Monday, September 22, 2014

Pinewood Derby 2013

Caleb participated in his first Pinewood Derby last fall.  Watching Caleb (and, truth be told, Kenny) agonize over the design and weight and aerodynamics of his car was fun.  Caleb enjoyed every step of the process from getting his block of wood, to looking up all the zillions of possible designs and secrets to speed available on the world wide web.  He ecstatically chose paint colors and glued on weights.  He gleefully attended the weigh-ins, which seemed to occur inexplicably frequently and last forever.  And, then, best of all, he went to the race itself and happily watched each car zip down the (very fancy, at least compared to the pinewood derbies I attended with my brothers) track.  

Sadly, his car did not perform well.  

He came in dead last.  Of EVERYONE.

But, he was a trooper and was awarded the Sportsmanship trophy, a pretty nice consolation prize.  This summer when we visited what turned out to be the largest scouting store in the world!, Kenny bought a couple of fancy tools to improve on last year's performance.  I think Kenny took it a lot more personally than Caleb did that the(ir) car did so poorly.  Luckily for Kenny, this year he'll have two chances to show what he has learned since his (I mean, Caleb's) car crashed and burned so miserably last year.  Stay tuned! 

 Ready for the race to start

 All the entries.

 Caleb's den's cars -- his is the purple one with gold stars

 Pretty cool track, huh?

Such a good sport!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Manly Beach

Last fall we took a trip to Australia.

Our first stop was Manly Beach where we stayed for three days and enjoyed a little slice of beach life.

Having grown up on the North Shore of Oahu, this is a lifestyle with which I am very familiar. People walking around barefoot wearing all manner of beach attire. Buggy boards and surfboards strapped to car roofs, bicycles, motorcycles, and backs. Salty breezes and perpetually sandy feet. Endless applications of sunscreen and the inevitable burn in spite of your vigilance. Swimsuits that never quite dry between wearings and sand in your hair no matter how many times you wash it. Delicious food that tastes all the more scrumptious after a long day of sun and surf. Sand castles and crab hunting, napping on the beach, and good old-fashioned fun.

The first day we arrived was overcast and a little chilly,
so we visited the local aquarium.

We saw sharks and sea turtles and rays and eels and endless varieties of fish.

We watched the penguin show,

and hung out with the mermaids.

The next day, the sun came out. Huzzah! We donned our swimsuits, grabbed our pails and shovels, and headed to the beach for a relaxing day of


and surf

and a dip in the pool afterwards just because we could.

It was so refreshing being in a place where the air (and everything else) was clean.  The people were so friendly and everything was easy and calm.  We spent a lot of time outside just breathing deeply and trying to rehabilitate our lungs after prolonged exposure to the polluted air in China.  The kids played at the local playground and ran everywhere.  Every way we looked we were met with gorgeous, pristine scenery.  It was such a relaxing and much needed escape.

This was the view from our hotel room.  Perfection. 

These free filtered water stations were everywhere in Manly. Such a great idea. We had forgotten that there are still places in the world where water not in a plastic bottle is potable!

Our last evening in Manly we took in the coast.

First, we went to this art museum built right on the shore featuring the work of many local artists.

Then we ate dinner at this waterfront restaurant.

After dinner, we went for a walk along the coast. We saw beautiful plant life, like this stunning bird of paradise. 

We didn't see any penguins on our walk, but these signs were everywhere, so we were on the lookout. 

We climbed the rocks and trees. 

 We explored the tide pools.

We watched the sunset and just soaked in the beauty of it all.  Our time in Manly was a great start to what turned out to be a nearly perfect vacation.

Friday, September 19, 2014

12 months on

We arrived in China on January 28, 2013 (Caleb's birthday).  The day after we arrived, our new friends* took us out to dinner at a local dumpling place.  I don't have any pictures from that night but I remember a few highlights.

