Sunday, November 27, 2011

Time keeps on slipping...

Time continues to fly by for the Phillips-5; we can't believe that November is almost over already.  October ended with a TDY to Hawaii for Jeff while the girls celebrated our first Halloween in Japan.  Riley dressed as a nerd, Callan and two of her friends dressed as Ninjas, and Delaney dressed as Supergirl.  Since Megan was on her own, she just left a bowl of candy on the steps, and it was probably gone pretty quickly.  She accompanied Delaney on her trek around the neighborhood, Callan went with her friends and one of their parents, and Riley was on her own with another nerd.  All in all, they had a good time and got more than enough candy.  The base also allows Japanese trick or treaters to come on base which made for a couple hours of mass chaos in the housing area.  Some of our friends went through hundreds of dollars in candy.

The Misawa Ninjas

The Misawa Nerds

Super Delaney - she can talk faster than a speeding bullet!

You will never hear her coming...

Who wouldn't want to give them some candy?

While Jeff was gone, the fighter wing was going through an operational readiness exercise in preparation for an upcoming exercise.  When Jeff returned, he jumped right in and played war with the rest of the airmen.  During that same week, Delaney had her first field trip, and Megan went with her and the rest of the kindergarteners.  The trip was to a marine museum in Hachinohe which is located next to seagull island.  Kabushima (a.k.a. seagull island) is a small, uninhabited gourd-shaped island 0.8 kil ometers in circumference. Every year seagulls migrate to this island in early March and start breeding.  It is the only place you can closely view the seagull’s nests and their caring of baby birds in Japan.  They even hand-out umbrellas when you visit to protect you from the seagull droppings.
Laney's Kindergarten class.

She is about ready to hatch...

Time to spread her wings...

Lunch - the best time of day!

Seagull island.

Then next weekend after the exercise was over, we took a day trip to the Towada Horse Park and visited Hakkoda Panorama Park Golf Links.  It is a highland golf course designed to take advantage of the natural landscape that extends from the foot of the Hakkoda Mountain range.  Park Golf was born at Bobetu town in Hokkaido as Life Sports.  It is an easy game that anyone from children to older people can play.  Players use one club that is a combination between a putter and a short wood and one ball about the size of a pool ball.  The game is a mix of putt-putt and real golf, most of the holes are 50-80 meters long.  There are 36 holes at the park, but the girls were ready to hit the road after 18.

Our golf course...

Swing and a miss...

After this outing, Megan said she might actually try 'normal' golf.

Everybody needs a swing coach.

On the tee box.

Right down the fairway.


Tapping it in for the course the Phillips family!

On the 14th we got our latest family pictures back...see below...

That same week, Callan found out she was selected for, and started participating in Dragon TV at her school.  The students get to make the morning announcements and prepare the information that is shown on the school TV channel.  Callan was very excited to learn how to prepare the lunch menu and display it on TV.

On the 15th, we went to the Misawa Civic Center and watched Tops in Blue.  For those of you that don't already know, Tops in Blue is a traveling entertainment group that represents the Air Force and entertains the troops around the globe.  The group consists of Air Force members that audition and are selected to go on tour for one year.  The theme of the 2011 tour is "Rhythm Nation,"  and it showcased American music through the years.  The highlight of our night as part of the audience was Jeff getting selected to join the show and dance with one of the TIB performers.

On the 17th, we held the squadron Thanksgiving potluck at a place on base called The Grid.  The Grid was originally created for the airmen on the base, but it got little use and is now available for squadron functions.  They have a theater size movie screen, ping pong, pool, air hockey, several large screen TVs with all the different gaming consoles hooked up, a dance floor, and a casino area (no live gaming).  We had about 150 people show up for the lunch, and a good time was had by all...unfortunately we did not take any pictures.

On Friday of that week Jeff and Megan went to 'Fight Night' Misawa style.  Every 4-6 months they bring a full size boxing ring into the club and conduct ~15 3-round boxing matches.  There are a lot of Japanese and American fighters and this particular Fight Night included an MMA match.  The COMM ROCKERS had 3 people fighting, and even had one in the main event.  We went 1-2 on the night with 1 winning by TKO, the next losing in a fairly close match, and our main event fighter taking a pretty good beating...we saw him almost a week later and he was still bruised around the eyes.  In all fairness, the guy he fought looked like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV.

