27 January 2008

Jeff... my Thai pop star

We've had some really good moments this week. Unfortunately, not many that we got pictures of, but overall, it's been a good one. We had plenty to do, and got to enjoy lots of friends this week. I just wish I would have pulled out my camera a little more (particularly when Jack jumped in the pool and swam to the side all by himself, or when he had a big breakthrough on his violin) Things are just getting to be so normal here now that although I almost always have my camera with me (just in case we see the extraordinary), I often think, we've got LOTS of pictures like that! BUT, I've looked back on my blog a bit this week, and there isn't anything that I wish I wouldn't have taken pictures of, so I guess I taught myself a lesson this week! Also, looking back, I've realized how grown up Jane's become. She really has grown up so much since we've been here, and it's fun to look back and read about her taking her first steps down by the pool at our first hotel, or discovering that she loves rice. All those people that tell you to keep records of things, they really know what they're talking about!

My friend, Catherine, came over on Friday with her kids and we had a great visit! Jack and the twins played together really well (3 can be a hard number at times), and Jane and Madeline really played together for the first time ever, as opposed to just being in the same place. It was really fun to watch. They dressed up in some of Jane's favorites, then played in Jane's bed and with her little dish set. Madeline is a really sweet girl, and I think it was really good for Jane to be the older friend, as opposed to her usual role of being the youngest around when we're with Jack's friends.

Yesterday, we started the day off with story time at the library. Several months ago, I got into a conversation with one of the women at the library only to discover that she is the one in charge of the children's programs and has many of her own children's books published and in every bookstore in Bangkok. We'd read her stuff, so it was fun to meet her and make the connection. She asked if I'd be willing to read for story time sometime, and so this was my week! We read a few silly books about ducks, water, and boats, then made a simple craft. It was really fun to be the one reading to the children, but I was a nerd and thought I was starting late, but really started early, and didn't realize it until later. Why no one there said anything is beyond me! Luckily, the craft went on for a while, so whoever wanted to participate was able to. I would love for them to ask me again, but after that, would you? I don't even have a cool British or Australian accent like all the other storytellers. The way I read one of the stories didn't even rhyme because of my American accent, but then how does it sound to only say one word with the accent. Dumb, I tell you. Jack says some words with British accents and even though it sounds just like all his British friends, it sounds silly when he only says one word with the accent. Like "mirror" pronounced "mirrah". He was completely convinced this was the only way to say this word.

Jack quickly plopped down on this beanbag with a book, completely content! I love that my children enjoy reading so much!

After the library, we went to Anutra's work to get our pictures taken for some advertisements they are doing at an education fair next weekend. It was funny to pretend we were in class while the camera is shooting away. Jack was not so excited about it, but Anutra wisely came prepared with chocolates to keep even my tired kids happy. We went out for lunch after with Anutra, Bird, and Faa (with her boyfriend) and Kung showed up to surprise the kids. Sorry, this picture really is not good.

Jane was particularly fond of Bird yesterday. Everytime he went out of sight (like to park the car), she was looking for him saying, "Khun Bird, Khun Bird". She would snuggle right up to him, or run into his arms, and made sure she got to sit by him while we ate. He was loving this, of course! Anutra got a really cute one of Jane kissing him on his cheek, but I missed it, dang it!

Jack hadn't seen Faa in a very long time, due to Faa's new job at a school 2 hours outside the city, and her new boyfriend. It took a bit, but he warmed right up to her again. We've missed her!

Kung was especially fond of Jane this time. We went for ice cream afterward, and Jane sat inside with Anutra and Bird, while the rest of us were on the opposite side of the window (see the reflection of Jack?). Kung had gone in to help Jane with her ice cream and was wiping her mouth at every bite, I thought this was hilarious because this is very typical of how kids are treated by their nannies here. I love Kung, and her pampering Jane like this is just fine, but can you imagine having someone do everything for your kids like this, all the time? Not that all nannies do, but it makes me laugh when I see Nannies following kids around the playground with every bite of food.

I guess you could call this our front yard. This is basically the grass by the lobby where we wait for Jack to come home on the bus, or hang out while we wait for a Taxi or tuk-tuk. It's nice to be out, but my goodness, it's getting hot! Some days I'm glad the sun sets here around 5pm (remember that our horizon is high rise buildings!).

Monday, I met a friend at the park (Nancy, who I met at the orphanage a year ago) to visit and play with the kids on the playground. There was also a family there, the Wood family, who we struck up a conversation with about 5 minutes before we needed to go. I found out they were from northern Idaho and visit Asia occasionally as Christian missionaries. They had just returned from a month in India and have a few weeks in Bangkok before heading home. We didn't get to visit much, but exchanged cards in case they needed anything. The whole way home I kept thinking about traveling around Asia like that with two children and how wearing that probably is. I really admired their dedication to serving the people of Asia. I decided to invite them over and hope they didn't think I was a nut case for doing it. They were so sweet to come all the way across the city to spend a Sunday evening with us, even when they had been feeling a little under the weather. Their children, James and Mary Ann, played so well with Jack and Jane, and Jeff and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Jon and Natalie. We wish them the best of luck as they continue with their efforts to spread the word throughout Asia.

