Deep Thoughts Family Trips Japan Life

Who Would Have Thought Air Could Be Historic?

In the continuation of my family’s journey in Asia, Crash Aunt and I took the kids to Osaka (which was very cool) and then today to Hiroshima (which was cool for very different reasons).

Whenever we go places I really try and teach my kids about how important the places we visit are in the history of the world, and in this case there are not many places more influential in the history of the world than Hiroshima.

They have a very nice little museum with a lot of good information as well as numerous displays that really drill home the effect that the bomb had on the city.  It was fascinating to see the “shadows” that were created on all different structures as well as some of the before and after pictures and how completely decimated the city was.

Outside of the museum there were a number of little memorials and shrines for various groups of people including the Children’s Peace Memorial that was erected after the death of a young girl named Sadako who died from leukemia but was made famous for her paper crane making and the book that told her story.

As I walked with my family to the northern end of the park we saw a building now known as the A-bomb dome.  This building sits only a few hundred meters from the site where the bomb detonated but somehow lived through the blast and has been preserved as a reminder of the devastation that took place.

Looking above that building and imagining B-29s flying overhead and dropping the bomb that detonated about 600 meters above ground left me speechless.  It was unreal to look into that sky and realize just how historic that air was.

This experience reminded me of my visit to Ft. Sumter in South Carolina and being in awe at the historic air resting above that bay where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.  Who would have thought that air could be so awe inspiring?

While both of these events led to the loss of countless lives and altered the course of history forever, there was something surreal about both of these locations.  There was an incredible feeling of peace in both places.  This has been even more pronounced here in Hiroshima.  Despite the typical congestion and bustle of Japan, this whole city, and in particular the Peace Park by where the bomb was dropped, have a tremendous peace that is unmistakable.  My wife felt it and even some other Japanese people we talked to that were visiting the area said the same thing.

If ever there was a city to have a feeling of hate or anger or frustration this would certainly be it, but the exact opposite has been true.  The city that they said would not have a living thing for 75 years is now flourishing with industry and beautiful trees and happy people.

As we were walking away from the Peace Park we stumbled across a couple of men that were sitting there making paper cranes, and as usually happens with my cute little white kids in Asia, they were immediately drawn in and offered free cranes.  As we talked to them we discovered that they were both survivors of the attack but rather than bitterness or anger they were some of the happiest, kindest, most friendly Japanese people I have met during my time here.  They have lived full lives and have beautiful families that they were happy to show us pictures of.

I don’t know how many of our experiences here that my kids will remember, but I hope that at least some of the thoughts and feelings will stick with them and help them to better understand the world we live in.  And also the reality that we can find peace in some of the most destructive places in history.

Daddy Blog Family Trips

I’m Bored – Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare

I’m seriously tired of hearing my kids say “I’m bored!” In fact, I shouldn’t even add the exclamation point to that statement. It’s usually said with such a drudgery that it doesn’t deserve an exclamation point. It trails off as if there’s no end to boredom. Unfortunately, I think that’s true. Sometimes I feel like my kids choose to be bored and no matter what they’re offered they’re going to say they’re bored.

What’s fascinating about “I’m bored” is that it’s always said after school. That’s right. I’ve never once heard my kids say that they were bored before school. In fact, quite the opposite. Before school, the kids always seem to have some project they’re working on. They literally are so not bored before school that they can’t be ripped away from their project in order to go to school.

I think there’s a lesson there about boredom.

This summer we “moved” to Hawaii for the summer like we’ve been doing for the past 4 summers. I can work from anywhere that has internet and so since the crash kids are out of school and the crash wife doesn’t work we take off to somewhere not so hot. You can imagine how “I’m bored” goes over when you’re spending time in the paradise that is Hawaii.

Ironically, our neighbors happened to be in Hawaii at the same time as we were there. So, we met up and hung out with them. It was great because they had 3 kids that could play with our 4 kids. When we were together, the kids rarely said they were bored. In fact, if you asked them what their favorite part of Hawaii was, they’d all say “playing with our neighbors.” How ironic is that?

This Christmas we decided to go on a Carnival Cruise with that same family. We’re heading down to Gran Turk and the Dominican Republic. Should be a lot of fun. I just hope I don’t hear my kids telling me “I’m bored.” Between all the cruise ship activities (especially the kids area) and their friends, I think we may be able to avoid the I’m bored comments for a whole week. That would be a Christmas present like none other.

