Japan Trip – Day 3

October 16th, 2011

For a rundown of day 3 of our trip see Tony’s blog here:Kabuki Too: Electric Boogaloo

Planes, Trains, & Soba Noodles – Our family back in Japan Days 1 & 2

October 14th, 2011

First of all, this trip blog is a collaborative effort by my husband and myself. We are taking turns by writing every other day. I’ll start us off with the first two days.

This is our 2nd visit to Japan. We made our first trip in April 2010. I suppose you could say that we fell in love with the country, food, customs, culture, and people immediately. When we got home, we started to dream of returning again.

We started off our journey by hopping on an American Airlines plane. My husband had saved up enough frequent flyer miles to put himself and I in Business Class (our teen son was in Coach). I have to say that any upgrade from Coach is wonderful. The seats really recline, and the meals, free alcohol, and staff treatment make the long flight much easier to bear.

We arrived at the Narita Airport about 3:00pm Tokyo time. As we had crossed over several date lines, we had miraculously jumped forward 14hrs. Yeah, we were going to be feeling that soon. We bought tickets for the Skyliner Express train (approx $90 for the 3 of us) to Shinjuku Station. Shinjuku is the heart of the Japanese financial district. Approximately 3 million people go through the station PER DAY. It is controlled chaos, and super easy to get lost in the crowd. I may be short at 5’4″, but my son & husband are easy to pick out in the crowds.

From Shinjuku, we walked the kilometer to our Hilton hotel. Ahhh! It felt wonderful to be on the ground, and to collapse on a bed. As we had been up for 25hrs straight by this point,we decided to grab a snack in the guest lounge, waste some time reading e-mails, and get to bed early.

Hello, JET LAG! If you’ve never suffered from jet lag, let me just fill you in on what you are missing. You can’t sleep when you are supposed to. You are dead tired during the day. You feel like a zombie with no energy for about three days. Your internal system is hungry at 3am, and your intestines are all mixed up. Jet lag is your punishment for a great vacation.

On that first night, I woke up at 3am FULLY awake. I layed in bed for 2hrs more, begging my brain to turn off. I never could go back to sleep. My husband and son woke up around 4:30am. We had an early 6:30am breakfast, unpacked, and headed to Akihabara, via the subway system.

Let me just say that the Japanese do public transportation EXTREMELY well. They pride themselves on having each and every train arrive on time. Should there be a delay, they will give you a note. That way you can show your teacher or boss why you were late. Trains are RARELY late. When they are, it is usually due to what they call “human accident” (someone has committed suicide on the tracks). The train stations, tracks, and subways are spotless. The trains may be very crowded, but people aren’t rude, don’t push, and are happy to give up their seat to the elderly, parents with small children, etc. That’s something you never see in the New York or Chicago train system.

Did you know that Akihabara translates to GEEK PARADISE in Japanese? Ok, it doesn’t, but it should. This district is full of electronic stores, robot assembly shops, and toy stores. There are alleyways full of tiny shops selling anything from tiny computer components to spyware for personal use. My husband and son could probably spend our entire vacation in this district. Electronic items (i.e. cameras, phones, games, computers, etc.) that are for sale here, won’t be hitting the US market for at least 6mo. Any geek would love a preview of future geek gadgets. My guys are no exception.

We did notice in Yodobashi (HUGE geek store) that prices are higher for electronics here, than in the US. We saw a 60″ plasma t.v. that goes for $3000 in the US, selling for $8000! Talk about a price increase!

After having lunch at Yoshinoya (Bulgoki-bowl of rice covered in grilled beef and onions), we headed to Kabukicho. This is an area of town that is filled with tiny restaurants and super loud Pachinko parlors. Pachinko is kind of like an upright pinball machine. As gambling is illegal here, you win stuffed animals when you hit it big on your machine. You then take your prize to the shop next door to the parlor, and exchange your stuffed toy for money. That way, it looks like you are selling your toy to the shop, instead of gambling. Interesting, huh? These parlors also blare music so loud, that you clearly hear it outside with their doors closed. We’ve never gone into a parlor, but our ears feel like they have.

