Thursday, December 31, 2009

A special treat for New Year's Eve

Lolly rings

What can you do on a rainy day in Hong Kong?

The same thing you do on a rainy day in Australia!

Put on some cheerful music and build a cubby house in the lounge room with chairs and blankets.

Jemilla and Keegan also chose to have a picnic lunch in their cubby house.

Our music of choice this morning is Australian singer Colin Buchanan's newest memory verse collection, BOOM CHICKA BOOM, which the children received for Christmas. We love it!

From Colin's website:

It's a 30 track Bible Bonanza with unforgettable memory verses and amazing musical moments that will help all the family hide God's precious and unchanging word in their hearts. There's 18 brand new tracks, including "Yum Yum Yum" (Jeremiah 15:16), Heee Brooz 10:45, Uppety Oooo (Isaiah 2:3), The Fruit of The Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and Boom Chicka Boom (Isaiah 2:17-18) - spanning not only the length and breadth of New and Old Testament scripture but roaming the musical landscape as only Colin can! Add a bunch of favourite musical memory verses as a bonus - plus a couple of live surprises - and you have over an hour of Boom Chicka Boom Colin Buchanan Bible memory fun!

You can listen to a sample here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Au revoir, Natalie

Natalie left this morning to return to Xi'an. We loved spending Christmas week with her, especially the time she selflessly spent with us doing the following activities:

  • Making all sorts of Lego creations with Jemilla
  • Playing mancala with Keegan (over and over and over)
  • Reading In the Night Garden books to Tirzah
  • Watching movies with Renee
  • Discussing American politics and Chinese culture with Craig


Spotlight is one of my favourite Australian stores here in Hong Kong. It sells haberdashery, manchester, craft, party supplies, and many other items. Sadly for me, the only Spotlight in Hong Kong is closing down at the end of this month.

The day that we went, the store had 70% off everything. Bargains galore, you might think, but there was a catch...the queues were soooooooooooooooo long. Keegan found a dress-up mask he wanted to buy, but I explained that for the couple of HK dollars the mask cost it wasn't worth waiting in line for over an hour to pay. I told him that if he really wanted it he would have to be brave enough to ask someone already in line to buy it for him. To my surprise, Keegan plucked up the courage to ask a few customers until he found one who understood enough English and agreed to his proposal.

Here he is wearing his new mask and the Ben10 costume Jemilla gave him for Christmas.

Avatar versus Indiana

While Natalie was here we watched several movies together, but these two were the most notable for very different reasons.

We decided to go to the cinema on Christmas Eve to watch Avatar in 3D, but the theatre was booked out except for two seats in the very front row. We took them anyway, and despite my stiff neck two and a half hours later I had no regrets. The movie was fantastic, a real feast for the eyes and the imagination. I've heard it compared to "Dances with Wolves in space" and "Ferngully on steroids". Natalie enjoyed it so much, she went back and watched it again a few days later at an IMAX cinema here in Hong Kong.

Now the Indiana Jones DVD Natalie brought with her from China. We thought it would be a bit of fun watching Harrison Ford in action again. put it kindly, it was terrible. The scenes didn't flow together, the plot was beyond believable, and it was really Geriatric Jones in action. Natalie and I spent an hour afterwards trying to think of worse movies that we have seen in our lifetime, and we failed to come up with even one. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was so bad that we don't want to even give it the accolade of being the worst movie ever made, so if you can think of another title that possibly surpasses it, please let me know.

