Friday, September 30, 2016

Six Months in China

As of September 24th – we have been in China for six months!! Can you even believe it?? For the most part, it really feels like time has flown by for us :).  I thought I would share some of the things that we love about our experience so far as well as just a little insight into the challenges that we have experienced and continue to experience.  If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will be happy to answer.

What we love about our experience so far.
… quality family time.  Our kiddos are only little once; we recognize this (and talk about it often) and really try to take this as an opportunity to soak up this time with them.  We are obsessed with our girlies and this experience has brought us even closer as a family of four, but also as a married couple.
… traveling.  Definitely this has been one of the best parts for us! We have been to Guilin (in China), to Hong Kong and to Kota Kinabalu (Borneo, Malaysia).  And we have big travel plans coming up – we are going to Shanghai and Beijing in October, Taipei or Thailand in November and we are headed home in December for Christmas!!! Please go ahead and start praying for the 24 hour commute back the states – we will need it :).
… hitting up the local, Chengdu tourists spots.  We have loved visiting the panda’s, the irrigation project, Stone Elephant Lake, the wildlife zoo, Polar World, the water park at the Global Center – the list just goes on and on! We have really tried to take advantage of all of the things to do locally since we can’t travel every weekend :).
… the parks and playgrounds.  This deserves its own category because the parks and playgrounds here are phenomenal – we have had a blast at every park/playground that we have visited and plan to visit more during our time here.  There are tons of fun activities for the kids!!
… the girls school. I write about this frequently and have more school pictures to share with you soon- we just love love love their school.  They are learning so many new things, their teachers are fantastic, they have met some really great friends and they love riding the school bus!! So many of my worries and concerns have been put to rest with our decision to enroll them in this particular school.
… our neighborhood.  If you would have asked me to answer what has been challenging for us three months ago – this would have been on the list and three short months later, we have really come to love our neighborhood.  While it is far out from the city and there is no Starbucks in it- we have really come to love our little neighborhood we now call home.  We love the walkability of it, we love that we feel safe, we love the playground, the swimming pool, that we have restaurants, the night markets, the events for foreigners, the landscaping – all of it!
… Mike’s Pizza. Duh. You have only heard me talk about this 14,876 times – we love eating here and often get enough to have a few days’ worth of leftovers- we have really been into the sandwiches lately. And it is becoming our thing to stock up before a holiday (when we don’t have our car).  Genuinely, this is the only place that I really look forward to eating at :).
… some other random things that make our lives here a bit easier: ordering our food online, an ice machine (once we got the ice machine Emma said, “you mean I can have ice water every night before I go to bed” and her little eyes sparkled as I said yes (there are definitely so many things that we took for granted in our lives back in the states), our scooter, friends for the girls/friends for us,

What has been challenging for us.
At first, I wrote a novel on this topic, but for some reason, I just cannot push publish on my commentary.  I don’t want this to come off as negative/that I am not able to understand the culture/that we are not grateful for this experience so I don’t feel like I can share the intimate details of the challenges that we face at this time; however, here is a short summary: missing our families, the girls getting their picture taken everywhere we go, having a car and driver and the communication gap.

This list might make it appear that it was an easy transition for us to move to China.  I just want to assure you that Wes and I have discussed this several times – and this is the most stressful thing that either of us has ever done.  Buying a house, getting married, taking the CPA exam and having two children just 17 months apart were a piece of cake compared to relocating our family.  Ok, maybe not having two children 17 months apart – I was a zombie for that 1st year ;).  I don’t think I even realized how stressed I was until the stress alleviated around month 3 to 4 of living here.  I just want to be transparent that relocating our family to China has not been a piece of cake – we are enjoying the experience, but it was not something we fell in love with overnight.  We have worked very hard to make this an easy transition for the girls and ourselves (we pray for grace often) – some days are better than others, but overall we have a very happy life here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kota Kinabalu | Day One

After Hong Kong, we were headed to Borneo, Malaysia for the main part of our summer vacation! We were looking forward to hanging out on the beach, in the swimming pool and just straight up relaxing, which is exactly what we did! The girls are really getting used to airplane life ;).

