Blog

Halloween, Friendsgiving, and Taepei

How is it already time for the Holidays?! Our family enjoyed a solid 3 month break from traveling (for work or leisure) but we are back at it in full swing!

Of course we have still been taking full advantage of living on our beautiful island. Enjoying beach days, and time out on the sea wall. The weather here keeps playing tricks on us. Most of the time it’s still pretty muggy and warm, but there have been a few cooler days thrown in. We experienced one almost typhoon, and a full fledged typhoon.

Thankfully Japan is very well prepared for typhoons. Their structures are all solid concrete. They may not be aesthetically pleasing, but pretty isn’t going to save  you from a strong winds. We all escaped to the seawall for a few hours before our ‘almost typhoon’  to play a few rounds of ‘exploding kittens’. As morbid as it sounds, it really isn’t, and it’s our new family favorite.

After our ‘almost’ typhoon we really did get slammed with typhoon Saola (which is the name of a very rare, deer that lives in Asia…which I learned from our Literacy Intervention Instructor and got to read a book with my class about…who knew!?). It wasn’t awful, just a lot of wind and rain and I was very thankful that we never lost power at our house. The eye of the storm passed right over our tiny island and it was super cool/strange. There was a lot of wind and rain for about 3 hours, then COMPLETE calm. After the calm though, the wind and rain was back in full effect for another 3-4 hours.

After the typhoon though, we had an awesome Halloween with our neighborhood.

Most importantly, we had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends, a few weeks early, before we all scattered to, quite literally, the ends of the Earth.

As you can see from the picture below, we also added a new family member over the Halloween holiday. We had been hearing a loud ‘meowing’ sound for a few days and could NOT figure out where it was coming from. We thought it was coming from the top of a concrete barrier and several nights we went out with flashlights trying to locate the source of the sound with no luck.

Finally, while we were trick or treating, we found the source. A poor, kitten had been abandoned and was living in the flower bed of the neighbor across the street. The neighbors didn’t want to keep him, so a couple of vet trips later we now how Poquito AKA Pocky as our newest furry, family member.

After ‘friendsgiving’ Alissa and I were off to Taipei for a quick, weekend getaway. Garrett and I have been playing some MAJOR parent tag the past few months with our work and leisure trips.

Alissa and I left early on the Friday before Veteran’s Day. We met our girlfriend Katherine who was already in Taipei for work. After wandering around the Taipei airport for what seemed like an eternity, trying to find a Starbucks, we got a car and headed towards downtown. Katherine was done working for the day thankfully, so we headed to an Indian food restaurant that had good reviews, called Balle Balle. Because I mean, who doesn’t eat Indian food in (sort of) China?! After our Indian food we headed out to find an Ice Monster, which Taepei is well known for. They specialize in shaved ice, although they were kind enough to give us a Popsicle sampling as well. Their mango shaved ice was voted as one of the top ten desserts in the world by CNN,and please let me tell you, this was NOT fake news ;p. It was to-die-for! We also tried the coffee shaved ice, and it did not disappoint either.

Next ,we headed towards the zoo to catch a glass bottomed gondola ride to the top of the mountains where we got to purchase tea from the Mekong Tea plantation. The ride was very serene and the view was gorgeous. We found a cute cafe in the middle of the jungle where we enjoyed some tea and coffee before heading back down the mountain.

If you ever get the chance to visit this beautiful country, their hair washing salons are a MUST! They’re all over the city and you can easily walk in and have the most amazing hair washing experience of your life. After they massage some sort of oil into your scalp for about twenty minutes while giving the most amazing neck/shoulder massage EVER, they lather your hair up for another 20 minutes or so, using just a squirt bottle and shampoo. After you have a huge lump of shampoo on your head, you’re taken to a back room and given another head massage as they get all of the shampoo out of your hair. After a quick blow-out, you’re good to go and your hair feels AH-MAZING!