Daddy Blog Family Family Trips

Kicking Off Las Vegas Summer Pool Side

One of the great things about being a Las Vegas blogger is that there are so many incredible activities for you and your family to do and write about. Yes, there’s the other side of vegas, but most people are surprised by how many family friendly things are available in Las Vegas.

When we first moved here about 10 years ago, it was shocking to think that Las Vegas had no waterpark. Something about the heat of Las Vegas and no waterpark didn’t sound right. However, over the past couple years, Las Vegas now has 2 waterparks. To kick off the Memorial Day weekend and summer, I was given some tickets for my family to attend Wet ‘n’ Wild Las Vegas. Not one to pass up an opportunity to skip work and go to a waterpark, I jumped at the chance.
Wet N Wild Las Vegas
The Crash Wife and I were interested to compare Wet ‘N’ Wild to Cowabunga Bay in Henderson. I’ll admit that we haven’t been to Cowabunga Bay this year and so we haven’t checked out the new slides, but we both came away loving Wet ‘N’ Wild much more. The kids area was better. The flow between slides was better. The pizza was better.

In a pretty genius move, Wet ‘n’ Wild even offers a free sunscreen station thanks to Comprehensive Cancer Center of Nevada. Smart advertising for them even if they’re trying to prevent new customers. Consider all the white boys we have in our family, this was essential.
Wet N Wild Free Sunscreen Station

This next picture is what I call the Wet ‘n’ Wild Hammam. Crash Kid #3 loved the warm cement. The funny part was that I asked the Crash Wife if it was too cold to go to the waterpark since it was only going to be 90. #DesertRats
Wet N Wild Hammam Las Vegas

I think that my kids favorite part of Wet ‘n’ Wild was the cabana boy (Josh was his name). It was so funny to see them talk about Josh in the first person as if he was their friend or something. Josh had a hard job with so many people getting hungry at the same time. He was even nice enough to pose for this picture with the Crash Kids:
Wet N Wild Las Vegas Cabana Boy

Crash Kid #1 suggested that if I really wanted to show Wet ‘n’ Wild on my blog, then I needed to get a go pro and hold it while I went down a slide. I told him we’d have to see if we could do that next time. I’m not sure the lifeguards would have been too happy with me doing that, but I’d have certainly been game.

All in all, a fun time for the Crash Kids and me. Thanks Wet ‘n’ Wild for the tickets. I’m sure we’ll be back. In fact, I think the Crash Wife has purchased more tickets already.

Family Family Trips Japan Life

Matsumoto Castle Might be the Coolest Thing I Have Seen in Japan…So Far

My kids really need to work on their fighting stance.
My kids really need to work on their fighting stance.

It is a good thing that Crash Aunt is such a go getter when it comes to getting out and exploring this amazing country that we are living in.  I am pretty content to hang out and explore the local area, and by local area I mean my bed, my couch, and my backyard.  Fortunately, she really loves doing the research and finding cool places for us to explore.  To be totally honest, sometimes these places are not very exciting, and other times they are super cool.

Matsumoto Castle was definitely one of those super cool things.

The water was so incredibly still it was stunning.
The water was so incredibly still it was stunning.

The castle can be found in the city of Matsumoto which is pretty close to Nagano, where the Olympics were held in 1998 and is also on my list of places to visit.  It is a pretty small city with a number of tasty restaurants, and mostly small buildings that we have come to really enjoy as we travel around Japan.  The castle rises up above the rest of the city like the beacon that it was likely supposed to be with five stories for you to explore.

Young ninja in training.
Young ninja in training.

Even in the winter the grounds have a beautiful simplicity that is very much Japanese.  You can tell that they are meticulously maintained and provide a peaceful beauty that I have not really experienced in the states.  As you can see from the pictures, it is surrounded by a large moat that had a couple of swans swimming in it, and worked wonderfully as a reflection pond.

I love cultural locations that give my kid a better experience.
I love cultural locations that give my kid a better experience.

Inside the grounds of the castle our kids got to meet a ninja, a samurai, and a geisha that walk the grounds and keep it entertaining for the kids.  You are not allowed to wear street shoes in the castle so you have to put on slippers before climbing the stairs and exploring.  I was proud of all of my kids for climbing up the really steep stairs all the way to the top.

This is the "warrior passage" that is extra wide for the Samurai coming through in full battle armor.
This is the “warrior passage” that is extra wide for the Samurai coming through in full battle armor.

On each level of the castle they had plenty of signs explaining all of the different memorabilia they had there which was really nice because oftentimes it is only in Japanese.  The kids loved seeing all of the cool guns and swords and a samurai suit.  It was also really interesting to see how the castle had been adapted from the time when bows and arrows were used to the time when guns and rifles were utilized.

