再见 Zàijiàn


Due to our horrible experience traveling to Beijing from the US, United Airlines awarded us $200 per ticket in vouchers. I had to use them by a certain date, and at that time, and as I checked flight prices, it became apparent that it was going to be more and more expensive the closer we got to the summer and tourist season. So the kids and I flew out June 29th, the last day of decent priced tickets. B had to stay until July 8, the end of the semester. But his ticket would be reimbursed by the school, so it wasn’t a big deal to get the cheaper tickets earlier.

We weren’t sure how to arrange travel from our apartment to the airport. Coming, B’s school had picked us up. I didn’t think this would be the case, so I arranged a ride with the company who picked us up from the airport when we flew home from Thailand in December 2014. She assured me that they had a van that could fit 6 passengers (B rode with us and then took the airport express home) and all our luggage. When the van showed up that morning, just as people were starting to show up for school, I was skeptical and started panicking. Luckily, everything fit!! We said goodbye to our apartment and set off for the airport!

At the airport, there was a long line at the ticket counter. When we finally arrived at the front, they wanted to charge me for each of our second bags. I wouldn’t have it. We got there with two free bags per person on United, we were getting home the same way. Plus, I’m pretty sure ALL international flights allow for two free checked bags. Argh. Anyway, it was frustrating but they made it work. Compared to flying to China, flying back to the US was a breeze. Since there were five of us, when I picked our seats, I picked a row of three seats with a row of just two seats behind it. Buddy and I sat together most of the time with PS, Little Guy and Squidgems in front of us. I read a book on my phone (which I downloaded at the last minute as we were riding to the airport) while Squidgems played my Kindle. We were flying to San Francisco and then on to LAX.

I knew we had to go through customs in San Francisco, what I wasn’t expecting was that we’d have to retrieve all of our luggage, ten suitcases, two rolling carry-on suitcases and a stroller from the weird sized luggage carousel. Such a pain! And we only had about a 2 – 2 1/2 hour layover. Customs was so crowded. After using the computer kiosks to scan our passports and get little print outs, we had to wait for all of our bags, then go find the stroller, then load them all onto luggage carts. Luckily PS and Buddy are big kids that could help. We got in line but got separated by a group of foreigners in wheelchairs with airport staff pushing them around. Then the customs guy was mad that we weren’t all together. Then we had to re-check all our bags… simple enough, but there were so many of them. Then another security check. Meanwhile, I’m panicking about making our flight! And stressed that I couldn’t connect my phone or Kindle to airport WiFi to get in contact with B.  Luckily we made it, with plenty of time, and we were on the last leg, a short leg, of our trip home. My parents and my niece A were meeting us at LAX with two cards (ours and my parents’).


Facebook Posts


Princess Sparkley noticed today that I’m one of the top Goodreads readers, users and reviewers in China! 🙂


Success of the day: President Grumpington (aka Squidgems) ate a homemade Larabar ball. Downside, he refuses to eat anymore because they made him too thirsty.


A favorite author of mine (Laurie Halse Anderson) is in Beijing either this week or next week, but just for fun, no appearances. I sort of feel like just stalking around the major sights and hoping I run into her. #booknerd


 'Organizing our last weeks in China and our summer in America. 8+ weeks and counting.'

Organizing our last weeks in China and our summer in America. 8+ weeks and counting.


'And a happy happy birthday to this sweet young man who made his appearance on our three year anniversary! #twelve #theWilliversary'

And a happy happy birthday to this sweet young man who made his appearance on our three year anniversary! #twelve #theWilliversary

Birthday celebrations! Jiaozi and apple Fanta for dinner, cream filled donuts for dessert.



I felt like this SO many times today.

Buddy‘s birthday is ending here in China, but if we’re being technical, he was born in the afternoon in California… so 7-8 more hours to go.  




Today’s food. I know people complain about people who post pictures of their food… but I figure I get a pass because I’m in China.


 'Going home just in time because this bed only has about another inch to offer him. #MinstersinChina'

 Going home just in time because this bed only has about another inch to offer him.


