus far is UltraMom-Jimbo and UltraDad-Johnny, so we try it out. Johnny has been bragging that whatever team he is on always wins. Jimbo and UltraMom prove him wrong. Twice.
Tomorrow, its back to work for UltraMom and Dad. I guess all good things must come to an end. How was your Christmas?
He Must Really Love Her
He must really love her………
A phrase that keeps going through my mind
As I watch my son, dressed in a Japanese men’s kimono for all to see,
A nervous grin glued to his face, a smile that only periodically reaches to his eyes.
He must really love her………
As I watch him watch her enter the room, exquisitely, exotically beautiful in a
White wedding dress complete with veil and long flowing train;
Clearly he has eyes only for her.
He must really love her…
As I hear him recite the vows he has written, describing his long-time companion,
now his wife, as his best friend,
someone it seems he has always known and will always love and cherish.
He must really love her….
As the program goes on and he does all the right things at the right times,
Posing for endless pictures, bowing and thanking and being gracious,
his beautiful wife by his side.
He must really love her…
As speeches are given, toasts and congratulations, ending with some words from my son,
Then I look again, with new eyes at the two, now a couple and at the bride,
now clad in a striking green kimono,
Proud and stately and loving beside her husband, my son
And I think of their long history together and trips back and forth across an ocean;
Okay, I promised you a copy of the speech I worked on for approximately 58 hours and delivered to many tears, mostly mine, at the Ultras Wedding. UltraBob mentioned that he had to listen to it twice as he heard my English, and the translators Tomoko-translated Japanese. It seems she did a smashing job, or perhaps even improved it, cause the Japanese speakers seemed to like it too.
UltraBob claims that the only reason he teared up was because I said he was absent minded. But he soon forgot all about it.
And now a little document I like to call:
UltraMom’s Speech at Bob and Tomoko’s Wedding
I have traveled across an ocean to take part in this joyous celebration: the union between Bob and his beloved Tomoko.
Bob is my son, but both of them call me Mom, which is a great source of joy to me.
Bob had been going to college in Boise, Idaho for a few years when one day he called and told us he had met someone special. Of course, that someone was Tomoko, and Bob was eager for us to get together.
I was apprehensive about meeting Tomoko for the first time. Would we like each other?
Was she the right person for my much-loved son? I need not have worried.
I liked Tomoko from the first, and felt an immediate connection. She fit right into our family, and was a very good sport about trying new things, such as horseback riding and shooting rifles. It was clear that Tomoko had been raised in a loving family with the same good values we had tried to instill in our children. Several years ago, we were fortune enough to meet Tomoko’s father, Motoji in person, when he accompanied Bob and Tomoko on a trip back to the United States. We found him to be charming, easy-going and interested in everything. I am very happy to at last have the chance to meet Tomoko’s mother, Yuri, as well as the rest of the family.
One Thanksgiving Bob and Tomoko were visiting us. Tomoko was excited to have a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, and took a large spoonful of cranberries, a tart-sweet American fruit always served with Thanksgiving turkey. From the face she made, it was very clear that cranberries were NOT to her liking, something we still tease her about. The next day, we decided to have a Japanese Thanksgiving and Tomoko made us some delicious Miso Soup and a Curried Beef with Rice.
Tomoko is smart, funny, artistic, and plays the piano like a dream. One time I jokingly asked Bob: What does she see in you?
What could this talented, beautiful girl see in my Bob?
Who started out “blue”?
Whose favorite book is still “Jim Jump?”
Who gets weak-kneed at the thought of nerds or candy corn?
Who puts things off and has a tendency to play video games when he should be working?
Who is a little messy, a little impatient, and more than a little absent minded?
I guess, like me, she sees the man
Who is caring and generous and delights in delighting those he loves
Who makes me laugh with his gentle teasing and crazy, off the wall sense of humor
Who is passionate about what he believes and indignant at perceived injustice
Who is intelligent and capable enough to run a successful business in a highly competitive field
Who is handsome and sweet and sentimental
Who is making his home in a land half a world away from where he started to be with her
Who makes his parents proud beyond belief
And, most importantly, who loves Tomoko with every fiber of his being, and wants to create a lifetime and a legacy with her, melding the qualities of farm boy from Idaho with city girl from Japan into a whole that is somehow better than the sum of their parts.
It is my prayer that, with God’s blessing, this love and this union will continue to perfect, grow and mature. Bob and Tomoko, I could not be happier or more proud to have you, BOTH of you, call me Mom. Dad and I love you very much.
