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Today was one of those days that completely freaked me out and I just don’t know how to comprehend it. Luckily it wasn’t an immediate issue, but it sent up those mommy flags that I just can’t put away.

After picking up Noah and his friends from pre-school today, I got a call from James and a subsequent email from the school district that a suspicious man who may have been carrying a gun attempted to enter our local junior high school. Luckily, all the doors were locked and the safety supervisor was able to get the man to leave without incident but the police are still investigating what exactly happened and who this man was.  Supposedly, the man said he was in the security field and that’s why he had a weapon but who knows.

Nothing happened but something could have happened. Especially after the tragic events in Newtown just before Christmas. I can’t even think about what happened without crying and feeling so vulnerable.  It is a very sad world we live in that we need to worry about our children being safe while at school.  I really hope there is some reasonable explanation for what happened today though we may never know. I just do not know what to do with this information.  How do we go on feeling safe when something like this happens?

Is it really 2013 already? If anyone is still reading this blog, I apologize for the last 2 years… I can come up with some arguably reasonable excuses for my lack of communication, but it’s just sad. I knew coming back to the US would change me a lot and keeping up with the blog was definitely one of them. Now that I actually talk and see people, I’ve lag at documenting what has happened over the last 20 months. So, here I am again - making another resolution to KEEP UP on this blog. It’s not for anyone else but myself, James and the kids. We have so many more adventures to take and I can’t neglect writing all those glorious moments down.

So, what happened in 2012? It was a crazy year.  We didn’t travel to many new countries or have grand adventure, but we still had great memories.  The year started off with a new year’s celebration at James’ cousin’s house out in Long Island. It was nice having a low key celebration with family where kids could run around and stay up all night just having fun though the drive home wasn’t so fun.

Next came Samanth’s 6th birthday party with 35 of her closest friends! YIKES! What was I thinking? Never again. Luckily we had the use of an entire martial arts studio and a great party coordinator who was able to manage the crazy kids. I spent endless hours making my own huge pinata in the shape of the number 6 and wrapping 35 pass the parcel presents - but all in all, Samantha was happy and that’s all that matters, isn’t it.

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Samantha also continue with her ice skating lessons which she loved! It’s great living in a town where the ice rink is just a 2 min drive away. maybe she will be our own Kristy Yamaguchi… who knows. Noah, he’s another story. We’ll wait until he’s older to get lessons.

In February, James and I were able spend a lovely 24hr kid free weekend in Manhattan since my mother was still visiting (since Jimmy had his second child) and we enjoyed every second of it.  We stayed at the Soho Grand Hotel, ate at Blue Ribbon Sushi, slept in and enjoyed walking around SoHo without worrying about the kids. It was a great way to celebrate our birthdays and just reconnect.

In March, we had a much welcomed visit from James parents.  They had come for a family friend’s daughter’s wedding down in Baltimore which James and I attended as well. So we decided to take the whole family for a fun filled road trip down to Washington D.C. Here, we learned James has either an allergy to Maryland crabs or Old Bay seasoning.  The kids enjoyed looking at the White House from outside the gates, visiting the National Aquarium (which I didn’t really like very much) and enjoyed the National Air and Space Museum (which I thought was awesome for the kids).  Too bad we were too early for the cherry blossoms,  maybe next time.  The wedding was awesome but chaotic afterwards as we drove back from DC/Baltimore straight to catch a 6am flight out of Newark so that James and I could take a real vacation alone. Roger and Remy were gracious enough to watch the kids for 4 days as James and I recharged our batteries in St. Maarten.

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I know it sounds so decadent but we were able to use our Starwood points for free hotel rooms so we just needed the flights which were direct out of EWR.  I had all these dreams of doing all the crazy/extreme activities we used to do like Jet Ski, ZipLine, parasail, diving or even just do out dancing and drinking, but instead, all we really wanted to do was sit on the beach with a pina colada and read a book and we did just that! We found a different beach each day and enjoyed being waited on.  We spent 1 day out on this little island, I can’t even remember the name, and it was great! we ordered food and drinks on the beach, swam a little, went on a short hike around the island and just relaxed.  4 days was definitely too short, but was long enough for my in-laws.  When I asked James’ dad how he enjoyed my life for a few days, he just shook his head and was glad we were home!