We headed back to the hotel for a hot drink, and early bedtime. Ah jet lag, you are a cruel travelling companion. We also wanted to get a good night sleep, as we were seeing a Kabuki performance tomorrow afternoon. I was really looking forward to that.

For Tuesday’s blog, go to Tony’s blog. I’ll post the url tomorrow.

Homeschooling vs. the Public’s idea of socialization

January 12th, 2011

In our years of homeschooling, I have been told that I should send my kiddo to public school. The reason is always: “They aren’t being socialized at home”. Do people even realize what they are saying here? When we go to public school, how often are we allowed to freely interact with our peers? We aren’t allowed to talk to them in class. The free play and P.E. are being cut shorter and shorter. When do we get to “socialize” at public school?

I believe that mainstream society thinks that the definition of homeschooling is: (a) Always at home (b) Never talk to anyone except for Mom & Dad (c) Only learn from textbooks

Even when I tell folks that during the school year (while others are sitting at their desks), our homeschool has allowed us to:

  1. Climb a pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula
  2. Travel to Walt Disney World 5 times
  3. Tap maple trees for sugar in New England
  4. Take care of ill/hurting relatives around the country
  5. Travel to Japan and learned about their culture
  6. Obtain a black belt degree with 9 years of martial arts
  7. Achieve 4 years of classical guitar
  8. Participate in Cub/Boy Scouts for 8 years – work our way to Eagle Scout
  9. Participate in Young Marines
  10. Do tons of field trips, park days, holiday events, and cooperatives with homeschooling groups
  11. Have an opportunity to discuss and learn about our faith freely
  12. Dress and live as we please – if we want a pajama day and to dye our hair blue…WE HAVE THAT RIGHT!
  13. Volunteer hours to our food/clothing bank
  14. Become a closer family with eating meals together, game nights, exercise, etc.

It doesn’t matter what I say. I could talk until I’m blue in the face. It doesn’t matter if my child can communicate with confidence to our local banker, postal work, grocery or hardware store clerk, etc. People don’t hear me when I say these things. All they hear is that my child isn’t like others. That’s exactly what I like about homeschooling.

When I see former public school teachers bringing their own children home to homeschool (believe me, there are quite a few that do), it makes me wonder. It also makes me realize that homeschooling is the right choice for us. No, it isn’t the right choice for many. Neither my husband nor I were homeschool students. I do know that over the years, I have learned FAR MORE academically by teaching my child than I did in public school. The freedom to learn is amazing!

Due to the way we teach/learn, I know that my child doesn’t judge others by their: skin color, religion, age, how much they spent for their sneakers, or what part of town they live in. He can have a conversation with anyone at any age. He is free to learn at his pace, and even excel in areas that are many grades above where he would be in public school. Should he get stuck on a subject, we can review and work on it until everything is crystal clear. We will learn about history the way it was lived – not with the watered down version that is taught today. We will learn about world religions, geography, and art (something that schools are cutting out). We will learn to balance a checkbook, cook a decent meal, darn socks, do car maintenance, fill out a job application, learn how to act in an interview, etc.

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it is an amazing option. Just think about it this way: If you had the option of sitting at a desk with your textbook to learn, or taking great books with you while you travel, which would you choose? Would you rather walk about the school track, or go for a long bike ride with your family? Would you rather learn about nature in a book, or go outside and experience it firsthand? Would you rather be told what will happen when two compounds are mixed, or do the experiment for yourself?

The following YouTube video sums up many conversations that I’ve had over the years. Enjoy!

Gratitude vs. Attitude

October 19th, 2010

A friend sent this to me. She knows that I tend to see the bad side first with anything personal in my life. As my husband says, I’m pessimistic when it comes to myself, my family, or money. My motto has always been: Hope for the best, but expect the worse. I know that isn’t a very good way to go about life, but it has helped prepare me for the potholes on my journey.

