Blog

Thailand Part One

 

I thought Bali would be an impossible trip to top; but Thailand was RIGHT on par! We got a great deal on airline tickets through one of the budget airlines in Japan. However, this meant that we had to spend some time in Bangkok before we ended up in our ultimate destination of Phuket. I honestly wished we had, had more time in Bangkok because I wanted to visit the Royal Palace and the Reclining and Emerald Buddhas. This just means we will have to schedule another trip back to Bangkok ;).

Bangkok is typically not viewed as a super ‘family friendly’ place, however if you take simple precautions it’s absolutely doable. I mean obviously things aren’t super clean (nor were they in Phuket), but we never felt threatened or uneasy. We did wear our backpacks on our fronts once we arrived in Bangkok, and I didn’t carry a purse. We stayed alert to our surroundings and had the kids hold our hands at all times. But simple enough precautions, for a trip of a lifetime :).

Something to note about Bangkok is that there are two airports that are about 30-45 minutes away from one another. Suvarnabhumi is the international airport that we flew into and it is CRAZY busy! I have never been in an airport like it. It’s been a while since I’ve flown out of Atlanta, DFW, or Denver…but from what I remember this place was twice as crazy! We left Japan around 10 PM and arrived in Bangkok about 1:30 AM (there is a two hour time difference between the two countries). I had booked a hotel through booking.com that was close to the airport and had a free shuttle service. I also accidentally paid $12 for two bottles of water at a 7/11 in the airport (my math is shoddy anyway…add in a ‘no-sleep’ factor, a conversion rate, and foreign currency and it’s nothing short of a hopeless situation). My biggest fear when traveling overseas, is one of us contracting some sort of crazy stomach bug and ruining our trip. So all-in-all two $12 Evian waters was worth it (or at least that’s the lie I’ll continue to tell myself lol).

The staff at the hotel we stayed overnight in was awesome. They were incredibly kind and accommodating, however the hotel itself needed a good scrubbing. After we went to breakfast at  the hotel the next morning and I watched one of the cooks dig in her nose for a solid minute and go back to cooking I decided I would book a different hotel for our stay in Bangkok, on the way back. Of course, no matter where we are in the world my kids just want to swim in the pool. The hotel pool was emerald green, and I wasn’t allowing it, haha so I was NOT my kids’ favorite parent. Let’s be honest, I’m never the favorite parent…but I wasn’t helping my case with the ‘no pool’ rule ;).

One of the awesome things about Bangkok is how incredibly cheap it is. A 45 minute taxi ride came out to something like $3. We drove to the other airport in Bangkok, Don Mueng, where we took a Thai domestic airline to Phuket. We were all so happy to get to Phuket, and the kiddos were exhausted. They were rockstars when it came to travel! They did pass out in our taxi from the airport to our resort though., which ended up being about an hour/hour and fifteen minute drive.

Our first evening at the resort in Phuket we really just spent time at the beach and soaking up what the resort had to offer. The second day we were in Phuket the kids attended a kids’ club for the majority of the day where they got to practice archery and golf. They also swam, played on a trapeze and did arts and crafts. Garrett and I enjoyed Yoga at the resort, adult beach and pool time, and we also got a couples’ massage which was nice.

Thailand is well known for their floating and night markets. So the second evening we were there we scheduled an outing in Phuket Town to one of the night markets there. We got to sample a lot of the street food and see what the markets had to offer. Of course Blake was my adventurous eater and tried several different street foods that I wasn’t as brave to try. Brooklynn and I stuck to the more traditional potatoes on a stick and crepes haha.

The next day we had an ATV tour scheduled; where we got to drive ATVs up to the largest Buddha statue in the world. The drive was gorgeous and the statue was so neat to see. We got to see some of the monks at the monastery and purchase a marble tile to write our names on, that they use in the big Buddha! Now our names will forever be commemorated at the Big Buddha statue; Such a neat experience.

After we drove back down from Big Buddha we had the opportunity to ride elephants through the jungle. This was not the same experience that we had in Bali and it is absolutely my own fault. It was still super neat, but this was not a sanctuary like we went to in Bali and I felt TERRIBLE for the elephants which resulted in my poor husband spending an exorbitant amount on donations towards elephant healthcare. The animal lover in me was sick over the conditions. I am wanting to make it to Chang Mai, Thailand within the next year so I’m hoping to be able to visit the elephant sanctuary there. Our elephant driver did allow Blake to ‘drive’ the elephant for a little bit which was super cool!

