Thursday, December 20, 2012

in the dark streets shineth

As much as I'm missing Hong Kong this is a good time of year to come home- it's too easy to enjoy the Christmas season and it distracts me from how sad I felt when we first left. It feels a little rushed squeezing all our Christmas traditions into a couple weeks instead of nearly a couple months- but we're having fun trying!
The weather is cold, but we've been making an effort to get out of the house and enjoy the season- after all the constant stimulation of city life I think the girls (and myself) would be bored to death if we just stayed home all day and weren't around a few more people.  At least right now we have the tree to entertain them.
Yesterday we went over to city creek and got a little dinner while the girls ran around inside at the play area. It is so beautiful down there and it makes me happy that I can take my girls shopping downtown like my mom did when I was little....AND they brought back the ZCMI candy windows! Which has all but restored my faith in humanity.
I always looked forward to them every year so it was a fun surprise to see their return.
City Creek, you've outdone yourself. 
Now all they need is the old ZCMI candy counter and I could really recreate some of my favorite memories of shopping with my mom...
Temple square at Christmas time is so magical. The girls didn't even seem to mind the freezing cold too much.

They love baby Jesus, which of course melts my heart. They like to point him out in manger scenes. 
I love when the girls get all cuddly- just another benefit of the cold I guess?
family photo attempt #34. When will the kind strangers who offer to take photos for us stop aiming at the cement below us? :)
We were all pretty cold afterwards so when we got home I thought it'd be a nice opportunity to give the girls their first taste of hot cocoa. I made up some cadbury cocoa I brought back from Hong Kong and whipped up some cream with crushed candy canes- I just knew they were going to love it.
And then something strange happened....they tasted, they stuck their fingers in...and then they were done.
Not as big of a hit as I was anticipating. Oh well, it was sort of cute to watch anyways and maybe they'll understand the cocoa business better next time. All in all a successful trip to see the lights at temple square!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Week one in Hong Kong {aka: leaving our safe Utah tower}

