On Monday, we decided to mix things up a bit. Instead of seeing the typical tourist sites we went to visit a school and then headed over to an area of town where ex-pats hang out.

One of the striking things about WAB was the art work they had hung up all over the buildings - these were done by 3rd or 4th graders and they were absolutely beautiful...

One of the striking things about WAB was the art work they had hung up all over the buildings - these were done by 3rd or 4th graders and they were absolutely beautiful...

The school we visited was Western Academy of Beijing (WAB). My favorite teacher growing up was my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hite. We actually kept in touch over the years (after I was in her class, she became quite close with my family). After teaching in Swampscott for a number of years she headed abroad and started working at international schools, including in Beijing. She’s not here in Beijing any longer, but when I was planning the trip I reached out to see if she could recommend a school for us to visit and she pointed us to WAB and introduced me to the Head of Early Childhood Education and the Elementary School.

WAB starts in pre-school and goes all the way through high school. The campus is pretty incredible – any type of facility you could want for a school, they had it. The students are mainly ex-pats – you need to have at least one parent with an international visa to be able to attend (Chinese government rules). This makes for a pretty international and interesting student population – also one that has a lot of turnover as typical ex-pat assignments are 2-4 years. In fact, while the school teaches Chinese, it is not immersion – the language pathways would be pretty difficult to manage with such a changing student population.

Like Presidio Knolls, the preschool is Reggio-inspired – in fact, our kids immediately felt right at home in the preschool classrooms and started engaging with the various projects the kids had made and with the teachers.

Maile Girl in her element at the arts and crafts table...

Maile Girl in her element at the arts and crafts table...

The PKS kids checking out the marble mazes made by the preschool WAB students...

The PKS kids checking out the marble mazes made by the preschool WAB students...

One thing that was immediately clear while at the school was how much the smog and air quality was a part of every day life. Even the youngest kids knew the pollution levels. On the day we visited, the smog level was quite high (over 300 AQI). 300 is basically the worst, most hazardous level. On days like this, all outdoor activities at the school are cancelled. We sat in on a Kindergarten class and the pollution level was one of the things they covered in the morning meeting time.

Stretching out the legs on one of the many outdoor fields...

Stretching out the legs on one of the many outdoor fields...

... that certainly weren't going to be getting much use that day due to the pollution.

... that certainly weren't going to be getting much use that day due to the pollution.

Posing with Teddy Roosevelt statue with Michelle and Olivia

Posing with Teddy Roosevelt statue with Michelle and Olivia

Even though one day in the pollution wasn’t the end of the world, we decided to adjust our plans for the rest of the day and do some indoor activities instead of hitting the park like we intended. Our host at WAB recommended an indoor playground called FunDazzle, so we decided to check that out. It was perfect for the kids – basically a huge indoor play structure with the biggest ball pit we’ve ever seen. The kids had a blast!

The FunDazzle indoor playground - yeah, this will do for an hour of wearing the kids out a bit!

The FunDazzle indoor playground - yeah, this will do for an hour of wearing the kids out a bit!

Biggest. Ball Pit. Ever.

Biggest. Ball Pit. Ever.

After running them ragged, we continued our ex-pat adventure, by heading over to a local italian restaurant (Annie’s) that lets the kids make their own mini pizzas. We had a nice lunch and then headed back to the hotel for our favorite afternoon activity – the pool!

Daddy and Maile after our afternoon swim - we LOVE swimming!

Daddy and Maile after our afternoon swim - we LOVE swimming!

All in all, a fun day. The school was pretty incredible. I was definitely jealous of all the great space they had; but decidedly not jealous of the smog and what an impact it has on day-to-day life here.

(Click here for the video.)

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Maile Girl outside our hotel before we begin our first adventure!

Maile Girl outside our hotel before we begin our first adventure!

On Sunday, we headed out for our first site of the trip, the Temple of Heaven. The temple is where the emperor used to go to pray for a good harvest. Surrounding the Temple is a park where local residents come to exercise, meet and chat. They played all types of interesting games including a version of Tai Chi with a paddle and ball that was incredibly graceful and fun to watch.