On the way back to the resort we rode back with a super kind Chinese family. Hands down one of my favorite things about having the opportunity to travel abroad is getting to learn about the cultures of not only the places that we travel, but also about the cultures of other people we’re traveling with. The two little girls, Lindsay and Noo Noo, sang us several Chinese songs and were kind to give Brooklynn a yellow flower. The father used to work for Texas Instruments which was neat and we learned to count to ten in Chinese, along with the hand movements that they use with their numbers.

The next day, we spent another relaxing day at the resort. The kiddos went back to their kids’ club and Garrett and I were tipped off by our yoga teacher, about a super cheap massage place right across the street from our resort; so we traveled across the street for my very first Thai massage….not a fan…lol. Garrett loved it. A lot of people really love them, but having someone standing on top of me and digging their elbows and feet into my backside was not my favorite. Give me an oil massage over a Thai massage any day. We also got to wear these super funny P.J.s ;).

That brings us about half way through our Thailand travels. (and I still have a whole day of Ishigaki left to update about…) Our Summer has been phenomenal so far, so hopefully I can get the second part of our Thailand trip up soon and update about the rest of our Summer. As always, to all of our friends and family thank you times a million for your prayers. We will need them big time over the next few months as the craziness of the school year ensues. We are all super excited about the upcoming school year but as always, covet your prayers for peace, strength, wisdom, and perseverance specifically.

We love and miss you all dearly!

❤ The Butlers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ishigaki Day 2

Leave it to me, to wait until THE day we’re leaving for another trip to finally decide to finish updating our previous travels ;).

Day 2 of Ishigaki was definitely adventure filled. We booked our adventures through Hirata Group Tours and they made everything SO easy. We took a taxi from our hotel to the port where we boarded a ferry that took us to another nearby island, Irimote, about 50 minutes away. Once we arrived in Irimote we took a bus to the longest river in the Okinawan prefecture, the Urauchi river. The river was surrounded by dense jungle, and there were tons of mangrove plantations.

We rode about twenty minutes up the river, then they dropped us off and left us to our own devices to hike up to two separate waterfalls, and let us know they’d be back in two and a half hours.

The hike was perfect. Rainy season was JUST ending, so it was still a little bit overcast which made for great hiking weather. Our first stop was Maryudo falls (a smaller waterfall) then we hiked on to a larger waterfall, called Kanpire.

We made it back to the pier to wait on our boat about 15 minutes early, so we relaxed for a bit while we waited for our next adventure.

hike

The boat took us back down the river where our bus was waiting to take us to lunch. This is where one of my most favorite parts of the trip ensues; There were two other people on our tour with us who we eventually got to REALLY sit down and talk with at lunch. They were both originally from Australia, but were currently living in Tokyo. Here are the links to their AWESOME websites; Ash’s Travel Blog  and Karan’s Exhibit Website. They have had the opportunity to live and travel all over the world and it was so neat to hear their perspectives on places they’ve traveled etc.

lunch

After lunch we boarded the bus again and headed to star sand beach! The majority of the sand here is shaped like stars…hence the name ;). The ‘star sand’ is actually shells, produced by microscopic, unicellular protists known as Foraminifera.

After star sand beach we got back on the bus and headed to another part of the island where we go to take a cart, towed by a water buffalo, over to another island called Yubu. We had a Beni-Imo(purple sweet potato)/vanilla swirl cone…oh my goodness…it was the best thing of my life in that moment! I never knew an ice cream cone could speak to my soul the way this thing did ;).

Haha! Check out those ninja moves Kinzy and Meridith have. I’m normally a pretty calm and collected person (thanks motherhood and teacherhood lol) but something huge landed on me while we were walking down this long pathway, and it freaked me out which in turn caused a chain reaction of freaking out. Those critters stood no chance against that karate chop ;).

After a full day of adventuring our water buffalo friend took us back across to Irimote island, where we boarded the bus and headed to a different port/ferry that we took back to Ishigaki.

We treated ourselves to a glass of wine in the bar at the hotel, before we headed out on the quest for Ishigaki beef. Just like Kobe beef, Ishigaki beef is raised only on Ishigaki and has very similar marbling to Kobe beef. Red meat is not my jam, but this stuff was DELICIOUS! Melts in your mouth. The owner of the restaurant we went to kept trying to get us to eat tongue. We weren’t super interested, but he gave us some for free so we ate it. It wasn’t bad; not as chewy as the cow tongue I’ve had in the past.

We weren’t ready for our adventures for the day to be over just yet, so we wandered out of the restaurant to see what we could see. After creeping down a few back alleyways, and following a few lights down some dark corners, I heard singing and dancing from a little bar, so we hopped right in. Everyone in the bar was SO kind and we had a BLAST. There are those moments in your life that you just feel  so alive and like that moment is exactly where you’re supposed to be; this was one of those moments. There was a man at the front playing an electric Sanshin,  people jumping around with masks…plenty of Orion beer for everyone. There aren’t enough words in ANY language to describe how awesome this experience was.