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March also held Noah’s 4th birthday. I decided to go simple and have a nice backyard Super Hero party, but instead of simple, it became it’s own monster.  We bought a backyard bouncy castle and slide so that the kids could run around and play but mother nature had different plans.With cold wind and rain in the forecast, we moved the party inside. And as much as I love my home, it just is not conducive to having 20 4+ year olds running around inside (plus their parents).  I had spent hours the week prior making another pinata, sewing super hero capes and creating fun indoor games.  In the end, the kids had fun, nothing broke, no one got hurt and Noah had a smile on his face. Thank goodness birthdays are only once a year.

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Oh, I forgot, Noah got a special gift for his 4th birthday - GLASSES!

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Life continued to get busy in May since James’ brother was finally getting married back in San Diego, which conveniently coincided with my mother’s 60th birthday so we prepared for our first family plane flight since coming back to the US.  Traveling with 3 kids is always a challenge and worry, but the kids did great on the flight. Samantha continued to throw up on each flight, as expected, but we were prepared. Annabelle did well and Noah slept!

The wedding was beautiful! Noah was the cutest ring bearer ever! The weather was a bit chillier than expected but it was wonderful seeing two people in love promise themselves to each other.  We also got to spend a lot of time with family which was really nice. A few days after the wedding, we went on a family vacation with my side of the family to celebrate my mom’s 60th. The year before, we celebrated by dad’s 60th with a big surprise dinner/dancing party but my mom just wanted to spend time with her kids and grandkids instead. So, my brother and his family flew out from NJ and we all drove out for 4 days in Palm Springs.  We stayed in one house for all 17 of us, and it was wonderful! The kids got to play and just reconnect. We had a pool but the weather was just a little to cool to just hang in the pool. We played in the pool 1 day, just hung out another and spent 1 day at the local children’s museum. Very low key but fun all the same.  It’s always sad leaving southern California after having so much family time together. I do miss that about living on the east coast.

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Then, all of a sudden, it was summer! School was over and it was a ghost town here… what is usually a vibrant community full of kids playing and playdates scheduled almost every free day became a town of campers - both day and sleep away so by the time camp was over, kids were done! We rarely saw anyone… Luckily I had enrolled the kids in a day camp at the YMCA in a neighboring town but it was still so chaotic since it now required me driving Sam and Noah 20mins away each way morning and afternoon. Plus, though they were at the same place, Noah’s camp ended 1 hour earlier than Samantha’s so that meant Noah, Annabelle and I would roam around aimlessly every day for an hour. We would hang out a CVS, Staples, Kohl’s or just walk around the town, which got old really fast. Never again! But they both really enjoyed it, especially Samantha since she was in a Gymnastics Camp. Now, she will be our own little Gabby Douglas!

Camp was only 4 weeks though I thought I’d get so many projects done while Sam and Noah were busy, but somehow, that just didn’t happen.  Annabelle was getting bigger and more demanding. Plus, she would nap 12-2/2:30 and then I’d have to leave to pick up the kids. Time just flew and I was just lazy.  But the summer was still fun. We spent most of our extra time swimming at our local pool, hanging with friends at the town beach or driving out to NJ to BBQ and swim at James’ cousins house.

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Summer was great but near the end, we received some very bad news.  My neighbor and best friend here in town was suddenly rushed to the hospital with what we first thought was meningitis. That was scary enough but it turns out it wasn’t meningitis… instead it was something they couldn’t figure out. Each day was full of worry, waiting for her husband to update us on her status. It turns out to be some rare form of encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Luckily, she slowly improved but lost a lot of her short term memory.  She is now so much better but still have a hard time focusing or remembering some things. I’m just happy she’s ok.

Before school started back up in September, we were able to spend 1 week down the eastern seaboard at Bethany Beach, Delaware.  I’d been planning this trip for months and wasn’t quite sure what we were getting ourselves. Seems so much easier planning int’l trips. There were just so many different options but someone had recommended Rehoboth Beach and I somehow ended up learning about Bethany Beach and the Sea Colony there - it was the best decision I could have made.  We’d been trying to coordinate with some friends but ended up missing them by a week so we met them on their last night in Ocean City, NJ as we headed down to Bethany Beach.  It was fun. The drive from Westchester to Bethany Beach is about 5hrs straight so we broke it up a bit with the stop in Ocean City. We brought James’ 11yr old cousin with us and that was such a success… Samantha, Noah and Annabelle all love her and she’s just the nicest girl. It was like having 4 kids but was fun. She was also so helpful. Besides a bit of car and sea sickness, I think she had a great time too. Ocean City was fun and we rode those big group bikes along the boardwalk before it started to rain.

