Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas 2005

Christmas was a whirlwind! We got back from our trip to Hong Kong on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. I went straight to the grocery store, while Michael started an attack on the luggage and laundry. I had made soup and froze it before our trip, so I just threw our dinner together.

Next was our annual Christmas pageant. I must say that every year gets a bit more crazy. Please remind Michael that next year it is his turn to narrate, and MY turn to film! Continuing on...The children all picked out their own costumes this year. I'm not sure if I can describe it adequately, but I'll try. Nicole was Mary. She decided to wear Mike's huge white t-shirt with a ball inside, because she was, after all, pregnant. She rode into Bethlehem on a stick horse, and continued to feed and pet it throughout the entire birth. What a woman! Let me say here that Caitlin's Cabbage Patch kid that suddenly appeared played his part to perfection. Eli was Joseph. He started out in the huge, black, grim-reaper Halloween costume, but somehow managed a costume change mid-pageant and ended up in the white Starwars wrap-around robe. Jay was our shepherd. He wore his brown Star-Wars cloak, and I must say looked his part the best, if it weren't for the life-size stuffed lion that he brought to the birth. Rachel, our Christmas Angel. Or maybe I should say Christmas fairy. She had on a white shirt and skirt, but wore green fairy wings, long green feather earrings, and some Red and Green leg warmers. I will say that the metal-cross-stitch frame she barretted in her hair was a nice touch. Last came in Caitlin, our wiseman, with a bright fleece scarf wrapped around her head. Let's just say...Vibrant? Well, it was quite the sight to behold. If only we hadn't tried to sing Joy to the World. That just pushed the senses past their thresh-hold! It's time to face the facts...WE ARE TERRIBLE SINGERS!

We barely made it through the pageant...But we had a wonderful time reading the love gift letters that we had exchanged with my family. The kids wrote Santa a note and left the oreos (after dealing with the disappointment of no time to make any cookies), and climbed into bed. Santa stayed busy for several more hours. Just before bed, I noticed my royal blue junior high Cheerleading trunks, and wondered how they got here, instead of stored. There are many things that baffle us. And you may be baffled as well, at this point, but you'll understand my reason for mentioning this at a later point.

We actually had to wake our children up! We have never had to do this before! But we had our entire church group coming over at 12:30 for church, and then Christmas Dinner. We also were so excited to talk to both of our families. So we woke the children up at 6:00am. We had a wonderful time, especially opening thoughtful gifts sent by our family in Utah. We felt so loved. We then were able to visit with our family. It was a high-light of the day. After we were finished opening the gifts, we had to say..."Merry Christmas kids! Now make it look like this never happened." We rushed to put all of our gifts on our beds, and clean up to get ready for church. I will say that by this point I was wondering what we had done, inviting everyone here. I wasn't feeling that "Christmas Spirit" at this point, I am ashamed to admit.

Just as I stepped out of the shower, people began to arrive:-). I was very quick to get ready. We had a wonderful Church service. It was just the right thing to help us focus on our Savior. Afterward, we had a wonderful dinner. Some Chinese friends, came after our service to join our dinner. Everyone brought things and we had a delicious ham. Wow was that a treat! We found one ham at Metro, and boy was it delicious! After dinner we had a white-elephant exchange. It was so much fun. There were about 40 of us, and every age enjoyed it. Nicole had helped me load a few bags since things were so crazy. Sister Yu got up, and opened her gift. First she pulled out a silly hat that Nicole had put in, and next thing I know, she is holding up my blue cheerleading trunks! I was in shock! I think she was too! Nicole had seen them sitting there and just put them in. Well, needless to say, it got quite the laugh, and Sister Yu, rewrapped them and stuck them back under the tree. Luckily, later in the game, Rachel recovered them for me. You know, since I'm sure I will be wearing them soon...

When everyone left, we couldn't stop smiling, and couldn't have imagined how our Christmas Day could have been any better, except of course being with our far-away family!

And now I have to apologize. We got a new digital video camera, which we are very excited about,and forgot to use the regular one. I know I can pull pics off of it, but am not that handy yet, so I guess you'll have to just use your imagination this time, and I promise not to do that again!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hong Kong Photos

The view from our window at the YMCA. This is the ferry, we caught a block from our hotel, and just a picture we took of a side-street.

Hong Kong Photos

Here we are with the Millers in front of the Budhist temple. A couple of photos at Victoria Peak. Here are all of the children in front of the temple, and a picture of the temple.

Hong Kong Photos

The photos are a little random here. The top one is for Dad. A very steep cemetery. Next is the busy Disneyland main street. There is a pic of the view from our Disney Hollywood Hotel room, and the kids with Goofy and Pluto.

