Friday, December 10, 2010

Lots to catch up on...

I've been so busy with the move into our new apartment and getting settled in that I have not had a chance to write about it...and everything else that's been going on for the last 6 weeks or so.

Leah continues to love school. She is still working on potty training - usually pooping on the potty and sometimes peeing on the potty. She comes home with dry pull-ups after school but is not quite as diligent about getting to the potty the rest of the time. Will is growing fast and doing more every day. He's been sitting stably for several weeks now, and he plays with toys with both hands. He also continues to love solids. He eats at least an 8 ounce bowl full of pureed fruits and vegetables at each meal - breakfast, lunch and dinner - and often 2 bowls full. He certainly prefers fruit but willingly eats almost everything we've given him. He also gets protein at most meals now - lentils, avocados, yogurt.

To catch up since my last post:

End of October:
We had a nice Halloween. Leah had a costume party at school the Friday before, we went to a costume party at The American Club the night before, and we went to a party in The Repulse Bay on Halloween. Leah definitely enjoyed some brief trick or treating.

Early November - the move to Stanley:
Our shipment was delivered to our new apartment on November 1. I was there to watch them open the container. Everything arrived...only minor damage done...our 2 large speakers have some cracks to the wood and 2 framed prints had cracked glass. The moving company already took care of replacing the glass and it looks like we'll be getting a check for the replacement value of the speakers.

Everything fit into our new apartment. I would say that the living room is not quite how I would have designed it - but it works. We filled in a few pieces with Ikea furniture - twin beds in the kids' rooms, a desk and bookshelves in the study, and an entertainment center. And I've done a bit of shopping for other odds and ends, electronics (voltage difference between the US and Asia meant that we had to leave behind lamps, kitchen electrics, etc.), and other decor items.

Leah was very happy to have her bedding and toys. And Will didn't necessarily miss his things while they were gone, but I think he was glad to be back in his crib. And I was certainly glad to have toys for him to play with. The kids love playing together. No one is more interesting to Will than Leah and she loves to entertain him...if not always to see him play with her old toys.

We have met some very nice people in our apartment complex, Ho's Villa. There is an American family above us with a daughter about 9 months older than Leah, Scarlett. There is a French family in House 2 with a daughter a year older than Leah, Macha. There is a German family next to the American family with a 4 year old son, Finn. There is an English family with a 3 year old son who goes to the same school as Leah, Oscar. Oscar and Leah ride the school bus together and more recently have started to sit together on the bus - very cute. There is a half-French, half-English family with a son a few months older than Leah who is in Leah's class at school, Auri. We have also socialized with some of the other parents in Ho's Villa and are definitely happy with where we have chosen to live.

Mid-November - settling in:
We celebrated Shafi's 39th birthday on the 12th. We were actually invited to a dinner party at a neighbor's that night, so that became our celebration - I brought a small cake. And I got him an iPad - something he had really been wanting but probably would not have splurged on himself. He's enjoying having that for the bus ride to and from work - which can be anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic.

We have tried some of the local restaurants in Stanley, including a dim sum place near Stanley Market that we think is pretty good. There is also a pretty good authentic Chinese restaurant in the market that we had a nice dinner at. There are several restaurants with mostly European cuisine along the waterfront - but we've found that generally they have better location than food.
We took Will for his first haircut in Hong Kong to a little place in Stanley Market. It was only HK$40 (about US$5) but they did not speak any English - luckily I'm not too picky and just asking them to cut his hair turned out just fine.

We have really been enjoying living so close to the beach - just 1 block away from Stanley Main Beach. When the weather is warm, Leah and I often go down to the beach with others from Ho's Villa in the afternoon. Will also likes to sit in the sand and watch - but Leah loves to play in the water and in the sand. We're putting our many sand toys to good use. We also often play in the driveway / carpark area of Ho's Villa in the afternoons. Usually other kids are out with their mothers or helpers. It is really great for the kids to have a convenient area to play, ride their scooters and bikes, and run around.

We have paid a few more visits to Ocean Park and are definitely glad that we got annual passes. But more momentous than that - we visited Hong Kong Disneyland on the 21st. Leah definitely enjoyed seeing Mickey Mouse and the other characters, riding rides including Winnie the Pooh and Dumbo, and watching the parade.

Our new helper, Nilda, started on the 1st of November. She and Anna May really helped us getting settled in the new apartment. We actually had 5 days overlap between the Stanley apartment and the serviced apartment in Repulse Bay, which was really helpful in easing the transition. Nilda has been a great help. She is good with both kids and manages to balance helping with them, grocery shopping, cooking, and keeping the apartment nice and clean. She has only worked for Chinese families in the past, so she only makes Asian food. We have been enjoying that, but soon I will need to spend some time with her to teach her some basics of Western cooking (like using an oven) so that we can have a bit more variety.