Our bishop came over last night and called me to the Primary presidency. I was pretty sure they'd keep me in nursery for the entire 2 years we were here, so this was a big surprise. As fun as it always is to mix things up a bit, I'm a bit anxious to find out who will be taking care of "my kids" in the nursery, and I was a bit sad today to think that I will have to turn that over to someone else (is this a controlling side coming out of me?). I haven't been in Primary since Jeff and I were first married, so really, I think this will be a fun adventure for me. I was even more excited when I discovered I'd be serving with two incredible women who I can learn so much from. Hopefully we can continue what our incredible primary workers were doing before, and add a little something of our own!

Ever since we got here, people have told Jeff that he looks like a Thai pop star named Noy (I think that's his name, Thai friends, help me out!). Anutra even brought a picture over for us to see and insists they look alike. We think this is hilarious. He's since been on a new campaign for Pepsi Max and is now all over the city. What do you think? Does this guy look like Jeff? Is this why so many girls randomly tell Jeff he's so handsome on the train? Because he's even more handsome than this famous guy?

Maybe if we zoom in just a little, you can see the resemblance:

Sorry ladies, he's taken.

20 January 2008

A good day

We had a few rough spots during this week, namely: Tuesday. It was not a great day. Jack and I were not on the same page. I think my kids are really just still recovering from the holidays, and I have realized that being back in school, as much as he loves it, has really worn Jack out. He's been WAY more tired this time around than ever before for some reason, and I don't think I've been aware of it enough. Anyway, in contrast to our rough day on Tuesday, Wednesday was extremely nice. Not too crazy, but still full of fun things, and most of all, each other. It was a nice day together, and not too unusual as far as things we saw and places we went, so I thought it would be a good one to document. The pace here is just so different in a way that's hard to explain (maybe just for me), but I don't want to forget it. Some days I really do just long for a car, fresh air, Target, or a guarantee that I can communicate easily if I need to. When I have days like this where I get to walk through the streets, see all the smiling people, talk with random and wonderful people in the park, play with my kids, and partake of the uniqueness of Bangkok, it makes me want to just soak it all in and never forget it. So, here's a typical (if you can ever call a day typical) day for us in Bangkok.

5:30 - I wake and head to 4th floor gym, watching CNN all the time to follow the Michigan Primary.

7:05 – Back upstairs, wake up Jack for oatmeal (his favorite), and an orange he never finished peeling. I think he was more interested in using the orange peeler he discovered in the drawer yesterday.

7:10 – Jane wakes up pleasant, sits down to her new favorite, honey cornflakes.

7:15 – I get showered and dressed, not really getting ready because I know it's swim day.

7:35 – Jack's violin time. I was so proud of myself for reminding him to go to the bathroom before we started because this is always an issue as soon as he gets it under his chin.

7:36 – Jack needs to go #2. Lovely. I get Jane ready, Jeff's getting ready and everything's packed for the day.

7:55 – (really, it takes him FOREVER!) Jack's ready to practice, and possibly without a struggle. This has been a big issue lately, so it was nice to have Jeff as an audience this morning to help encourage. It's always a HUGE bonus when we can do this in the morning.

8:15 – Jeff's off to work (late, because he was helping with practicing), Jack dresses, brushes, and makes his bed (hallelujah!).

8:25 – We're out the door, down the elevator, and looking for our tuk-tuk. Not there. We head out for the street.

8:30 – Get a taxi, thank goodness, not easy this time of day!

8:37 – Arrive at Jack's school, greeted by the smiling staff, and the kids head for the playground. Jane climbs on the castle, while Jack shows off his new found skills on the monkey bars, plays with Scarlett, and digs in the sand box.

8:45 – Bell rings, kids run to classroom, but Jack lingers for Jane and I to walk him to the door. He's a bit hesitant, but anxious once Kazuya arrives to get seats together. Jane wishes she could go too!

8:50 – Jane and I set out for the park, about 1.5 km away. We buy some pineapple, yum.

9:15 – Arrive at Benjasiri park, Jane's thrilled to see other children playing with sand toys (of course, I didn't think to bring ours). And I get to eat my delicious pineapple.

9:25 – The little boys have hidden all their toys except the shovel and pail they have let Jane use, much to their Nannies' dismay. I visit with the Nannies a little and discover the boys are both from Canada and only speak French. Neither of the nannies speak French, but their English is good. They were very nice, and adored Jane.

9:45 – Jane and I swing on the very “not safe” swings and feed the birds the only thing I could find in my bag: fish strips. They love them, and Jane thinks this is hilarious.

10:05 – Time to head home, but I'm feeling lazy and don't want to haul the stroller and Jane up the stairs, so we decide to go through the mall.

