Sunday, December 1, 2013

Our Married Life in Ornaments

Matt and I were married in August of 2006. We spent some of our honeymoon in upstate New York, so I could meet Matt's mother's family who weren't at the wedding. While there, we went to Niagara Falls. We wanted to get a souvenir, but nothing too expensive. We saw this darling moose Christmas ornament and thought we'd make a tradition of it--collect a Christmas ornament everywhere we visited. So, the next day we went to The Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York, and bought one there, too. At Thanksgiving time, we visited my sister in California and went to Hollywood and bought the third one you see in the picture below.
We were poor students for the next few years so they are pretty sparse. In 2007, we went to Chicago to attend Matt's brother's wedding. In August, we went to a reunion for my family in Ocean Shores, Washington. We were there for a whole week and it was our first anniversary, so we got two ornaments. Then, for Christmas we went to Kansas to be with my family and attend my brother's wedding in Nauvoo, Illinois.
In 2008, I was working and Matt was in school. The snowflake, bell, and Salt Lake Temple coin ornament are from my coworkers. The coin is inscribed with our names and our anniversary--made by an avid numismatist.  I'm pretty sure we visited my sister and grandfather in Boise during the summer and I know we went to Matt's parents house in Pocatello for Christmas, but I guess those destinations were not exotic enough for us to think to buy an ornament. So... if anyone finds a good Christmas ornament that says Pocatello or Boise or even just Idaho, sent it my way!  ;)
My sister who lives in California had a baby at the end of 2008, so we drove down to see my new nephew blessed in February 2009, and while we were at it, we went to Disneyland.  I was 8 weeks pregnant with Scott and luckily I feel pretty good during my pregnancies, but I do remember being very queasy/hungry when I went on California Screamin'. I really want to go back just to go on that ride again with a satisfied stomach so I can actually enjoy it! I did go on all the rides even though I was pregnant... hopefully that's not the reason Scott is so small. (Ssh... don't tell him.) 2009 was his first Christmas and we received some "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments from Matt's grandmother (bear) and mother (marshmallow snowman/s'more).
By 2010, Matt had started working and we started going to his company's AGM, Annual General Meeting. The first one was at a resort in Marco Island, Florida and it was glorious (seashell bauble). Then, for Christmas, Matt's family met in Dearborn, Michigan--Matt's grandmother bought us the bear ornaments. I had never been with so much of Matt's family for Christmas so it was so much fun!
In January 2011, Matt was asked to work for 3 weeks in California. I was pregnant with Bobby and did not want to be left alone with Scott for 3 weeks by myself. So, Matt went for a week and then Scott and I joined him later. My sister would pick me up from the hotel every morning and then Matt would pick us up at her house after work. It was a lot of fun for me--maybe not so much for Matt. On Matt's day off we went to Griffith Observatory with my sister and her family. In May, we had AGM in San Antonia, TX and that's where we got the truck ornament. You can't tell very well, but it has longhorn antlers on the front and is painted like the Texas flag. For Christmas, my family got together at a beach house in Florida. We were living in Georgia by then and had passes to the Georgia Aquarium, which was affiliated with Marineland--an "oceanarium" down the road from the beach house, where (for a fee) you can see dolphins and feed them and swim with them. We got free entrance to it, but we just watched the dolphins swim for a little while and then went back to hang out with the family. But, that's why we have a dolphin ornament.
So, in 2012 we started going a little crazy! I got a bunch of ornaments in Atlanta, where we were living. I got one from Georgia Aquarium before our passes expired (blue round one at the bottom) and we got a dinosaur from Fernbank Natural History Museum because we went there a lot since we had annual passes. I got one from Zoo Atlanta when I went with a friend and the kids (it's hard to see because of the big purple light behind it, but it's a tiny snow globe with a tiger inside). And I got a little train from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens because the kids and I went to the model train show they do for the holidays both Christmases we were in Atlanta. Good times. Matt had a meeting in Indianapolis for work at the Motor Speedway Museum and he got that black bauble. Then for AGM we went to Hawaii (!!) and went a little crazy. We bought ornaments at the Au Lani Resort (the flat wooden turtle), the Polynesian Cultural Center (the big bauble), the Dole Plantation, I think (the turtle with the flower in her hair), and Pearl Harbor (USS Arizona). And Finally, the little golden turtle was our souvenir of my birthday date with Matt to Cirque du Soleil's show Totem. It was a big year.
And 2013 got even crazier with the ornament collection. Matt went to Laos in January to do the demo to the Laotian government and on the way back stopped for a night in Tokyo--fulfilling a lifelong dream. He picked out the two little Japanese figures. Then we had AGM in Phoenix in March (the hand-painted bauble in the top left). I got an ornament from Stone Mountain Park in Georgia (the grey square one) because I took the boys a few times when Matt was out of town and it's where Bobby broke his leg, so we didn't want to forget that :-/ Then while Matt was working on the Laos project, I went to visit my in-laws in Idaho and we went to Yellowstone for a couple of days (bear hugging Christmas tree) and then I visited my sister about an hour away from my in-laws, and we went to the Tautphaus Park Zoo (zebra). And then we went to our family reunion near Seattle, WA, where I picked up the little ferry boat in Port Townsend. Next up was our move to Laos. The little map of Laos with the flag on it is hiding at the bottom and then at the top with the golden monument is Patuxay--we pass it almost everyday and it's not gold, it's made of cement. I bought that little cream-colored box thing at Buddha Park in Thailand, but I'm not sure you can tell that it has a carving in it. We went to Malaysia for a weekend for Matt's work and that's the ornament with the little city on it. And then we went to Hong Kong where we picked up a glass bauble at Madame Tussaud's, Buzz Lightyear and an Alien at Hong Kong Disneyland, and a little photo frame from Ocean Park. This has been a BUSY year!
Also this year, I learned how to bead at the sewing group affiliated with the Women's International Group here. So, I made these... I saw one like the small blue one and then got creative.
And I got together with some playgroup mom friends and made these... Scott is on the left and Bobby on the right.
So, maybe you didn't want to know THAT much about our Christmas tree, but I've wanted to write it all down for a long time and actually it took a good while to try to remember it all. I knew where everything was from, but WHEN was a lot harder. I even had to retake pictures of 2007 and 2008 because I got all confused. So I hope it wasn't too boring, but it was mostly for me anyway ;)