On Monday the 21st we woke up to about 3 inches of snow on the ground.  Throughout the day we got a little over 5 inches, but most of it was gone by noon.  The best part of the morning (for Jeff at least) was getting to watch the Cowboys finish off their season sweep of the Redskins...good times!

This is just the beginning...5 inches down, only 195 to go!

On the 22nd, Megan joined many of the Misawa spouses and decorated the club for the Holidays.  Some of the spouses spent the whole day over there, but the end result was great, and the club looks awesome for the holidays.

On the 23rd Jeff and the 35th Comm Squadron had a commanders call to end the week and kick off the long weekend.  At the commanders call the results of the squadron's Combined Federal Campaign silent auction were announced and they raised over $800 for the Wounded Warriors Fund and a couple other charities.  The item in the silent auction that raised the most money...believe it or not...was Jeff's hair and the privilege of cutting it ALL off.  One of the airman (and possibly several friends) paid $230 to cut off his hair.  Fortunately there was a retired barber in the crowd and saved the day and made sure the end result was an even haircut.  Two of the other officers in the squadron also sacrificed their hair for the good cause.

Did I really volunteer for this?

It is not looking good at this point.

Andre saves the day - he is one of our contractors that just happens to be a retired Navy barber - WHEW!!!

The finished product...I actually might keep it for a while.

That night we hung out with the other MSG commanders at the club and had another great night...even though Jeff's head was a little cold when we sat at the fire pit outside the club.

On Thanksgiving day we got up and got all of our food ready, and then went to the chow hall (a.k.a. dining facility) to serve the Thanksgiving meal to the airmen who live in the dorms.  After that we went around and delivered some holiday treats to some of the Comm Squadron members that had to work on the holiday.  Then we had a quiet family dinner and the girls told us what they were thankful for...Callan - freedom...Delaney - family...Riley - food; and Jeff and Megan are thankful for this wonderful opportunity to lead people and accomplish a mission in support of our great country, and to make some great new friends in the process.

Preparation complete!

Chef Jeff ready for action...the hat really wasn't working.

Half of the MSG CC crew!

Ready to eat - Happy Thanksgiving!

Freedom, Family, and Food ready to go!

On Saturday we attended the Wing Commanders Holiday reception with the other commanders across the base and many leaders from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force and the Misawa community.  There was great food and good times getting to know many of our Japanese counterparts.

The rest of the month will be just as busy...on Tuesday Megan will attend the spouses holiday Tea, and on Wednesday we get to go Watch the Globetrotters at the high school gym.  Jeff has to work the next 12+ days in a row as the Operational Readiness Inspection is coming soon.

That is all for now, hope to hear from all of you soon...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October has come and gone!

The 3-weeks since our last update were very busy and went by very quickly!  The girls have started soccer and have practices and games at all different times, so that has kept Megan busy running them back and forth.  She is also staying busy volunteering in the schools - she goes into Delaney's class every Tuesday, and helps with the popcorn sale on Wednesdays, and even went in to help with the annual hearing/vision tests.
On the 15th of October, the area of the city right outside the main gate held the Misawa City Halloween festival.  There were throngs of American and Japanese kids all dressed up and lined up outside the stores getting candy.  We did not dress up, but we did go walk around and enjoy all the costumes and decorations on display.
The streets of Misawa during the Halloween Festival.

Callan just had to pose with the pumpkin.

And Delaney had to follow her older sister.

Fun at the festival...Callan loves making faces!

Megan also finally took the leap and found a place to get her hair cut off base.  The Prism Salon came with several recommendations, and she ended up pleased with the result.  She had ulterior motives for the "new look" as we had a family picture taken the same day...our first family pic in almost 5 years...we do not have them back yet, but we will post some in a future blog.