10:10 – Maybe just a minute inside the bookstore.

10:45 – Worried that Jane's book, saying, “Maybe someday my dreams will come true” for the 30th time in a row will drive everyone in the store nuts, I get what I need (not that book, no worries) and head out.

10:50 – Decide to walk home because Jane's in good spirits and we have time.

11:00 – Buy Pomelo from my favorite fruit truck on our soi, but find out (from her daughter) that my favorite Pomelo lady is not feeling well.

11:05 – Buy Som Tam for lunch later (this woman is another favorite, she always washes out the bowl especially for me so it's not too spicy!), and sticky rice for a snack for Jane.

11:15 – Arrive home, get in swimsuits and head around the corner for Jane's swim class.

11:30 – Jane and Pound (a new little boy) are the only ones in class today. I'm astonished people pay money and don't show up for classes!

12:15 – After Jane loving every second of her class and some extra play, we head back for a shower before Jack arrives on the bus.

12:45 – Jack gets home chatting away about Tae Kwon Do day and his new friend on the bus.

12:55 – We eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and I surprise Jack with my splurge on grapes with NO seeds (he's even more excited than I am), and he tells Jane and me all about school.

1:10 – Jane goes down for her nap after reading Cinderalla, her favorite.

1:20 – Because violin was done in the morning (yay!), we get to enjoy some extra time reading a book from school all about space. Jack finds out he's fascinated with gravity (should I be nervous about this one?).

1:50 – Jack goes into quiet time to play with his Spiderman Leap Pad book and to make paper money for his wallet.

2:00 – I get MY time to write emails, read blogs, tidy up the house, and read. Ahhhhhhh...

3:15 – Jack finishes quiet time and wants to play a computer game.

3:30 – Jane wakes up and asks to watch Sleeping Beauty. My favorite. We watch as I finish putting away the last of the Christmas d├ęcor, finally!

4:30 – Turn off the movie and get ready to leave.

5:00 – After Jane attempting #2 (at her request) for 30 minutes, I trust it isn't going to happen and we head out.

5:05 – Tuk-tuk is available, and he takes us to Sukhumvit road where Jane points out the elephant on the sidewalk waiting to impress the tourists. Always interesting, but very sad. Elephants shouldn't be in the city.

5:15 – I'm once again amazed at my kids capacity to climb stairs, stay with me in a crowd, and have SO much fun together (I had to ask them to stop hugging so we could move out of people's way!) as we go into the Emporium to enjoy the Lego Exhibit.

6:15 – Leave the Legos, much to Jack's dislike, to meet Jeff for dinner. Jack was quite taken with the construction pieces at one Lego table, and Jane loved shoving flowers, fruit, and guys in every Lego window and door she could find on the existing masterpieces.

6:20 – We eat at a food shop on the way home. Kids share khaw men gai, I order veggies and rice, and Jeff gets egg noodles. The smell of good food, sound of traffic, and chaos of motorcycles and trucks driving by an arms length away all melt into one great atmosphere.

6:45 – Head home in a truck taxi, and Jack suddenly notices that the moon is following us. Jane also finds this fascinating as they watch it all the way home, by laying their heads back on the seat of the truck.

7:00 – Traffic wasn't great, it would have been faster to walk!

7:15 – Kids are putting shoes away, settling in, and we're brushing teeth.

7:30 – More Cinderella for Jane, A special Daddy story for Jack, plenty of songs, and they're ready for bed.

7:50 – We're all happy to say Goodnight!

8:00 – I'm loving that my kids are the kind that need a lot of sleep.

8:15 - Jeff heads down to the gym. I clean up the house, then get to sit down at the computer to work on my Hong Kong video, send some emails, and write about my day, because it was a good one.

Here are some of the few photos from the week:

Does anyone else agree that Legos are the best toy ever? I love seeing my kids so engaged with these toys!

One day last week, I was feeling extra productive and had a few extra minutes and decided to take care of Jane's hair which has been driving me nuts. I cut it. Do I know how to cut hair? Nope. It's not the best (especially when parts flip out when the rest is flipping under), and it's shorter than I intended, but she's still darling, and it really doesn't drive me or her as nuts as it once did. So, mission accomplished? This time, yes, but I think next time I'll take her to someone that knows what she's doing and isn't feeling the "get everything done today" rush.

Thursday morning, I took Jane to an open house for a new branch of Jack's school that is opening up for little ones. It's like a "Little Gym" environment, but it's attached to their younger campus (for 1 1/2-3 yr. olds). After dropping Jack off I walked over with two friends and their kids and we were about 10 minutes late. BUT, we were the only ones there, so it was nice that it didn't matter! Jane, Brandon, and Isabella had a good time climbing, rolling, singing, and blowing bubbles together, and having the place all to themselves.

