A Canadian Newspaper Article.

Today's Toronto Star wrote an article rating the worlds 10 WORST places to live. The competition was fierce, but our beloved city made the list! Not sure if we should be proud or fearful. Here's the article in full. I guess it could be worse!!


xmas highlights

Merry Christmas!!


a few traditions...

I love traditions. Somehow, they make a family unique. Each person feels cherished & like they belong. Traditions also have deep meaning and history, which helps strengthen our bonds and identity as a family. In our 7+ years of marriage - its been fun to develop new traditions, and weave old ones into the fabric of our life.

For example: We fill our kids' stockings to the brim. AND there is always a yummy piece of fruit in the toe.

We try to make a new ornament each year, with the girls in mind!
We bake a dessert & sing "Happy Birthday!"
We buy a tree that's the same height as Asia.
We read the Christmas story aloud.
Baking Norwegian Kringla with my mom.
We give a gift as a family, choosing a simpler Christmas for others' sake.
Newest one: Making a family home video!

I wonder what new traditions will arise as the girls come up with new ideas??


a great gift!!

We are delighted to report that we were able to pick up our Chinese Visa's TODAY in SF!! After 5 months of perseverance & waiting - we finally get to go back home!! We celebrated by spending the day in SF together (just the 2 of us) - and even meandering thru China town!

We window shopped in the Haight/Ashbury district, ate Gyros, Hummous & Dolmas for lunch, and drank Mango Black tea in China town. It was our perfect gift! Thanks for all the encouragement along the way!

This lunch/food picture is mostly for my sister Krissy - even tho you don't eat meat/animal products, or much cooked food, know that we still crave these delicacies from your motherland.

China town was bustling with people - we felt right at home!!

Now we just need cheap tickets!


Christmas Lights Train

Thanks Nana & Poppa for treating our whole family to a wonderful night aboard the Holiday Lights Train!! The train chugged its way thru Santa Cruz, as we sipped hot cider, sang carols and met another Santa impostor. Our girls continue to be unimpressed with the fake beard & red stuffed suit, tho Sydney was almost convinced. When we got home - she said her favorite part of the night was eating her candy cane from "Joseph" - I am not joking!!

We also loved to share the night with great friends too. The Namba clan rode the rails with us, and the kiddo's had fun together. Our girls + their boys were born within weeks/months of each other. And now - they will all be world travelers too!

We love you guys! ....and we hope our paths cross often, in many new locations.


early Christmas with Poppy!

Poppy is traveling over the holidays, so we celebrated Christmas with him a bit early - and shared yummy soup for lunch & exchanged gifts too. The girls loved playing and spending time with their Poppy. We gave him a frame with pictures of him adjusting their backs, which he loved! He's an amazing chiropractor, ya know!

We also made a trip over the hill to see Christmas In The Park, in downtown San Jose. The kids loved getting bundled up, running to each exhibit and sipping hot cocoa. They were too nervous to visit "Santa" and Asia made sure to tell the girls "he's not real!" They also loved the brightly lit trees and ice skating rink.

Here was their favorite display:

Christmas caroling debut for Asia!

Asia practiced her little Christmas carol to sing before our community of friends, and she was fabulous! She sang 3 different times - and grew more excited each time to sing her heart out. The 3rd performance: she even did her own hand motions (Nancy, Sarah & Paul would be proud). Hearing children sing just melts my heart. My heart was overflowing with pride and joy! If you'd like a video copy of any of the performances, let me know!



We never planned on being in America this long... Our plan was to leave October 25th! Two months have passed, and we continue to find ourselves adjusting the Plan. We are seizing each day and enjoying each moment that we have in this beautiful place, and with our dear pals.

Now that Christmas is quickly approaching, I wanted to continue our tradition of opening stockings on Christmas Eve....but our stockings are back in China!! So with a little inspiration from Laura & Jill, leftover felt & scraps from mom - this is what will hold our Christmas goodies while in America. Each owl is different in size & eye color, depending on each kiddo. I can't wait to fill them up!

These were so fun to make, and were actually quite simple & relaxing. Best of all, the girls love them!


working with his hands....

Justin got a temporary job last week - landscaping and helping a friend with his yard. It was only 4 days, but Justin really looked forward to getting outside, being dirty and working with his hands. It's nice to see some completion to your work, unlike the messy job of working with people. We are such works-in-progress, and require continual Hands-on attention!!


Monterey Bay Aquarium

Thanks to free guest passes to the Aquarium - we enjoyed a visit to see the otters, jellyfish, sharks & manta rays in Monterey, along with Jamma-banana! The girls ran to each exhibit, asking questions and thrilled with each new discovery. Asia loved the huge Sunfish & the Hammerhead Sharks, while Eden loved the Otters and the "Nemo" Clown Fish. Sydney enjoyed the slides and holding a crab - she was so brave!!