The kids watching the Chinese playing a Tai Chi game with a paddle and ball - the partners move the ball from person-to-person without letting it drop. Quite graceful!

The kids watching the Chinese playing a Tai Chi game with a paddle and ball - the partners move the ball from person-to-person without letting it drop. Quite graceful!

After taking in the sites at the surrounding park, we headed up to the main attraction…

Maile and Mommy with the Temple of Heaven in the distance.

Maile and Mommy with the Temple of Heaven in the distance.

Maile and Daddy at the top!

Maile and Daddy at the top!

Maile with Jamie, her classmate that is on the trip with us...

Maile with Jamie, her classmate that is on the trip with us...

Come on Jamie, let's see if we can push this over...

Come on Jamie, let's see if we can push this over...

I love this picture - shows the scale of the Temple...

I love this picture - shows the scale of the Temple...

Awwww :)

Awwww :)

Maile Girl all dressed up in traditional garb...

Maile Girl all dressed up in traditional garb...

Not amused about dressing up by herself...

Not amused about dressing up by herself...

... when your little girl asks if you'll get dressed up with her, you oblige ;)

... when your little girl asks if you'll get dressed up with her, you oblige ;)

Daddy suggested this pose (of course)

Daddy suggested this pose (of course)

After roaming all over the Temple of Heaven, we went for a traditional Chinese lunch. So far the food has been quite good and we’ve managed to find stuff that Maile would eat (tofu, noodles, dumplings). We had one of her teachers write out that she was allergic to nuts and seeds and it’s actually come in helpful a few times.

After lunch we went back to the hotel and hit the pool. The kids LOVE the pool. I’m a little afraid that when asked about China, they might just rave about the pool ;) Every afternoon that we’ve been here, we go for a dip in the afternoon.

After the pool we took a nap and then headed out for dinner at Da Dong Roast Duck – we had a private room for our group and a delicious meal highlighted by Daddy’s favorite Roast/Peking Duck. The kids started dropping one-by-one during the meal due to jet lag, so afterwards we headed home for a good night’s sleep. Maile has done better sleeping each night we’ve been here – still waking in the middle of the night, but going back down after about 30-45 minutes.

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On Friday, we jumped in a car and headed to the airport to begin our trip to China! For the next 8 days we’ll be in Beijing and the Great Wall. We have a great itinerary planned and look forward to sharing the highlights (and perhaps some lowlights ;) of Maile’s first trip to China!

We tried to explain how long the flight was to Maile, but she doesn’t quite grasp the concept of time yet. Even saying “24 episodes of the Fresh Beat Band” or “8 viewings of Frozen” didn’t really register, although she did agree to do her best to prove whether we were right or not.

All packed up and ready to rock - Maile Girl before the flight...

All packed up and ready to rock - Maile Girl before the flight...

My favorite part of the flight was definitely when Maile stood on her seat and shouted for the whole cabin, “We’re almost in China!” … a good effort to generate some excitement for our impending arrival, but, unfortunately, we had 7 hours still to go. Maile did great on the flight though – she watched Frozen, did some origami with Mommy, colored a bunch, visited with her friends and even got about 3 hours of sleep.

... and Maile's first picture in China at the Beijing airport. A little travel weary for sure and not quite sure and still shaking off some sleep from the flight...

... and Maile's first picture in China at the Beijing airport. A little travel weary for sure and not quite sure and still shaking off some sleep from the flight...

Everything went smooth with our arrival. We are traveling with 3 other families and there are 5 kids total – all rising Kindergarteners or 1st graders at Presidio Knolls. They get along fantastic so far and they worked out some second and third wind energy at the airport running around all over while the adults got things organized.

We were met at the airport by a woman from the tour agency we hired. Her name was Alice and Maile and she became fast friends. She quizzed the kids a bit in Mandarin and while they started out shy, after a few minutes they were responding and chatting a bit.