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Our first night in Bethany was in a torrential down pour but after that, it was great weather, though a bit of rough water due to storms off the coast (a little pre-cursor to the storms to come later in the year).  We stayed in a 3bedroom condo in this huge complex call Sea Colony.  It was great! We were on the first floor close to one of the 10 pools there and just down from the beach.  The kids had fun playing on the beach in the morning and in the pool in the afternoons. They also got to do tennis lessons and beach and pool games.  And we were close to Rehoboth and Ocean City, MD where we could go to the boardwalk and go on the rides. We also spent 1 day at Jolly Rogers Splash Mountain which was so much fun, even with 4 kids. It was one of the best family vacations we’ve had just because it was easy and fun for all.

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Then school was back in session!  It was weird starting a new year and Samantha was a bit hesitant about going in to first but after a few weeks, she really fell right back into loving school. Though she misses her kindergarten teacher but her new teacher is awesome! She has really blossomed and enjoys school so much.  And Noah started a new pre-school though it’s driving me nuts because it’s so short, but it’s free, so I can’t complain too much.

And then Hurricane Sandy hit and it hit hard.  In reality, I think it did eventually turn into just a tropical storm but it still created so much destruction along the eastern coast. We were lucky as there was no damage though we lost power for 11 days and then lost Fios service for another 8 days.  It was a crazy time but we all grew closer together, closer as a family and closer as a community. We helped each other out and celebrated together after it was all over.  That’s what I love about living here. It really is a community.  We were lucky we had a generator to hold out and everyone helped each other get gas and entertain each others’ kids.

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And in the middle of it all was Halloween.  We had Bumblebee (the Transformer), a Candy Fairy and Dora the Explorer.  Luckily, we had a good town parade the week before but come Oct. 31st it was cold and trees were down everywhere but Trick or Treating still went on.  Emails had gone around and word of mouth spread to come down our street starting at 3pm. It was amazing how many kids were still there considering the chaos from the Hurricane but really, it was a lot less than it would be on a normal year. I still had bags of candy left over. One day, we’ll have a normal Halloween. Last year there was a freak snow storm that caused chaos then so maybe next year.

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Then November comes and my little koala turned 2! I can’t believe she’s so big now… We didn’t do a big party this year for her, I promise next year. We did do a little party with her playgroup but no big party place. I think she was still happy. And a few days later she started school for the first time! YIPPEE!!! Annabelle started school where Noah went last year. She goes 2 days a week for 2 hrs and 45mins - longer than Noah! She is even in the same classroom with the same teacher which is great! the first day, not a tear but then they had this animal visit and she freaked out. After that, I think she associated school with animals and cried her eyes out the next few times.

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November was a busy month. As we were recovering from Hurricane Sandy, I was preparing to donate bone marrow to an anonymous recipient.  I had registered with DKMS Americas years ago when I was working at NBC and got a call earlier in the year that I was a potential match. I went through all the subsequent testing and it was determined I was the best match so on Nov. 29th, James and I drove out to Stony Brook Hospital in Long Island and I was hooked up to a machine for 4.5hrs. I had a needle in 1 arm that sucked out all my blood that went into a machine that separated my plasma, stem cells and red blood cells. Then the machine put my red blood cells in through a needle in my other arm back into my body. The machine took all my blood out and replaced it 5x through. It didn’t hurt but was a bit uncomfortable. The hardest part was going to the bathroom - not pretty. I also had to have injections of Neupogen for 4 days prior to the donation to increase my stem cell production in my bone marrow. Luckily it all went smoothly. They flew my mother in to help babysit before, during and after which was wonderful. I love my mom!

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Oh, I forgot, we had a nice quiet Thanksgiving right before the bone marrow donation - though that’s really the wrong terminology. It’s peripheral blood stem cell donation really.