So my recommendation to you is to go and see Avatar in 3D as soon as you get the chance. As for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull...well, I'm sure you can find something better two with two hours of your time such as calculating your age in days, alphabetising all the food you ate yesterday, or watching the cricket.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"I want to see Heaven" (for Alec)

Sometimes this tired old world
Starts bringing my heart down
But I've got to bear the cross
If I want to wear the crown
I often get impatient
As the time keeps dragging on
I've waded through the darkness
Now I'm ready for the dawn
I'm ready for the dawn

I want to see Heaven
Where the faithful carry on
I want to see Heaven, Oh Lord
I want to see Heaven
Where the pain of sin is gone
In Heaven, Oh Lord
I want to see Heaven

Alec, those lyrics are from a beautiful song by Bob Carlisle. You have really been on my mind today. I think the time is approaching when Jesus will call you to come home. I'm glad you can look forward to getting a hug from Jesus soon! I love you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Magabox means Megashopping

Hong Kong doesn't have the Boxing Day shopping sales that we have in Australia, but it's still worth visiting a new shopping centre just to see what it's like. Any excuse, right?

Megabox is yet another location to add to the list of places-I-must-take-Carla-when-she-comes-to-Hong-Kong. It's nineteen floors of shopping heaven! It has a giant television screen on the inside that can be seen through a five story porthole from the outside. The building is painted bright red, so you can't miss it.

The floors are grouped according to the type of stores. For instance, one level is for sporting goods, three levels showcase home improvements, and several levels are dedicated to fashion and accessories. And Andy, I haven't forgotten about you; Megabox boasts Hong Kong’s largest single-storey book city and largest electrical/electronic centre. Then there are seven floors featuring theme restaurants and delis, an international-sized ice-skating rink and movie cinemas (including an IMAX theatre). The children enjoyed how the escalators can take shoppers up five floors at a time. They are so long!

However, by far the most appealing aspect of Megabox was the floor that sells children's clothing and toys. No expense has been spared in the paint and decorations to make it a stimulating environment for children of all ages.

Even the kids' toilets are fun!

I have a new niece!

Delaney Renee was born to Lauren and David Fisher at around 4 this morning after a relatively short labour. Praise the Lord for her safe arrival!

What does Tirzah think about Christmas?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

Our children let us sleep in until eight o'clock this morning, which was a lovely Christmas present in itself. They opened their stockings, then we had pancakes for breakfast with Aunty Natalie. She kindly took this photo of us to help us remember our first Christmas in Hong Kong.

After breakfast, the children performed a number of songs for us, such as "Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem"...

"Listen, Listen, What can you hear?"...

"Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas"...

The Nativity Story, told by Jemilla, with help from the Fisher Price Little People...

And I'm not sure what this dance/song was called, but the kids are certainly having fun!

Then it was present time. We had an abundance of goodies under our tree this year! Thank you especially to the Gruddas, Priors, Peets and Fishers for your special parcels from overseas, and to the Harveys and Aunty Laurel for your kind gifts of money.

Here is Tirzah with her stash. Tirzah's favourite Christmas presents were dress-up shoes and a doll's stroller (from Mummy and Daddy).

Keegan got his wish...a new drum kit for Christmas! Other favourite presents were a Bibleman toy (from Nana and Grandpa) and new armour (from Aunty Natalie).

Jemilla's favourite presents were Belville Lego (from Mummy and Daddy) and an Ariel set (from Nana and Grandpa).

Craig received this little wooden Chinese abacus from Natalie.

I gave him some cufflinks with drum kits on them.

And the kids gave him a new rubbish bin for his study. (Yes, it does say Coco Cola.)

I love our gorgeous new teal bath towels from the Priors...

...and our fruit bowl from the Harveys.

And how sweet is this hand-stitched heart artwork beautifully framed from Amanda! (It's gorgeous! Thank you so much!)

But my favourite Christmas present was this two-foot-high sandstone sculpture from Craig who must have had help in knowing what to buy for me. (Come on, Lauren. Time to fess up!)

We cheated at lunch time by ordering our food from a supermarket already prepared. We enjoyed roast chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, baked potatoes and vegies, salmon caesar salad, fruit salad and ice cream.