We stopped for a quick, easy, Dim Sum dinner at Tim Ho Wan then off to another must do in Taipei; the night markets. We went to the largest night market, Shilin, and I don’t know what else to say about it besides that it’s your typical night market. Anything and everything you can imagine and never knew you needed or wanted. The most interesting thing though, was the ‘stick-on’ eyebrows that the locals put on their dogs.

We nearly died in the Taxi on the way back to the hotel. Our driver was quite visibly (and audibly…as demonstrated by his incessant yawning) exhausted and was nodding off at all of the stop lights. So instead of get out of the cab and find another one, or walk, we decided it would be a great idea to just laugh hysterically. Perhaps not one of our better life decisions. Hopefully our poor driver went home and went to bed after dropping us off, and didn’t endanger the lives of any one else.

The next morning we woke up and head out to the Shifin waterfall which is hailed as Taiwan’s ‘Niagra Falls’. It’s not nearly as large as Niagra but it was still beautiful.

Next, we got to head to Shifin ancient street where we had the opportunity to write our wishes on a paper lantern and send it off into the air. It really was a once in a lifetime experience!

We had worked up quite an appetite after our Shifin adventures, so we headed back into the city to find some Beef Noodle Soup at a famous restaurant called Yongkang that has been around since 1963. There was a line outside the door, but thankfully it moved very quickly and the soup was delicious. The owners gifted us a bowl of pig intestine dumplings. We weren’t rude and tried them, but it was not something I would have ordered normally.

After our beef noodle soup we had heard that there were some ‘must eat’ scallion pancakes just down the street. So we headed that way and while we waited in line for the pancakes, we attempted to divide and conquer and get Boba tea. However, the place that I had scoped out only had ONE boba tea drink. Although I wish we had gotten boba tea, I don’t feel too terribly sad, as I had a good run with boba tea cafes in high school, ha! I’m sure this boba tea was different/better though.

After we ate ourselves silly, we walked about 30 minutes to offset some of our caloric intake to our massage appointment. We had a WONDERFUL Thai massage. Although I said before, after our Thai massage experience in Thailand that I was not a fan….I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t mind Thai massages, but can only handle them about once a year. This sounds RIDICULOUS and is SUCH a first world problem, but the massage completely took it out of me! My body was jelly afterwards.

After our massage we headed to Taipei 101, which is the tallest building in the area and beautifully built. We ate at a renowned dim sum place called Din Tai Fung, in the basement of Taipei 101. We nearly had a 90 minute wait, but without going into too much detail; we are very travel savvy people and had about a 30 minute wait instead 😉

After our dinner we headed to the top of Taipei 101. The workers warned us that visibility was zero, and they weren’t joking. We felt like we needed to check the box anyway, so we paid our $13 and headed up the extremely fast elevator. When we got off the elevator it looked like the glass was frosted because it was so cloudy!

We crammed A TON into our short 48 hour trip, but it was worth every bit of exhaustion and the insane amount of planning we had to do between everyone’s travel schedules.

As the holidays get nearer we are missing our friends and family back home a little more this holiday season. But we are extremely excited about everyone who has made travel plans to see us over the Summer months!

We appreciate and covet your prayers for perseverance during this busy season of life. We are thankful daily for the opportunities we have to travel, live and work in a different area of the world.

We love and miss you all!

XieXie,

❤ The Butlers

Update on Life

Going back through my photos on my phone this weekend, to try to reminisce on what had happened over the past few weeks was a little more overwhelming than I thought it would be. We’ve been busy in the best sense of the word. I’m not even the photographer of the family (Garrett does a much better job than me) and I have quite a few exciting photos to share.

This school year has been full of change. At the end of last year I accepted a position teaching third grade at a different school than I had previously been long-term subbing for 5th grade. We debated for a long time on whether to pull my kids over to the school I would be teaching at, and we ultimately decided it would be best logistically for the kids to come with me. We have been SO happy with our decision. Both of the kids have PHENOMONAL teachers. Blake’s teacher is SO tech savvy and has even been gracious enough to meet me at school on Saturdays to help me incorporate even more technology into my classroom. It’s amazing to me how continuously blessed I am by my co-workers, no matter what part of the world I happen to be in.

