Sunday, February 18, 2018

Happy Chinese New Year

The past couple of days we have been celebrating the Chinese New Year. We have mainly celebrated with food, but have also been doing some games and crafts.

On Saturday the children made paper dragons. They had a lot of fun with that. We also watched a couple of cool dragon dance videos, like this one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WUnWPpRslM). This next one is a lion dance, but they are really cool so we had them watch a couple of these too (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se2n0cmBefU).

We also had them do some Chinese calligraphy.

Agnes wore her Chinese dress to church and received a ton of compliments.

For the Chinese food we had taro filled steamed buns. Rebecca said that these were the best ones that I had made yet.

Here they are before steaming.

This is them after steaming.

Besides the buns we had some excellent fried rice that Rebecca made and some egg drop and corn soup.

For dessert we had a traditional Chinese New Year cake. I don't think I ever had this on my mission. The only ingredients in this are water, brown sugar, rice flour, and a little bit of almond extract. Once you mix all those together you just steam it for three hours. It was really interesting, but not something we would probably ever make again.

And of course you can't celebrate Chinese New Year without red envelopes. We didn't have any real Chinese ones, so I just had to color some regular envelopes red.

We are getting really excited for our trip just a few months away.

Braces for Julia

On Thursday Julia got her braces put on. In a previous post I had mentioned that she had been really excited to get them. I think as the day got closer some of the nervousness started to kick in. She was still really happy, but she was sad that she was going to have to go without pop and caramels and things like that for two years. Rebecca said that she did great at the orthodontist.

Right after the orthodontist she went back to school. When we picked her up at the end of the day she was close to being in tears. She said that they hurt a lot. Rebecca and I really felt for her. Despite being in pain she tried to stay positive. She did chew some of her special braces gum which is a perk that she is loving since I usually don't let them have gum in the house.

The next day when she got back from school she was in tears again. This time it wasn't teeth soreness, but there was a metal part that was rubbing against her tongue in a funny way. Fortunately, we were able to get in to the orthodontist on the way to swimming and they were able to shorten and polish of that part. Since then there have been no complaints. She has said that they hurt a little, but they feel much better than the first two days. And she feels like her front two teeth have already straightened some, which she is very excited about.

Rebecca and I are still not sure how we feel about the braces. Julia just seems so mature now. We really can't pretend like she is our little baby any longer.

Valentine's Day

We had a wonderful Valentine's Day. I had been gone all weekend on a business trip to Washington DC, but Rebecca still did a lot to prepare. We just got the children some little treats and Rebecca, Julia, and Agnes got gift certificates for manicures and I get to take the boys to Denny's. For dinner Rebecca prepared our traditional Valentine's meal of lasagna - which was super yummy as usual. Christian and I are the ones who eat the most of it, but it is a dish that everyone enjoys.

Throughout the day we tried several times to see if we could get our children to spill the beans about any "special valentines" that they might have. But, they all denied it. I don't know if that is good news (that they don't have any crushes yet) or bad (if they just are not telling us). Hopefully Rebecca and I can still be there "special valentines" for several more years.

Julia and Ethan both had assignments to make their own valentine boxes. Julia made this elaborate candy machine. She spent several days on it and started all the way back in January. She ended up winning an award in her class for it.

Ethan woke up that morning and decided he would just bring an empty cereal box. He didn't get a prize, but his friends all thought it was funny - which for him was even better than a prize.

We usually don't have cereal boxes, but at the dollar store Rebecca allowed each child to pick out one special thing for their lunches. Julia picked out a frozen pizza, Ethan this box of cereal (he brought two thermoses full of milk), and Christian and Elliott picked out corn dogs.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Catching Up

It has been a little while since we last posted. In the past we have typically entered out posts on Sundays, but our church time switched to 1:30 to 4:30 and it is hard to find the time before church.

I am in the airport at Washington DC now and thought I would give a quick update while I wait for my plane.

Christmas was great. Our big gift was a 2 month trip to Taiwan. We will do that this summer. So lately we have been doing a lot to get ready for that. The children have been donating every other allowance toward trip activities. I have been doing some extra paid presentations and things like that to make a little extra money for our trip. It has been fun exploring different ways to save money for the trip. For the flight we pretty much paid for everything with airline miles and credit card points. I had over 210,000 Alaska Airlines miles and we signed up for an Alaska Airlines credit card which gave us 30,000 more. This pretty much gave us 3 round trip trips to Taipei from San Francisco and all of our trips to San Francisco from Salt Lake City. Then the remaining 4 tickets to Taipei from San Francisco were about $650 each. My ticket I got paid for since I am going to do a presentation at a University when I am there. Then we signed up for two Chase Sapphire Preferred Cards which gave us about $1300 dollars cash back. Then we signed up for two Capital One Venture cards which gave about $1000 cash back toward travel purchases. We thought about maybe working on a farm while we are there, but I think we probably won't after all - maybe a future trip when we go to a different country. We have also been reading some books about people in Taiwan and China and listening to some Mandarin language lessons. Recently we also did the children's passport pictures and will complete their applications in about a month or so. Here are there pictures - I think they are all really cute, even though they could not smile in them.