Hello Everyone. When I first got to Japan, it was my intention to blog each day’s activities as they occurred. As you may have noticed, it didn’t quite happen that way. But have no fear, you shall still get an accounting of each day and every detail my foggy mind can summon up…..........all in good time, as they say.
But now, UltraMom is finally home again, safe and sound after an arduous journey across sea and land. Three boys (Two very small and hairy and one very large and moderately hairy) were very glad to see me. I do, however, have mixed feelings about being home. On the plane ride home, Heather and I started making a list of the things we would, and would not miss about Japan. Here, for your entertainment and enlightenment, is a partial list:
We are glad to get home to: western-style toilets in public places, complete with hot water, soap and paper towels; other soda choices besides coca cola; wider (not so thin) roads; being able to understand what people are saying:)
We miss: heated floors and heated toilet seats; vending machines everywhere that dispense your choice of a wide variety of hot or cold drinks, including hot corn soup and milk tea; grocery store pastries filled with melted cheese (Heather especially misses this one); sticky rice, Japanese curry, Japanese ramen noodles, Tomoko’s chilli, and melty kisses; no tipping in restaurants or really anywhere (Heather, the waitress, has mixed feelings about this one), plastic models of food menu items outside restaurant windows with prices displayed; a great recycling system for both garbage and water; being able to walk to the ocean; being able to walk or catch a great mass transit system to just about anywhere you need to go; interesting markets and shops, and giftwrapping; Yuri’s welcoming hospitality, Motoji’s garden-field and noodles, Mitsuhiro’s karaoke singing, Yukiko & Makoto’s friendliness; playing CatchPhrase and Cranium with Kristen, Todd, MJ, Yoshi, Jonathan, Sachiko & Jim and Kristen’s informative Tokyo tours; and most of all sharing love, fun and laughter with two of my favorite children. Miss you Bob and Tomoko.
The Wedding. What more can I say? A lot, that’s what. I just hope I can do it justice. When I get back home and can upload some of my photo attempts, I will use the ‘picture worth 1000 words’ method to better illustrate some of my descriptive attempts. Until then, you may have to use your imagination.
I tried to find the Wedding Agenda I have been given a copy of to aid my memory, but my memory being what it is, I seem to have misplaced it. So I must be forgiven if I leave some stuff out, cause there was a LOT to this shindig.
We later heard that UltraBob got in from his so-called bachelor party sometime in the wee hours of the morning, but he and UltraGirl were still out of the house by 7 a.m. Heather and I got up soon afterward and were out of the house by 8:30, only one-half hour later than we originally planned, but still in time to meet UBob’s friends in front of Zushi Station. The wedding would start at 10 a.m., and over by 1:30 p.m. Several taxi-cab companies had been contracted with to take us all to the wedding, and M.J. and Yoshi quickly located one. Heather hopped in with them, and Kristen and I caught another and we were off. I had long been nominally acquainted with M.J. and Kristen through blogging, and it was great to finally get to have a face-to-face. Taking advantage of their friendship, UBob had asked Kristen to videotape the wedding, and her husband Todd to be one of the speakers. Yoshi would be playing a guitar solo, and M.J. very helpfully acted as impromptu translator for me and Heather for certain parts of the program.
As some of you may remember the ceremony took place at a French Restaurant / Bridal Center overlooking the beach in Sagami Bay, Kanagawa. It was a beautiful setting, with the ocean as a backdrop behind the wedding pair. When we first entered, we were given a drink and escorted to tables to wait. There we finally met UltraGirl’s mother, Yuri and her brother, Mitsuhiro. We had already met her father, Motoji, when he visited the US with the UltraKids several years ago. We were also introduced to numerous relatives, mostly uncles and cousins. We met a few more of UBob’s non-Japanese friends as well. Stuart, his Japanese wife, and their adorable 2-yr old son were all dressed in kilts. Jeremy, Jonathan & wife were also there; the men had earlier that very morning been bachelor partying with UBob. The MC at the wedding was an attractive Japanese woman, often used for these types of events because she spoke fairly good English. At the right time, the immediate families of the main event were gathered near the foot of the stairs. UltraBob entered, wearing a traditional man’s Japanese wedding kimono, complete with rope tied to fuzzy ball that stopped somewhere about his middle, and which, judging by how often he fingered it, he became quite attached to before the day was over. Then UltraGirl walked in a slow and stately manner down the stairs on Motoji’s arm. She was absolutely beautiful wearing a traditional American wedding dress, complete with veil and long train. Followed a reenactment of the proposal & acceptance a recitation of original wedding vows, exchanging rings, and the ‘kiss’. I was thankful that UBob’s vows were in English, one of the few times I would hear it spoken by key participants. I was touched to hear him say that UltraGirl was his best friend & someone he felt he had always known, and to vow his undying love. I assume UltraGirl said something similar, but am unable to verify. I think it was after this that family was assembled for photos.