We worked hard all Summer long, getting my classroom into tip-top shape. I say ‘we’ because Garrett was gracious enough to come up and help organize my library (reorganizing and labeling books from AR to Reading Counts was NOT an easy feat), and hang things that I couldn’t reach to hang. There are two before and after photos below.

The most exciting thing I incorporated this year was a full ‘flexible seating’ classroom. I have always done flexible seating (to an extent) for our Daily 5 rotations but never an entire classroom all day…I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a scary concept, but overall it has been GREAT for the kids and myself.

Enough about school. Along with school starting, so starts the onslaught of the social scene. I’m sure none of this is in correct chronological order; but here goes…

The kids started a week after I went back…

Garrett was so sweet to send me flowers the first day :).

Brooklynn had her first experience at a Japanese dentist. She had a small cavity that needed to be filled. The dentist was awesome, and she did a great job. The picture below made me giggle though when she came out…

gum

They spoiled here with all sorts of goodies from their treasure box afterwards.

Brooklynn also got this idea that she wanted to dye her hair pink. Our neighbor’s daughter had, had a few color extensions tied into her hair so I was really hoping that we were going to be able to get away with the same. However, the extension people weren’t there when we went to have Brooke’s hair done, so I allowed her to go ahead and dye a small piece pink. It turned out cute and has faded fairly quickly.

One of our favorite things to do in Okinawa is to try out all of the different cafes and restaurants around the island. All of the food presentations are always so ‘Kawaii’ (cute), and the café vibes are nothing less than unique. We got to check out a café called ‘Jungalia’ that’s located on the sea wall. The food was okay, but the atmosphere was great. All of the tables were either swings, or on the ground located between pallets. We also found a GREAT new coffee place called Kramps. It’s by far my favorite coffee place we’ve been to. The coffee is great and the food is scrumptious. It actually reminds me a lot of a boutique breakfast place in Norman, Oklahoma. We’ve also been frequenting our favorite ‘Little Greek Kitchen’ for several events over the past few months. The first few  times we went to her place, she was located about an hour away on a separate island, in a shipping container with no air conditioning. She has since moved much closer and has a BEAUTIFUL view of the ocean…AND she has air conditioning now! Lastly, just a few nights ago we went to dinner at a ‘new to us’ Sushi-go-’round. The kids had been BEGGING to go to a sushi-go-round and we hadn’t been to a place called “Curazushi” (probably not spelled correctly) where the kids can put their plates in a slot after they’re finished and after every 5 plates, a cartoon comes up on the touch screen and you have the opportunity to win a prize. In the second picture below, Blake is making his selection on the touch screen. His favorite is the Nigri sushi; particularly salmon. Brooklynn always sticks to the rolls and would prefer no fish in her sushi (haha).

Speaking of food. Brooklynn had the opportunity last week to attend a cooking class out in town. She did a great job and had a ton of fun. Normally Blake is our chef in the family but he didn’t want to participate this time and I wasn’t pushing the issue. We’re beginning to get into the ‘I’m too cool phase’ of life (Oh joy!). He has never SAID that, but it’s the VIBE ;).

The past few months have also been full of other fun events like Air Force Ball and one of our dear friends Brad, pinning on Major. Exciting news; Garrett will also be pinning on Major sometime within the next year…it’s actually a pretty humorous story that I know others in the same boat understand, and I will leave for him to explain to the rest of our friends and family ;). We celebrated Garrett’s 31st Birthday this past week (CRAZY!) and the kids of course have been busy playing with their neighborhood friends. They made a lemonade stand a few weeks ago, and the weather has finally cooled down a bit (like there’s a breeze and the high is sometimes only 87, haha).

The weather didn’t really start to cool off any until after the Air Force Ball, but once it did we finally took the kids out to Peace Prayer Memorial Park. It is a memorial, museum and park area dedicated to the memory of all of the soldiers who fought and died in the Battle of Okinawa. The entire experience was interesting and humbling. There were parts that I was ‘iffy’ about bringing the kids through, but ultimately made the decision that it’s important for them to see the atrocities of war and what consequences it brings with it.