Goodness! I was hoping to get day 2 and 3 of our trip knocked out in this post…but there’s just no way. I’ll have to work on day 3 later this afternoon and get it up at a later date.

This trip is one of the many experiences over there that has made me pinch myself and ask if “this is real?” I owe EVERY bit of the positivity of this to all of our prayer warriors back home. Thank you, thank you, thank you for lifting us up daily in prayer.

We love and miss you all,

❤ The Butlers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ishigaki Day 1

There’s a halfway funny story about this little island. We originally had planned to visit it as a family and I even had the resort booked. However, at the time we booked the resort the airline tickets were ASTRONOMICAL. (I have forever been spoiled by the cheap airline tickets on the budget airlines in Asia). So we ended up moving our family vacation to another resort in a completely different area of the world, that I’m excited to share about in a few weeks. Then some girlfriends decided we wanted to travel to Ishigaki and airline tickets were only $100 so we did what any sane person would do, and booked!

Ishigkai is part of the Yaeyama island chain and well known for their Manta Ray population. I was really hoping we were going to get the opportunity to dive with them, but the weather didn’t cooperate, which just means I have an excuse to go back :).

We arrived in Ishigaki early Thursday morning and took a taxi to our resort. We couldn’t check in for a while, so we decided to rent a car and see what we could see. Our first stop was an Okinawan donut stand, where three generations of the same family run the shop. I’m typically not a donut lover, but these things are delish!

donuts

 

Next, we drove to one of the more well known parts of the island ‘Kabira Bay’ where they farm oysters and pearls. They are known for having black pearls in particular. Swimming is prohibited in this area, supposedly due to ‘strong currents’. This is pure speculation…but I’m willing to bet it has more to do with protecting the oysters and tourism industry of glass-bottomed boats, than it truly has to do with currents? Regardless, the beaches were beautiful and I can only how much more breathtaking they would have been with a little more sun. We took a glass bottomed boat tour, and just walked around the area for a bit, taking in the sites. After the boat tour we were hoping to visit a famed restaurant that has homemade gelato, but true to island life protocol, I’ assuming the family was on vacation and had packed up shop and closed June 13-19th.

Our timing for Kabira couldn’t have possibly been better because after we left, it started raining and the other places we visited had free umbrellas. Our next stop was Yaima Village where we got to play with squirrel monkeys (way lighter and cuter than the monkeys in Bali, lol) and see several old houses that had been relocated from elsewhere on the island, to the village, including a Samurai house.  They also had beautiful botanical gardens throughout.

After the village, we headed to limestone caves which were breathtaking. There were stalagmites and stalactites that were 20,000 years old, and the workers explained to us that many stalagmites and stalactites that were probably only about 3 inches away from touching one another, would take 300 years to actually touch! There’s also a picture of a ginormous Coconut Crab they had outside the cave.

 

After our adventures we could check in to our hotel room, so we headed back to the resort to freshen up for dinner. The views were gorgeous! The picture below is the view from our hotel room.

hotelview

For dinner we wandered downtown for a bit and finally decided on a Yakiniku restaurant (where you grill your own meat on a grill in the middle). The owners of the restaurant were so thrilled to have Americans visiting and were even more thrilled that two of three of us were from “TEXXXXAAAASS” as they stated ;). (Poor Meridith got grouped into the ‘we’re from Texas’ generalization.) The Japanese are all about the innards of their animals in Shabu Shabu and Yakiniku restaurants. I’m not quite brave enough for all of that quite yet.

After a full day of exploring, it was time to turn in our tiny rental car and rest up for the next day’s AWESOME adventures.

rentalcar

 

 

Brooklynn is 6!

Nearly a month ago now, (what?!?) Brooklynn turned 6 years old! We planned a ‘framily’ vacation for Memorial Day, and so that we could celebrate her Birthday.

But before we get into those adventures, can we please take a second to pay homage to these beautiful milkshakes we enjoyed, right here in Okinawa?! The night before we left for our small getaway, we decided to enjoy some time on the Sea Wall with friends and ‘Kinzy introduced us to ‘The Shack’. These things were intense, and SO good! One of the things that continually blows my mind about the food here, is that their sweets are never too sweet (or at least in my opinion). They tend to use a lot more cream, real butter, and whole milk, rather than extra sugar. Which is wonderful, and dangerous at the same time.shake

The next morning, we woke up pretty early to catch a bus, over to a ferry that would take us to a nearby island called I.E. The ‘rainy season’ officially started here a few weeks ago, so for the past 2 months or so the weather has been all over the place. May was great for the most part, but June has been SUPER soaked. In fact, just last night parts of our island were under tornado warning (we thought we had left those guys in our past), and landslide warning. The tornados here would be nothing like Oklahoma, and all of the houses are made out of solid concrete, so weather here is a cakewalk compared to Oklahoma.