The truth: At one point during our first week here Brad turned to me and said "you are just like Rapunzel on tangled, during that one part where she leaves her tower for the first time and is so happy one second then crying and sad then next."
It is true.
Especially the first week or two I really was constantly going back and forth between a state of euphoria and sobbing. I kept being overwhelmed with how amazing the city is and feeling so lucky to be able to live here for a while.
{views of the street below us, walking & from my bedroom window}
Then I'd remember we have two toddlers who are at possibly the worst age ever to safely get around this crowded, polluted place that's never designed with kids in mind. As I imagined being by myself with the girls all day I would start hyperventilating.
Then we'd eat some delicious meal that cost us 5 bucks and I was back on top of the world. Till my tummy stared aching...
Then I'd remember we were going to find a helper! The big bonus of living outside the US- how thrilling, where was this dream helper a year ago when I really needed her?  But, I slowly came to accept the fact that the helper thing wasn't going to work out for us, it's not easy (and not even technically legal) to do anything less than a full-time 2 year contract with helpers here. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to, so crushing that dream hurt a little. And as soon as I took the girls out as I'd planned to do by myself I realized it wasn't a long term solution. The girls technically haven't outgrown their baby bjorns, but my back and shoulders begged to differ.
But I did feel like wearing a superhero cape after I'd done it. It's funny to think back to how proud I was of myself that first time walking outside by myself with the girls, weaving my way through the crowds carrying a baby and navigating a stroller- not knowing exactly where I was going or how I was going to get there. It's all so normal now I hardly think about it. But the baby bjorns only lasted us a few days.
Knowing the baby carrying thing wasn't working out so well, I went on a quest to find a double stroller that was small enough for me to get around with. I saw a lady with a dreamy double umbrella stroller in the HK airport and I knew it'd be perfect for the girls in Hong Kong, I needed to have it. I made it my life's week's mission. It was not so easy to find and each day it became more apparent to me how much I needed it. I would've paid a grand for it. I can be a very determined shopping hunter when there's something I really want. And vwala- I found the very stroller I wanted and someone to deliver it to my door in Hong Kong the next day. Boo-yah. It was a game changer, I think I'd still be crying if we hadn't found it.  I was so relieved I would have a way to get around with both girls by myself during the day- LIFE CHANGING!
A couple days after we got the stroller we got off the MTR station by Brad's work, there was a huge flight on stairs that me and Brad struggled to get the girls up in their stroller (we'd done this several times). The difficulty of each step reaffirmed to me that it would be impossible to do without Brad and I began thinking about how limited I still would be, even with a little double stroller. I felt like I was suffocating, by the time we made it outside I was full on sobbing. How could I stay for so long in this crazy place taking care of the girls with no help during the day? All by myself... I couldn't even lift the stroller up over curbs without Brad in front on me to lift the front (due to the vertical design and weight placement of the babies) When I said that with tears still streaming down my face, Brad showed me that I could actually use my foot on the back wheel to make it tilt up. I'd spent 3 days trying to get it over small bumps with so much difficulty- I felt so relieved when he showed me that I started laughing and said he just changed my life. That's when he brought up the Rapunzel comment.
 Good thing I brought a blow up pool right?
So the adjustment was a little back and forth for me, but all things considered I'm proud of how I've adjusted and managed to carry on some sort of normalcy with the girls where we are right now- even if Brad thinks I was/am crazy. It could have been worse. Toddlers are crazy. Hong Kong is crazy. Combo= crazy town. Enough crazy that I almost think I could never have more children, but then I remember kids won't be toddlers forever, and we won't be living out of little more than a hotel in a wild city forever. Cause I don't think I could do this particular combo for much longer, even if it is a lot of fun.
The kitchen looks nice enough in a photo, but there is no oven and the sink is so tiny just trying to wash a plate soaks me in dirty water. The local eateries must pay them to design their kitchens like this- I prefer eating out when we can.
Good thing I brought Blow up high chairs, right?
The first week here the girls adjusted to the time change like champs. Brad and I were getting up about 3:30 every morning, but were gradually able to learn to sleep in a little more. It felt good to unpack, grocery shop, and settle in a little. The girls loved playing with some of their toys we brought from home. Because our place is so small I feel like we have more toys here than we did back home somehow- the girls are able to make an epic mess so fast.
When we arrived at our apartment we realized we forgot to grab the pack n' plays at the airport, so we had to go to the airport the next day to get them.
 Good thing I brought pop up cribs, right?
 When we got them home the pack n' plays smelled all mildewy and gross so I tried to wash them in the shower with dish soap, after they dried they still stuck so I did the same thing again with vinegar. It had been about a week by the time they were ready for the girls to sleep in and I was so excited to use them! I put the girls down for their nap and left to run errands since Brad was home. He heard the girls playing and thought I'd decided to get them up, but after a while he went out of our room it was babies gone wild all over the apartment- they decided to escape their freshly cleaned pack n' plays. They've never crawled out of their cribs at home or even tried, but I guess they decided now was a good time to escape with the pack n' plays. I got home and tried putting a suitcase between them and after a few minutes I saw the curtain moving a little funny- I pulled it open and both girls were perched on top of the suitcase!
cute little rascals..
So we went back to using the pea pods. But then they started escaping those too, those things that fully zip from the outside... June became masterful at it and even decided to undress herself while she was at it.
Lyla figured out how to escape them a little after June and that seemed to make her very proud, she came to find me while I was peacefully taking a shower- just when I thought I was safe.
We started safety pinning them shut and that has done the trick, though I still feel a little bad sometimes like we're caging in animals. But we love them and they have to sleep, and we have to sleep. (and for some reason when we moved to the smaller apartment they've let us put them in their pack n' plays and haven't tried to crawl out...fingers crossed!)
I'm glad it's not our first week here anymore. :)