Elliott had his birthday. He had a blast with the family party and his friend party. For his friend party he wanted to do a zombie theme like Ethan had done a couple years back. It turned out great, but those boys were pretty wild and crazy.

Julia did a big biography project at school. She was assigned Susan B. Anthony. She had fun learning all about her and creating a poster and outfit for the presentation that she did as other kids from the school walked from person to person to learn about all the people.

Julia has some other big news - she is getting braces. She has been really excited about that. A couple weeks ago she got spacers put in and this coming Thursday she actually gets the braces put on. She has been trying to enjoy some of the food that she won't be able to have for the next 1.5 to 2 years (i.e., pop and hard candy).

Other than that we have been keeping up with our regular routine. Mondays are cub scouts and activity days, Thursdays are our volunteer day at an assisted living facility and a trip to the library, and Fridays are swimming. Then of course Friday and Saturday nights are movie nights. Once a month we also go to the free faculty/staff movie at ISU. In January it was The Force Awakens and they had Star Wars characters there and make your own light sabers out of shinny duct tape and pool noodles.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving Visitors

This Thanksgiving all of Rebecca's siblings were able to come over for a visit.

The first to arrive were Ryan's family from Las Vegas. They got in really really late on Sunday night. On Monday our children were still in school, so Ryan worked from our house and Monica and their children went to Idaho Falls to visit family.

On Tuesday we let our children skip school (the school district added on Monday and Tuesday of that week after school already started, so some of the teachers even said that attending was optional) and Ryan and Monica were kind enough to babysit while Rebecca and I attended the temple. Our children LOVED playing with their cousins all day long. Tyler's family came right before dinner on Tuesday. That night we had pizza and watched Boss Baby. Then all of the kids just slept together in our main downstairs room. The adults got in a couples game of Ticket to Ride. Right at the very end Ryan and Monica had a couple extra trains that they wanted to get rid of so they blocked the route that we were going to complete on the very next turn. Rebecca said it reminded her of playing games growing up and how strategic Ryan always was.

Some of the nights were pretty wild with them all downstairs, but it was fun to hear them talking and playing with each other.

On Wednesday a few of us went for an early morning hike. The weather was super nice, like in the 60s. Trenton's family arrived in the late morning - so that made it so all of her siblings were here. There were a total of 24 of us in the house. Since it was so nice in the afternoon we went to the park for a game of kickball. We also did a little bit of food prep that day. In the evening Hye Won made us a feast of curry and homemade potstickers. It was delicious. That night the adults played reverse charades, One Night Werewolf (which is a lot like Mafia), and The Great Dalmuti.

Thursday we mainly just played games, cooked, and ate. We had a salad, a sweet potato souffle, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, ham, and turkey. Then for dessert we had pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie, apple pie, chocolate pie, raspberry pie, and oatmeal pie. It sounds like a lot of food (and dessert), but it was amazing how quickly it actually went.

Later that afternoon we did Skype with Rebecca's parents. They had sent clothes for all of the grandchildren that were made at the school that they teach at on their mission. We also tried to do some big group pictures of everyone. We had the children watch Home Alone that night and we played some more games after they went to bed.

On Friday it was a little rainy. Some of us went out to do some Black Friday shopping, but for most of the day we were just in doors. We celebrated Mackenzi's birthday that evening with pizza, cupcakes, and watching Kung Fu Panda 2. Saturday was mainly just everyone packing and leaving. We did celebrate Theodore's birthday before everyone left. Since it was his first birthday his parents lined up a bunch of objects and had him crawl to get one that would represent his future profession. Like his brother he chose the ball.

It was great to have everyone from her family here. It is always fun to celebrate the holidays with family around. We have so much to be thankful for, particularly our great family relationships and our testimonies of Jesus Christ.

Christmas Decorations

Usually we like to set up our Christmas decorations on the day after Thanksgiving. However, this year, we set them up a week early since we were going to have company in town. We had our tree and stockings like usual, but about a month ago Rebecca picked up a huge bin of garland for only one or two dollars and so we have that all around the house as well. It was fun setting everything up and starting to get into the Christmas spirit a little early this year.

Today we are also having a family council to discuss all of the different Christmas activities/traditions that we would like to do this year. I am looking forward to hearing all of the different ideas that the children will come up with.