Hong Kong Photos

Here we all are at the entrance to Disneyland. Next, is proof of our craziness to go swimming, and finally, our attempt at at least looking famous. There is always a photo opportunity at the Disneyland Resort!

Our Wonderful trip to Hong Kong...

Bright and early Saturday morning, December 17th, we were up and ready to go to the airport. This was the one morning our driver, Jiang, chose to be late. 45 minutes late! Wow, were we stressed! And a bit mad. We never have received an explanation, but Jiang drove like the wind, and luckily, we have lots of girls who can help fill out the millions of forms to go through customs. We made it to the Hong Kong Disney Land hotel around 1:00 pm Wow, was it beautiful!!! It was heavenly just walking around the grounds, which had a perfect view of the ocean. The children were so excited because Mickey Mouse was on everything. The carpet, the bedspreads, the artwork, everything. And everyone who worked there would smile, say hello, and tell them to have a magical day. Now, if that isn't worth hundreds of dollars a night, I don't know what is! Oh...Don't let me forget that Goofy was in the lobby every night for photos! They even gave us Mickey Mouse slippers in adult and children's sizes. It was about 55 degrees that day, but the children all insisted on swimming in the outdoor pool. I was a bit chilly, but they didn't seem to notice. Our friends, the Larsens, and the Millers had all arrived by that evening. It was so wonderful to see them. They are two families from our ward in Canton, Michigan, who are also crazy enough to come to live in Asia. Creed and John also work for Ford. The Millers live in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Larsens, in Chongqing China. We had the best time with them. It couldn't have been more perfect! Our children aren't even all the same ages. I think between the three families, we could have a child just about every age from one to thirteen. Close, anyway. But all of the children were so happy to be with friends, and all got along perfectly! Rachel and Nicole were so happy and willing to watch the children a couple of evenings so that us adults could stay out and visit. We were so grateful!

Sunday, we had our first adventure on the Hong Kong Subway, on our trip to church. I was never sure if it was a branch, or a ward, but they welcomed our huge group with open arms, and even insisted we stay after for their Christmas Lunch. It was delicious, and really sweet of them. We even tasted some Philippine desserts. Very interesting. The church was four stories high. The space is so limited, that the buildings have to be small and high.

On Monday, we went to Disneyland. Everyone had such a good time. It isn't a large Disneyland. Actually, it's quite small. The only big ride is Space Mountain. But nobody complained. It was a great show, and we had fun even on the smaller rides. We went on Monday, and Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon got really busy. In fact, all of the fast passes were sold out by 1:30 pm. We all left around 4:00. We were glad we had gone two days so we didn't have to fight the crowds too much. I'll put in a photo to show how busy it was on Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday was the day for shopping! Luckily, the Larsens had come to Hong Kong earlier in the year, and were great guides. That day we moved from the Disney Hotel, into town at the YMCA. I don't know how they did it, but the YMCA has a great spot of real-estate! We had a perfect view of Hong Kong across the bay. It was amazing. On Wednesday, we rode the ferry, and jumped onto the Double-decker bus. The bus took us through narrow winding streets to Stanley Market. What a great place! It has tons of little stalls selling everything! But the best things for us were the children's' clothing from Gap, Oshkosh, etc. For so cheap! That evening, us ladies hit the Lady's Market. More shopping...But this was more like the stuff we are used to here in China. The girls came with us, and we had a great time.

Thursday was our day at the Temple. Mike and Rachel were able to go early to do baptisms for the dead. It was a great experience for both of them. Because we live far from our ecclesiastical leaders, my dad helped us get permission for her to be interviewed by a member of the temple presidency. It was a wonderful day for her. The rest of us made it there, and we set up all of the children in a primary room. The Hong Kong temple sits on top of a chapel. The older children watched the young ones, so that all of us parents could attend together. It was a wonderful experience. We felt such peace there. Such a contrast from the huge, bustling city of Hong Kong. Afterward we went to a mall and bought shoes and shirts that fit Michael! He has to wear a tie to work everyday now, a change that didn't happen until after we moved here. Unfortunately, we weren't prepared for that. He was in desperate need! That night, we happened to see that the Nutcracker was playing near our hotel. Heidi took two of her boys, Laurel took Emma, and I took my girls. It was so much fun! It really helped things feel like Christmas. We got back at about 10:00pm , and Mike and Creed headed out to the Night Market. He got back at 12:30! The city never sleeps. He had found a place that sold the kind of curling iron and flat iron I use!