The ferry ride over was a little damp, but that didn’t stop us from having fun. There were some women from Mainland that were ALL about Blake and Brooklynn. I have a picture somewhere, where the women are actually picking Blake up and taking pictures with him, haha. He was such a trooper.

ferryThe location of the resort we stayed at was just perfect. The beaches were beautiful, and the weather cleared up for the remainder of the time we were there. The tour we paid for actually came with an island tour and admission to Dragon Boat races, but we were honestly having so much fun just hanging out with our friends (and it was raining the day of the tour) that we decided to just stay at the resort and enjoy each other’s company. The only thing I’m sad we didn’t get to do, is there is a huge mountain that you can hike to the top of and have a panoramic view of the island. It was too wet and slippery to hike though.

yyy14

Blake enjoyed skipping rocks in the ocean and playing croquet. All of the kids loved building hermit crab compounds (more like prisons for those poor, little crustaceans…but whatever) and of course there was the ever present fight between whether we should play at the pool or in the ocean. The kids don’t fully appreciate how gorgeous the beaches are here ;0).

Brooklynn’s Birthday was the second to last day that we were there and the tour guide was SO kind to order her a cake, and they also gave her a cute, little teddy bear. She was just happy to have all of her friends with her 24/7.

yyy4

The last day we were there Alissa and I rented bicycles to go and get coffee (no surprise there) and ended up being gone for a solid two hours exploring the island. We found the Ernie Pyle monument (a WWII photographer), and a gorgeous little cave that was used as a safe haven during WWII.

Overall our trip was just perfect. The kids had a blast, the adults had a blast and the views were to die for (as usual!)

yyy15

Typing these blog posts, makes me realize how badly I need to step-up my picture taking game, haha. I always vow to be better, and then get so sucked in with the moment that I completely space.

I have another blog post to get up here shortly, before I forget everything we did on our most recent trip (as I’m sure I forgot the majority of what we did at I.E.).

We love and miss you all,

❤ The Butlers

Tokyo Part 2

 

Holy cow! I just realized I had never even finished writing about our Tokyo trip, and I have another trip to update about since then, plus two more approaching. So I decided to get my blogging act together this morning.

Hopefully my pictures will refresh my memory (fingers crossed).

The next morning we woke up and took the subway over to the Ueno Zoo. The big draw to this particular zoo, is that they have a panda exhibit. Which was super neat. The one thing I wish we had done in this area, was go to the Tokyo Skytree. It’s the tallest tower in the world, and the second tallest structure in the world (after the Burj Khalifa).

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect while we were there. As you can see, we also got to see more cherry blossoms at the zoo. They had a neat tram that went around the zoo. There is a picture above, of the kids in front of it.

They also had a few art museums in the area, as well as a Children’s literature museum that I wanted to check out. But we ended up spending so much time in the zoo, that we were all pretty ‘hangry’ when we got finished, so we decided to eat and head to our next adventure instead.

After the zoo we trekked over to a different area of Tokyo called “Shinjuku”. We had tickets to the Robot Café, which is a show with tons of electronic robots, crazy lights and costumes. The kids said it was their favorite part of the trip. It was definitely like nothing I had ever been to, or seen before, but worth every penny.

Before we went to the robot café though, we had some time to kill, so we wandered around Shinjuku for a bit, got a coffee and a crepe (which are huge in Japan), and played at one of the arcades for a bit. One of the funny things about the arcade we went to, was that the top floor was women only. It was full of these ‘glamour shot’ type photo booths that are huge in Japan. I’m sure there’s a proper name for them, but I’m not sure what it is?

The robot café pictures are below.

The next morning we wandered out to a smaller island called ‘Odaiba’ (still part of Tokyo). It was an extremely touristy section, and really just had a completely different feel than the rest of Tokyo to me. We ended up not doing a whole lot besides walking around and taking in the sights. They did have a Madam Toussade’s Wax Museum, LEGOLAND, and a 3-D Art museum.

After we explored all day in Odaiba, we headed back towards our hotel and ate at Sushi Yasuda, which we had seen on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. I was nervous that it was honestly not going to be as great as it had been talked up to be, but it did NOT disappoint. The kids both really enjoyed their sushi, as did Garrett and I. Blake really liked the Alaskan fatty Salmon and asked for doubles. Brooklynn’s favorite was the ‘grass sushi’ (haha!), it just had green onions on it…no fish…We really enjoyed everything besides the sea urchin. I had never eaten sea urchin before, and the texture was different. Very slimy and watery.