I'll post about the rest of our decorations next... It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... inside at least.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I saw someone post a link to Star Wars snowflakes on Facebook and I was intrigued. Bobby was sleeping and Scott was doing his own little gluing project so I gave it a whirl. I did Darth Vader first, but cutting out the eyes (through twelve folds of paper) was way too hard without an xacto knife, so from then on I stuck to templates that didn't have any freestanding holes--just cuts from the edges.

This is a Scout Trooper
The eyes on this weren't bad because they were square. I LOVE the little ewoks. I had to double check the website, but this is an AT-ST Chicken Walker.
B-wing (edited after my sister's comment below...)
I realized as I was making the Star Wars snowflakes that it was pretty lost on my young sons, but they are pretty in to superheroes, so I made a Batman one. I printed off the circle template, but then drew my own design.
Iron man
Wolverine--this is probably my favorite.
Spider-Man--I think it's a little creepy for Christmas...
Captain America
I didn't love that one because there should be more circles on the shield and they looked a little egg-shaped. Then, I couldn't get away from the idea of how I could have the star cut out in the middle to make the shield, but the template was for a 12-sided shape and I needed 10. So, I printed off a protractor and marked every 36 degrees and voila! Cap's shield!
I asked Matt what else I could so and he said, the x-men logo is symmetrical. So I did that next. (Cake walk...)
Green Lantern
Hulk--this took a lot of thought because of the freestanding eye issue and no xacto knife. So, I figured a furrowed brow would do the trick.
Robin--it's just his chest. I could think of any other way to represent him.

I'm probably not done for this year but I'm not sure what else to do now. Any suggestions??

Here are the ones I did for the dining room with a friend. Most of them were templates because I feel lazy now, but there are a few originals, too.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Halloween in Vientiane

The answer is no, they do not celebrate Halloween in Laos. However, there are a lot of ex-pats here and Halloween is celebrated by British and Australian people, though maybe not to the same extent as Americans. So, I volunteered to host the Thursday morning playgroup on Halloween. I did it with the help of Marissa. Her husband is new to project Matt's working on, so I was able to buy costumes from Amazon, send them to Marissa in the States and have them in time. It was awesome. She also brought Halloween decorations from Wal-Mart that really made the house feel festive. And we made green punch (kiwi juice and sprite) and cupcakes. It was a good time. Also, there was a party at an international school here that we attended. They got to trick or treat at 7 doors there on Halloween, and at 5 doors two days before at Matt's coworker's apartments. They didn't get a ton of candy, of course, but that is totally fine! And the kids love their costumes so much that they have been wearing them ever since!

Bobby actually pretends to push a button on his arm and shoot his laser even without a Buzz costume, so this was really fun for him.