Late-November / early-December - life in Hong Kong:
Shafi and I went on a night out with the American Women's Association to the horse races in Happy Valley. We were in a private box with its own betting counter, bar, and a nice buffet dinner. We met some nice people there and enjoyed watching the races. We also got to go down to the track to watch one race up close, which was lots of fun.

We went on a junk trip that was organized by some neighbors. A junk is a type of boat here, and renting one out for a junk trip is a popular activity. It was a Friday night - boat left from Stanley's Blake Pier at 7:30 for the hour or so ride out to Lamma Island, where we had a good seafood dinner before getting back on the junk and riding back to Stanley. We enjoyed the evening and getting to know some neighbors better.

Leah has definitely been a bit upset by not getting to see Shafi much during the week. One Friday after school I took her into Central on the bus to meet him for lunch. She was really excited to have lunch with Baba and see his office. And then I took her to the Botanical Garden and Zoo, which was fairly nearby. It's not much of a zoo - small cages and not all that many animals. We spent some time watching various monkeys before heading home. We'll have to go again to see the rest of the gardens and animals, but I don't think it will become a favorite destination.

With the start of December came the start of Hanukkah. I managed to get to Toys R Us the week before to get gifts for the kids. We enjoyed lighting the menorah and opening presents each night. We even invited some friends and neighbors over to join us some nights. Leah also had her first game of dreidel, which she enjoyed even without quite understanding the game. We went to the family Hanukkah party at the UJC - the reform synagogue on Sunday. It was mostly arts and crafts type stations for the young kids. Leah had a good time, but we felt like they didn't do much to create any community or socializing, so we did not really meet anyone while there.

I went in to Leah's school one day during Hanukkah and told her class the story of Hanukkah, lit the menorah, and made candy dreidels with them. It was fun for Leah and I, and I think the rest of the class also enjoyed it. I also sent them all home with a dreidel and bag of gelt.

I took my first trip to Shenzhen last week - the first stop in mainland China. I went with other from Will's baby group (sans babies, of course). We drove to the border and took the train across. It takes about an hour and a half each way. We spent several hours there shopping. I actually really loved it. You can get clothes tailor-made (which I'm not ready for until I finish losing the baby weight and getting in shape) and buy all sorts of knock-off and inexpensive items. I got quite a few handbags and DVDs. I'm definitely looking forward to future trips - I'd like to look at shoes, watches, sunglasses, and jewelry, as well as jeans for myself and clothes for the kids.

In the meantime, I have been exploring Stanley Market a bit more. There are lots of hidden gems in there, but it would be nice to go with someone who knows the shops a bit more - I'll have to work on that. There are lots of options for kids clothes - something which I will definitely have to start looking for soon, as both kids are growing like weeds. I've also come across lots of fun gift items - from silk outfits to jewelry to carved wood to T-shirts. And soon I'll be going to buy clothes / gear for dragon boating. I joined the AWA Dragon Boat Team. It's very challenging but a fun team sport. After 3 pre-season practices, I'm working on getting in better shape before the season starts in January. Practice will be Tuesdays from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and Saturdays from 8:30-11:30 a.m. The commitment is a bit daunting, but I know it will be good for my physique and social life. In fact, I went a couple weeks ago to lunch and for foot massages with several women from the team.

Leah had her class Christmas concert on the 8th. Shafi and I both went. The kids were very cute, with the boys dressed as santas and the girls as angels. Leah was not the most boisterous singer/performer, but we could see her lips moving and knew she was singing.

We have been regularly attending Will's baby group, which gets together one morning a week. And I have been regularly attending the weekly lunches, which are mommies-only. I've also been trying to get a playgroup started for Leah. There are 7 people on the list from the AWA, but only 4 of us have actually participated so far. We've met twice. Hopefully we can gain some traction there in the new year.

The kids had check-ups at the pediatrician a few weeks ago (November 12 actually). Will needed his 6 month check-up and immunizations and Leah needed a form filled out for school. Will was a trooper, hardly fussing from the check-up or the shots. He is 28 inches – grew an inch in 2 months. And 17 lbs 14 ozs – gained almost 1.5 pounds. That puts him around the 50th percentile for weight and 90th for height. Leah is 33.5 pounds - she gained 1.5 pounds in 2 months - and 39 inches - so she grew about 1/2 an inch. That puts her off the chart in height and around 80th percentile in weight. She's still tall and thin.

I think that is about all there is to update at the moment. I will try to post more often. You can see pics on Picasa -

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