I think my friend sees me try to look for the good, but prepare myself for the bad. Reading this little story makes me realize that it is all about attitude. Enjoy!

Burnt Biscuits ~

When I was a kid, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she made breakfast instead of dinner after a long, hard day at work.

On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my mom, and ask me how my day was at school. I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite!

When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. And I’ll never forget what he said: “Honey I love burned biscuits.”

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, “Your Momma put in a hard day at work today and she’s real tired. And besides – a little burnt biscuit never hurt anyone!”

You know, life is full of imperfect things … and imperfect people . I’m not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like everyone else. What I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each others faults – and choosing to celebrate each others differences – is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.

That’s my prayer for you today . . . That you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the difficult parts of your life and lay them at the feet of God. Because in the end, He’s the only One who will be able to give you a relationship where a burned biscuit isn’t a deal-breaker! We could extend this to any relationship. In fact, understanding is the base of any relationship, be it a husband-wife or parent-child or friendship!

“Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket – keep it in your own.” So please pass me a biscuit, and yes, the burned one will do just fine! And please pass this along to someone who has enriched your life… I just did. Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right and forget about the ones who don’t.

Beginning of Week 2 on P90X & a better attitude

September 2nd, 2010

The funny thing about getting your head right with diet & exercise, is that you become impatient. You finally look in the mirror and say to yourself: “What the HELL were you thinking to eat all that junk over the years? Just look at you. It is going to take a while to fix this mess you’ve gotten into”. You realize that those 2nd helpings, slugging it on the couch, “sure, I’ll have dessert” moments have brought you to this point. Those slim jeans have been sobbing in the back of your closet since the Dark Ages. Why do we do these things to our bodies? For me, I know I’m an emotional eater. When I am bored or lonely, I fill the void with food that I’m really not hungry for. THAT is what has brought me to this point. Self destruction won’t get me into my slim jeans.

I finished my first week of P90X on 8/31. It was hard, but I made it. Here are a few things I noticed:

1) My upper body is made of rubber bands. I have a pull-up bar, but I’m not at the point of getting good use from it yet. For now, I’m using resistance bands and using the pull-up bar as an anchor. I sure hope I can get to the point of using that pull-up bar for real. That would rock.

2) My abs are made of Jell-O. That Ab Ripper X is….WHOA! I think that Tony Horton says that the workout has over 300 reps. I’m having to make modifications and take breaks here and there. It is a killer workout for 16 minutes.

3) Plyometrics is A LOT of jumping. If you have knee issues, be forewarned. I have mushy knees that creak and pop. I sounded like a breakfast cereal throughout this entire workout. Talk about sweating!

4) Kenpo is sort of like Turbo Jam & Tae Bo & Chuck Norris all rolled into one. I think I enjoyed that workout the most.

5) Yoga is LONG, LONG, LONG. I just couldn’t make it through 1.5 hours of yoga. I know that people adore yoga and it has a ton of benefits. I just can’t see myself doing more than an hour. Sure, I felt great afterwards, but I can only do so many Warrior #1, before I get bored.

6) Shoulders & Arms – Legs/Back aren’t that bad. I used 6lb weights in the beginning of the week, and graduated to 10lbs this week. I CAN DO THIS!

I’m guilty of not doing the Stretch video yesterday. I’ll probably do it for my 2nd week. My muscles just needed the day off for rest. I was busy with tons of other activities, so I wasn’t sedentary for my day off. I just needed a break.

Today was Day 8 on the program. I did Chest & Back + Ab Ripper X. Maybe it was my attitude this morning, but I felt stronger doing the push-ups. I really did. I still have “old lady teacher arms”, but I felt stronger using them today. I felt like my push-ups were going lower. I felt more confident. It could be my imagination, but who cares? Even if this program only tones my body a bit, and makes me more confident in my body, it was worth it.