Batman climbing a tree at the international school.
Wonder Woman in the background is me... I found a t-shirt that came with a cape and headband, so I dressed up, too.
As we were leaving the school, I saw this bike. There's a seat on the back! That means there is 7-10-year-old kid giving another kid a ride! It's amazing. And now there's no wonder how they are able to balance their entire family or the entire inventory for their fruit and vegetable cart on the back of a mo-ped. Very impressive!
Lounging in the batsuit.
Sleeping in the Buzz costume.

The day after Halloween, it was "Fancy Dress Day" at Scott's school. He was supposed to dress as what he wishes to be when he grows up, with strict instructions to discourage superhero costumes. We bought a little Kung Fu outfit in Hong Kong and thought he could dress as a ninja or martial arts instructor. He told me he wanted to be Batman, the Flash, a cooker (chef?), all sorts of things. But finally one day on the way to school he said he would like to fix iPads for a living. I thought, "That's easy!" We even had an Apple sticker to put on his shirt! And luckily, he could still mostly fit into a 12M blue shirt. And he looks so cute as an Apple Genius/iPad fixer. When he got home from school, he wanted to be Batman for a while, and then put on his Apple costume again, but Teak had already put it in the wash because she found it on the kitchen counter. Scott was devastated! What a funny kid.
Good night, Batman!

Hong Kong: The Temple and Disneyland

Day 4 in Hong Kong was the day we set aside to attend the temple. Matt went to a session first at 9am. We took two trains to get there and walked a little ways down an alley--someone at the train station gave us directions. There is a park just across the street, so the kids played for a while and then sat down with the iPad and watched some of a movie and then we walked to the street and took pictures of the temple from across the street. And we had some snacks. It was a nice, relaxing morning.
Notice the Tai Chi Class in the background... Scott and Bobby were the only kids at the park. There were about a dozen people over 55 there doing their morning exercise.
Bobby didn't quite understand the periscope.
I thought it fitting for my children to be playing with an abacus at a Chinese playground.
I climbed up on the playground and took this picture of the Angel Moroni on the temple.
The temple is on floors 1, 3 and 4. I think it's a 5 story building. One floor is an apartment for sister missionaries and the last is the mission home. Pretty amazing. They also have patron apartments across the street for people who want to come spend several days going to the temple. There was a group there from Thailand and so both of the sessions Matt and I went to were in Thai instead of Chinese. (We wore headphones to hear it in English.)
This is the fountain inside the gate.

I went to the 11am session. The original plan was to have lunch together and then I would go to the 1pm session, but I hurried and made it to the 11am. Matt walked the boys to a mall and food court and bought super hero action figures and had some lunch--I think McDonald's again. To be fair, we can't eat McDonald's in Laos... Anyway, after my session, we brought the kids to the temple to see the waiting room and the fountain and to get a little water. I think they were pretty impressed. Then we talked with some of the members from Thailand and told them that we live in Laos. Turns out, we'll probably see them at district conference in a week or two. Pretty funny.

The plan for Day 5 was Disneyland, which is across the water on Lantau Island near Discovery Bay. Since the airport is also on Lantau, we decided to switch hotels for our last two nights. It was awesome! They had a spa and I left Matt with the boys for dinner and went to get a pedicure. After walking all over the city, it was SO nice. We gave the kids a bath. The bathtub/shower was SO cool!!
It had a big fountain for filling the tub.
 And a huge showerhead from the middle. The boys loved "running through the rain" once they got over the shock shown here...
The setup was actually really nice for giving baths because instead of leaning over a tub, I just sat on the steps and had them stand near me to lather them up. It was great. So, another idea of my ideal home--along with my goldfish library ;)

This was the view from our room: Aaaaaaah. Can you feel me relaxing?

Day 5: Hong Kong Disneyland!!!
We got strollers again for the boys--you like how I'm pushing both of them??
Bobby went right up to this Buzz statue and just stared at it. He shot his imaginary laser arm at him and said in his language, "to infinity and beyond!" which sounds like, "Eee-meee Aam!" So cute.
They loved the Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters ride. Bobby didn't use the gun to shoot anything, he just stared at everything inside. When we left through the giftshop, however, the magic of Disneyland was suspended. Bobby cried so hard!! Poor kid. He wanted us to buy a full size Buzz and Woody combo pack. But we already have them, so I really didn't want to buy them again. But Bobby couldn't understand. Everyone at Disney was throwing stickers at him trying to make him feel better but nothing worked. So we buckled him into the stroller and just kept moving. We went to Autopia next and it turned out to be the longest line (20 minutes, I know, boo hoo) and the lamest experience. Matt and Bobby got stuck behind an old couple taking a casual drive with multiple stops for taking photos. Matt was pretty upset. Scott drove the car with me, but wasn't very good at it and laughed uproariously every time our car hit the middle track. He liked it a lot, but it wasn't worth waiting in line again.