Since we borrowed "Sleeping Beauty" from a friend, the kids have loved it as much as I do. A few nights ago, I heard Jack and Jane laughing hysterically while they were in the shower. I went back to find them dancing around together, Jack carefully instructing Jane on how to hold her "dress" out with one hand so it twirled around with them. I was happy they kept the dancing going later when they actually had clothes on. Have I ever said how much I LOVE to watch my kids love each other?

I've had a few ask about why Jack's always wearing underpants. This kid won't sleep in clothes. He's got some of the coolest pajamas around, but he choses to wears them as costumes. He gets down to his underpants for naps and nighttime, so it's pretty common for him to be prancing around in just his underpants if he hasn't bothered to put his clothes back on after a nap, or if bedtime is getting near. I've decided it's not a battle worth fighting!

Jack and Jeff enjoying dinner.

Jack was so excited to see Hanni after the holidays and tell her how he went swimming in Hong Kong. He's really come a long way with the water this last term. He's getting more comfortable with swimming with his head down, and shocked us all by jumping right in to Hanni without hesitation. He can even paddle his way to the side with confidence now. I'm just happy he's finally learning to enjoy the water again! This is Hanni letting them each talk in the "microphone" (noodle) about what they saw at the bottom of the pool. I think Jack saw 500 moons or something.

Yes, another birthday party. It was Mikaila Lee's 2nd birthday party this week, and it was really nice (she's the short blond in the middle). We all just met at the park for a picnic and played on the toys. The kids were loving it, and I loved meeting some of the Lee's friends from the embassy. We know the Lee family from church. They just moved in a few months ago, and are from Idaho, but most recently from Germany. I've really enjoyed being with Rachel (not pictured), and it's been fun to get together for the kids and ourselves! Notice Jane coveting the shoes she just gave Mikaila!

Watching the moon on the way home.

Favorite moments of the week:

1. Jeff coming home from work and saying, "Happy Anniversary". He surprised me by buying Hairspray for me, which he's been trying to do since long before our Anniversary. We've been waiting for this to legally come out in English, and it finally did! We sat down and watched it that night, and he loved it too, and much more than he expected even after me talking it up! Definitely up there with my favorite musical, Singing in the Rain. Now, Jack has also fallen in love with it and is walking around singing all the songs. I can't get enough of it.

2. Sally came over last night after we put the kids to bed. Jeff and I got to go out for a quick Mexican dinner (Mmmmmmm...) and the best live music in Bangkok. Heather introduced us to a very classy part of town. Okay, maybe not classy. Alright, it was pretty much a part of town that gives Bangkok a bad reputation, but knowing how blissfully naive we are, she warned us to put our blinders on and head straight for the bar where Jim's band was playing. Honestly, it wasn't as bad as we were expecting, and it was worth it to see Jim do his thing again and be out together in a place without a kiddy menu. Leave it to Heather to inspire adventure! Gotta love this woman!

3. Jane and I went to Carrefour for a BIG shopping trip (meaning more intense than what 7-11 has to offer). Our usual Customer Service representative wasn't there, so I had to fill in our address myself for the delivery, something I haven't done for months. The nerve! Our regular delivery guy came, whom Jane loves, and he snapped a photo of Jane with his phone. A few hours later, our usual sweet girl from Customer service calls me to talk to Jane because she had seen her photo from the delivery guy and missed her. Really! She said she was worried that we moved back to the U.S. because she hadn't seen us in so long. Shocking, but very sweet!

Favorite Jack quotes as of late:

Sitting down to dinner, Jack randomly says, "let's all talk about things we love about Jane! I'll start. I love that she says, 'woopsh'!" (she says that instead of oops and we all love it) He proceeded to let us each have a turn and he just kept coming up with reasons why he loves his sister. Jeff and I were in heaven.

To Jeff tonight, "you know what I have? Strength! I'm the King of tough!"

In church today, another little boy gave Jack gum. I really don't like my children to have gum (yes, make a mental note everyone). We told him to put it in his pocket. He says, "I can't put it in my pocket, my pocket is full of cornflakes!". Sure enough, full of cornflakes it was.

If you're not sick of hearing about Hong Kong yet, this will probably do it. But, we thought some might enjoy a few more pictures. I think this is finally my closure on this wonderful vacation. So long, Hong Kong.

13 January 2008

Almost there

Getting back into the swing of things after the holidays is not always easy, but after this week, I finally am starting to feel like we're back to normal. I don't know who's gone through Jeff/Jack withdrawals more, me or Jane! She's been asking for each of them several times during the day, although when I ask her where they are, she knows exactly where they are! I think we were a bit spoiled to have them all to ourselves for so long (it was wonderful!). So, back to real life where we have to say goodbye each morning and get on with our everyday things!

One things we really missed while we were in Hong Kong was Thai food. I took the kids down to our favorite chicken lady one night this week for our favorite grilled chicken, som tam, and sticky rice. She was super busy, so we waited a bit, but she gave the kids chicken wings to munch on while we waited, which they quickly polished off and moved onto milk from our friendly neighborhood 7-11 where we know all the employees! I took this picture because I love sitting here for some good people watching.