As for my eating, I’ve been really trying to lower my carbohydrates (I’m a carb junkie usually) and increase my fruits/veggies/protein/water consumption. I traded one meal a day for a homemade smoothie. Here is the recipe:

2 T whey or protein powder
1 T ground flax
1 scoop Green Vibrance
7-8 frozen strawberries
1 c frozen blueberries
1 T rolled oats
1 cup of green tea (you can buy this in the bottle or just brew some and keep it in the fridge)
1 packet of Equal or Sweet ‘n Low (or agave nectar if I’m feeling especially health conscious)
Dash of cinnamon
Ice (3-4 cubes)

Blend for about a minute and enjoy!
(Note: I usually break up and freeze overly ripe bananas to add to my smoothie too. If you find berries or fruit in season, chop them
up and keep a big bag in the freezer just for this purpose.)

I know that these extra pounds didn’t come on overnight. It will take A LOT OF WORK to get them off. Yes, I’m impatient, but I’m also practical. Just take one day at a time.
Tomorrow is Day 9. By November, I’ll be a new me. November isn’t that far away, right? 🙂

Day 1-2 on P90X

August 27th, 2010

I’m the first to admit that I am a big marshmallow. My upper body strength is close to the consistency of orange Jell-O. My legs are strong from lots of running/Tae-Bo/Turbo Jam/Walking. From the waist up, I’m a physical wimp.

My brother recently told me that I needed to work on my muscles. I have read that women over 40 start losing muscle mass at an alarming rate. Not doing strength training a few days a week is asking for bad posture, bone loss, and possibly that “grandma slump”. I don’t want that. To me, just looking good in a bathing suit would work. Not being self-conscious in a sleeveless top would be great too. Look good naked and be proud of my body? Where do I sign up?!

We’ve all seen the infomercials about exercise programs. The ones that promise that their gadget will make you skinny overnight. I don’t buy into those. I KNOW that it takes hard work, eating right, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. Fad diets and gimmicky equipment don’t work. Hard work and persistence is always the answer.

I have seen countless posts on Sparkpeople & other fitness sites about P90X and their results. The before/after pictures are amazing. Overweight folks just like me worked their tails off and got to the end more toned, lighter on the scale, and full of confidence. Many exercise programs are all about cardio. I’m a testament that running a ton won’t make you skinny. I’ve done 3 marathons, 5 halves, and countless little runs. 100% cardio doesn’t make you skinny. It just doesn’t. Maybe throwing in strength training along with cardio would help? Hmm…why not give it a try.

I lucked out and bought the P90X disks one at a time on Ebay. I found the resistance bands & pull-up bar on there as well. All of it with shipping was around $90. Not bad. I found the literature (calendar, workout schedule, and nutrition) online. Time to get my head on straight, and commit to this for 90 days. That means working out 6 days a week AND eating right.

The first day is Chest & Back, but I didn’t have that DVD in yet. I used Shoulders & Arms instead. I started off with 6 & 10lbs weights. The workout was a challenge, but I made it through. Next up was Ab Ripper. One word: OUCH! I had to do a modified version of almost every exercise. I did stick with it, but it was really tough. I know I will get better with this, but my stomach is a bowl full of jelly right now. Day 1 down with 69min of exercise.

Day 2:
I started off the morning with Plyometrics. I had no idea what this one was about. One word: Jumping. This 55min workout is FULL of squats, lunges, and jumping. My shoulders & back were sore this morning. I’m sure my thighs are going to be hurting tomorrow. Plyometrics gets your heart rate way up there. You also sweat a TON. Once again, it was tough, but I made it through. Only 88 days to go.
I’m off to make a recovery smoothie for breakfast. 🙂

C is for cookie…and chocolate…and chips…and…

August 21st, 2010

I’ve come to the realization that foods beginning with “C” are my downfall. These foods call to me. They seem quite innocent at first, but they are fiendish little things. Just a taste, that is all they ask of me. They know that I can’t resist them. They call to me. “Eat us, Shan. We’ll stay on your thighs. We’ll make your muffin-tops into full-fledged loaves. Eat us!”