 I know I said I was going to be good about blogging, but then we moved to an even smaller apartment...the good part is that it saves us $2000 a month in rent, the bad part is that there is a sheer curtain between us and the girls so I just sit quietly in the dark during their naps and in the evenings- it's pretty hard to do normal things like watch TV or get on a bright computer. But I decided I should dedicate an hour or so to recording my thoughts on being out here and organize photos. So here I am, newly resolved to blog yet again and sitting on a pillow on the floor of our "kitchen" where bright lights are allowed. Halloween is the only time-sensitive event that I feel needs to be shared before thanksgiving is over, so I'm starting with that and backtracking later.
Yes, I've felt bad leaving the land that I love during my ultimate favorite months of October-December. I just don't want my children to miss out on any any of the special things that I grew up loving, it's so fun being able to share all of those things with them. I didn't really have many expectations for Halloween in Hong Kong. Since I was so worried about missing out I decided to make them new witch hats and snap a couple pictures the day before we left to Hong Kong. (have I mentioned how bad I am at prioritizing? I hadn't even started packing clothes yet..)
Cute right? Even though last year's witch shoot was a little more thought out.
 I just gave 'em a couple chocolate chips and let them do their thing.
 I didn't think it would be possible for them to be cuter witches than they were last year, but somehow they keep getting cuter.
After I started seeing all the halloween decor pop up all over Hong Kong I realized how silly I was trying to do anything back at home in September. Our little apartment got festive quick as soon as I saw halloween decorations for sale.
All the markets were filled with fun chinese lanterns, hair wigs, masks and costumes- all at a fraction of the price you'd pay in the states. I just know in a year or two I'm going to be kicking myself for not buying a fun masquerade mask and a couple wigs..
Our ward had a Halloween party, which was fun. They started with a costume parade.
 I didn't figure out our costumes till a couple hours before- I'd been excited to make their costumes, but with no sewing machine I realized store bought was the only way to go this year. Plus, I found a children's large snow white costume so I could squeeze in the fun with the girls too!
 Pretty sure I had more fun than they did, but I think they still enjoyed it.
 Here they are thinking, "doesn't this ritual involve receiving candy?"
 Then they had lots of rooms with games which intimidated our girls for some reason, they wouldn't go near one thing.
 They clung to us, which worked well for taking a picture at least. I made Brad dress up and put eye liner on him as we came off the metro, I'm glad I'm better at putting on my own liner than that...
 The party was so late we had to leave before the trick-or-treating began. As you can see, the girls were pretty dejected missing out on the candy.
 We got a lot of looks from people as we walked home- pretty sure the smiles were because the girls are too cute, the judgey facey were for me being too old to play dress ups. Most people don't get Halloween here though, and we threw them off since it was several days before. Either way, just a few "princesses" walkin' down the street with a pirate... :)
The malls around us got all decked out for halloween too (we live within a 5 min walk from at least 10 malls). Since my mom was in town we went over to times square one morning to take a few pictures.
 This is kind of what I envision with them sweeping.
 We had to work a long time to get June up to this comfort level though, the statues creeped her out.
 Lyla ran around obliviously, by the time June warmed up Lyla had already begun to loose interest and was trying to run off.
 I love the caution you can see in June here, it's so "her"- she wouldn't let go of my mom for at least 15 minutes.
 Hence my mom in a lot of pictures, they had fun with grandma! :)
 It was kinda a big deal when June finally touched something.
 Cooperative Lyla.
Turning to me to find out what's the deal with that guy.
 I don't know why I adore this picture of Lyla sweeping as all the passerbys try to get around her. Maybe because there are real sweepers like this out all the time trying to keep the streets clean. Maybe because I'm in love with those little brooms. Maybe just because it's Lyla.
Then on the actual day of Halloween we went to Disneyland, which was a total blast of course! They did a halloween parade and skeleton jack sounded even creepier singing in cantonese. The moon was so spooky looked like part of a back drop. All the disney characters dressed up in costumes and we tried our best to prevent the girls from having any nightmares. And they handed out marshmallows filled with jam. They were good though, don't doubt disney!
 the crew.
 They also hand out A LOT of stickers at HK disneyland- June was way into it.
 Happy Halloween!
 Just what I wanted, fun memories and a few pictures to remember it with.
All in all I think the girls had a successful halloween experience, even though we were never actually able to trick or treat- and we didn't eat much candy. There's always a next year! (and probably only one fun Hong Kong Halloween) :(


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