Next we went on Space Mountain. The kids aren't big enough (or brave enough, frankly), so we did a "rider switch." I sat with the boys in a little waiting area while Matt went on first. We looked at the planets and stars hanging from the ceiling and the kids liked it a lot. Then it was my turn for Space Mountain and Matt took the boys back on the Buzz Lightyear ride. Matt said that he steered and the boys both used the laser guns--I guess Bobby caught on a little better the second time around. Unfortunately that was followed by another breakdown from Bobby that was even more intense. This time we happened upon a stage show that was about to start, The Golden Mickeys. Bobby was crying all the way up until the show started and then once he saw Mickey and Minnie on stage he was in awe and stopped. They were good the whole show. There were lots of different songs from a bunch of movies the kids have never seen, but Matt and I were singing along the whole time. Then, I twisted Matt's arm and made him go on It's a Small World with me. I really like this ride! Maybe it's the fact that it's on a boat. I don't know. I took loads of pictures, but most of them didn't come out. Oh well. Here's some that worked out:

Woody, Bullseye, and Jessie
hula dancers
Then we went on Winnie the Pooh. Matt had never been on it before, so it was a lot of fun. Bobby had a fever most of the day, so he was very docile (after the Buzz breakdowns was over...). I felt bad that he was sick, but he seemed to still enjoy the rides.

They had the Jungle Cruise, and we thought we were going to get the Mekong Maiden, which would be perfect since we now live about 5km from the Mekong River, but it was not to be--they weren't using that boat that day. Oh well.

Then, the highlight of the trip: Toy Story Land!!!

The Toy Soldier Parachute Drop was AWESOME! The best part was that both the kids could go on it! They had an extra strap for kids that were younger than a certain height so it was safe for everyone. It was so great. You can only sit three on each side of the parachute, so Matt and Scott were on one facing Bobby and me on another. It was fun to watch each other's reactions.
Matt and took turns going on the RC racer ride while the other took the kids on the Slinky ride. Matt said the RC racer ride was his favorite. I liked it for the first 80% and then I was very grateful it ended. I guess I'm getting old.

The next part of the park was called Mystic Point, which just opened and is a World Exclusive. The only ride in that section was Mystic Manor, which is a similar concept to Haunted Mansion. The mansion is owned by Lord Henry (I thought he looked a lot like Jane Porter's dad from Tarzan, but Matt finally proved me wrong last night, so I guess he's not from any movie) who has a house full of antiquities from around the world. His pet monkey opens a music box that has the power to bring inanimate objects to life--so we were zoomed around the manor in a little car and saw all the different rooms and monkey being scared of everything. The kids didn't love it. Most of the ride, Bobby was very nervously saying, "Off. Off! Off!" I'm not sure if he wanted us to turn it off, or he wanted to get off the ride. But he was not pleased, but he didn't CRY either. And at the end of the ride, Scott said, "I was very brave." We asked if they liked it and they both cautiously said yes, and then when we said, "Wanna go again?" they both said, "NO!!" It was cute.
Next we went to Grizzly Gulch, which I guess is at California Adventure, too, but I'd never heard of it. The only ride was one the kids couldn't go on, so we did another rider switch. It was called Runaway Mine Cars. I went first and ended up sitting next to a guy who went to BYU but went to elementary, middle, and high school in Hong Kong. It was really funny. So we chatted with him for a little while. He works in government and since it was during the shutdown, he decided to go on vacation. The world is really small, especially when you're LDS. The kids were so tired at that point, that they waited pretty patiently for Matt. Then it was time to find some food and get ready for the fireworks show.

On Main Street, they had Monsters University set up, so you could take your picture with Sulley and Mike and get a student ID card. And they had figures from Oozma Kappa and Roar Omega Roar. The kids just watched the movie a little while ago, so they were pretty excited about it.

Then I got my cotton candy, so I was happy. Notice a little hand going for it. Neither of the boys liked cotton candy, though, so that was great. More for me!
I took a bunch of pictures of the fireworks, too, but this was the only one worth posting. Most of them had a bunch of people in the foreground with their phones recording it, which kinda ruined it for me. The kids were really scared at first and then they realized it wasn't going to hurt them and started liking it. Hooray for kids getting old enough to enjoy fireworks!!
And this final picture sums it up nicely...
We had a great trip!! I can't wait to go back! We still need to see the Lion King Show and go on the train...