Upstairs we were seated at long, elegantly decorated tables. UltraGirl had explained to us that traditionally, close family is seated as far away from the wedding couple as possible to honor the other guests, but this time they had decided to change the custom and seat families closeby, which made me very happy. Motoji and I were seated across from each other on the end, right across from the head table where the UltraKids held court. Yuri and Heather were next, then one of Motoji’s brothers and Mitsuhiro. Various other relatives filled out the rest of the table, but I have to admit that Heather was much better at keeping track of them all than I was. There were several other tables, and about 50 guests in all.
We were served the most amazing meal with numerous courses. Lets see the first one was some sort of pepper paté served in a small sherbet glass. Followed a clam salad, bean soup, fish plate, some wonderful roast beef and a dessert. I may have left some out; it seemed like more than that. Fresh rolls were frequently brought around, as well as drink of choice. Heather amazed everyone by her proficiency with the chopsticks, while I amazed everyone by continually using the wrong utensils and having to have them replaced before I could eat my next course. The cake was presented, and the first piece fed by each other to bride and groom, but unlike American weddings were that can turn into a cake shove, both were very careful to make as little mess as possible. Then the happy couple themselves served the cake to the guests. During all this, people were continually coming up the UltraKids for photos in different combos; Heather and I were requested for a few. There were several speeches given in there; one by UltraBob’s friend Todd, as I already mentioned, and several by Uncles. Yoshi played his guitar solo, after which everyone (who knew the song) joined in a community sing. In about the middle of everything, it was announced that UltraGirl would be leaving for a costume change, and that someone would be honored by being chosen to accompany her. This lucky someone ended up being Heather, and was a total surprise to her. She later told me that UltraGirl had to keep asking her to walk more slowly and she had a hard time not stepping on the long train, but she was really excited to be chosen. I was similarly honored to escort UltraBob out of the room, but his costume remained the same. When UltraGirl reentered the room, she was dressed in an exquisite green kimono, in which she remained throughout the rest of the wedding.
Near the end, a slide show was presented, showing pictures of UltraBob and UltraGirl as babies, children and finally as adults, together. Mitsuhiro narrated in Japanese, but I was grateful for English captions on the screen. Also, M.J. scooted her chair close and helped us understand some of the running commentary. Then the UltraKids presented their mothers with an armload of fragrant yellow flowers.
Soon, it was the time I had been semi-nervous about all evening; time for my speech. UBob, UGirl, Motoji and I were called up the front of the room. The MC announced that we had all written letters. The UKids letters were presented to their respective parents to be read later , privately , but the parents’ letters were to be read out loud. UBob helpfully held my flowers, and I read my prepared speech. The speech had been sent to UltraGirl weeks before so she could translate, and in the new copy I had been given were notations of where to stop so the speech could be translated into Japanese. I worked so hard on that speech, and hope it sounded okay and said all that I wanted it to say. I must admit I broke up a bit, but I think UltraBob did too, so that was okay. When I get home, I plan to publish the speech on a day I don’t feel like writing a new post, so you can look forward to that! Motoji gave the next talk, but like most of the others, it was 100% in Japanese, as was UBob’s speech that concluded the festivities. The language barrier, though unavoidable, definitely kept me from experiencing everything as completely as I would have liked, but I really appreciated the efforts that were made to keep us in the know. I did learn to bow, and got lots of practice as I said arrigatozoimasta along with the others.
Finally back home, UltraBob announced that he wanted to take his bride off to a hotel to spend the night, a plan Heather and I heartily endorsed. We were able to entertain ourselves by getting a pizza from a local parlor called “Strawberry Cones”, an unusual name, I think for such an establishment. We got a 4-variety pizza: ?Camembert cheese, Shrimp, America Meat, and Teriyaki chicken. Really good.
Stay tuned tomorrow for UltraMom and Heather’s big walking adventure.
For now, syanara
Dec 1, 7:15 p.m.
I’m a little more sure of the date today, at least where I am. For you guys stuck in the past, still in November, let me just tell you that December is great, at least so far.