I think the samurai would lose against these three little monsters.
I think the samurai would lose against these three little monsters.

It is also crazy when you consider that the vast majority of the structure was made with wood, granted they are massively huge beams and supports, but it is still wood that kept this structure safe for so long.  As I mentioned before, they even let you climb all the way to the top and look out on what the ruler of the castle would have seen.  It was such an amazing experience to learn more about this fascinating culture.

The most amazing thing about this picture is that I am in pants.  Stay tuned for why in the next post.
The most amazing thing about this picture is that I am in pants. Stay tuned for why in the next post.

This is such a unique opportunity that we have to learn about another culture, and I am glad we are taking advantage of it.  At the same time, it makes me wonder what awesome experiences I was missing out on back in the states because I didn’t look hard enough.  I am convinced that there are fascinating things to expose your kids to if you just look hard enough.

Family Family Trips Japan Life

Japanese Zoos are Awesome…and There are a Lot of Them

I love that cheesy grin, and the red panda is cute too.
I love that cheesy grin, and the red panda is cute too.

One of our favorite places to visit no matter where we are in the world are zoos.  Animals are just awesome, and it is a rare opportunity to see them much closer than would normally be possible.  Sometimes you even get to see them do things that you would only ever see them do in a video, like the time CrashDad and I saw a giraffe giving birth at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, UT.  The last time I checked, that giraffe still lived there which I always find special.

Koalas have always been on of my favorite animals, and they let you get real close at Tama Zoo.
Koalas have always been on of my favorite animals, and they let you get real close at Tama Zoo.

In many ways, Japanese zoos aren’t all that different from zoos in the states as they are mostly just animals in cages with some cooler habitats being built to make things a little more realistic.  There are a few animals that are unique to Japan that added a certain amount of special, but it is some of the other unique opportunities that make their zoos so cool.

In this instance we were visiting the Tama Zoo which is located about an hour or so Southwest of Tokyo.  Considering that most of the greater Tokyo area is essentially solid buildings it is incredible how much space this zoo actually included.  It was also a great workout as the zoo sits in a group of hills forcing you to go up and down as you walk through the zoo.  Those hills did provide for some extra views of the animals though, so it was worth it.

No orangutans to be seen, but the zoo had pictures of them climbing over the people.
No orangutans to be seen, but the zoo had pictures of them climbing over the people.

One of the cool things that they have set up is a cool rope bridge for the orangutans to climb across a portion of the zoo.  You can kind of see it from the pictures, but there are two different areas for the orangutans that are maybe quarter to half a mile apart that are connected by this overhead bridge where they can climb over the guests and make for a pretty cool experience.  Much to the dismay of Crash Aunt (orangutans are one of her favorite animals), none of the orangutans were out the day we were there, but I am sure we will be back more than once before we leave Japan.

The other cool experience that they have at the Tama Zoo is a chance to feed the lions.  This was not an opportunity to offload unruly children in support of the zoo, though we did tell the kids that was the plan, but it was a chance to see these majestic animals up close.

You can see the kids' excitement in their reflections.
You can see the kids’ excitement in their reflections.

The way it works is you get into a bus that has hooks on the outside by the windows where they put little pieces of meat.  You then drive out into the lion enclosure where they have platforms set up for the lions to come and eat the meat off the side of the bus.  As you can see this leads to some pretty up close and personal experiences with the lions.  They are amazingly powerful yet gentle looking creatures when you get close.  I’m not saying I want to snuggle with one in the wild, but it would be a little tempting.

One of the cool things I have noticed about Japanese culture is that they are very big on having experiences for their entertainment, not just mindlessly sitting in a venue.  That is why they have so many of these places too.  There are zoos and parks and playgrounds and shrines and various other amusement areas all over the place.  It would be nearly impossible to visit all of them.  They are also quite reasonably priced as it usually only costs us about $10 for the parents total, and the kids are almost always free.

The older I get, the more interested I am in experiences versus just stuff so I guess it is really no wonder that I would find this so enjoyable.  I really look forward to having even more of these experiences while we are here.

Daddy Blog Family Family Trips Japan Life

Playing in the Shadow of a Volcano

It's amazing how cold it can get just a few thousand feet up.
It’s amazing how cold it can get just a few thousand feet up.

Tell me that this headline doesn’t sound like fun.  I know my kids were super excited to be around a volcano.