Then it was December and on the 15th, we packed up the whole family and flew down to Cabo San Lucas for another family vacation. We were going to LA for Christmas so thought a nice side trip to Mexico would be nice.  Luckily James parents were able to come with us. We were a bit worried as Roger was feeling sick before but Cabo really helped improve his health. He arrived looking weak and tired and left looking tanned and rejuvenated. We stayed at our timeshare resort we bought back in 2005  and it was wonderful. We were very happy. We swam a lot, went on a boat cruise, ate great Mexican food and even swam with dolphins.  I will try to do a full write up when I can. It was a lot of fun.

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Then off to  Los Angeles and Orange County to shuffle back and forth between families. Literally, we were packing up and sleeping in a different place almost every other night. As hectic as it was, spending Christmas with both our families and friends was wonderful.  Every time we go back, we always start wondering when we should move back. I think it’s still a bit early and I’m really happy where I am right now but who knows… anything can happen.

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So, that  was the abridged version of 2012.  A lot happened and I expect 2013 will have even more in store for us.  I just pray we all stay happy and healthy and no matter what natural disasters or chaos comes our way, we will overcome any obstacles and come out even stronger.

Happy New Year to all and may 2013 bring joy and cheer to everyone!

30 days in New York City with my 3 babies… wish me luck!

As usual, we like to spend Christmas with our families.  We are fortunate that most of our family lives in Southern California so we’re able to see both sides instead of having to choose one or the other, however, it’s also a curse as we end up driving from one house to the next the entire vacation.

We planned our trip from Sydney to LA back in April - yes, I am a big proponent of planning ahead. And even then, the tickets were ridiculously expensive.  Since we are no longer considered “expats” by Citibank’s definition, we no longer get our trips home paid, so we had to get creative.  Being the miles and points junkie that I am, we were able to book 2 tickets home with points and pay for just one.  But the only flight available was on Air Tahiti leaving Dec. 13th and not returning until Jan 3rd.  A long time for a holidy by US standards but luckily, not by Australian standards.  And, it meant we had to lay over in Tahiti - what a shame… So, we decided to extend our layover by 6 days and enjoy a little Polynesian holiday.

Being greeted at the airport by Marama Tours.  Sam loved her lei.

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View from our hotel in Tahiti (Sheraton):

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Hanging at the pool.

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We had a whole day to kill so we decided to walk from our hotel to down town.  Not really the greatest idea as it was REALLY HOT!  Sam walked a bit and James had to carry her and I had Noah in the Ergo.  It’s not really far but it definitely was not pleasant. Needless to say we took a cab home.  But we did get to see downtown Tahiti and went to the main square where they sell all types of stuff, crappy souvenirs, fish, fruits, etc.  That was about the highlight of the day, plus stopping off at the Champions (grocery store) to stock up on water and baby food.  So, listen to everyone when they stay don’t spend any time in Tahiti - go straight to Moorea, Bora Bora, etc.

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The next morning, we took the Aremiti 5 ferry across to Moorea where we would spend the next 4 nights.

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And we finally arrive in Moorea!

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We had debated where to stay in Moorea.  Do we stay at the nice, luxurious Sheraton hotel with gorgeous blue water where all the honeymooners stay but be relegated to a small hotel room, no kitchen, no washing machines, or should we stay at the one time-share on the island that’s a bit dated and not the ideal location?  Well, since we have a ton of Starwood points - we decided to go with luxury and free! And it was the best decision we made.  We loved the Sheraton Moorea.  All the rooms are little separate bungalows, not in a big concrete building.  We opted not to have an overwater bungalow as I’d be paranoid the whole time that a baby would fall into the water - and who needs to worry about that while on vacation.  So we happily settled into the back gardens which was fine by us.  The grounds were beautiful, the beach was gorgeous, and for the most part, we had the whole hotel to ourselves.  We saw maybe 3 sets of honeymooners but surprisingly, several families.  We never had to worry about getting a beach hut or not having space at the restaurants.  We never had to book things in advance and all activities were available.  It was a great time to go!  And the kids could run around and be as loud as they wanted because for the most part, there was no one around to hear them and if there were, they were either employees or other families with kids.  So, enjoy the pics…

dsc_0074.jpgdsc_0076.jpgdsc_0044.jpgdsc_0049.jpgwhen we arrived at our room, it was set up with a crib and cold champagne and dessert awaited us - like we were honeymooners again =)

We spent most of the time out on the beach and in the lagoon snorkling.  The hotel provides basic snorkeling gear and kayaks for free and the local dive shop is located right at the hotel making everything convenient.