Our Chinese grocery store has been playing a song (they tend to only play 1-4 songs on rotation for weeks/months) that is familiar to me. But it’s been playing for more than a month at the store so I wasn’t sure if it’s only familiar to me because I hear it at the grocery store several times a week. Today I told PS I thought it might be Hannah Montana. I was right! “Rockstar” by Hannah Montana. (I blame my knowing any Hannah Montana songs on PS’s short-lived obsession with Hannah Montana almost a decade ago.)


'A horse. In Beijing!  #MinstersinChina'

A horse. In Beijing


'Will was ordained a deacon today. #LDS #Mormon'


Buddy was ordained a deacon today. #LDS #Mormon

'Brandon junior?... Will drew this free hand only looking at a map for a little help. Pretty good, right? (USA in light pencil, train lines in green.)'


B junior?… Buddy drew this free hand only looking at a map for a little help. Pretty good, right? (USA in light pencil, train lines in green.)


 B has always been opposed to owning a cat but he told us yesterday that he’d be okay with getting a cat (back in America) if we could name it Chairman Meow. We’ve struck a deal. #futurecatowners


 'I finished Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) and Food: A Love Story (Jim Gaffigan), and went searching online for some new books to read. I quickly finished Rain, Reign (Ann M. Martin) and I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. But then things got a bit out of control because I checked out 4-5 other books, put some on hold and then today, two old holds and a new hold came available. Better get reading... #Kindle #bookworm'

 I finished Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) and Food: A Love Story (Jim Gaffigan), and went searching online for some new books to read. I quickly finished Rain, Reign (Ann M. Martin) and I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. But then things got a bit out of control because I checked out 4-5 other books, put some on hold and then today, two old holds and a new hold came available. Better get reading… #Kindle #bookworm


It’s fun when I do use some Chinese and the store clerks are super impressed. All I said was twenty (in Chinese) and PS translated how impressed they were and that they kept asking if Squidgems spoke Chinese too.


One suitcase packed. Nine to go. #lessthan7weeks


'Some days this sums up my life (or the life of any mom)... on a boat at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, on the phone for my church calling while a kid tries to get my attention.'

Some days this sums up my life (or the life of any mom)… on a boat at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, on the phone for my church calling while a kid tries to get my attention.


'As a new Deacon at church, Will helped pass the sacrament on Sunday. Here he is on the subway on the way to church. #LDS #Mormon'

As a new Deacon at church, Buddy helped pass the sacrament on Sunday. Here he is on the subway on the way to church. #LDS #Mormon


 At the rate my kids are getting sick and recovering, we should be healthy again mid June. Little Guy last week (spent 3 days throwing up). Squidgems this week (fever and throwing up). And I have a cold.


  3 suitcases packed. 36 days to go. I still think we’ll be able to fit everything in 12 suitcases, but I am starting to worry.


One month! We fly out in one month. Ahh! So much to do still!


 6 bags packed. Plane takes off in 21 days.


Nancy Minster's photo.

At the Chinese grocery store half a block away from me!! They opened in December and about a month ago, the import section went away. Then it came back like this! First time I’ve seen some of these items outside a specialty import store and on my side of town. Although they failed to bring back the cinnamon chocolate bar which I hadn’t tried yet!


 8 suitcases packed. 16 days to take-off. #TheyreComingtoAmerica


 'That's a chicken...just walking around Beijing. #MinstersinChina'

That’s a chicken…just walking around Beijing.


Countdown: my last Thursday in China. One thing I’m going to miss: being able to walk to a grocery store, convenience store, restaurant, etc. in just five minutes. One thing I’m looking forward to…driving my car (to the grocery store… any where, really).


Countdown: my last Friday in China. I’m going to miss some of the yummy food we’ve had here… jiaozi, xiao long bao, kao leng mian, jian bing…to name a few. I can’t wait to eat cheese! And Mexican food. And Italian food. And In N Out burger!


Last Saturday in Beijing: I’m not going to miss the lack of lines and the lack of respect for lines and sometimes the lines. Ha! I’m excited to cook and bake to my heart’s delight.


Last Sunday in Beijing: I’m going to miss easy access to imported chocolate (although, not Cadbury chocolate). I’m looking forward to eating billions of Peanut Butter M&Ms, Twixes, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.