Chocolate (the milky, melts in your mouth kind)
Creamer (coffee just isn’t coffee without it)
Cookies (my husband buys these darned things when he is in town)
Chips (see Cookies)
Creamy & Crunchy peanut butter
Candy (I’m usually good w/this unless it is Halloween)
Cheese (melted, shredded, in chunks…yeah. Dangerous stuff)

I know that this is my imagination, but it seems like foods starting in “C” are my DANGER foods. How can I avoid these foods? I just thought of it!

“C” is for CELLULITE

No thanks, C-foods. I usually stick with the motto: “Everything in moderation”. However, I really need to be careful with you guys. Just because I “SEE” you, doesn’t mean I have to “EAT” you. emoticon

Life lessons I wish I could have told my teen self

August 13th, 2010

I was just telling a childhood friend via Facebook that we are all a work in progress. Things didn’t seem to go exactly as she had planned earlier in life. Do they ever go as we plan?

I think we all have experiences in our lives that have formed who we are today. Some were amazing and some were awful. You know what? We are getting better with time. We are far better than we were yesterday, but are not quite there compared to tomorrow.

I was thinking of a way to encourage this childhood friend. What have I learned over the years? What advice would I give to my younger, teen self now? What will I try to pass on to my teen son before he goes out into the world? This is my list. If you have others, feel free to post them!

1)Learn from mistakes in your past. If you regret the outcome, don’t do it again!

2)Not everyone will like you in this world, no matter how hard you try. You can’t change others. You can only change yourself and how you react to the world around you.

3)Bullies are EVERYWHERE. They take your lunch money on the school ground, are in the locker room in high school, take the guy/girl you worship in college, and are in the office cubicle or adjacent church pew when you are an adult.

4)Stay true to yourself and stand for what you believe in. Even if you are the only one in the room that feels that way.

5)What goes around ALWAYS comes back to you. Make sure that it is good coming your way.

6)Tell those that you love how much they mean with words AND actions EVERY DAY.

7)Think before speaking. Those nasty words can never be taken back.

8)Be happy with the little things in life. Financial tragedy can come at any time. Enjoying a board game, playing in the sprinkler, or watching falling stars doesn’t cost anything. Be thankful for what you have. Someone ALWAYS has it worse than you do.

9)Forgiveness is hard to give, but it is crucial. When there is hate and anger filling your heart, you can’t give all of your love to others. Let it go. Nothing/no one is worth all the negative anger, sleepless nights, etc. Let it go!

10)It is NEVER, NEVER, EVER too late to change your path. If you don’t like where you are right now, CHANGE IT! Go back to school, move to a new place, get a different job, start exercising & eating right, etc. JUST DO IT, ALREADY!

11)Life is too short to be surrounded by people you don’t like. If the people around you aren’t enhancing your life, they don’t need to take up space in your life. This is ESPECIALLY TRUE with those that put you down or make you feel badly about yourself. Yes, some of these people can be relatives. This statement applies to them too. If your aunt makes you feel badly about yourself, STAND UP AND TELL HER. Tell your aunt you love her, but you DO NOT DESERVE how you are being treated. Sometimes, distancing yourself is what is best for YOU.

12)Realize that you influence the lives of many – treat yourself with love and respect too. Be a friend to yourself. Pamper yourself. Love you for what you are.

What a wonderful quote! I’ve found one of these guys, and I am NOT giving him up!

August 8th, 2010

“Find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will lie under the stars and listen to your heartbeat, or will stay awake just to watch you sleep… wait for the boy who kisses your forehead, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats, who holds your hand in front of his friends, who thinks you’ re just as pretty without make-up on. One who is constantly reminding you of how much he cares and how lucky he is to have YOU… The one who turns to his friends and says, thats her…” – UNKNOWN

An Experiment on doing a 3-day fruit/veg detox

July 28th, 2010

I’ve been curious about doing this for a while. I recently saw an advertisement for a fruit/veg detox cleanse (a beautiful actress owns this company). They charge almost $200 for 3 days worth of juice! Wowwiee! I read the ingredients thoroughly on her webpage, and decided to give it a try. I went to the store and bought pretty much everything that were in her juices. How much did I spend? $41!