A few weekends ago the kids and I got to explore a great resort here called Rizzan Sea Resort (I think?!) we got to enjoy their indoor and outdoor pool and beach area. We also stayed to eat at their buffet. Poor Garrett was working. It’s no secret that things have been quite busy in this half of the globe ;).

I have been BEGGING to go hiking since before school started. But with our busy social schedules, weather, and/or work schedules it has been put to the back burner until this past weekend. It was great timing though, because the weather was perfect and we had a great time. We went to one of our favorite places to hike Ishikawadake, and got to play on the ropes course for a bit too. Garrett and I also had failed attempt numero tres for Blue Cave, haha! There is a beautiful area here called Blue Cave. We have had two failed diving attempts at it (both cancelled due to wave height) and so we decided this time we would try a kayak/snorkel trip with some friends. As you can see, we did get out on the water to kayak for a bit, but then a thunderstorm came in out of nowhere and we had to head back to shore. Honestly it was totally fine though, because there’s a nearby pizza place that everyone rants and raves about and Garrett and I have tried to eat at a few times, but we always end up spending too much time at the nearby beach and never make it back up in time to eat at the pizza place. So we got to finally enjoy our pizza and wine at pizza Enzo with our friends :)! I’m hoping to be able to schedule the Blue Cave excursion sometime in November, if work schedules permit ;).

As you can see, it’s been an awesome and adventure filled few months. We’re looking forward to the next 6 months of travel and family <3. Stay tuned for our next adventures to include, but not limited to; Korea, Taiwan, Bali (again), and a trip back to the states :). Thank you all times a million for your continued prayers and support. We are all so thrilled for this time in our lives, and it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable without our family and friends’ prayers and encouragement.

Until next time,

❤ The Butlers

Grief

Grief is such a funny thing. The past few weeks I’ve felt like I’ve been fine…I’m living quite literally half a world away from my hometown right now, and really I’ve not lived in my hometown for upwards of ten years, however the past few months have taken me closer to home than I feel like I’ve been in the longest, with the losses of some dear friends that I didn’t even realize where as dear as they were until they passed.

The most recent passing was a few weeks ago, and it wasn’t until this past weekend that I was really ready to hear the details.

When I heard them I was shaken to the core. How could someone so giving?! So loving?! So full of life, just all of the sudden be gone?! And not only gone, but lost to a harsh, harsh addiction? 

It wasn’t until this Sunday during the church service, when I had to quietly excuse myself, that I realized how much this loss hurt. Then again today, when I was expressing my condolences to a dear friend, about a death in her life, and suddenly I’m the one breaking down. At first I brushed it off as being tired. But when she came into hug me I just couldn’t stop sobbing…this loss hurts. It hurts a lot, and I’m not even sure why? I know that my sweet friends are in a better place I do. And that’s what this dear friend was trying to talk me through. Christian grief is tricky. We know our friends are home. We know they’re no longer hurting. With that being said, there’s one verse that immediately comes to mind…and I’m sure it’s the same verse that came to every Christian’s mind when I brought up the word “grief”.

In John 11:35 the Bible tells us that when his friend Lazarus died, “Jesus wept.” 

The son of God, who had the ability, and ultimately wielded that ability to bring his friend back to life wept. 

I don’t know if the tears were for the physical pain that Lazarus must have been feeling when he passed? I don’t know if the tears were for Lazarus’ family and what they must be feeling? I don’t know if the tears were the human part of Jesus expressing himself? I just don’t know. And the solace I take away from this is that I don’t need to know right now. 

I can take my cues from the son of God and let these tears flow right now. I can let this grief get the best of me for a hot second. But then I can pick myself up. Just like my friends would have wanted, just like Jesus did and make all of these things work for the good of His kingdom. I may not know what that looks like right now, and I may never know until I check in with St. Peter at the pearly gates. But for tonight I will rest in the knowledge that my savior wept when His friends passed, and I am allowed to do the same. 