Last Monday in Beijing: I’m going to miss sightseeing. And I’m not sure how this didn’t make the list earlier but I CAN NOT wait to have a dishwasher and a clothes dryer again.


Accidentally archived a bunch of the stuff I put on my kindle fire for the plane trip. 


Thirty six hours to go. 9.75 suitcases packed. Our allotment is ten. (B gets two more when he flies, but one of his is already almost at maximum weight. How did we acquire so. much. stuff!?!!? And will I be able to squish the rest in?! Carry-ons are mostly ready. This is getting real.


I downloaded nine books, four standby books, and a short story to my #kindlefire for my upcoming PEK>SFO>LAX flight, when in reality, my three year old is going to use my Kindle the entire time. #booknerd #flights #theyrecomingtoamerica

'Simon drew a treasure map, folded it up and then wrote Chinese characters and told me, it says, "middle person big worker."'

Squidgems drew a treasure map, folded it up and then wrote Chinese characters and told me, it says, “middle person big worker.”


Our driver (to get to the airport) shows up in 24 hours!!!!

Northern Utah friends heading to southern Utah in the early part of July. I may need a favor. We have a box of books flying home with some friends tomorrow (because we can’t fit them). Would someone be able to pick them up in Provo and bring them down?

Countdown: Last full day in China. We’re going to miss all the fabulous people we have met here. And we’re super excited to see our friends and family in the States.

Youth Conference in Hong Kong – a guest post by PS


I just had Youth Conference in Hong Kong, and it was SOOOOOOO much fun!

At the transfer to Airport Express, getting ready to leave!
Opening exercises on Friday. I’m in the front row on the left.
A sign at Community Sports, where we were staying. Everyone kept joking that it was the creepiest sign they’d ever seen.


My cousin Pickles gave me a stuffed platypus key chain before I moved, and Bobby Joe came to Hong Kong with me!


We got super cute water bottles and drawstring backpacks.
Outside the temple on Saturday for our Family History class.
The Hong Kong temple! So pretty!


When Will saw this picture, he joked that this is the only church sign that says VISITOR’S WELCOME in China, because every other sign says COME BACK WHEN THE CHINESE BRANCH IS HERE.
(We’re not allowed to talk to Chinese members of the Church.)


Getting ready for the dance!
We went on a walking tour on Sunday, which was annoying in our fancy Church shoes, but we got to see the skyline.


An abandoned fishing pole fishing in Victoria Harbor.


It was so foggy that the tallest building in Hong Kong disappeared!


It is possible that this might be the cutest statue ever!
I love Hong Kong!
I love all the British influence in Hong Kong!
Cars drive on the wrong side of the road! Floor #1 is called the Ground Floor!
(That caused a lot of confusion.)
Piecing a scripture together during The Amazing Race.


My team at the finish line for The Amazing Race.
The table I was at for the Service Project on Sunday.
Team yellow! Also known as the best team! 😉
Silly picture!
The whole entire group of youth from all over China, Hong Kong, and Macao,
Silly picture with everyone!



I loved it so much! We got to do baptisms for the dead in the Hong Kong temple, and we got to make dinner for a bunch of the domestic help in the one branch, and we got to have a dance, and we played The Amazing Race, and went on a walking tour, and we did lots of other fun stuff! We made a WeChat group that everyone from Youth Conference is in, and we’re sending out pictures through it, so I might have more pictures to add to this post later. It was SO MUCH FUN!!!!!!!! 😀

Hong Kong – Day 5


Heading home.

Our flight wasn’t until noon or one but we’re always a bit paranoid about missing flights (maybe the LA-> Beijing flight has done that to us). Buddy and I bought breakfast and grocery shopped for airplane snacks for the world’s pickiest eater (Squidgems) and we packed up and left. The hotel shuttle took us to the airport express and from there to the airport. Once we’d checked our bags, the kids and I went through security to find our gate while B figured out where to sell back our Octopus cards and exchange our money back to Chinese Yuan. It was a little stressful being separate, waiting for a flight, and not having working phones but he found us in plenty of time and with a small child, we were among the first to board our flight. The flight home was two rows of three. B, Little Guy and Princess Sparkley sat in front of Squidgems, Buddy and I.