The day after the family picture, we got up early and took a drive into the Hakkoda Mountains. The Hakkōda Mountains (八甲田山系 Hakkōda-sankei?) is a volcanic mountain range that lies to the south of Aomori city in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. The range consists more than a dozen stratovolcanoes and lava domes arranged into two volcanic groups.  The highest peak in the range is Mount Ōdake, which can be climbed from Sukayu Onsen in about four hours. Heavy snowfall makes Hakkoda a prime destination for backcountry and mountain skiers, and there are two mountain huts for overnight trips.  Our timing was really good...the weather was 70 and sunny, and at the base of the mountain the leaves had reached their peak color and were really an awesome sight to see.  We took a small winding road up and around the mountains and made several stops along the way.  By the time we got to the top, the temperature had dropped about 30 degrees and the weather was very cloudy and misty.  We made a slight navigational error and ended up taking the long way home, but we got to see another part of the mountain that was also pretty stunning.  We look forward to some winter trips to this area for some skiing and snowboarding.
Here is a map of our day trip into the mountains.  101 miles total, took about 4 hours driving time plus a couple hours worth of stops.

The 'other' side of the mountains that we got to see due to our inadvertent detour home.

The small and winding road up the mountain...mind you we had to dodge several tour buses on the way up.

HUGE leaves that were brilliantly colored.

Some natural steps on one of the trails we walked during a stop.

The underside of a foot bridge crossing a river that paralleled the mountain road.

A map of the hiking trails.

Not sure what it says...but the girls wanted a picture - there was a 40 ft drop off right behind this rock...not many safety features along this trail.

The weather changing as we get closer to the top.

Running back to the car after a quick stop.

The week after our mountain voyage, Megan had her first spouses meeting.  About 10-12 people showed up, and they all promised to bring more people with them next time.  She is going to try and plan a spouses wine tasting for November and recruit some drivers (me, the Chief, and the Deputy) to drive the spouses home.  Megan also participated in an 'out and about' day trip with the Misawa Officers Spouse's Club.  They drove about 3 hours away to visit the Takayama Inari Shrine.  With a history dating back to the 10th century, Takayama Inari Shrine is one of the most famous Shinto shrines in all of northern Japan.  The shrine pays homage to the Inari god, thought to preside over the harvest and wealth, and is most well known for its spectacular row of red torii gates in the garden area on the far side of the shrine.  The small hill at the end of the gates reveals an excellent view of the gates as they weave through the garden area.

The front of the shrine.

The green slippers are to wear inside the shrine, then you had to switch to the red ones to walk in the bathroom.

One of numerous prayer houses on the ground.

The row of torii gates in the garden.

An inside view walking through.

A view of the grounds from the top of the hill.

This last Friday and Saturday we celebrated Halloween Misawa style.  On Friday we attended the Halloween Bash at the club.  We went with the other squadron commanders in the group, but there turned out to be about 30 people from the comm squadron there.  We (and the Comm Rockers) had a great time, and got to see some very interesting costumes.  Then on Saturday we went to a party hosted by our friends Barney and Susan and had a great time sitting by the fire, smoking stogies, and having a few drinks with some friends.  Since it was mostly the same crowd from the previous night, 3 of the couples decided to switch it up and wear their spouses costume, which made for some pretty interesting costume cross dressing.

The Hawaiian Tourist.

Great food and great friends.

Megan's new Halloween motto!
Pic of the guys?

The whole group.

The girls?

Also on Saturday,  we filmed a Family Holiday Greeting.  You know all those messages you see from overseas military members during the holiday season?  Well keep your eyes peeled in Fulton, NY - Norwich, NY - and the DC area because we may be on one soon.

Today we took the family to see the Smurfs movie...definitely a blast from the past for Jeff and Megan, and the girls seemed to enjoy it.  The theater has been out of commission for about a month or so, so it was great to have this entertainment option back.

Some random pics from the month...

Callan doing her best 'Fat Albert' character impression...

Riley showing off her red ribbon for 'Red Ribbon Drug Awareness and Prevention Week'

Tomorrow, Jeff heads to Hawaii for the PACAF Communications Squadron Commander's conference.  This will be the 8th Halloween (out of Riley's 12) that Jeff has missed due to a TDY.

That is all for this week, hope to hear from everyone soon.

Phillips-5 Out!