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One day, James went and did a beginner scuba diving adventure while I stayed back w/the kids.

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James had so much fun that he convinced me to go the next day.  As much as I love water, I’m also a bit afraid of it. Plus, I’m not what you would call the strongest swimmer. I’ve always wanted to learn to scuba but it makes me feel claustrophobic so I don’t know why I thought it’d be a good idea to go by myself… but really, what other choice did I have.  So, Thomas was my instructor and he held my hand the entire time.  I was apprehensive just breathing through the regulator above water and then when we went under, I thought I’d stop breathing.  There really weren’t much of a lesson involved, just told me to breath, a few hand signals and we were in the water.  Well, after a few tries, all of a sudden I was moving and breathing and I seemed to calm down and we were able to stay under water for at least 20 mins. I don’t think we went much further than 15-20feet but that was fine by me.  We saw several sharks - not big great whites, but smaller ones that are not suppose to attack people.  I can’t remember the name.  I spent most of the time looking for Nemo and I finally found him.  We didn’t have underwater cameras but the memories will stay with me forever.  It was great!

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One night we attempted to out to dinner.  We went to Le Mahogany which was a French/Chinese restaurant. They pick you up and drop off too which is great because we didn’t have a car on the island.  It turned out to be a really bad idea.  Straight off, Sam threw up in the van on the way to dinner.  She’s been having a bit of motion sickness… on planes, on boats, on everything. So, by the time we got there, the driver wasn’t too thrilled (though I did have a plastic bag prepared) and Sam wasn’t feeling any better. Then Noah was over tired and couldn’t fall asleep.  We scarfed our food as fast as we could and went straight back to the hotel.  The one good thing was that the restaurant was next door to a small grocery store, so I was able to stock up on some more baby supplies.

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Another night we decided to go to the Tahitian Village for a Polynesian dance show.  We went for the cultural exhibits, dinner and the dance though I don’t think I wouldn’t bother with the first half though it’s a bit of a trek just to watch the show.  They showed how they opened coconuts, how to shave them (which I helped demonstrate), the roasting of the food (similar to a roasted pig in a Hawaiin luau), and some Tahitian dance lessons.  I still think our luau at Lahaina during our honeymoon was much better, but this was nice.  The food was ok though it’s always tough as Noah wasn’t enjoying it much.  He had a tough time through dinner but fell asleep as soon as the loud music began - go figure.  It was late, much later than I thought it would be and for that I felt really bad.  It was a great night with a nice Tahitian dance show.

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We really wanted to go on the motu picnic excursion where you get to feed the sting rays and swim with dolphins but it’s really not something you do w/little kids.  So the rest of the time was relaxing on the beach or sleeping in which was nice.  So we didn’t really spend too much since sitting and getting a tan is free but we did spend a pretty penny on food at the hotel as everything there is super expensive.  But, you pick your battles.

Here are some random pics on the beach. We attempted to take some family self portraits, you know, where you set up the camera, hit the timer, run to where you need to be a pray that everyone is smiling and looking at the camera.  Well, it took about 30mins but we got a few good shots and a whole lot of lousy ones.

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On our way back to the ferry to head to LA, we stopped by the Sofitel where there’s a beautiful lookout.

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Then once back on Tahiti, we had a good 6 hours to waste before our flight to LA so we had dinner at the Roulottes - these trailers that set up shop and cook mainly Chinese/French food. This is a permanent spot for them now.  We had a nice chinese dinner of noodles, fish, mapo tofu and crepes for dessert. It was a nice way to end the night.

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Then off to the airport where we were delayed an extra 1.5hrs at midnight… but we persevered and made our way safely back to LA.