Our final, full day in Tokyo was Blake, our son’s, 8th Birthday so we surprised him with tickets to Disney World. There are two Disney parks in Tokyo, Disney Land and Disney Sea. We had heard Sea was a different experience than Orlando Disney, so we opted for the Sea tickets.

There are different flavors of popcorn in each section of the park, and our favorite was the curry popcorn. They had a soy sauce flavored popcorn as well, that we were hoping to try and didn’t get around to it. Another thing about Tokyo Disney is that they have more/different characters than Disney in America. For example, Duffy (who I believe is Mickey Mouse’s teddy bear?) is huge over there, as well as Shelli May, who is Duffy’s girlfriend. There is also a cat that is a big hit over here, and I’m blanking on its name right now.

We had such a great time. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times over; we are SO thankful to be able to take this time to travel with our family and introduce our kids to these amazing experiences. We love and miss you all!

❤ The Butler

Tokyo Part One

I am thankful to have this blog to sit down and map out our time (and to give me an excuse to sit down for a few seconds 😉 ).

WHAT A WEEK!

This year our Easter was celebrated a little differently than normal; we were on a plane headed for Tokyo! We landed Sunday afternoon and after enjoying a ‘chicken hot dog’ at the airport, while we waited for our train, we got to drop off our bags and figure out the Subway system. I felt like the ultimate tourist in a foreign country, not being able to read signs…but we figured it out and even managed to purchase Subway cards so we could just scan our cards each time we used the subway, instead of having to fish out yen every single time to buy a ticket. (You can click on the photos to view the captions)

After we dropped off our bags, we got to do a little exploring around our hotel. We went to an area called Roppongi Hills and wandered around for a bit, ate dinner, then headed over to Tokyo Tower to view the city from up above. There are so many different ‘sky views’ in Tokyo it was hard to decide which one we should do. Tokyo Tower was fairly close to our hotel, so it won out.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The huge spider is a famous statue in Roppongi called Maman. It was built by a French artist named Louise Bourgeois. We also got to walk through a beautiful shrine/cemetery near our hotel.

In Tokyo there are not big monuments like Okinawa. The graves are more like what you would see in America. Although, they have sticks everywhere that I finally had to ask a local about because I was intrigued. If I’m understanding correctly, the sticks are called ‘Sotoba’ and are purchased by the families in order to write the names of their loves ones, that they would like for them to have in the afterlife. You can pay more, to purchase more characters for the Sotoba in order to attain a higher ‘ranking’, for lack of better word.

We were lucky enough to catch the very tail end of Cherry Blossom season in Tokyo. Okinawa has an early season compared to Tokyo, and the cherry blossoms in Okinawa are much different in color, shape, and size than Tokyo’s cherry blossoms. It was neat to be able to compare the two.

We ended every evening in our hotel pool (of course)…I think that was the kids’ favorite part. It was nice, because they could swim and mom and dad could relax our feet in the hot tub.

pool

The next day we woke up and just ate at the hotel then headed over to the area of Tokyo known as Harajuku. We had reservations at an Owl Cafe, so we spent some time seeing what Takishita street had to offer and wandering in and out of the shops in Harajuku. Sunday is really the best day to visit Harajuku street because that’s when the Harajuku girls are out, but we didn’t want to push it Sunday after arriving in the late afternoon. Needless to say, as you can see from the pictures below there was some WEIRD stuff…but it was super neat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had a few minutes to kill before we had our reservation, so we wandered around a little more and found a beautiful park in the middle of the city. It was so quaint, but kind of ironic that you could hear tons of traffic and construction going on outside of the park. I got some great shots with the cherry blossoms though.

We finally headed over to the owl cafe where we got to hang out and pet/feed some owls for about an hour. We all had a blast.

After we were done with the owls we headed over to Meiji Shrine. Again, it was a beautiful park area in the middle of the city (kind of like Central park, but much more somber obviously and not as big). The big gates leading into the shrines are called Torii Gates, and symbolize that you are entering into a sacred place. We also had to cleanse our hands and mouths before entering the shrine, using dippers in at the entrance.

meiji8

Meiji Shrine is believed to house the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. When you first walk in there are boxes that you shake and then pull a numbered stick out of. You can pay 100 yen (a little less than a $) to tell the workers, which number you pulled and they will give you an Omikuji or ‘fortune telling story’. The Omikuji were written by the deceased Emperor and Empress; he wrote about 10,000 in his lifetime and she wrote about 30,000 in hers. They are written in a poetry form called ‘waka’  and are supposed to have significant meaning in your life; the gist of mine was ‘take a chill pill’…haha…which we both got a kick out of because I was so flustered by the subway system the first day we were there.

