Saturday, January 26, 2013

Marine Corps Ball

One of the biggest events of the year for us here at the embassy is the Marine Corps Ball. A good reason to get all dressed up.

I had some struggles with my dress, as I was just getting to the point of having a baby bump. I actually had a dress made here at a tailor shop, but it wasn't right at all. In fact, in Meeshell's tactful way, he asked that I please not wear it : ). So I scrounged around and came up with something I wore while I was pregnant with Leah, on a cruise with MB and my parents. It worked but I was disappointed about the dress.

I wasn't very excited to go but in the end I had a pretty good time. Although as the party went on (until 1am or so!), this pregnant mama asked to be taken home at around 9:45. Just can't party like I used to, I guess.

I was happy to have this guy as my date. So handsome, right?

Christmas morning

Although this picture is blurry, I think you can still see the excitement on Leah's face as she came downstairs and saw all of the presents under and around the tree. Ian was also super excited.

First stop: play with the new dollhouse and train set that Santa had left out in front of the tree. Ian actually played all morning with his trains. We had a hard time getting him to open his gifts when it was his turn.

Leah jumped right into the present opening and helped us pass out the gifts as each person had their turn.

As soon as she unwrapped her princess dress from her cousin Emily, she had to put it on immediately.

She was quick to help Ian unwrap his presents when he was taking too long to do it.

We got lots of presents from all of our generous family, who lovingly shopped, packed up and shipped to us here in Beijing.

Thanks to their efforts, the kids were able to have the same kind of Christmas celebration that we are used to having in the US. We felt very blessed.

I didn't feel so blessed to have to clean this mess up, but the kids contently played all day long with their new toys. All in all, it was a great Christmas Day.

And no Christmas Day would be complete without these lovelies. Seriously, could not stop eating them. Leah often asks when we will have Christmas again. And when it snows here in Beijing she is always convinced that Santa is going to come back to our house.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Christmas Eve night

After getting their new jammies, reading the Christmas story out of the scriptures and watching the nativity video, we continued the tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve.

This is a Michael thing (from when he was a child perhaps?) and one that I have tried to outlaw (I love the anticipation of gifts on Christmas morning and really like to wait to open all of the presents in the morning), but I guess we are going with it.

That's the good thing about Christmas traditions - the mixture of habits and celebrations from each parent's childhood. The kids were happy to get to unwrap some of the loot before bed.

Once we got the kids in bed, I spent time in the kitchen prepping for the cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

Michael spent his evening laying out Ian's new train track set from Santa.

Leah's dollhouse also got set up. I had fun getting all of the adorable furniture set up just right.

Everything was ready for the morning wake up. Christmas is fun for everyone, but we especially enjoyed the excitement of our kids this year as they are catching on to the idea of Christmas and all the fun that goes along with it.

Christmas Eve traditions

In our efforts to make this year's Christmas a normal celebration (even though we are so far away from where we used to call home) we headed out on Christmas Eve day to have some holiday fun.

Our first stop was at the Hilton down by the embassy which has the best train set up that I have ever seen before. The kids were in heaven, to say the least.

This gives you an idea of the scale. The Christmas tree in the middle is huge, and the train set up had many different levels and trains. There was such intricate details.

This kid was in heaven. He and Leah ran around the track, following the trains as they went along their tracks. I'm not sure the employees at the Hilton knew what to think of us and our kids. The strange thing is that we were the only ones who were there to see the trains. Seemed to me like a fun (and free!) place to bring your kids on Christmas Eve day.

Next stop was a great (American??) burger place close by the hotel. This is our newest tradition - burgers and fries (not the kind from McDonald's like in our last post) and shakes for lunch on Christmas Eve day.

The kids loved it and so did I. It tasted like a real burger. The meat here is usually a little bit or a lot different than what we used to eat in the US.

A big fat juicy burger and sweet potato fries really hit the spot. I know just where we will come next year.

Christmas shopping

We set out a few days before Christmas to do a little bit of shopping here in Beijing. We ordered most of our gifts online but needed to pick up a couple of small things. First stop: McDonald's. This isn't too far from our house and actually tastes pretty authentic.

The kids were having fun and they always get lots of attention while we are out and about. It's mostly because of their light hair, but their Chinese also brings them adoring fans as well.

He loves getting his picture taken. Can't you tell?

Next stop on the agenda was the mall right down the street from our neighborhood (where the McDonald's is actually located). There was plenty of Christmas decorations up, which the kids loved.

Some of it was a little strange, but it was mostly normal (welcome to China, where life is mainly weird with a tiny tiny bit of normal). The kids loved getting up close with this snowman.

We also had a quick photo shoot with some adorable bunnies upstairs.

We had a fun little outing together. It's nice to have some shopping options close to home and not to have to go downtown for everything.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


 Ok, I think I get two gold stars for taking the kids out into the frozen tundra to play.  We doubled up on clothes, with their jammies on underneath (MB thought this was overkill but I was cold!).  They kind of had a good time. 
 I don't think they understood the concept of playing in the snow.  I think they thought it was finally a chance for them to play outside, just like they used to when it wasn't so cold.  Ian looks thrilled here, doesn't he?

 They were happy to become reacquainted with the swings that they love so much.  When Leah slipped and fell, she cried because there was snow on her mittens.  Certainly no snowman making going on around here.

 Ian decided he didn't need mittens.  He didn't last very long outside.  He was crying to go back inside in about 7 minutes.  He really is my favorite child sometimes.

 Leah wasn't quite as anxious to get back inside.  She wanted to play on all of her favorite toys while she could.  Of course, while trying to get on this horse, she kept getting snow on the seat.  I helped her on up and then she was happy.

 I included this picture because it shows our house in the background.  There it is, right next door to the playground and on a cul-de-sac too.  We really lucked out.

I finally convinced Leah to head inside with the promise of some hot chocolate.  Well, some lukewarm chocolate.  My kids don't like to eat or drink anything even remotely resembling warm or hot.  They don't know what they're missing.

it's snowing

I've heard snow isn't that common here in Beijing, but it feels pretty common this year.  This week was the second time we've had snow since moving here.  And this time, it stuck around.  The kids were excited to check it out and I was happy for them to be looking at it from inside.  I couldn't take them out to play the first day (it's so cold here!) but I promised them that we could go out the next day.  More pictures to follow of the winter wonderland.  And yes, that is our patio furniture cushions that are being ruined.  What can you do?