As I type this, Tirzah is having her afternoon rest, Keegan and Craig are trying out the electric drum kit upstairs, and Jemilla has persuaded Natalie to play Lego with her. I know Christmas is much more than  presents and Christmas trees and carols and family and food, but I still feel enormously thankful for all the "stuff" the Lord has provided us with here in Hong Kong.

Happy Christmas to you too, wherever you are and whomever you're with. May you rejoice with us in celebrating God's ultimate gift to the world. "Let the wonder of His glory fill your heart...on this happy, happy day..."

Happy, Happy Day by Colin Buchanan

Happy, happy day
Sing for joy at Christmas
Fill the air with gladness
All the earth
All the earth
To us a Son is given
He leaves his throne in Heaven
God with us—Oh happy happy day

Verse 1:
1. Christ the Lord, the light of men
Born to die and rise again
Break the curse of death
And save us from our sin

Verse 2:
2 Let angels sing and do not fear
Christ the servant King is here
Bringing peace to all
On whom God’s favour rests

Verse 3:
3. Sinner, come and find release
In the incarnate Prince of Peace
Let the wonder of his glory
Fill your heart


They look like boring, bland weetbix on a plate, but these concoctions of peanut butter and honey are scrumdiddlyumptious!

Natalie brought them from the Moslem market of Xi'an, as we had warned her beforehand that she would not be allowed entry into our apartment without bringing us back some more of these Chinese delicacies. We've decided that they taste a bit like Butterfingers minus the chocolate. Whatever they are called, we love them, and they are disappearing fast. (As a matter of fact, I think I might go have some now!)

She's back!

You may remember our first visitor to Hong Kong was my school friend Natalie. We have been glad to welcome her back from China for this week of Christmas holidays.

Natalie has had a green face lift since we saw her last time.

Only kidding. (I'd better post a real photo of her in case her mother looks at this post!)

Tirzah warmed to Natalie very quickly and asked her to read numerous books about Tombliboos, Iggle Piggle and Makka Pakka.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tai Po's best kept secret

This morning our friends the Sweeney family took us to a wonderful indoor play centre in Tai Po called "PlayScope". From their website:

In our PlayCircle, children love the physical challenge and excitement of weaving their way around a system of colourful and ingeniously designed PlayBoxes and clambering over our 3 m long SkyWeb. This physical freedom is further enhanced by the limitless creative possibilities of imagining fresh worlds, building new teams, and experimenting with different roles. PlayCircle also incorporates constantly changing themed play activities. While these are planned to reflect the worlds of work and leisure that children encounter, they also respect a central principle in playwork—the need for children to draw primarily on their own inspiration and their own interactions.

Besides their play area, PlayScope also offers workshops and classes for children and their carers, plus a toy library and resource centre.

We had a wonderful time. As my Great Aunt sent some money for Christmas I decided to sign us up for yearly membership. We intend to come back every week!

Jane and Jemilla

Keegan and Elliot played at being builders for nearly an hour

Lots of musical toys for Tirzah

Jemilla climbed the huge net

Xylophone time

Plenty of baby toys

Jemilla and Jane did a short puppet show

"I am a fine musician..."

Great home corner with wooden kitchen and a range of pretend play items

Numerous craft items up for grabs

Bob the builder...Can he fix it?

The girls loved drawing and pasting and creating

This was a fantastic wooden table with panels that made different sounds

English and Chinese books in the resource library

This is the toy library. We didn't borrow any toys today but will have a good look through them on our next visit.

I was reassured to find this treasure trove in Hong Kong. Up until now I have only seen parents pushing their young children to excel at academic or artistic pursuits. Messy or open-ended activities are generally frowned upon. Kids are expected to attend school from as young as two, and they often have extracurricular classes after school and on the weekend. I have been wondering what long-term effects it might have on a culture of children to have an early childhood devoid of time to just play.

At least here at PlayScope they have a chance to play and have fun. There are no flashcards or timetable charts in sight. It is about the enjoyment of being a child using your imagination, and it is a rare find indeed in this culture.