We have been in Japan for two days now, and while I may be only fooling myself, I feel pretty much acclimated to the time difference already. Tomorrow morning is the big wedding, so of course we are greatly anticipating that. UltraBob&Girl will be leaving the house very early, and Heather and UltraMom will walk, all by themselves, to the train station to meet Kristen, who will then go with us and make sure we get the right taxi and arrive where we need to be on time. Yesterday morning was pretty much devoted to making sure we knew the correct route to the bus station. UltraBob made it as simple as possible with only three turns to remember; once we reach the main street from the house and turn left in front of the park, we follow the road to the 7-11 convenience store, turn right and keep going til we get to the station. Just to make sure, we did another walk through today, and I’m pretty sure we’ve got it.
Heather just walked by and informed me that, in reading recent posts, she has noticed several glaring errors. To name a few: the ride from Tokyo took over TWO hours, not one. Huh….seems to me like I just closed my eyes and we were here. Also, she feels she did not receive enough credit for finding our connecting flight gate in Los Angeles. What does she want, a medal or something? I think a “Kudos” from UltraMom should be all anyone could ask for, but whatever, dude.
UltraGirl has been very busy with Wedding Plans. She was gone most of yesterday, but still managed to fix us the most amazing meal for supper. It was some sort of seasoned beef strips with vegetables served with the sticky rice I am becoming increasingly fond of. Today was delicious chinese cabbage soup and a fried rice dish. I could easily get used to this.
Very near the UKids’ house is a Park, complete with several public swimming pools, now closed for the season, a soccer field, and some areas for children to play, complete with old fire truck for climbing on. I think there are also tennis courts and a gym inside that UBob sometimes makes use of for approx $3.00/day. In one area is a large, decorative sun dial. When I remarked on it, UBob pointed out the large conventional timepiece mounted nearby on a tall pole. “You’d think they would have noticed there was already a clock here before they went to all that work on the sundial,” he quipped.
We enjoyed looking at the different shops along the way, and especially liked the supermarket. At the bakery inside were lots of different meal-type pastries. A certain color of sign next to a tray denoted ‘hot and fresh.’ UBob picked out several types, including some cheese/tomato/basil turnover sized pastries, and cheese popovers. We took our purchases to a nearby Starbucks and enjoyed our repast with coffee and hot chocolate. “These bakeries are one thing I really miss when I return to the US for a visit,” UBob informed us. I can see why.
Today our walk ranged a little further past the train station, and we walked to a nearby beach. On the way, we stopped to look at a fish market with an amazing variety of fresh fish, octopus, seaweed and shellfish. Next to the beach is a small wind-surfing school and we saw several people out in the surf practicing. Heather and I each picked up a sandy pocketful of small seashells before UBob found us plastic bag for our treasures. We skipped some rocks in the surf, and I just had to take my shoes & socks off and walk in the ocean. The weather was perfect for this adventure.
The UltraKids’s house is much roomier than I had expected and is very nice. Many things about homes here are different than the ones I have been accustomed to in the US. The floors are all wood, and I think carpeting is rare. One of the rooms has a heated floor, which we really enjoy since it is a bit cool here this time of year. There is no central heating, but the house is not drafty. Many things that in the US are made of metal or ceramic are constructed of a durable plastic here. The toilets are interesting; a sink is mounted above, and when you flush, water comes out for handwashing before cycling down to fill the toilet. The shower room is very nice and also contains a tub. There is also a small TV mounted into the wall, but I don’t think the kids use it much. You press a button to heat the water when a shower is eminent, and a different button turns on a fan to dry the room out. Noone here has a clothes dryer, and you see many types of clothes-drying apparati around the neighborhood full of drying laundry. I hear that once in a while trucks come by selling laundry drying poles and such. Recycling is mandatory here, and trash is divided into about 4 different categories. Each day trash is taken to a collection place and inserted behind the blue mesh (to keep out marauding animals) for pickup. A different day is denoted for each category of trash, and apparently UltraGirl stays right on top of it. The kitchen is nice, with large pull out drawers for storing dishes and utensils, but no oven. Ovens are rare here, and the kids have a separate microwave and toaster oven. They do, however, have a fish grill. But NO dishwasher, unless, according to him, you count UltraBob.
Tonight UBob went out with friends for a little pre-wedding boys’ party. UGirl fed us some amazing spaghetti with vegetables. Then Heather washed her hair, while UGirl and I watched a couple of episodes of “Third Rock From the Sun”. I used the term “watched” loosely; I realized I wasn’t watching all that closely when I woke myself up snoring, and we soon went off to bed, with visions of sugarplums, or maybe wedding festivities, dancing in our heads. Tomorrow: THE WEDDING