Tuesday, December 30, 2008


This year was very different without the girls. But the boys and Mike and I had a really nice one. On Sunday the 21st we had the branch over at our house for Sacrament Meeting and a Christmas dinner. There were 41 people in this small space! We had a really nice time. We had our annual white-elephant game, and I have photos of the most unique gift. We were lucky enough to have Jay as the recipient...Yes, I'm being sarcastic :-)

Jay read a card about an orphan... It turned out to be a soft-shelled turtle!

Here he is swimming in the new home someone helped Jay find for him. Next time I saw him, he was on my counter. Not very attractive creatures.

I would say this was the second prize for the game. Duck heads and chicken feet.

Well, Mike and I looked up what it takes to take care of a turtle, even though we already knew this turtle was best for eating (to some) and not for a pet. It was pretty complicated to take care of him, so we told Jay we should take him to the pond.

We hope he is hibernating and having a nice winter, or that someone ate him quickly and painlessly.

On Christmas Eve, we made cookies for Santa, and then had a rare treat of tortellini (and Mac and Cheese for the boys) for our Christmas Eve Dinner. We opened our love-gifts, a special tradition we have with our family back home. The gifts were so special. My sister Lori's gift to me was to raise money for Hopeful Hearts, the charity I work with. It was so special, and amazing. Then we watched the Nativity and the boys told their version to Mike and I on the movie camera.

Santa came and we had lots of fun on Christmas morning. The boys had us up at 5:00am, and we were so tired, that around 7:00am Mike and I took a small nap while the boys played with their toys! Grandparents and cousins also sent fun gifts. It was a fun Christmas. We are excited to have the girls come home so we can hear more about their day. Our good friends Julie and Warren Baker came over for Christmas lunch. It was lots of fun. We even got some Perrier (sparkling water) and juice to make fancy drinks! Julie made us a "figgy pudding". Yummy. Afterward we taught them how to play guitar hero, and had some really great Nerf gun fights.

It is really hard to be away from family this time of year. We are especially glad that the girls were able to spend some time with everyone. We are so grateful for our Savior and for his birth. And for wonderful family and friends. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

To Tokyo...

This year is a strange one for our family. Rachel, Nicole and Caitlin have gone to spend the holiday with our family in Utah. They have been so excited for several months. Mike and I, Jay and Eli weren't able to go, and went on a trip to Japan. We had a wonderful time. We can't wait to hear all about the girls' trip. So far from what I gather from our phone conversations, they are having the time of their life!


Important notice at the Shanghai airport (???!!!):

Our first glimpse of Tokyo:

On Sunday morning, we were able to attend one of the English wards for Church. We were lucky to have the Christmas program that Sunday, and the boys really enjoyed primary with lots of other kids. It was a pretty good size ward. Well, compared to what we are used to. That afternoon we went to the Imperial Palace Gardens and walked around. The Japanese really know how to do a beautiful garden!

Here is a small temple we happened upon when we were out exploring. We walked all over down town Tokyo.

We ate at Hard Rock Cafe in Tokyo. Yummy. But all of the food and everything else was expensive! We were pretty creative with our eating.

Early one morning, at 4:30am, we got up and went to the fisherman's wharf, where all of the fish comes in from the sea and then gets packed and sold, and sent out to different places to eat. We saw the Tuna Auction. They used to let people in to the middle of it to see it, but they are working, and it's actually fairly dangerous to get in their way. So, now we had to stay back and look from a distance. There is a man in the middle of all of these huge tunas, and he is the auctioneer. It was crazy! I think this is the first day they didn't let visitors in, because there was a news film crew there. We were interviewed about our feelings on not getting to go into the auction, and were on the News! Unfortunately, we didn't get to see it.

There were rows and rows of these stalls for buyers to come and get. There were also these small propane-tank trucks that would whiz about picking up and delivering fish. We had to work really hard to stay out of their way!