Thailand Part 2….2 months later…

Better late than never right?!

At this point I hope I can even remember what we did in Thailand, ha! The next day of our trip was probably my most favorite. We chartered a boat through our resort to take us to three different outlying islands in Phuket. We took a bus about 30 minutes away, then hopped on a boat that took us to our first destination Ko Phi Phi Leh, another 45 minutes away. This island is the island you see in most travel photos, depicting southern Thailand. It’s where ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DeCaprio was filmed (which I’ve never seen), but it really was beautiful…and BUSY! We arrived at the island around 9:30 AM and our guide directed us on how to get to the other side of the island for another viewpoint. There was a small area designated for swimming, but it was super disappointing how much trash had already accumulated in the swimming area. We hung out on the side of the island we departed the boat on for a few minutes, swam a bit and took some pictures then headed to the other side of the island to see what was over there. When we came back over to the original side of the island it was PACKED! I was thankful that we got there when we did so that we could experience the island when it was a little less crowded.

Better late than never right?

The next day of our trip was probably my most favorite. We chartered a boat through our resort to take us to three different outlying islands around Phuket. We took a bus about 30 minutes away, then hopped on a boat that took us about another 45 minutes out into the ocean, to our first destination, Ko Phi Phi Leh. This particular island is the one you are most likely to see depicted in travel photos of southern Thailand. It’s where ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo Dicaprio was filmed (which I’ve still yet to see…), but it was really beautiful and BUSY. We arrived at the island around 9:30 AM. Our guide directed us on how to get to the opposite side of the island for a different viewpoint, and pointed out the different areas that we could swim and take pictures, on the side of the island, which we departed the boat from. Brooklynn was hangry…as you can see below. She had a snack and a drink once we got back on the boat though, and was much better. Oh the joys of traveling with kids ;).

Better late than never right?!

At this point I hope I can even remember what we did in Thailand, ha! The next day of our trip was probably my most favorite. We chartered a boat through our resort to take us to three different outlying islands in Phuket. We took a bus about 30 minutes away, then hopped on a boat that took us to our first destination Ko Phi Phi Leh, another 45 minutes away. This island is the island you see in most travel photos, depicting southern Thailand. It’s where ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DeCaprio was filmed (which I’ve never seen), but it really was beautiful…and BUSY! We arrived at the island around 9:30 AM and our guide directed us on how to get to the other side of the island for another viewpoint. There was a small area designated for swimming, but it was super disappointing how much trash had already accumulated in the swimming area. We hung out on the side of the island we departed the boat on for a few minutes, swam a bit and took some pictures then headed to the other side of the island to see what was over there. When we came back over to the original side of the island it was PACKED! I was thankful that we got there when we did so that we could experience the island when it was a little less crowded.

Better late than never right?!

At this point I hope I can even remember what we did in Thailand, ha! The next day of our trip was probably my most favorite. We chartered a boat through our resort to take us to three different outlying islands in Phuket. We took a bus about 30 minutes away, then hopped on a boat that took us to our first destination Ko Phi Phi Leh, another 45 minutes away. This island is the island you see in most travel photos, depicting southern Thailand. It’s where ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DeCaprio was filmed (which I’ve never seen), but it really was beautiful…and BUSY! We arrived at the island around 9:30 AM and our guide directed us on how to get to the other side of the island for another viewpoint. There was a small area designated for swimming, but it was super disappointing how much trash had already accumulated in the swimming area. We hung out on the side of the island we departed the boat on for a few minutes, swam a bit and took some pictures then headed to the other side of the island to see what was over there. When we came back over to the original side of the island it was PACKED! I was thankful that we got there when we did so that we could experience the island when it was a little less crowded.

After we took a few photos and swam for a bit we headed over to the opposite side of the island where the last two photos above were taken. By the time we got back to where we started the island was SUPER busy! I was so thankful that we arrived when we did so that we could enjoy the scenery while it was a little less crowded.