In all reality it seems like every mountain in the Pacific region is a volcano, or at least used to be, so we are almost always in the shadow of one volcano or another.  In this case though it was a very well known volcano known as Mt. Fuji.  At 12,388 feet it is the tallest mountain in Japan.  While it has not erupted since 1707, it is still an active volcano which many experts say is due for an eruption.

Being the daring adventurers that we are we decided to take a chance and go for a visit.

On our way to the mountain we stopped and visited a pretty awesome waterfall that is fed by the waters flowing off of Mt. Fuji.  It only required a short little hike for our family, and was stunningly beautiful.  Shiraito Falls has been a natural monument since 1936 and is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.  It is just amazing to me how many natural wonders there are in this country.

The falls included about ten or so smaller waterfalls like the ones behind the family.
The falls included about ten or so smaller waterfalls like the ones behind the family.

After stopping at the waterfall we headed up the mountain to the fifth station on Mt. Fuji.  I guess I should explain what that means.  Mt. Fuji is divided into ten different stations starting at the base of the mountain and ending at the top.  These stations provide a number of different services like toilets, food, and even sleeping facilities for those wanting to take a more leisurely pace up the mountain.  You can drive all the way up to the fifth station (about 7500 feet) to start your hike, which is what most people do.  Unfortunately, climbing season is over so our journey to the summit will wait until next year, but it was still a great adventure.

I wasn’t so sure how great of a trip it would be as we reached the base as the sky was completely filled with clouds.  As we drove the approximately 22km up the mountain (yes you read that right 22km) we actually drove through two different cloud layers which was quite the experience for the wife and kids who had never done that before.  It is something we do all the time in the plane, but it generally happens pretty fast, so driving it was quite cool.

The view from above is almost always better than the view from below.
The view from above is almost always better than the view from below.

As we neared the fifth station I was afraid that we would be right in the middle of the cloud layer, but as luck would have it the whole thing opened up above us and Mt. Fuji stuck out in all of its glory.  We pulled into parking and got our first up close look at this amazing volcano.  On a clear day we can see Mt. Fuji from our house, but you really have to get up close to understand its majesty.  Equally stunning was the view out across the valley.

As I mentioned, we drove through two different cloud layers as we drove up, so there was very little to see in the valley, but that is what was so amazing about it.  The clouds themselves were simply beautiful.  After a few minutes I realized they I could see mountains peaking out above the clouds across the valley as well.  Those peaks were all above 10,000 feet and could not be held down by even the thickest of clouds.

There is something powerful about the shadow of a mountain.
There is something powerful about the shadow of a mountain.

There are a number of little shops at the fifth station which are very similar to what we have seen pretty much everywhere we go here.  Behind these shops is the Komitake Shrine which is a beautiful little structure and the site of the Kaizansai festival that is held yearly to celebrate the opening of the Mt. Fuji climbing season.

As we were standing on a platform near the shrine and looking out over the cloud deck I realized that we were literally standing in the shadow of the volcano and it was amazing.  I don’t think the picture here really does it justice, but it was incredible.  We have all stood in the shadow of a mountain before but I have never seen the shadow so distinctly as it laid itself out over the clouds.

Fuji SunsetI am super excited to climb to the summit next year, and this visit only made me more excited.  I really hope that my kids will be able to join me at some point as well.

Daddy Blog Family Trips

What Did I Do? New York in December!

My wife just happily showed me an article titled “Upstate NY predicted to face coldest winter ever recorded.” Normally this type of headline would leave to laughter on my end. Yes, I must admit that I do get some joy and satisfaction seeing pictures of cold and snow during winter while I enjoy the beautiful sunny Las Vegas. Sure, it gets a little bit colder here during winter, but it’s only really snowed 2-3 times since I’ve been here. Plus, even when it does snow it’s kind of fun and melts off before it becomes an issue.

My theory on snow is simple: I love to play in the snow, not live in it.

That principle has served me well living and is one reason why I enjoy living in Las Vegas. Of course, this year is different. My wife bamboozled me into going back to upstate New York in December again. Why are we tempting fate?

Last year we did more or less the same thing. We went to visit my Crash-in-laws in upstate New York for Christmas and New Years. We all had a great time and we had maybe one little dusting of snow while we were there. It was great! I can’t imagine there’s anyway we’re going to get that lucky again.

My kids will enjoy it. Last year one of our kids saw a light dusting of snow and said, “Woooooo, that’s a lot of snow.” Little did they know that most people wouldn’t have even considered it snow.