Three(ish) hours later, we found ourselves in paradise.

This was the view from our hotel room, stunning- right??

With a zoom!

We got there right around nap time, so first things first - we laid the girls down for a nap.  When they woke up, they were pumped and ready to hit the beach!  Wes dropped us girls off at the beach and he went to go explore the resort for a bit.

I love these pictures he got of us while he was exploring.

Ahhhh, not crowded at all!

Me and my girls :).

He checked out the infinity pools just as it looked like the afternoon storms would be rolling in.

While at the beach, I was busy snapping pictures of the girls. The only disappointment was that you really couldn't go full out swimming at the beach because of the jellyfish, but the girls were still able to go out a little ways.

These girls of mine L-O-V-E sand, the more they have in every nook and cranny the better in their books.

Oh Emma - this child is not lacking in the personality department ;).

It really was a full circle trip for our Everly.  Similar to Disney, just 18 months ago this girl despised the sand and it took several hours to convince her that the sand was ok and she could have fun!

What a difference 18 months can make :). And how much I miss those baby thighs!

This is how Ev's runs - we are kind of obsessed with watching her move 'really fast'.

We just love her so much!

We headed from the beach to the slides!

The slides were definitely the girls most favorite part of the resort experience.  They went up and down these things no less than 200 times in the five days we were here.

Even our littlest child :).

There were three big slides and one small slide and the girls loved all of them :).

And we loved watching them go down the slides time and time again!

And then we hit up the pool.  One of my favorite parts of this resort was the vast amount of shallow water - the girls had the best time romping around in the water.

We went over to check out pool view that Wes had told us all about.

And we had a blast discovering that the waterfalls had lots of spots to jump to mommy!

Love this guy :).

As the sun set, we headed back to the slides for a few more go arounds before the slides closed for the night.

And one more romp on the beach.

Before heading to dinner, the girls had been begging for ice cream so we got them a scoop of strawberry ice cream which made them pretty happy - turns out this was a daily occurance.

One strawberry ice cream cone each as we headed to dinner.

Wes had made us a reservation at the restaurant next to the China Sea.  The menu was ginormous!

We ordered a seafood tower and it just so happened it came with two glasses of wine - which is always fortunate for me since my hubby doesn't really like wine ;).  It was almost like we were on a date ;).

While I was sipping on my wine, the girls enjoyed watching the local performance.

But don't fret about Wes not having anything to drink - he had a beergarita that was pretty darn good :).

The seafood tower came and it was ginormous.

And so gosh darn, delicious.  The lobster was my favorite part #duh!.  I can honestly not describe how delicious all of the food was here - we had not had seafood in about four months at this point and everything was just soooo yummmmmyyyy! And it really made it feel like we were on vacation (we typically have trouble finding good spots to eat at in China).

In case you are wondering what the girls had for dinner - they wanted a fruit plate. No lie, by the time I remembered to take a picture of it they had already eaten more than half of it - it was so huge!

One picture of the girls with the show performers before calling it a night and heading back to our hotel room to head to bed.

We went to bed that night so excited about what the next four days would hold :).

Monday, September 26, 2016

More Hong Kong Disney

Are you tired of Disney yet?? I bet so, I promise we will move on to the beach portion of this vacation soon and then you will be tired of the beach too, but I hope you never tire of my cute kiddos.  They sure are cute, if I do say so myself ;).  After meeting Pluto, Mickey and Minnie - the girls got some ice cream for a treat.  When I was in eighth grade (I think it was eighth at least), we went to Disney and I remember getting ice cream- it was the best after trekking around all day.  It was a full circle moment to be buying my own kids a Disney-shaped ice cream.  They each chose their own and it was fun to see what they got - Everly got the pink bear (I think his name is Lotso Bear, but Everly has affectionately named him Ev-eh-ly bear),

and Emma chose Minnie Mouse.