Jane's kind of in between her crib and big girl bed lately. This week she decided she wanted to sleep in the big bed a few times, which was fine. I went in to check on her after a bit and found her like this. She looks like she dropped off to sleep while she was trying to decide if she wanted to stay in bed or not! I love sleeping pictures.

Speaking of sleeping pictures... Jack has created a series of forts out of his couch cushions this week. This was his masterpiece today that he actually took a good Sunday nap in. He was so excited about it, and loved waking up to the missionaries peeking in on him!

Jane was invited to her first birthday party (that was just for her) this week. A little girl was turning 1 on the 32nd floor, and her mother invited us up for coffee and cakes, which for me, translates into fruit and juice! It was a fun visit, and she got to wear her party dress, high heels, and came home with a fantastic Hello Kitty balloon she hasn't let out of her sight!

Jack also had a party this weekend, held at his school. For the activities, Menamu's mother had a group come in and direct some games and activities for the kids. Apparently, they do a ton of parties, but since we have to miss so many (a lot are on Sundays or while we have been away), this was our first chance with them. They played dodge ball, another game where they pick up the balls (funny how they made this SO fun, when really it was just like cleaning up!), and just did silly activities all over the play area. It was great. The guys were so spazzy, the kids were loving it!

In this one, the kids were all trying to take the balls from the monster who was sleeping. They were all getting into it, squealing every time he flinched, and being super quiet and sneaky. Such a simple and silly game, but it just goes to show that kids don't need a lot of "stuff" to have fun, they just need ideas!

After Jack's birthday party, we headed over for the last part of the ward party. It was fun to visit and play Scripture Scategories for a bit. It was a very impromptu ward activity, but turned out great from what we saw. The kids had a blast, and the adults got to visit when we weren't in busy church hallways!

Part of the Spencer family (who we actually saw at Disneyland in Hong Kong, small world!), Sally, Kathrine, and Diana. I wish I would have taken more pictures of everyone, I was too busy enjoying the company!

Tonight we got to go visit Rikker and Kaw to see their new baby, Leslie, and visit with Lori (my cousin) who was in town for the week! It was fun to be with family, and see their darling daughter. We could hardly get Jack and Jane to keep their hands off of her. This week, Jack has been reminiscing about how tiny Jane's toes once were, so it was especially exciting for him to see a newborn again. We really don't see a lot of babies here! And, my goodness, this Leslie was about as sweet as they come!

Kaw was so sweet to let Jack sit as close as he could get to her and Leslie! It's quite a transition after having a baby, so we were so grateful they would let us come over for a visit!

I think Lori probably read Jack at least 15 different books while we were there! He was eating it up, and she was such a good sport! She was giving the kids horsey rides, taking them upstairs for different toys, and even treated us all to peanut M&Ms! Lori definitely won my kids' hearts!

If you haven't seen enough of Jack and Jeff's projects, here's another one. This is their zipline running from the closet to the top bunk. Let the air out of the balloon, and voila! It's zipping from one end of the room to the other!

There's a fabulous Lego exhibit at the Emporium this month. Jack and I were there picking out a book for his friend's birthday, and just had to stop for a look. They had displays of the Eiffel tower and a pretty impressive temple. Also, many tables where kids could just work and create as long as they wanted. I was sad we missed the Lego man character while we were in the book store, he was pretty cool. I think we'll head over there at least once more before it's gone!

I really wanted to have my Hong Kong video done for this week, but it just wasn't happening. It's been fun to organize all our favorite photos and remember why we loved that vacation so much. Some things you just can't get photos of though. One of my favorite things was watching my kids go to sleep each night, and waking up with them so close every morning. We all read Charlotte's Web again on this trip. Jane sang Jingle Bells, Twinkle, and many others while riding on Jeff's shoulders all through the city. I also loved the absence of the computer and a ringing phone. It was great to realize how creative we can get when we need to entertain ourselves everyday on the trains for so long! Who knew you could play "Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?" for 30 minutes between only 4 people? I loved being together 24/7. Can you tell, I'm not quite home yet? I'm getting there. Maybe one more week.

06 January 2008

Two Thumbs Up for Hong Kong

It seems so crazy to me that I am blogging about our Christmas Holiday to Hong Kong. 2 years ago, if someone would have said, "you'll have lived in Thailand for a year, and be vacationing in Hong Kong", I would have thought they were nuts. But, here we are. When we found out we'd be moving here, one of our main goals was to do a bit of traveling, but being fully aware of my "dreamer" status, I knew it might not happen. We feel so blessed to be able to see a small part of this side of the world (thanks to frequent flyer miles!). Something I never would have thought possible.

So, Hong Kong. Honestly, it was incredible! We were both amazed at what a fantastic and drastically different city it is when compared to our wonderful Bangkok. Both incredible, but in very different ways.