The thing I was most looking forward to: The freshest Sushi you can get in Japan! We were able to watch him make it. Mike and I shared it and it was delicious!!! ( who would have ever thought I could crave raw fish and seaweed!) It was 30.00 for these few pieces of sushi, but worth every penny for the experience.

We went on a river-cruise through downtown. The boys really enjoyed it. The sky was SO blue, and beautiful. We aren't used to such clear weather.

This is the largest temple in Tokyo, and I wish I could remember the name of it. Hmmm. It was so interesting to compare Japan and China. In some ways they are similar, and in others, they are miles and miles apart in their ways.

Then, on our way to the Wonderful World of Disney! We stayed at the Disney Ambassador Hotel. It is really a great atmosphere and so much fun. We went to Disneyland for one day, Disney Sea for the second day, and split the third day between the two. Boy was I Disneyed out by the third evening. We had a fantastic time. The boys were in Heaven!!!

We went to the Diamond Horse-shoe Saloon for their lunch show. The boys and I got roped into being in the show, and Mike enjoyed sitting there taking photos :-)

Poor Mike, he was too big for the kiddy roller-coaster.

It was all decorated so beautifully for Christmas. A lot of the rides were redone for Christmas as well. It was so fun. We enjoyed several shows and a couple of Christmas shows as well.

The boys humored me and went on It's a small world. They loved all of the "mountain" rides like Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain. They also loved The Tower of Terror, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and the Indiana Jones Ride. Eli kept us on track with a map in his pocket and pulled it out constantly to tell us what direction to go.

Some interesting things: The Japanese know how to stand in a line!!! They are so polite. This is opposite of our friends here, who push and cut in and everything else. Most of the people at Disneyland were adults. A lot of younger couples and all in silly Disney hats. In fact, they didn't have much to buy at all at Disney. All of the stores had the same things in them. Cheesy hats in all shapes and sizes and some stuffed animals. They were all very fashionable, and lots of the girls were wearing short-shorts, or short-skirts with tights or nothing on their legs. I was in 4 layers. And they wore high heels at Disneyland! I felt so frumpy in my jeans and gym-shoes. The hot food-item of the day was curry popcorn. There was always a line at least 30 minutes long for this in Disneyland. We didn't try it. I felt like I did when I first came to China, as I only knew 3 words..Hello, Thank you, and good-bye.

These are oragami. Amazing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

December 2008

Here is our Gingerbread house... It's the first one we've ever actually made out of Gingerbread. It was lots of fun, and more difficult than one would think! We made it from the Hopeful Hearts baking mixes that we made to sell for the winter bazaar.

Mike and I went to the International Club Winter Ball on Dec. 6Th. If you remember, this is the one time a year I can get Mike to go dancing with me. I had such a great time. I'm pretty sure he even had fun. He started out dancing pretty stiffly, but as the night wore on, he loosened up and was pretty good! He danced with me as long as I wanted and we got home at 1:00am. Not bad for old people, huh?

Here is Jay's commercial for a Sony cell phone. Apparently, his rock band was really good when they had it, and really bad when they didn't. He sang "We will Rock you". So, if you want to have a rock band, get a Sony. His unit in school was obviously on the persuasion of marketing.

Maybe these photos get old, but after living here over three years, I still get excited about seeing people doing their thing. Here is a walk through Nanjing. It's so intriguing to me...

Julie and I knocking at this lovely door.

"Please don't let me be next!"

Here are some of the lovely holiday displays out in front of the department stores. This first one is a cow riding in a carriage being pulled by flying horses with an Angel watching over them. Next year is the year of the Cow.

I'll have a blue Christmas tree without you!

And finally, the flying tree.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday Caitlin!