And this ice cream was as messy as I thought it would be, but oh so delicious.  I caught a serious sister moment happening mid ice cream treat.

Can you tell that she didn't like it at all ;).

We hit up the Winnie the Pooh ride (one of the only fast pass attractions at Hong Kong Disney).

And then we decided to hit up the Dumbo ride one more time - this time with daddy in tow too.

Waiting-in-line shenanigans with two of my favorite people :).

Aren't they just the cutest :).

We thought we were pretty cute too!

It was fun to ride in front of them and turn around to peek at Everly enjoying the ride once we were in the air again.

Love watching her little top knot take in the wonderment that Disney with the castle in the background.

Then we decided to hit up the carousel one more time.

I even rode this time too!

We went over to check the tea cups - one of our favorite rides in Florida but we were met with a 45 minute line in the direct sunlight/extreme heat so we opted to take a picture in the teacup outside of the entrance and call it a day for this ride.

We walked through the fairy garden in search of one of the girls favorite characters.

Tinkerbell!!! They know that she is Grandma's favorite character and they kept saying how excited they were going to be to tell Grandma about it.

This Tinkerbell was incredibly sweet taking lots of time to talk to the girls.

Evsie's was clearly still a little nervous balling her dress all up.  It was funny after we said goodbye and all headed away we noticed that Everly was still lingering and this time a bit more than normal - and all the sudden I heard her ask Tinkerbell a question she had been discussing/practicing with Emma for some time - 'can you fly?'.  I was so proud of my sweet girl for mustering up enough courage to ask the question herself.

I couldn't get them to both look at the camera at the same time, but I still love how sweet these pictures are.

Hugs bye bye :).

Next, we walked through Toy Story Land particularly looking for the pink Everly bear, but we found out that he wouldn't be back out that day.

So we moved on.  We were headed out at this point - it was so stinking hot (have I mentioned that enough times already??), probably about 5pm and we just knew there was no way we were going to make it to the fireworks. But serendipity was on our side and we still got to meet a few more characters - first up, Chip and Dale!

Emma had decided she was scared/shy at this point (does that even sound like my spirited oldest child??!!??) so Evsie's got some one-on-one time with the characters which was fine with her - just look at that sweet smile!

Ahhhh, I just had the best time watching her all day!

Of course, they wanted Emma to get involved too so I went with her to help her ease her nerves.

Two chipmunks, two girls - perfect dancing partners.

And then pictures for mommy!

I included this one because you can see my face if you look closely at the left - I was just so happy watching my children at Disney all day!  I just never thought that seeing them so happy could make me so happy!! But it does!

Picture with mommy :).

And then it was time to say goodbye!

But not without blowing a kiss,

and stopping for one last hug :).

We had tried to rush over to see this fox and rabbit for Everly (I don't even know who these characters are), but they were headed to break and so we just waved.  The person that was with them gave us the heads up that Daffy and Daisy Duck were up next so we hung around a little longer...

And the girls were thrilled to see them! Emma had been asking about them all day!

Everly was not so sure of these ducks when the time came to officially meet them.

Big hugs for Daffy :).

Evsie's ended up warming up pretty quickly.

Emma got right to business showing Daffy her newly acquired Minnie Mouse light up necklace.

She was so super proud of it!

Group picture's (with Ev's trying to break free ;)).

My favorite :).

I loved watching Donald and Daisy pass out smooches!

Although I think the girls were a bit more hesitant.

And with those smooches, we left - happy, sweaty messes who would be ready to do this all over again in just six days :).

Disney - you were good to us!

As we walked home after our metro ride, we caught the sunset over Hong Kong.

Even though we were there less than 48 hours, we had a blast exploring - but, we couldn't wait to get to the beach!