We left on Friday afternoon, after a nice, relaxing morning packing and preparing. It was nice to have a flight that was NOT leaving at midnight or at 5am!

I think Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport is amazing. I know there is all sorts of controversy and corruption mumbo jumbo that goes along with it, but all in all, you have to admit, it's pretty impressive. Plus, I'm in love with Christmas decorations, as you will see.

Because there are 9 days of things to share, I will spare you many of the details and highlight some of our favorites. Later, when I get to it, I plan to put together a video for our own records, and most likely I'll post it for those who are interested. There's just so much to share, it's hard to narrow it down.

Our first full day, we went to a place called Ocean Park that we heard to be a sort of Sea World meets six flags, supposedly a must see in Hong Kong. It was a little rough to begin with because we were so confused on where everything was (and we later discovered that there was very little for the kids, besides the shows, which they of course loved)! And, can I just say, not one inch of this park was flat. It is on a mountain, so everything is stairs, escalators, or slopes. It was amazing how they made use of every inch of that mountain side!

Notice, we got to wear jackets! Our kids were loving it, it felt like "dress ups" every day! I love jacket weather. Unfortunately, we don't have many warm clothes over here, so we ended up wearing our same one-jacket-a-piece almost everyday of the trip! What I loved most about the cool weather was my kids cool, rosy cheeks. I haven't gotten to experience kissing those for a while! It was too bad that by the end, their rosy cheeks were also very dry due to the lack of humidity here! We were all lathering ourselves in chapstick, wishing we could have Thailand's humidity back!

Jack and Jane loved the talking trees. What did they say? Here's what I remember, "I love rubbish! Thank you for putting your rubbish in the rubbish bin". The trash goes in his mouth and branch. Very nice!

We spent the day watching dolphin shows, seeing sharks, jelly fish, sea lions, going on a few rides, and ended up at the playground until closing time. The kids especially loved the big bouncy room, where Jane was getting flopped around like a rag doll and loving every minute of it. By far, the highlight of the day was this cable car trip from one end of the park to the other. The scenery was fantastic, and it was beautiful weather, and so calm (especially if you could block out the teenagers trying to get Jack's attention in the next car). From the cable car, we could look out over the water and to the other parts of Hong Kong. This day, the 29th, was also our 7th wedding anniversary. Lucky number 7. What a way to celebrate it! This was a good day.

Church was quite the experience. We finally did find the meeting house and we'd really never seen anything like it! This was the outside, right next to a bunch of skyscrapers.

This is the lobby, where we were directed to the elevators to go to the next floor for our first meetings. Then, for primary, we took the kids up another level. The Chapel was by far the most unique and beautiful I've ever seen. Just 3 years old, and the church occupies all 10 floors of this building.

This beautiful nativity was in the breezeway by the glass front doors so passersby could see. Jack made quick friends during his time in Primary. No surprise there.

We went to see Victoria Peak, or "The Peak", which we were quite impressed with. It was a little more commercial than I expected, but it was impressive that a tram has been taking people up there for over 100 years! Very cool. At times, this tram was at a 45 degree angle on the mountain. If you weren't sitting down, which I wasn't both ways, than you'd better brace yourself!

The view was spectacular, and we found some shops to look in, a playground to enjoy, and an awesome bookstore where the kids just plopped down to read as much as we had time for!

New Years Eve, what do you do with 2 young children who have been sightseeing all day? Well, we went back to the hotel around 7pm, let them play with these fantastic little spinners we found at the market across the street and ate delicious ice cream bars to celebrate! It was quite a party in this tiny hotel room. From what I've read, they get much smaller than this the closer into the city you are. We intentionally stayed a bit outside to get a little more space and so we could afford it! But, the hotel was fantastic, clean, and the front desk staff helped us with everything we needed, plus some. Very satisfied.

My two little monkeys loved being together. They were generally so sweet together and especially loved playing together everywhere in the city they could find. I think their favorite was all the HUGE footbridges we walked on through the city. They are gigantic, safe, and it is so nice to not have to worry about them running into the street without realizing it!

Tuesday was our museum day. Previous to our trip, Jack had regularly been making his room into a "nuseum", as he calls it, with all sorts of exhibits. It was always fun to have him give me a tour of his latest inventions. We LOVE museums of all sorts, so we decided to spend this day at the space museum, then on to the science museum. We were NOT disappointed! We especially loved the science museum where there were so many "hands-on" activities, we couldn't stay long enough to see them all. This was a mirror gallery that we thought was way fun. We also loved the giant kinetic energy exhibit with bowling-ball size balls rolling down a very Rube Goldberg style track with all kinds of fascinating detours, and Jane was fascinated with the phones in the communication exhibit. VERY fun day!

En route from one museum to the next, we found a sandwich place that turned out to be delicious! Jeff surprised me and ordered hot chocolate for all of us, something I had wanted to have for Christmas but just didn't get around to it. Jack was especially loving this. If you look closely, you can see the city in the background. I love cities.