I can't believe we already had Thanksgiving! We had a really nice day. Unfortunately, we don't get the holiday. But, we wanted to celebrate, so we had some families over and had a good turkey dinner that evening. I ordered a turkey shipped in from the U.S. and it was yummy. We can get them here, but honestly, they aren't that good. Unfortunately, I put my camera in the kitchen to take photos, and it got lost under all of the food until it got cleaned up! So, no photos of our fun thanksgiving. I chaperoned a dance on that Friday night over at the school. Nicole and Caitlin were both there, and I think they had a good time. It was fun to see them dancing and having fun. We also helped do a Thanksgiving dinner for all of the BYU students and the rest of our branch on Saturday. I did pie for everyone and baked 2 turkeys. It turned out really fun. I think everyone really enjoyed the dinner. But, it was lots of work, and as you will see in the photos, I was very tired by Sunday evening when we celebrated Caitlin's 13th birthday. She is so much fun. Caitlin is really happy to be 13. She chose to go to a Korean restaraunt with Mike and I. We had a great time. She is always full of energy, and taking care of everyone. We are blessed to have her in our family. On Sunday evening, for Caitlin's birthday we decorated the Christmas tree. That seems to be the most popular thing to do on Caitlin's birthday. We have a big, tall fake tree, and we just put on every single ornament we have. It helps cover up how unattractive this tree is. But, it is fun, and we really feel like it's Christmas now, at least in our livingroom. There are some fairly interesting Christmas displays at the department stores. Maybe I'll get out and take a few photos before it's over so you can see.

Caitlin had BIG hair for crazy hair day this year!

Happy Birthday Cait!!!! One thing on the list for the girls to get in the U.S. is birthday candles!

Yes, I am wearing fleece pajamas... It was really cold! At least I'm not wearing them to the grocery store. We had fun decorating the tree!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Rachel! Big 16!

Wow, can you believe I have a 16 year old? I sure can't. Rachel is excited to be 16. She doesn't have her driver's license, and there isn't really a lot of chances to date, here, but at least it's not a big NO! Right? Saturday night, Mike and I took her to dinner to celebrate. She chose a little French resaurant in town called The Five Senses. We had a good time. She had just returned home from Yangshou the night before, where she had trip-week with all of the other grade 10 kids. She had a good time. She got phone calls from her Grandmothers on her birthday which meant a lot. She got notes and calls all day long. We sent some muffins and fruit and hot chocolate to seminary on her birthday morning. The Priestley's gave her 2.5rmb for every week she has been alive. That was exciting. She had chosen very specific food for the day. She wanted guacamole and tortilla chips (very hard to get) which we all enjoyed. Of course, Rachel had her own bowl. For dinner, she wanted chicken pillows, and asparagus. For the dessert, I made a black-forest cake, but had Strawberry pie filling instead of the cherry I thought I had. Well, she seemed to enjoy it. Her friend J.J. came over to wish her a happy birthday and stayed for cake that evening. I think she had a great day. On Monday, her friends made a cake for her. This Friday night, she will share a birthday dinner of pizza with her friend Pao from Germany, who also has a birthday. They will all have pizza with their friends.

Rachel has matured a lot this year. School is getting quite involved, and she is picking things up very well. She is a wonderful part of our family. We love you Rach!

Today we all went and had our shots. Yep, we've been here long enough to need boosters on just about everything. The children were all very brave :-)

Caitlin is off to Shanghai this weekend to play in a Soccer Tournament for middle school. She really enjoys sports, and is doing quite well (for coming from my genes-well, I know my brothers and dad are great with sports, but games like soccer and basketball, or baseball and I have never really been compatable).

Here are a couple of photos from Rachel's birthday. Also, I put a couple of photos Rachel and Nicole took on their trip-weeks. They are pretty good photographers...

Rachel will make a scrapbook of her trip to Yangshuo as an assignment for school. Here are some of her photos:

Nicole's class did a photo contest. Here are some of her best photos:

Caitlin wanted to take photos on her camping trip to Wuxi, but she had the old camera. Unfortunately it didn't work. She had a good time, and learned to use GPS and lash a bamboo raft.