I must be crazy! But you all already knew that. Well, I guess it gives me one more reason to sit with all my Italian relatives eating more than I should and shooting the breeze. As long as the snow doesn’t prevent them going to get the pizza and cannolis, I should be fine.

Family Family Trips Sports

Only One Child – Raising Him Right!

For a couple days this week Crash Wife took off to California with the three oldest. There was no room in the inn car for Crash Kid #4 to come along. Plus, Crash Kid #4 isn’t so fun when you’re sleeping on a boat and playing at the beach. That meant I got Crash Kid #4 all to myself for a couple days.

The first day I had a sitter so I could get some work done. The second day it was just him and I working together all day. We had fun times as he wanted to constantly sit in my lap or lay on my arm (try doing a mouse with a small child laying on your arm). I even talked to him about potty training while mom was gone. No such luck.

We had lots of funny moments, but my favorite was at the end when we were going to go get some “pasta.” Crash Kid #4 told me that I needed to have a hat. He’s right. I needed to brush my hair (that’s what I call wearing a hat). As I put my hat on he told me, “I need hat.” Here’s the outcome:

Crash Dad and Crash Kid #4

The Texas Rangers hat was a little big, but I figured it was good that I teach him early the importance of the Texas Rangers. What a failure I would be as a parent if I didn’t teach him right. You might notice that my hat is a Boston Red Sox hat. That’s right. I was teaching him multiple lessons at one time. The Rangers are the best. The Red Sox are the next. Wear nothing with pin stripes. #GoodFather

Daddy Blog Family Trips

Can You Say Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze?

A couple of people told me that they were interested in my Daddy Blog since they had read many Mommy Blogs, but they were interested in how a dad’s perspective might be different. I think my wife is interested to read that as well. Hopefully this post starts us down that path, but Crash Dad might be a disappointment for them since I’m likely going to post as often (or more often) about my job, my random thoughts, my passions, and my children and family (not necessarily in that order).

Maybe I’m wrong and I’ll just write about my children. I’m sure there will be plenty to write about. My kids are crazy. Crazy in a good way. They’re just like me. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a little bit crazy. That’s what keeps life interesting. Although, here’s my real problem with writing about my kids. If I’m writing about my kids, I’m likely going to include some pictures. Let’s be honest, if I put pictures of my kids in a post, then it won’t really matter what I write about it.

Exhibit 1:
Crash Dad Family Corn Maze

See what I mean? I’m pretty sure most of you didn’t even read those first two paragraphs. All you wanted to do was look at the picture of us at the corn maze. Can I just ask…why did my kids love corn in the corn maze? Seriously, I’ve never seen my kids want to shuck the corn on the cob at home. In the corn maze I couldn’t stop them from shucking the corn. In the picture above, we’re about 100 feet into the corn maze. That’s right. We’re 100 feet in and we already have 2 ears or corn ready for the picture. You should have seen us in the end. Alessia even created a stock pile of corn that she went back to get. You can imagine their disappointment when I was a bad (or is it good) father and told them that we weren’t taking any corn out of the corn maze.

Also, in case you missed it, I think the kid that photobombed us probably was jealous of our corn. I love the incidental photobomb. Ok. Let’s be honest. I love photobombs period!

Now that you haven’t read this either, here’s a few more pictures to keep you coming back and reading this site.

Gianluca with Glasses

Is there anything cuter than oversized glasses and hats on babies?

Gianluca's Elmer Fudd Face

Ok, you’re right. Elmer Fudd faced baby might beat it.

Seriously though, we asked Gianluca to smile for the camera and that’s the face he makes. I’m not sure what Curtis is doing with his arm in the air, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the next frame was him whacking his sister with it. Why do little boys like to whack their sister? I don’t get it. I always fought my brothers, but never my sisters.

This picture is more like what we have to do in our house:
Pumpkin Between Boys and Girls
Indeed. Children, please keep at least a pumpkin between you and your brother/sister. That’s going to be the new saying in our house. I guess that’s one way to celebrate the season.

All in all, the trip to the pumpkin patch and corn maze was a success. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if the trip to Brick Oven for pizza and pasta won’t be just as memorable as the pumpkin patch and corn maze itself. I should have taken a picture, but Curtis drew a plan on the back of his kid’s menu of which pizza he wanted to eat from the pizza buffet (They call it the Heaps Sampler). It was too funny watching him cross off each thing as he ate it. I won’t bring up the fact that they didn’t even have any bread ready and were running out of pizza. What kind of a pizza place is that?

Ok, how’s that? I’m I now officially a Daddy Blogger?