Friday was our last day. We went to the trolley car that took us up Victoria Peak, where we saw a beautiful view of the city. The trolley seemed to go straight up, the mountain was so steep. It is amazing the way they have built into the mountain. We then went to a Buddhist temple. My children have seen many Buddhist temples, but the trip there was neat. We got to see the antique market. That evening, we all met together at the TGI Friday restaurant. We felt right at home, because it was the same as every other TGI Fridays I've ever been too. Good food, terrible service! We all had a good laugh. Us ladies had one last rush to shop. We stopped at the Esprit outlet, where we were disappointed to find most everything in size 2 and 4 (and that sizes ran very small). We stopped in the lobby at 11:45pm for a tear-filled good-bye. We had such a wonderful time together.

Friday morning we finished packing, and went to the airport. To top off a great trip...They upgraded us to business class for the flight home! I'd say that was the end of a perfect R&R vacation! We all decided that there wasn't much rest involved, but there was drinkable water, plenty of wonderful food, comfortable good friends, people speaking English, and sizes to fit us! The girls were able to spend some Christmas money on clothes to fit them. They were happy! It was wonderful because it was like a huge Western city, with an oriental flair! A great mix of both worlds!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A couple of fun things this week (12/13-12/16)...

This Monday, Rachel went to Beijing for a school Kid Lit Quiz competition. For those who don't know what this is, it is a literature trivia competition between teams with four people on each. It is tricky with an international crowd, because they use books from all over the world, not just the ones we read in America. She had a great time. She left on Monday morning, and then spent the evening with a girl from America, living in Beijing. They were both very amazed because they both love the show Monk. They spent part of the evening watching a couple of episodes. The next day they met at the school for the competition. They did pretty well, but unfortunately didn't win. That's ok, she said she had some really good ice-cream at the mall. I'm not sure if I believe her! (It's been so long!) She didn't get to see any tourist spots this trip, but looks forward to seeing more when we go as a family.

On Tuesday, Caitlin was in a special play put on by the older elementary students. The theme was on sharing the planet. It was a wonderful show, and very cleverly put together. Each grade was in charge of a scene. Caitlin's group did a sort of rendition of Stomp. It was very cool. She kept the whole beat going with her garbage can and lid! It was a great evening. I put in a photo of her performance.

On Friday night we went to the company work Christmas party. It was at a nice hotel in town. The Chinese employees were in charge of the party, and it turned out to be lots of fun. Mike got out of being Santa, because another employee asked if he could do it. Mike agreed right away! It was a nice evening. It was over late, and we rushed home to get to bed before leaving the next morning at 6:30 for Hong Kong. I put in a somewhat blurry pic of Santa, Jay, and other lovers of Santa.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Zhe Jing's Baptism

We all met this morning at 8:00 am for the baptism of Zhe Jing. She has been coming to church with us. She was a room-mate of one of the BYU students this last semester. She is from Singapore, and can meet with us because she is foreign. She has been taking the discussions and reading the Book of Mormon.

We all met at the swimming pool of the Crown Plaza Hotel. As you can tell from the photo, we had to wait for the swimmers to clear out. We all stood around as we had a simple service. The spirit was so strong as we listened to a short talk on baptism, and then Brother Yu baptized Zhe Jing. The Second Counselor of the China District was able to come with his wife, and they even brought a baptism dress.

Today in Sacrament Meeting, Zhe Jing was confirmed. It was a beautiful blessing. She was asked to bare her testimony later in the meeting, and her testimony was amazing! She bore witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon, not only as a spiritual guide for our lives, but it is the word of God. Her testimony was so direct. I would have never guessed she just got baptized today, her testimony is so strong.

Our family feels so blessed to see the gospel grow in our little group here in Nanjing.

He Took Me To The Ball

I don't know how I did it...But I got Mike to take me to the International Club Christmas Ball. Anyone who knows Mike well knows how much he dislikes (to put it mildly) dancing. I had a fabulous time, and I'm pretty sure Mike had a good time too. Here is how the evening went:

I spent the day taking the sisters from our group to Metro(a large grocery store that is far from town, but has more foreign products than other places) for our Enrichment activity. Then I tried to finish up some Christmas shopping for the kids. On the way home, I asked the driver to please stop if he saw a flower shop, so that I could get some flowers for me from Mike (he thought that was pretty funny). Unfortunately, there was no flower shop to be seen, but that's ok, cause Mike got me a hot water-bottle the other day for my eternal teeth chattering. That was pretty romantic, right?.

I dressed up in the Chinese-style dress I had made (I didn't make it, I had it made), and Mike in his silk brocade tie. Off we rode to the ball in our big silver pumkin (the Transit). We skipped the coctails, and arrived just in time for dinner. The name of the ball this year was It's Red, It's hot, It's happening... But the tickets didn't read right... they say It's Happening, It's hot, It's red... Am I the only one who thinks that sounds a bit odd?