1.  It was freezing.  Freezing. And, we were walking outside for what seemed like forever.  It wasn't, but it was cold and we had no idea where we going, so it felt interminable. They led us through a maze of alleys, constantly cautioning us to watch where we stepped. There were hoards of people swirling around, despite the bitter chill. And the pollution was so bad you could taste the air. Not our best introduction to life in Beijing.

2. We were deliriously tired.  Isaac even fell asleep over his plate. Sound asleep.  I remember feeling more exhausted than I had ever felt and the burden of trying to make conversation with utter strangers was almost more than I could bear.

3. The food was good (though not all of it was immediately recognizable) and everyone (except Isaac) ate, but it was even freezing in the restaurant (we never took our coats off) and all I could think about was getting back to our new, climate-controlled home and our borrowed beds and linens.

4. Learning Chinese, even a little bit, was going to be HARD. We were definitely not in Kansas anymore and all sense of the familiar was gone. As it happens, that wasn't entirely the case, but at that moment, it felt like we were a million miles from anything and everything we knew.

1 year later, we commemorated our arrival in China with a meal at the same restaurant. It has become one of our favorite restaurants and we have been there many times. They specialize in dumplings, in hundreds of varieties, and the kids could eat dumplings all day long every day if given the option so they love it. 

We were much wiser on this visit than on our first visit and knew the restaurant was just a short walk from our apartment building. We knew to ask for an interior table nowhere near the door so we could take off our coats and eat in relative comfort. We knew to bring spoons and forks for our children who aren't quite proficient with chopsticks, yet. We knew what to order and definitely what not to order. And, we knew to remember to bring the camera.

We can't believe we have been in China for a year already (actually, as I write this, 
we are closing in on 2 years!).  

Claire loves her rice!

One of their claims to fame is colored dumplings. The filling can be anything you want and everything tastes better wrapped in orange, green, or purple! 

Two very happy boys!

Come visit, we'll take you to eat here. You'll love it!

*One of the services the US Embassy provides each new family is a sponsor. The sponsor is available to answer questions and provide perspective and advice in advance of your arrival at post. They make your beds and unpack the temporary kitchen supplies and bedding supplied by the embassy and they arrange your first meal, whether it is home cooked, take-out, or a trip to a neighborhood establishment. We were lucky enough to be assigned really helpful sponsors who did us the great favor of introducing us to one of our very favorite places to eat anywhere in the world.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Easter Photo(s)

Getting all three of the kids to look at the camera at the same time with decent expressions is nearly impossible.  Thank goodness for digital cameras.  We take shot after shot in the hopes that one will be a keeper.  Holiday pictures generally tend to be the worst, probably because I really want them to come out great and usually there are carefully selected outfits involved.  Easter this year was particularly challenging, as evidenced below... 

90% of the time, Claire is the culprit

for example

now she's just toying with me

and here, she just up and walked away

and then decided she'd be happier on her own

Caleb does everything he can to get the other two to cooperate, 
look at that perfect posture!

Claire look at Mommy, Claire look at Mommy, Claire look at Mommy, 
Claire, Claire, Claire...

responding to Kenny's attempts to get her attention

If Claire plays around too long, we inevitably lose Isaac, by this point he was done

The best of the bunch.  3 smiling faces looking in the sameish direction.  
Not perfect, but we'll take it.  Next up, 4th of July. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nothing but Claire Bear

Most of my posts focus on travel or the kids.  Caleb and Isaac have a lot more going on than Claire so their presence on the blog is disproportionately larger than hers.  To even things up a bit, the following is a series of photos of Claire, month by month since she was born.

Day 1, January 9, 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 9, 2013 - First Birthday

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 9, 2014 - Second Birthday

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

There she is!  

Through this exercise I have discovered several things:
1. Claire is not a great poser for pictures and getting even a decent shot is difficult
2. I need to take more pictures, of Claire, yes, but also just in general
3. We spend a lot of time indoors -- cursed pollution!
4. Claire is cute, okay, I already knew that, but now there is photographic proof!

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