Thursday, December 31, 2015

Once this year

This is my one and only post for 2015. It's been an extraordinary year for our family of five, and letting it end without even an attempt at commemoration seems wrong. 
So, in no particular order, 
actually, strike that, in chronological order, 
here are the highlights:

Claire's third birthday party

A Lego birthday party for Caleb and Isaac
After 2.5 years in Beijing, we finally rode the Subway

Caleb took 2nd Place in the Pinewood Derby - Isaac's car had technical difficulties, but he still had fun!

The boys dressed up like Cowboys for the Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet

Auntie Lane got married; Claire was a flower girl and learned some Greek dancing

We took a family trip to Disney World and met Aunts and Grandparents (and Goofy!)


Chinese Assembly for Isaac
Badminton tournament for Caleb

Happy Easter!
Ancient Rome Day

Friends came to visit and we took a road trip with them to Datong to visit the Hanging Monastery and the Yungang Grottoes (it snowed!)


Caleb's piano recital

Isaac's piano recital

Claire's first 1st day of school

1st stop on our amazing African adventure: Addis Ababa, where we visited the Entoto Church.

Next stop: Amboseli National Park in Kenya. We spent three glorious days on Safari in Amboseli - what an experience! (That's Mount Kilimanjaro in the background).

We visited a Maasai school and brought them school supplies.

We visited a Maasai tribe and danced with them.
We ate Bush Breakfasts.

We saw thousands of animals, in some cases close enough to touch.
Then we spent three days at another camp in the Maasai Mara, also in Kenya.

We saw more animals, including a pride of lions, an elusive leopard, and these hippos - see them in the river behind us?

It was an indescribable experience. We took 7000+ photos over 6 days and made memories to last a lifetime and beyond.
After we came home, I wrote a story about our trip and it was published in a local magazine.


Our last stop in Africa was Zanzibar, Tanzania,
where we fed and petted a 500 (not a typo) year old tortoise,

went snorkeling and swimming on our own private sandbar (where, unfortunately, Caleb got stung by a sea urchin and had to visit the local emergency room to remove the spines - no pictures of that episode,
it was too traumatic to worry about capturing anything on film),

visited a spice farm, and just generally enjoyed a little slice of paradise.


In August we visited Shanghai. We stayed at the JW Marriott which houses the
highest library in the world.

We also stopped to visit the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party.

We enjoyed a lot of down time playing and relaxing.

And, we took in a river cruise to get an up close view of the world famous skyline.

Then summer was over and it was time for the first day of school - Caleb in 4th grade, and Isaac in 2nd.


Over Labor Day we took a quick, but truly enjoyable trip to Mongolia. The air was clean and we spent all day every day outside, hiking, riding horses, canoeing, running, playing wiffle ball and archery, and just enjoying the outdoors.

We stayed in a gher (the Mongolian equivalent of a yurt), a fun and unique experience for everyone.

Then we spent a few hours in Ulaanbaatar where we posed with an enormous statue of Ghengis Khan.


In October, we played tourist in Beijing, visiting the Confucius temple and indulging in some really delicious street food.

We also stopped by the Drum and Bell towers and watched the drum show.

Then we took a quick weekend trip to Shaolin Temple, purportedly the birthplace of Kung Fu.

On the same trip, we visited the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, China,

We also took our very first family camping trip in October, along with about
100 Cub Scouts and their families.
We camped near an un-restored section of the Great Wall. Pretty cool, even though the pollution was off the charts high.

Last but not least, we celebrated Halloween as Indiana Jones, a purple witch, and George Washington.
In case you're wondering, assuming you're still reading,
Caleb's wig was made out of a swim diaper and cotton balls.


We hit the road again this month, this time for our first visit to Hong Kong. 
We enjoyed everything about Hong Kong, especially the food, museums, and gardens.
Of course, no trip to Hong Kong could be complete without a visit to Hong Kong Disneyland.
What fun we had!

In December, we stayed home in Beijing to enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. We packed the month with concerts, parties, exams, performances, food, and all sorts of holiday cheer.

Mostly, we spent time together as a family reflecting on the past year and
feeling grateful for all our many adventures and blessings.

If you've made it this far, you deserve a medal. As you can see, we've had a jam-packed year, as usual. With 2015 over we now turn our attention to all that 2016 has in store for us and our friends and family, wherever you may be. We can't wait!

Monday, December 08, 2014

25 Days of Christmas - Day 8

My kids love for me to chaperone their field trips.  And, while I do enjoy spending time with them and seeing parts of Beijing I might not normally visit, field trip chaperone is not my favorite pastime. Despite that, I promised I would accompany each of them on at least one field trip this year and Caleb's was this week.  Unfortunately, it was also to an ice skating.

Now, I grew up in Hawaii.  We don't have ice there, ever.  We had one ice skating rink on the complete other side of the island from where we lived.  Ice Palace.  And, we only ever went there on field trips, and even then, probably only a handful of times over the course of my schooling.  And while I did go to college in Utah, winter sports are not so much my thing, so add another handful of times to my tally, throw in a random date here or there and you've got a grand total of about 12 times that I have ever donned ice skates.  In my entire life.  But, when one is surrounded by a passel of third graders, one has to appear confident and together and ready to meet all challenges with grace and poise and a complete lack of totally justified fear that one is about to careen head-long into said third graders or the wall and certainly come away from the day more than a little bruised and battered.

There were 4 parents on the trip.  3 moms and 1 dad.  The Dad is a hockey enthusiast and he brought his own skates.  The other two moms stated in no uncertain terms before we even boarded the buses that under no circumstances would they be going anywhere near the ice.  I was delighted to hear this was even an option and was all set to join their club when Caleb piped up and said to all of his friends, "Of course my mom can ice skate, she'll be going out on the ice with us.  Right, Mommy?"  Um, right.  And, so, I did.

I was no help as a chaperone.  That is indisputable.  I could not hold hands or steady wobbly children or catch anyone.  I could barely even stay our of their paths.  But, I am proud to say that over the course of 2 bone-chillingly cold hours, I managed to stay upright.  I didn't even have to grope the wall for support, ahem, much, and I was able, on a few occasions, to turn around, change direction, and even stop.  I don't think I'll be ice skating again anytime soon, but it's nice to know I've still got it.  And by it, I mean the ability to suppress my rational and irrational fears and do things my logical self would normally run away from as fast and far as possible.

Caleb was fearless and he had a blast.  
Thank goodness for his helmet and protective pads!

He spent more time lying on or crashing into the ice than he did upright, but he was still smiling at the end.

In fact, we both were!

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