We arrived at the Beijing airport, went through immigration, got our luggage, rode the airport express to Dongzhimen (line 2) where we exited the station and B surprised us with his birthday (his birthday was the next day, a Sunday) dinner at his favorite restaurant, Ganges Indian Restaurant.

On the subway ride home from dinner, we split up because Little Guy needed to go to the bathroom. He and B got off and used a subway station bathroom while the rest of us stayed on the train. At our stop, I put Squidgems in the baby carrier on PS’s back and she and Buddy each wheeled one of our suitcases home and I hurried to get groceries at our grocery store which closes at 8:30 or 9 (the next day was Sunday).  B and Little Guy beat me home.

Our Hong Kong adventure was over.

Hong Kong – Day 4


Merry Christmas!


I took the kids to Ocean Park on Hong Kong Island (sort of like Sea World) so B could stay at the hotel and get some reading and dissertation work done. 

We had to catch a double decker bus outside our hotel, across the street by the race track. We got on, got seats on top deck in the front row, waved to B up in our hotel room, went through a tunnel, and then were there. None of us had any idea the bus ride was going to be so short. This was a huge disappointment for Squidgems. Once off the bus, we followed the little crowd that was with us and the signs indicating where to go for Ocean Park. We’d bought our tickets from the hotel concierge the day before, so no lines, just entering.

Ocean Park is two levels connected by cable cars. We started below where there are mostly animals and some kiddie carnival/theme park rides.





 I think we spent too long on the lower level, not really knowing how much there was to do once we took the cable cars up. 


 Once we got to the upper level, we wandered all over trying to find the promised McDonald’s. The other options for food we’d passed had been strange Chinese food that isn’t  something we’re eager to eat, let alone pay amusement park prices for. When we found McDonald’s, they had normal prices AND served breakfast all day. Win. Win.  Then we explored. Penguins, more string rays and sharks. Buddy liked spotting cargo ships in the Pacific.


 Squidgems and I waited for an hour (and used the bathroom several times, giving up our seat on a bench each time) while the three big kids waited in line for a roller coaster. The upper level of Ocean Park was were all the big roller coasters were, but there were long lines and we were supposed to meet B at Stanley Market in the later afternoon. 


Stanley Market is on the southern part of Hong Kong Island, sort of near Ocean Park. By the time the kids got off the roller coaster, we waited in line to take the cable car down, exited the park, found the right bus, rode the windy bus ride to Stanley Market it was almost dark and the market was closing. We looked around quickly, bought some Hong Kong magnets for our fridge and ate dinner at a yummy Thai restaurant. Then we took the bus back to our hotel.


The bus back to our hotel didn’t stop where we thought it did and took us all the way back to the northern harbor side of HK Island. When we exited, we found ourselves at an LDS church just starting to clean up the nativity display they’d had for Christmas. We went in for a few minutes and chatted with the missionaries there and looked at the nativities. It was a nice end to our not typical Christmas day.

Hong Kong – Day 3



Our hotel.

Subway ride.


Across from the Nunnery is Nan Lian Garden.

Snoopy’s World!!

(3rd floor of the Sha Tin New Town Plaza Shopping Mall, Sha Tin Metro Station, exit A)

Several months ago I made a note that there was a Snoopy’s World in Hong Kong. Then I forgot about it because we had no plans to go to Hong Kong. Then, in researching stuff to do with kids in Hong Kong, I happened upon a brief mention of Snoopy’s World again. It’s not big. It’s free. It’s basically a small outside play area part of a mall. But for our Peanuts lover (Princess Sparkley) it warranted a visit by our family.

We at a late lunch in the mall. Dim sum, won ton noodles, spring rolls and BBQ pork buns. This bakery looked delicious but was a Japanese bakery, apparently and the stuff was… okay. When we tried the one near our hotel for breakfast the next morning, it had a MUCH smaller selection and was a disappointment.

Next, we visited 10,000 Buddhas Monastery at the same subway stop, just behind the Ikea.

B said to Little Guy, “count these Buddhas and if there aren’t 10,000 we’ll sue!” Little Guy responded, “I won’t count.” [later] “Buddha 173’s weird”

 B took the three big kids to the top while Squidgems and I hung out near the pagoda.