We also bought an Ema votive on which you are supposed to write your prayers and/or things you are thankful for. The priests convey them to the souls of the Emperor and Empress every morning during the morning ritual called ‘ Mikesai’.

We were also lucky enough to catch the tail end of a marriage ceremony! It was so neat to see the bride, groom, and their families dressed in traditional Kimonos to celebrate their marriage.

wedding

Last, but not least we took the kids to the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world ‘Shibuya crossing’. We ordered a Starbucks coffee in Shibuya square and watched the pedestrians cross. We were eating lunch prior to Shibuya square and the kids were inquiring as to where we were headed next…Garrett and I couldn’t help but laugh when his response was “to a street…to watch people cross it…” HAHA! It was definitely a sight to see though. “When in Rome.” Am I right?!

Shew! We’re only a day and a half into the trip and I’m already exhausted just writing about it. Truthfully I need to feed my family. So ‘dewa matta’ for now, and I’m hoping to find time this weekend to write about the remainder of out trip!

❤ The Butlers

Spring Break 2017

We were so sad to see Spring Break come to an end. Although Garrett stayed super busy with work, the kids and I really enjoyed our time off together, and got to play and relax.

We wandered out to some surrounding islands with friends, for part of our break. I have included the pictures below. The beaches were beautiful. The kids had no issues with delving right into the water. It was still a little too chilly for me, but it was perfect weather to relax and read on the beach.

I have done NOTHING to these pictures. It was truly just this beautiful. Blake was brave and tried a sashimi dish (all raw fish) for lunch. I’m so thankful that he is so adventurous

One of the things that is different in Japan, is that you pay for hotel rooms per person vs. per room stateside. The hotel rates are MUCH higher here, considering the amenities. However you are paying for BEAUTIFUL, beachside views. So I suppose it’s a give and take.

For our other off island adventures, we looked into hotel prices, and they are just astronomical. Most people opt for Air BnB arrangements instead.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The weather has warmed up a little so it has been nice to be able to spend time at the beaches again. One morning, the kids and I went to breakfast and then hung out at a beach super close to our house for a bit.

The kids and I attended a pottery class where they got to make their own ‘wacky’ animals. We have to wait another two weeks or so to get our finished products back, but I’ll definitely have to post pictures of the finished product when we receive them. They each made an octopus and a turtle.

We have had the chance to discover a few more little cafes over the break with friends. One of our favorites was this cute little cafe called BB Coffee. It was a tiny building (that used to be base housing) that had been re-done. All of the restaurants here are adorable. They are also very pet friendly. The owner’s of this restaurant had this adorable schnauzer. I think that he was blind, and maybe a tad deaf, but the kids loved him.

Friday night we attended an ‘International Wine Festival’ here with some of our friends. We really had a ton of fun!

We enjoyed the rest of the weekend at the beach and we went to one of my favorite restaurants here on the island, that a local friend introduced me to when we first arrived here. I hadn’t been back in a while, but it is the closest thing to Panera I’ve found here. Their pumpkin soup and pastries are PHENOMENAL.

Last but not least, we are gearing up for Blake’s Birthday get away. I think we are both ready to finish up this work week and head out, this week has been INSANE as far as hours. He received a pogo stick from my parents and has been putting it to good use.

pogo

I wanted to be sure to document this last week before we head off on our next adventure. Please pray for safe travels.

As always, we love and miss you all and are thankful for the support from all of you.

❤ The Butlers

A Whale of a Tale

It’s been a while. We have had a lot of awesome opportunities come our way within the past few months, which we are SO thankful for; but they have left us all with a little less free time to do things like write.
Blake finished up his first Baseball season here in Japan a few weeks ago. His team did a great job, and really progressed quite well as the season continued on.

Garrett has racked up the airline miles like crazy since the New Year began. The poor guy has been home for three whole weeks since Jan 1. So, while I’m excited for our upcoming trips in April, May, June, and July I think he’s ready to spend some time at home.

Brooklynn has hung up her ballet/tap shoes for the time being. She is continuing to do hip-hop, but traded in tap/ballet for gymnastics once again.

gymnastics

The kids and myself have enjoyed our outings with friends. We’ve been back to the zoo (and Blake is headed back, again next week for a field trip) and their new favorite treat is Blue Seal Ice Cream. We held off on this indulgence for the first few months we were here, and probably should have held off even longer because this stuff is DELICIOUS and addictive.