We walked past this part of the sidewalk every single day, to and from the train. Every time, Jack loved to "walk on the wall" by running really fast and running on this slanted part. Sometimes I would join him when he wanted a pupil. This regularly acted as a nice "pick me up" after our tiring days!

You might recall the whole reason we wanted to come to Hong Kong: to attend the temple. Wednesday was the first day it was open after the holidays, and I was able to attend the first session at 9am. Jeff brought the kids later and we met up for lunch, then Jeff hit the 1pm session while I took the kids home for a rest. This wasn't the thing that we spent the most time on while we were in Hong Kong, but for us, it was certainly the most significant. The pictures, for some reason, turned out awful, but honestly, we were more than happy to be there.

This temple was so unique and gorgeous, and going inside it reminded me somewhat of visiting the temple in Manhattan. I could enter and leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind. It was a wonderful experience, and I felt so blessed to have been able to spend time there.

Our temple day,ended with a trip back to Hong Kong island to experience the longest escalator in the world! It was actually quite hard to get a decent picture of the part we rode, but it was pretty cool to travel through a good part of this vertical city on the escalators. We stopped off for dinner, and to Jeff's satisfaction we found a Krispy Kream shop. He was loving it.

We rode the Star Ferry back to Kowloon, hoping to see the daily 8pm lightshow of the city from the water, but missed it by just a few minutes. We still enjoyed seeing it from the Kowloon side, and got some great video of it. Here's a picture that doesn't quite do it justice, but you can get an idea of how breathtaking this city really is, especially at night. The buildings all light up with different designs, sometimes words, and many shoot huge beams or lasers from their roofs. It went on for about 10 minutes, and we loved every minute of it. (You can see the Star Ferry that we took right before, on the left side of the picture).

This was a wonderful way to finish off our time in the city, as we got to be right in the heart of it all. One of the things Jeff and I were amazed with in Hong Kong was the exceptional public transportation systems they have. They have the subway (MTR) that we took almost everywhere. They also have trams, double-decker buses (open and closed tops), mini-buses, cable cars, extensive elevated footpaths, trolleys, taxis, and probably much more that we weren't even aware of. Also, they have the Octopus Card that you can put money on and use as a proximity card for almost all of this. Plus, you can use the Octopus Cards at restaurants, convenience stores, and even Disneyland! It was amazingly efficient and made each journey out each day so much easier and stress free as we didn't have to worry about always having exact change for things. We just charged them up and off we went! In this city, things just WORK! It's like they've thought of everything! Even just getting around as tourists, we were SO impressed by the signs pointing us in the right direction. Although this doesn't mean we didn't have to ask for directions, but it certainly kept potentially frustrating "feeling lost" situations to a minimum. Also, it was nice that in a city where we really couldn't communicate, everyone's English was SO good. I really felt like I was in New York at times because it was so modern, although I have to admit transportation here was even better, and it was a bit cleaner. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED my visits to New York, but I'm telling you, Hong Kong was impressive!

So, our last 2 days were spent in an entirely different part of Hong Kong. We decided if we were going to be in Hong Kong, and there just happened to be a brand new Disneyland located there, we just couldn't pass it up! Okay, I might have been the one that decided it, but Jeff was not arguing with me! We didn't tell Jack and Jane we were going until the day before, so as to avoid the, "is TODAY the day we're going to Disneyland" question over and over again. But, when we told Jack, he was ecstatic!

We loaded all our luggage on the train and went to the special station where the "Disneyland Line" met up with all the others. It was all done up so well. We were getting giddy as the train got closer and closer! I know I'm a nerd, but honestly, there really IS something magical about Disney. They know how to do things up right!

When we got on the train, it was crowded, so we stayed on at the station to get our picture. We didn't realize it was really not a train you can just linger on (yes, SO smart.), so, as we took the picture and started loading our stuff off, Jeff got stuck on the train and we had to wait for him to come (Mom, Vanessa, and Jo, does this sound familiar?), two trains later carrying all the luggage with him! It was a hilarious start to a GREAT day!

We splurged and stayed for two nights in the Disneyland Hollywood Hotel, and for doing so, we got free park tickets for our second day. In Hong Kong, you either stay at Disney's hotels, which are on the same island as the park, or you have to take a long train ride back to whatever hotel it is you are staying at. We chose convenience, and we weren't sorry. It made for an unforgettable two days.

Jane loved wearing her Tinkerbell costume for the first day. This girl is a trooper. She went on everything she could, loved the characters, and just took it all in! She was especially a sucker for the shows, which they had plenty of. We even ended our 2nd day revisiting one of the shows that the kids loved the best. It was fun to hear the characters speak in their voices, but in Cantonese! Very cool!

Jack relaxing in the hotel, in the Mickey slippers and kid robe! Don't worry, Jo, I brought you home some of these slippers for your kiddos! I thought of you the entire time I was enjoying being a Disney nut myself!