So, no, we do not get the Thursday of Thanksgiving off down here… and yes, you’ll be surprised that people would actually ask that question.  So, we celebrated on Saturday, Nov. 29th instead.  As usual, I was a frantic mess trying to cook for 10-12 people all by myself - but that’s the way I like it.  Something very homey about cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve been doing it for the last 8yrs or so but it just isn’t the same as in the states.  For instance, it’s really hard to find simple things like Kosher salt - it just doesn’t seem to exist. I found some other salt that seems similar but it was $$$.  And then, French’s French Fried onions.  I know not everybody likes green bean casserole, but I LOVE IT! It’s about the only way I’ll eat my greens… Last year in Shanghai, I had my friend Ray bring it over on his visit, but this year, I had to trek out to Bondi Beach to the one David Jones store that seems to stock it, in teeny tiny 2.8oz cans.  I needed like 6 of them for I think $8 each! Oh, and then comes the turkey.  Since no one eats whole turkey in November, the stores didn’t stock any. I had to special order it from the butcher. So, you’d think it would be exactly as I ordered. I had asked for 18-20lbs which is still a pretty big turkey, but what I got was a whopping 26lb bird.  What was I going to do with this thing? I didn’t even know if it would fit.  Well, they only charged me as if it was only 20lbs but still - I had no choice.  I lug the thing back home and try to brine it.  I had the weirdest contraption of plastic bags and plastic tubs filled with salty water and a raw turkey sitting in my fridge.  Usually, a bird of that size would take around 6 hours to cook so that’s what I planned on.  But to my surprise, only 3.5hrs into cooking, it was already 190 degrees - way past cooked.  AAAAHHHHH!!! My turkey was ruined… ok, a little dramatic here but I take great pride in my turkey. Usually, they are moist and tender and oh so yummy (Alton Brown would be proud) but this year, I wanted to hide under a rock. Though everyone said it was great, I knew in my hear (and my stomach) that it was not the truth.  The damn thing barely fit in the oven and was so close to the heating source that it cooked so quickly. Then it had to sit out until guests arrived and we were ready to eat.  I’m just glad no one got sick.

So, in any case, we had a great time with our friends, mainly Americans we had met from the American Society meeting we went to the 2nd week we were in Sydney and some Aussie friends to round out the group.  The rest of the food came out pretty good: sage sausage apple cranberry stuffing, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, etc… Although the food was somewhat to be desired, the company was great!  We are thankful to be blessed with good friends wherever we go and a happy, healthy family.

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On Nov. 4th, 2008 in Sydney, Australia, Samantha exercised her right to vote… though she’s not yet old enough to truly vote, it’s never to early to start learning about the process.  So, we set up a make-shift voting area where she got 10 votes in which to place on either an OBAMA sign or a McCain sign.

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Here first voting attempt resulted in a 5-5 tie.  I guess she, like many Americans, couldn’t quite decide.

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So, I let her try again.

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This resulted in a McCain win 6-4.

But then I thought, well… you really don’t get 10 votes, you really only get one. So, we tried one last time where she only got one vote.  I explained to her she only got one check to place and spun her around to try to not direct her in any given direction.

And the winner is…

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This year, we had a much simpler Halloween.  This holiday is still just growing in Australia so trick-o-treating isn’t the standard and costumes are very limited.  However, the American Society here in Sydney did put on a nice Halloween party in North Sydney which allowed us to dress up the kids and get in the Halloween spirit.  Samantha was a ballerina which she loved.  I know … not the most creative costume but she loved it and wears parts of the costume almost everyday.  And little Noah was a little pumpkin, just like Sam was last year.  Sam seemed to enjoy the day and the few pieces of candy she did get.  But the good thing about no trick-o-treating is not having loads of candy around.  Here are a few pics of the kids.

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If you know anything about Samantha, it’s that she LOVES Hi-5. Hi-5 is an Australia kid’s group made up of 5 young men and women in their 20’s (I think), sort of like the Wiggles but not so creepy. Anyways, they sing and dance and do little skits. It’s a TV show that’s also has an American version in the US. But Sam loves the original Australian cast - Charli, Kathleen, Kelly, Tim and Nathan, though now, only 2 of the original 5 remain. It started very innocently enough a year ago when one of James’ Australia co-workers gave Sam a dvd as gift, now, she’s obsessed. But it’s a good thing. She learns to sing and dance by watching and boy does she watch it - almost everyday. We only have 2 dvd’s but she watches with such intense interest. We do have some copies of the US version which she loves too. So when I heard they were touring, I had to get us tickets. They came to Hornsby which is about a 30min drive from where we live and tickets were only $20 so why not. I never thought I’d be one of those moms who takes their kids to see Hanah Montana or whatever but I couldn’t resist knowing how happy it would make her. She was a little scared at first when the lights came down but as soon as the cast came out, she starting dancing. Her little face totally lit up and it made me so happy.