The boat came back to pick us up and we traveled by boat to another, completely different area of the island where we got to snorkel for a bit. Originally, at the resort, we were told that kids under the age of 11 weren’t going to be allowed to get off the boat and snorkel, however our guide allowed them to get off and snorkel with us, as long as they kept their life vests on.

kophiphiextra

The cave depicted above was SUPER neat; they named it Viking cave because there is a Nordic painting deep inside the cave. I also learned something I had NEVER heard of before. A lot of the other tourists are Chinese, and our guide said that the nests used to make ‘Birds’ Nest Soup’ could be found inside the cave. Everyone else was nodding a long in agreement and I had NO idea what they were talking about so  of course I had to know…apparently there is a type of bird which makes its nest with its own saliva. The saliva hardens, and the nest is made. Many Asian cultures then purchase the nests as they believe they have many medicinal and anti-aging properties. A bowl of birds nest soup is upwards of $2,000 for ONE bowl!! Who knew bird spit was so coveted?!

I don’t think you can see them hardly at all…but the picture above where Brooklynn is throwing the peace sign, there are a ton of tiny monkeys on the rocks. There is a better picture of the monkeys somewhere that I can’t seem to locate right now.

After Ko Phi Phi Leh, we traveled to a different island called Ko Phi Phi Don where we ate a traditional family style Thai lunch. Everything was super delicious…I think all of those photos are on Garrett’s phone though and he’s not around right now. After we ate we got to look around the island a while. There were a ton of restaurants and shops unlike Ko Phi Phi Leh, Don is populated. We bought a beautiful painting that we brought back and had framed here.

picture

Our last stop was Bamboo island, it was a pretty ‘normal’ beach as far as beaches go. We just got to hang out on the sand and swim for about an hour and a half before we hopped back on the boat to head back to our resort.

kophiphi12

The next day we headed to Tiger Kingdom where we got to get up close and personal with tigers. Oh-My-Goodness….best thing EVER! They really are just like big house cats. They lay around for a bit, get up and move around and then plop right back down. The workers were really great about just letting the tigers do whatever they wanted or needed to do, and just getting us out of the way when necessary. The kids of course only got to pet and be with the baby tigers, but Garrett and I got to spend some time with the larger tigers. DREAM.COME.TRUE! I was in heaven!

Our last few days in Phuket we really just spent relaxing and taking advantage of the amenities at our resort. I made good use of the massage place across the street. 2 hour massages for $25-30?!…SOLD! Not quite Bali cheap…but cheap. We swam in the pool and at the ocean, played golf, tennis, racquet ball and did archery.

Eventually we had to leave and head back to Bangkok. I did book a different hotel room that were much more pleased with. The kids were excited to ride in a Tuk Tuk and we had a DELICIOUS Thai meal with TONS of food for what came out to be about $12 total!

Our flight home from Bangkok kept me on my toes before. We were upstairs going through security when I heard this ENORMOUS uproar on the lower level. My heart honestly dropped for a second, thinking something horrible had happened. Apparently it was just a famous K-Pop group making their way through the airport, that everyone was just excited to see, haha!

Overall our trip was nothing less than amazing, and of course just makes me hungry for more traveling!

We love and miss you all,

❤ The Butlers

Better late than never right?!

At this point I hope I can even remember what we did in Thailand, ha! The next day of our trip was probably my most favorite. We chartered a boat through our resort to take us to three different outlying islands in Phuket. We took a bus about 30 minutes away, then hopped on a boat that took us to our first destination Ko Phi Phi Leh, another 45 minutes away. This island is the island you see in most travel photos, depicting southern Thailand. It’s where ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DeCaprio was filmed (which I’ve never seen), but it really was beautiful…and BUSY! We arrived at the island around 9:30 AM and our guide directed us on how to get to the other side of the island for another viewpoint. There was a small area designated for swimming, but it was super disappointing how much trash had already accumulated in the swimming area. We hung out on the side of the island we departed the boat on for a few minutes, swam a bit and took some pictures then headed to the other side of the island to see what was over there. When we came back over to the original side of the island it was PACKED! I was thankful that we got there when we did so that we could experience the island when it was a little less crowded.

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