Jane finally ate normal food for the first time in days. We found her some rice that she loved that tasted like home. She ate it all up and was loving life. She also loved playing in this mist, even thought it was NOT hot while we were there. It was pretty perfect weather the entire time.

It took 3 tries, but I finally got Jeff to take a picture with me where he would just smile. I love the goofy ones, of course, and they'll definitely be in the video, but you know, sometimes it's nice just to have a normal picture of us! When I tease him about stuff, he says, "oh, you knew what you were getting into!", but honestly, it's funny to think back 7 years to the stuff I didn't know about him! Of course, I'm not complaining, he just keeps getting better!

We stood in line to see Mickey and Minnie first thing our 2nd day. We waited for about 20 minutes, and Jane was acting apprehensive. When we got up there, she was completely excited, even kissing Minnie on the nose. After we did the pictures and hugs, Mickey and Minnie both grabbed Jack by the hands and started walking off with him! He was a little startled by this at first, but when he saw all the attention he was getting, he was delighted! They let him walk them all the way to their "special door", where they bid us farewell! We also got to meet and greet Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Chip and Dale, while we stood there star struck by the whole experience! Jack thought it was pretty cool!

Jane was a trooper during this whole trip rarely getting a nap. BUT, we decided it might be a good idea for her to get one this day, so Jeff took her home, allowing Jack and I to have a Disney Date together. We visited Tarzan's tree house, which was a favorite of Jack's, as we got to pause at each display and read from the book, and take our time looking. This kid is an inventor, a jumper, a wrestler, and a climber! He LOVES to climb, and especially loves when I say, "go for it!". I like when I can say that too.

We rode the carousel, did some shopping for his "one thing", went on the Buzz Lightyear ride, ate lunch, and I told him the story of The Sword in the Stone, or what I could remember of it. He thought it was pretty neat, and loved giving it a go!

This Disney experience was SO fantastic. Hong Kong Disney is much smaller than California or Florida, but it was just the right size for our little family. They had very select rides, the only adult ride being Space Mountain. But, what we thought was interesting, is that it didn't matter that there were mostly kid rides. The adults stood in line for Dumbo, the tea cups, carousel, etc., even with NO kids! We would be standing in line for Winnie the Pooh behind a bunch of 30-somethings. The really big thing is to get pictures with the characters. I put this picture in, not because I know this guy, but because this was such a typical scene. The lines were not full of little girls in princess dresses and boys in Buzz Lightyear costumes. It was mostly adults standing in long lines, to get autographs and pictures with characters. Does this happen in California? (Jennifer?) This Snow White was DARLING! Unfortunately, Jack and I spotted her and Aurora, my personal favorite (although I'd never stand in line for a picture with her unless I had a child with me!), while Jane was napping! Jack didn't want to waste the time in line, so on we went! BUT, it was fun to watch her interact for a bit. Her voice was just right and her mannerisms were fantastic.

The Rich family always eats these delicious Micky Bars at Disneyland, a tradition that Jeff has accepted with enthusiasm. BUT, by the time we got around to wanting them, the park was all sold out! We went back to the hotel after the fireworks, bought them there, and ate them all together on the beds while watching Playhouse Disney. It was great.

It was sad to leave Hong Kong on our last day, but we were all feeling like it was time to get back to reality! BUT, not before we took a dip in the pool! We promised Jack the first day, and he was NOT letting us forget it! The pool was beautiful, shaped and tiled to look like a piano from above and just the right depths for kids and adults in different areas. The air was VERY cold (the lifeguards were covered in jackets, pants, and scarves), but the water was just right! Jack's getting really comfortable in the water, although he likes to go at his own pace. Jane, takes no time at all, and goes full speed the whole time. This would explain why she fell asleep on the train going to the airport! The little water slide was a favorite as well, a fun detail we all enjoyed!

We took the trains to the airport (such an impressive system!), and were feeling a bit rushed to get there in time only to find NO lines for anything, and then our flight was delayed for two hours! I was feeling pretty sad for those sweet flight attendants who were having to deal with everyone! Luckily, the kids were feeling good, and we found some lunch and wasted time flying paper airplanes in the huge corridors (something Jack is getting quite good at, folding and flying!). This Hong Kong airport was also really impressive. I have always been fascinated with airports, and am now understanding my Mom's fascination with all forms of transportation. Hong Kong is definitely a transportation heaven.

So, if you are still with me at the end of my longest post ever, I hope you haven't regretted it!
It is always fun for me to go back and document some of our activities, especially after such an incredible trip for us! Jeff informed me that this was his favorite vacation we've ever had. AND, by the end of our second day at Disney, Jeff admitted that there really is something magical about Disney, something he always tries to deny. I'm feeling like this vacation was a success.

It's always hard to end a vacation, but it really was SO nice to get back home. Bangkok has never felt so much like home after being in a place where we don't understand a thing, don't know where anything is, and are having to convert every price tag! We love Bangkok, and we are happy to call it our home.