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So, I figured why not continue my food critiques here in Sydney, though I don’t think I’ll have as many as I did in Shanghai.

Gourmet Pizza Kitchen (Albert Ave. & Archer Street)

An Australian friend of mine recommended this restaurant to me when she heard we were living in Chatswood.  She said it had the “best pizza ever”.  So, I think my expectations were set really high.  Luckily, we live only 4-5 blocks away from this restaurant and I was excited when I happened by it one day.  So, we met up with one of James’ work colleagues who recently moved to Sydney 8 months ago from NY (but originally from S. America) who also have 2 children approximately the same age as ours.

GPK is located right across the street from the Chatswood Police Station and just 1 block down from the Westfield Mall - so a great location.  It’s big and roomy and talk about kid friendly.  While we were there, I think every other patron there was also families with babies in prams (see, I’m using Aussie slang already). There was no shortage of high chairs and they brought out coloring pamphlets and crayons and pizza dough for the kids to play with.  There’s also a family/handicap specific bathroom with a changing table.  No one seemed to mind Sam roaming around the restaurant and the servers were very friendly.

Now for the food.  We ordered 3 pizzas and a pasta.  They also gave us 2 free garlic bread pizza thingies. I can’t seem to find it on the menu so can’t tell you what its called.  It’s dough with garlic on it. Nothing too exciting.  At first, we only ordered 2 pizzas and 1 pasta thinking that’d be enough for the 5 adults, 2 toddlers and 2 babies (my mom was with us) but then the pizzas came out and we knew we’d need to order at least another.  They were tiny, slightly bigger than something you’d get individually back in the states.  They have a very long list of interesting sounding pizzas but we must have just ordered the wrong ones because I was quite disappointed.  We had the Manhattan (crispy bacon pieces & semi dried tomatoes served on GPK’s tomato sauce, topped with cos lettuce, drizzled with a vinagrette dressing) - which was interesting. It was like putting your salad on your pizza and eating it.  I think I prefer to just have my salad on the side.  Then we must have gotten the Broome (finely sliced chicken breast fillets, Australian mozzarella and GPK’s tomato sauce) which was not good. It was like eating plain, no flavor sliced chicken on dough.  I didn’t even taste the pizza sauce.  So, we ended up ordering our third pizza, the Morocco (finely sliced beef fillets marinated iwth Moroccan spices, fetta cheese, semi dried tomatoes & grilled eggplant served o GPK’s tomato sauce, topped with herbed yogurt, fresh parsley and a wedge of lemon).  This was by far the best pizza. It actually had some flavor - wish we had more of it.  We had also ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese just in case the kids didn’t eat the pizza.  It was just OK. Nothing special.

So, from this one tasting, I’d have to give GPK 3 cookies.  It gets credit for the inventive menu, good service and kid friendliness but the pizzas were a disappointment. I think we’ll have to try a few different ones and reassess.  But $20 for a pizza I could easily eat all by myself is a bit hard to swallow…

This is it… the end of another chapter of our lives. This is my last post from Shanghai because in about 1 hr, this computer will be packed along with the rest of our stuff and sent on a plane headed “down under”. I can’t believe it’s finally here. I’m still not totally resolved to the idea that we are leaving. We’ve had such a great year here full of tons of adventures - from our travels, to meeting new friends and to having another baby. We will never forget the memories we’ve made nor the amazing friends we’ve met. Shanghai itself is just a city, not that much unlike New York City, but what really made the difference were the people. Who would have ever thought we’d make such great connections with people we’ve only known for such a short time. We came to Shanghai with no friends, no family and now we are leaving with both, as we consider our new friends just like family. They’ve taken care of us when we needed help all without any concerns for themselves. We hope we were as helpful to them as they were to us. We will truly miss these wonderful people and hope we continue to stay in touch through the years, especially Sam’s friends. Though she may not remember them well, I will and will cherish the experiences they’ve all shared together. Who knows, maybe 18yrs down the road they will meet up in college our out in the world and realize they’ve previously met in Shanghai. That would be adorable.

So thank you to all the people who made the last year so wonderful… we will miss you terribly. Please keep in touch. We’ve been saying our goodbyes slowly and still have a few to go but below are a few pics - well … they’re taking my computer now so maybe I’ll get these up somehow…

GOOD BYE SHANGHAI!!!

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