It's all ok though, cause the ball was fantastic! Each course of the meal was introduced with a different theme. Course one, the women were all dressed in ancient Chinese dress and carrying lanterns, with music. The waitors, about 50 of them, all came in and served in unison. In the second course, there was a person dressed as a big tomato, with the music," you say tomato, I say tomato". They brought the third course in with patriotic Chinese music, and all dressed in military fatigues. They called that "the long red march". Finally, they all dressed as devils and brought in dessert. Dinner was quite the production!

It was so much fun to visit with many people we have met here. Everyone was so dressed up. The best part of the evening was that Mike danced with me for over two hours! He did a great job, even when we were faking "proper-dancing". He told a friend that he was dancing because "Lonnie loves to dance, and I love Lonnie." Who needs flowers after that?????

Jay's Big Ouchy

(This photo was taken one week later. It looks so much better here. OUCH!) On Tuesday, I got a call from the school nurse. Jay had injured his finger. Apparently, a large rock had fallen on his finger. Ok, it hadn't fallen, it was thrown. He moved out of the way, but couldn't quite move his pinky in time. Wow did it look sore! It was about twice it's normal size, and dark purple. The nail was very injured and is already partially off. Anyway, I was pretty sure it was ok (other than being sore), but the nurse wanted me to take him to the clinic to get it checked. The doctor wanted us to go have an x-ray...which is the reason for this story. We went to the military hospital. The nurse (who is Chinese, but trained by our Western Doctor) rode in our car with us. She took us down so many halls. We sat for a moment in a room full of people waiting, then they took us right in for the x-ray. I felt so bad going in front of all of those people. The hospital was very plain, and very cold. It didn't feel like there was any heat, at least where we were. But, they had nice equipment. The nurse had to bring her own lead apron for Jay. They didn't have any there. The doctors didn't seem very important at all. They were not given decent offices, or quarters. Inside the "x-ray diagnostic" area, there were metal desks, wooden chairs, and some of those wall light things they look at x-rays on. heat. Jay's finger isn't broken, so we are really glad about that. It was a very interesting thing to see inside the hospital. And I think we were very interesting inside the hospital, as well. So it all worked out! The most shocking thing was the bill we paid...80.00 US. And that was probably the VIP Foreigner rate. Not Bad!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Happy Birthday Caitlin

Our Caitlin turned 10 this week! We celebrated her birthday this Wednesday, November 30th. Mike kept teasing her that we were going to celebrate it on the official day, and since she was born in Maryland, it would be Thursday here in China. She didn't think that was too funny. Caitlin always chooses such an easy birthday meal for me...Spaghetti! And instead of cake, she chose brownies. Hurray! She is growing up to be such a sweet girl. She is so helpful, and people are always commenting on this quality of hers. She was so excited to have a birthday party sleep-over on Friday night. She invited seven friends. Believe it or not, she was the only American girl! We had two Chinese girls, girls from Africa, Holland, Belgium, Italy, and Germany. Quite the world-class party, huh? Well, I had several activities planned, but after a wild game of Christmas Bingo, they started to play on their own. I wasn't about to interrupt that! They played horse all night. I mean, as in little ponies. I heard comments like," I look like Spirit, but my name is Windy", and "Guys, horses don't talk!" and "Will you brush my main???". It was so funny, and so cute. Talk about an easy party!

On Friday morning, I was able to go to a neat place called Xue Xiang Lou, with my friends Yulan and Sunny. Yulan is a member of our group, and Sunny is a friend who has come to church and activities a few times. They are Medical Students from Taiwan. We had a great morning visiting this historical sight where an emperor of the Ming Dynasty built a tower to overlook the river for military purposes. There was such a beautiful view of the Yangtze River, and Nanjing. They also treated me to a "soy bean" breakfast drink that I'm sure Kellee and Mom will just love:-)

Last Sunday afternoon we hung the decorations on our "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree that we found. We just let the kids hang any old decoration on it that they wanted to. The star...That looked great on our real trees in the previous years, looks like it will tip the tree over at any moment. Believe me, it's even smaller than it looks in this picture. I bought two sets of lights, but one set didn't work when we got it, and the other was not working within the hour. But no worries...We love our little "China" Christmas tree.

We are really looking forward to our trip to Hong Kong in two weeks. We will get to go to hang out with great friends from Michigan! We will visit Hong Kong Disneyland, and also get to attend the temple there. We are also looking forward to the shopping we have been hearing about. We hope that everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season!