Here, the girls are watching the otters be fed, and share their skills!
Gazing at Dory, Gil and Nemo.
Three generations of girls...having fun in Monterey!


a professional haircut!!

Asia got her hairs cut today! She had never really gone to a salon before, so this was a big deal for her! We decided to go short - since she is not fond of brushing nor putting it back. I think this new style will help!! Isn't she a beauty??

sitting in the big salon chair...a bit nervous
feeling like a big girl!


animal love

A friend I have known since kindergarten invited us over to her home in the mountains. She has a little 2 year old, a miniature pony and two friendly goats. Sydney was the brave one - she had fun hugging the goats: enjoy the cute pictures of her animal-love.

Thanks Amy & Brooke for the fun-filled day!


our happy little tree....

Today we chose a beautiful Noble Fir, and supported people in recovery at the same time. That makes us feel better, knowing this tree is dying in our living room now (don't tell the kids). Someday, I would love to buy a living tree, and a nice big pot. Until then, I will always have a real tree with amazing pine smell and full branches.

The girls did all the decorating this year (all I did was the lights, and unwrapping the fragile ornaments)! They loved looking at each ornament, and asking where it came from. I think we have ornaments from 13 different countries! Then we basked in the glow & felt all warm+fuzzy.

Not pictured: Sydney running around pulling ornaments off tree, and stashing them in unknown locations.

Their new favorite activity is rearranging the nativity set and hearing the story too.


parade DAY.

Parade #1 began @ 10am with a loud marching band along Pacific Avenue, and the girls staring in wonder. You'd think they never saw this sort of thing before. Oh wait, they haven't.

The Downtown Holiday Parade was the place to be!! There were amazing tumblers, acrobats & dancers....of all ages. Colorful floats & Clydesdale horses, classic cars & too many Santa's to count. I was amazed by the kid-unicyclers & children on stilts. That was circus-talent-in-the-making.

gotta love free fun!!

Parade #2 began at the Santa Cruz Harbor with crowds gathering to watch the annual Boat Light Parade on water! As the sunset behind us, we ate our dinner/snacks and huddled close to keep warm as the boats paraded thru the Harbor in all their razzle-dazzle glory. Again, too many Santa's to count. We did manage to get an amazing family photo.

gotta love beautiful (winter!) days in Santa Cruz!


build-a-bear mania

Has anyone heard of Build-A-Bear? I am sure this phenomenon has been around for years, but for some odd (foreign) reason - its new to me! We were invited to join our neighbors/friends and make the trip over to San Jose. At the store the girls chose their own animal, stuffed them & chose outfits too. They even put a tiny heart inside before it gets sewn up. It's quite the ordeal - yet SO amazing that this business thrives off children's love for stuffed animals (and parents too).

This was Sydney's actual day of birth - so it was a nice celebratory event! I think Asia enjoyed it the most, as she thrives off furry animals + frilly ballerina dresses. Thank you friends for the generous gift to our girls! I hope this can all fit in our suitcases!!

Later...we had cupcakes again. Happy Birthday sweet Sydney! You are such a beautiful & insightful little girl. We love your spunk, your joy, your outgoing personality and all the crazy comments & expressions we see every day. You have graced our lives!! We love you Squid!


how to get kids to pose for a picture

1. gather kids by a large beautiful object: tree
2. have the taller kids naturally stand in the back
3. ask them to make silly faces at the camera!


mom & me out on the town

Mom knows just how to spoil me: a visit to Goodwill & hot chocolate downtown (not to mention the burritos for dinner)! I love you mom, and I think you are beautiful inside & out!!


girls @ the abbey

sweet girlfriends @ the local coffee shop.


Squid turns TWO!!

Today, Sydney learned to hold her fingers like this:

She enjoyed the happy birthday song, the yummy frosting on her cupcake and being surrounded by all these special friends. Thanks to everyone who shared in this special celebration (most of our birthdays are spent overseas) and gave such sweet & thoughtful gifts. Thanks to Corban, Bella & Myles for finally busting open the pinata!! I guess I added one-too-many layers of paper mache!

The warm weather held out for another weekend, tho the shade was a bit chilly. Sydney learned to swing a bat, tear open wrapping paper, and blow out her candle. She wasn't so skilled in these "normal" party skills. Those things come with maturity.

Her face was priceless when she opened her baby doll. There's something innate about little girls and their baby dolls. She held the baby tight the rest of the day like a sweet little momma. Yes, baby-doll replaced panda bear. Just for today tho.

McNabb girls & Namba boys (ages 5, 3 & 2!)