Later, B tweeted, “Me: I made it to the top of the Ten-Thousand Buddha Monastery pathway!” Buddhists: “You don’t get Buddhism, do you?”

We headed back toward Mongkok area to find food (ate eggettes -delicious bubble-like waffles, and other baked goods from food stands for “dinner”) then waited for the light show to start.

Every night over Victoria Harbor (between Hong Kong Island and the mainland part of Hong Kong) there is a light show. Look up pictures online, it’s awesome. What we saw… the worst excuse for a light show I’ve ever seen. We didn’t know it happened. I had to go ask a first aid volunteer when it was going to happen and she told me it already had. So the 20 green lights or so we saw randomly “spotlight” off the buildings were apparently the light show. We called it a night and took Star Ferry back to Hong Kong Island and our hotel… stopping for more Eggettes (egg waffles) and a place called Oddies near our hotel (we got chocolate chip and pineapple ones this time…mmmm).

A conversation between myself and B:

N: That light show was the lamest thing I’ve ever seen. B: That’s saying something ’cause you’ve seen Tonapah [Nevada]. N: Second-lamest, then.

Oddies was like a new, more modern take on eggettes (egg waffles).

Hong Kong – Day 2


Every morning Buddy and I got up, got dressed and went out in the neighborhood in search of bakeries and grocery stores where we could buy breakfast to bring back. The other kids slept in a little (but were usually awake when we returned) and B could start out his morning working on reading, catching up on the news, etc.


Buddy is a HUGE fan of 7-Eleven (and their Slurpees) so we’d been excited to find out that

(some of) the 7-Elevens in Hong Kong have Slurpees.


Money here is way more exciting than in Beijing. First, instead of dividing by 6 (now 6.5) to get the US price, divide by 8 (or more accurately 7.77). But it looks cooler and they have 1, 2, 5 and 10 dollar coins! So British! B tweeted, “My 1st time in a country w/ competitive note issuance. We’ve had money from 3 different banks so far! Might be the highlight of my trip!”

Buddy and I, along with breakfast-like foods, also brought back new candy to try. For some reason, there is no Cadbury chocolate in Beijing so we were excited to have it in Hong Kong.

A lot of the stuff we wanted to do (Big Buddha and Victoria Peak) involved being able to see a view. The air pollution in Hong Kong wasn’t bad (compared to Beijing) but it wasn’t great and add to that fog, so we skipped both of these destinations. Victoria Peak is where the post card pictures of Hong Kong everyone is used to seeing is taken from. It would have been nice, but we’d only be looking at fog.

Outside our hotel there was a double decker tram stop (in Hong Kong, they are called ding dings by the locals because of the bell sound they make). This was super fun for everyone.

 On the tram around Hong Kong Island.



Our first stop was the Central-Mid-Levels Escalators on Hong Kong Island. In the morning, they go down (toward the northern coast of the island) and the rest of the day they go up. It’s a series of maybe eight escalators.

Next would have been Victoria Peak but instead we walked around a bit (making our way back down from the Escalator’s top) and made our way toward Star Ferry to ferry across to the mainland part of Hong Kong.


Next, exploring Tsim Sha Tsui, Mongkok and Kowloon areas of Hong Kong. We wandered around looking for lunch and ended up getting a variety of pork buns (zhu par bao or maybe Char Xin), pineapple buns (bo lo bao), cocktail buns (coconut -guy may bow), egg tarts, etc. from a bakery. Then we made our way to the subway and headed toward the Hong Kong LDS Temple.

I wish I’d gotten a picture of our little camera tripod wrapped precariously around a street sign pole in order to capture a self-timer picture of our family in front of the temple.

It was late afternoon by now and we were pretty warn out (and pretty far away from our hotel), so we headed back to Hong Kong Island, had dinner (at Uncle 4… picture below), got Slurpees at 7-Eleven and tried some new candy.


 Once we got the kids in bed, B started flipping through different tv stations and came across a live horse race in Hong Kong. Our hotel was right next to the Happy Valley Racecourse so we looked out the window. The track was lit, but we could only see 1/4 of the track so we had to wait until the next race started on tv and then watch for horses outside. Sure enough, it was live from our race track!