 

They certainly have some interesting flavors; to include avocado and cheese, and plum flavored ice cream (which is called the Supaiiman…not Superman) haha. We mostly stick with the more traditional flavors, and last time we went I had the German Chocolate ice cream which was to-die-for.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had scheduled a Whale Watching Tour two weekends in a row, and the waves were too big, so they ended up cancelling both times. I finally booked through a different company, and we got to go last weekend. There are no words for how awe inspiring this tour was. Our tour guide was a 70 year old local man who Blake made fast friends with. He used to teach English at a local High School and said he led these tours to keep his English in practice. He and Blake had quite a few lengthy conversations ❤

whalesThe tour guides had suggested we all take Dramamine before we go, because the boat gets pretty rocky. Thankfully I did take some beforehand because I still got nauseas even with the Dramamine. The kids couldn’t take any due to age restrictions. They did great for the majority of the time, but after rocking back and forth on the boat for about an hour and a half they both ended up throwing up (a long with quite a few other passengers), but they were both troopers. They did what they had to do, took a nap and were ready to keep going :).

About twenty minutes before we headed back to shore the whales REALLY put on a show. We saw three adult whales and three calves. I got a lot of great shots, but missed one of the best; one of the babies jumped COMPLETELY out of the water…I’m talking his ENTIRE body was in the air…it was so amazing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next time I get around to writing, I’m hoping to write about our newest off island adventure :). We are venturing out for Blake’s 8th Birthday and we are all excited.

As always, we love and miss you all and covet your continued prayers. We are still, daily thankful for the opportunity to be here and to be here with amazing people as well.

Sayonara for now,

❤ The Butlers

 

 

 

 

The New Normal

 

Happy February!!

I feel as if the past few weeks have been very ‘normal’. After 7 months of living here I suppose we have finally fallen into a bit of a groove. Before I forget I wanted to share the link to a story that Blake wrote. Clearly we need some punctuation and plot development coaching 😉 but his story is super cute and I was very proud of him.

Click Here to go to Blake’s Story

The access code you will need is SNR533.

The resources these kids have access to is phenomenal. I was in the library with a class the other day and Brooklynn’s class was in the computer lab. These 5 and 6 year olds were building fairly intricate Lego animals on some sort of switch board. If they got every single piece in place correctly the animal moves. For example; if they were building a bird and got everything exactly in place, the bird’s wings would begin to flap. SO neat!

Next year, they will be moving to a new school building just up the street and DODEA is fully embracing the idea of the 21st century school. Here is a link that a teacher friend shared with me concerning 21st century schools.

21st Century Schools

Speaking of school, the kids have had quite a few random days off for different reasons, so we’ve had some time to explore the island a little more. Two weeks ago we ventured out to an area called Murasaki Mura, which is a replica of an old Okinawan village. They had animals, Shisa painting, Soba noodle making, herb tea making and SO much more. The kids all painted their own Shisas and we just wandered around for a while to see what the village had to offer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This past week Japan celebrated the first day of Spring (in February!!). The festival is called Setsubun and the head of the household throws roasted soybeans (called fuku mame “fortune beans”) either out the door, into a box, or at an Oni (some sort of mystical , demon creature that wears a ‘Jason’ mask). They yell ‘Oni Wa Soto! Fuku wa uchi!” while throwing the beans which translates to “Demons out! Luck in!”. We didn’t see any advertisements for any sort of festivals for this, so we will have to be on the lookout next year.

This past weekend the weather was finally super nice (it’s been overcast and rainy and gloomy the past few weeks) so we spent some much needed time at the beach. It was too cold to get in the water (which still didn’t stop the kids from getting in waist deep) but we picnicked and got to play at the park, and explore the beach and caves around Toguchi beach.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We have had reservations to go Whale Watching here for the past two weeks and the water hasn’t cooperated with us and the company has had to cancel both days. We’re hoping to make it out, before the season is over.

The kids’ newest obsession lately is Indian curry. They would eat it every day if I would let them. Neither one is a huge fan of Japanese curry, I think it’s just too sweet for them. (Such a flattering picture I know…)

curry

We also had the opportunity this weekend to wander out to an area called Gala where they have a Coral farm. As I’m sure a lot of you are aware the Earth’s coral population has decreased SIGNIFICANTLY the past few years due to environmental factors. This coral farm has began growing coral and then transferring it to the ocean, in hopes that it will continue to grow. It was so neat to educate the kids on how important it is that we take care of our environment, and we are so blessed that we have the freedom and ability to even be worried about factors such as those; because we’re NOT worried about where our next meal, paycheck, or warm place to sleep is coming from.