The first day was EXTREMELY difficult. Ok, that is an understatement. Hard, hard, hard. I found that I had a splitting headache at the end of the day. I had nothing but fruit smoothies (berries, banana, kiwi, peaches), and fresh squeezed veggie juice (spinach, kale, parsley, cucumber, beet root, carrot, celery).

Let me just say that I eat healthy 95% of the time. Honestly, I do. I don’t drink caffeine or soda. I don’t eat white flour. I don’t add sugar or salt to my foods. I eat lots of whole grains & brown rice. I drink between 8-12 glasses of water a day. I could eat more fruits & veggies, but I do have a homemade fruit smoothie for breakfast most mornings. I don’t eat chips and rarely eat cookies (I can go off the wagon now and then and have a cookie binge, but it rare). I usually eat fish/chicken/turkey and rarely eat red meat. I love eggs but eat them in moderation. I love to run, and I do that 3-5 days a week. I try to sleep, but have a hard time getting in 8 hours when my husband is out of town. I do eat chocolate. That is my downfall. I don’t go crazy with it though. I buy Hershey’s Sugar Free syrup and add that to unsweetened almond or fat free cow milk. I buy chocolate chips and measure out a small amount when I have a chocolate emergency. I thought eating nothing but fruits/veggies wouldn’t be that hard. I was wrong.

On the second day, I woke up with a headache. A MASSIVE headache. What is wrong with me? I had lots of water the day before. Maybe I just needed to eat. I continued with a fruit smoothie for breakfast, and veggie juice for snack. By noon, my stomach was rumbling like a 8.2 on the Richter Scale. I needed *CRUNCH*! I pulled out the salsa and dipped celery stocks into it. Nope. Not enough. I steamed mushrooms and garlic and ate those. I had a banana. I had more veggie juice for afternoon snack. I grilled: zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, and sweet peppers along with a few chicken breasts(for my family) for dinner. I was planning on eating just veggies, but the chicken was calling to me. I gave in, and had a breast. I swear that after 20min, I felt GREAT after eating the chicken. GREAT!

I woke up on the third day with a “this is the last day, make the most of it” attitude. I had a fruit smoothie for breakfast. I started to guzzle water. I had dandelion tea (tastes like bitter coffee) with unsweetened almond milk & agave nectar in it. I had a glass of veggie juice for snack, and left over grilled veggies for lunch. Afternoon snack were 1/2 a banana (my dogs love the other half) and 1.5 cups of blueberries. For dinner? 1.5 cups of black beans swimming in salsa, and fresh fruit salad. I threw in the towel and had some vanilla ice cream for dessert. I didn’t go crazy with it. I just had a small cup. It was like finding water after wondering the dessert for 40yrs.

So, what is the verdict? I can tell you that I have been cranky for the last several days, and have made countless trips to the bathroom. I know that celebrities swear by juicing, but it isn’t easy. Our bodies NEED carbohydrates. I try to be creative with artistic projects, and I am constantly thinking hard about my next move. My brain isn’t meant to function without energy. I found that when I had carbohydrates (i.e. black beans), I felt better.

Summary: Fad diets and depriving yourself IS NOT THE WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT. Let me say that again: Deprivation will lead to binging (or falling off the wagon with a cup of ice cream). I think that eating in moderation and exercise is the way to go. Putting yourself on no carbohydrates, no protein, etc. is NOT healthy for your body. I definitely proved to myself that well balanced eating works better for my body.

Will I do this again? Nope. Smoothies and fresh veggie juice is great, but give me lean proteins and whole grains/legumes too. I never stepped on the scale before/after this experiment. I just wanted to see if I could make it through the 3 days. Tomorrow is a new day. I’m back to healthy, well balanced eating, AND fruit smoothies & fresh veggie juices. Everything in moderation, Shan. Everything in moderation.

Happy, healthy eating to you!

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