Just another example of why we are so grateful to be on this side of the world, and that our kids get the experiences they have had here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you can see we’ve stayed busy! Garrett has been doing a ton of traveling and we’ve been planning lots of traveling for the next few months. We are so excited to share those adventures with all of you.

In the meantime, we love and miss you all and are thankful for your continued prayers!!

❤ The Butlers

 

From Mountain Tops to Ocean Depths

 

This evening I changed my profile picture on Facebook. This would normally be insignificant and I wouldn’t think twice about it. However, tonight I had a realization; I was changing from a mountain top 10,000 ft. high, to an ocean depth of 200 ft. That about sums up our life this past year…adventures from the very top, to the very bottom of this beautiful Earth; How blessed are we?!?!

Before the new year we visited Sea Glass beach (we have been there before) to collect some more Sea Glass. The kids had so much fun! (and the adults did too). We got to grow our Sea Glass collection. We also found quite literally a SHACK on the side of the road that sold Soba, so we stopped in for lunch afterwards. Our options were large, or small bowl of Soba :).

PS I can take ZERO credit for the awesome, pictures above. Our amazingly talented friend took those pictures with her professional grade camera and I stole them from her ;).

Pictured below is the Soba shack we ate at. We were taking a complete gamble going in, especially considering we couldn’t read the signs.

There’s no way I could upload all the pictures, or begin to try to remember all the fun things we did while they kids were out for Winter Break. It makes me anxious for Summer Vacation; but here are a few of the pictures we managed to snap (or steal from friends ha!)

We rang in 2017 a few weeks ago with some amazing friends, at our house. We all had an absolute blast!

newyears

Normally, we are spending the Holiday season travelling all around Texas to see our friends and family. Although of course we missed everyone, we are daily counting the blessings of our ‘framily’ here. Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year could have easily been a depressing, awful time for our family, but it was filled with so much love and fun.

On the first day of the new year, our family spent some time hiking in the Northern part of the island. The kids were cracking me up; Brooklynn was quite the little adventurer and willingly followed me into some paths that weren’t as well worn as the main path. Blake on the other hand, was NOT having any extra adventures ;). He was shouting at Brooklynn and I that we needed to immediately turn back because it was dangerous. Haha.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The area we hiked is actually a very historical area for the island; it’s called Kunigamiho-Seikai Road and was used between the 15th and 19th century to link Shuri Court (one of the biggest/most historically relevant castles here) to the northern villages. The hike was interesting because there were quite a few caves, and also many tombs, shrines, and a few headstones that have obviously been there for hundreds and hundreds of years. If I’m understanding correctly, there are Chinese headstones and Korean tombs? I’m not familiar enough with the ancient, Ryukyu history to understand why, so I will definitely have to brush up. There were several plaques along the way describing what we were seeing, however I have yet to learn any Kanji, and Google translate was useless this time around.

The next day Garrett left for Vegas so the kids and I have had lots of our own adventures. We spent quite a bit of time with friends at the beach and on the Sea Wall.

The weather has been kind of gross the past week. Very rainy and cloudy. Today it was actually pretty chilly and we got to enjoy some time with our neighbors, around their fire pit this evening.

We’ve had a few ‘firsts’ around here as well; Blake had his first coach pitch, baseball game this past week (he was supposed to have a game this weekend, but it was rained out), Brooklynn lost her first tooth, and the kids got to try their first star fruit, which they were all a huge fan of.

 

 

Last weekend we went to a resort to take their glass bottomed boat tour and to see their underwater observatory. There is a big light house looking structure in the middle of the ocean, and you take extremely steep, spiral steps down to the bottom of the ocean floor where you can see the fish in their natural habitat. We all enjoyed feeding and watching the fish.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I know this has been an onslaught of pictures…but before I forget; we went diving with some friends who have an awesome underwater camera and I wanted to share the amazing pictures they took the last time we went diving with them. He got some awesome shots of the octopus we saw, some ‘Nemo’ fish, and a super cool cuttlefish!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I know I thank you all, all of the time for your prayers and support…but they are not empty “thank yous” we are forever grateful and indebted to everyone who has prayed for our family through this adventure. My heart is so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude on a daily basis for this opportunity to have these adventures and live on this side of the world. We are blessed beyond measure in many, many ways. I’m excited to announce our newest adventure has involved me being back at work the past few weeks. I have accepted a position as a 5th grade teacher at the school that Blake and Brooklynn attend. I am thankful to be back doing what God has called me to do. There is nothing that makes me happier, or fills my soul more than being the hands and feet of Jesus to these kids. So please continue to pray for us during this busy season.

As always; we love and miss you all.

❤ The Butlers