Maile and Alice, who works with the tour company we are using. Not a huge surprise, but Maile made fast friends with her - quite the charmer our little girl!

Maile and Alice, who works with the tour company we are using. Not a huge surprise, but Maile made fast friends with her - quite the charmer our little girl!

We got our first taste of Beijing traffic on the way to the hotel, took about an hour and saw many random accidents along the way. Our hotel is fantastic, the Marriott Imperial Mansion. It’s centrally located and the rooms are really nice. After unpacking a bit, we decided to push Maile a bit to try to get on local time as much as possible and headed out to explore a bit and find some dinner. Our hotel is just off Wangfujing (the “Walking Street”) Street. It’s kind of like multiple huge malls crossed with Times Square. You walk down the middle of the main street drag (all pedestrian walking, no cars) and lined on each side our huge stores and malls – all the famous brand names you would expect plus a number of Chinese ones you’ve never heard of. Not sure it was the best spot to go in search of food, but eventually we realized that like all malls, there were food courts/restaurants on one of the floors. They had all types of restaurants, we ended up at an Udon place – seemed like it would be a little easier to order and a way to ease into things. So yes, our first meal in China was … Udon.

Mommy and Maile exploring Wangfujing in search of dinner...

Mommy and Maile exploring Wangfujing in search of dinner...

Our first meal in China - Udon - easing in to things ;)

Our first meal in China - Udon - easing in to things ;)

After the meal, Maile began crashing hard, so Daddy and Mommy took turns carrying her back to the hotel. We were all pretty exhausted from the day, so everyone (even Daddy) went to bed by 8:30 PM local time. We slept great … until 2 AM – at which point Maile Girl was up and at ‘em and ready to begin her day. Daddy was pretty jetlagged too, so we got up and worked on our journal for about an hour.

Writing about our trip to China in our journal ... at 2 AM

Writing about our trip to China in our journal ... at 2 AM

Hard at work on our journal...

Hard at work on our journal...

After that Mommy woke up for a bit and read some books with Maile and then we somehow convinced her to try to go back to sleep. So at 4 AM, she closed her eyes again and managed to sleep for another couple of hours. Not bad actually – think we did an okay job navigating the crazy jetlag.

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Off to China!

by Papa K on April 11, 2014

We’re off to China! Going to be quite the adventure. Not sure if we’ll be writing as we go – we’ll need to play it by ear. But will be sure to share all the fun details when we can!

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Lauren’s 15 Month Check-up

by Papa K on April 9, 2014

Mommy took Lauren to the doctor today for her 15 month check-up. She’s doing great – 19 lbs and 29 inches – a very proportional 35% for both.

Our very happy and healthy 15 month old!

Our very happy and healthy 15 month old!

Christine also captured this video which made me realize how people likely get sick. If you watch close, you’ll see the drool at the end too which is pretty much the icing on the cake.

Moral of the story: beware of the tissues at the doctor’s office!

(Click here for the video.)

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(* I had to look it up, but figured Auntie Elyssa would appreciate the reference…)

Maile has invented a new type of ice cream cone made entirely of a strawberry and a rasberry. It’s delicious, but goes pretty quick – two bites. Luckily, those strawberries and rasberries usually come along with friends ;)

(Click here for the video.)

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Storytime with Lauren

by Papa K on April 7, 2014

A couple weeks ago Christine was telling me about an article she was reading that said the single best thing you can do with your kids is read to them from birth. I responded by saying, “Oh great, we do that!” and then Christine reminded me, “We did that with one of our children.”

Yes, it is true. We were slacking on reading to Lauren.

So now we’ve corrected and read to her every night before bed – Maile picks the books and Christine or I read.

Daddy reading stories to Lauren and Maile...

Daddy reading stories to Lauren and Maile...

Lauren can feel herself getting smarter with each passing word.

Lauren can feel herself getting smarter with each passing word.

Love, love story time!

Love, love story time!

I guess we have a good control experiment now between Maile and Lauren to see if the article was right ;)

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This weekend we headed down to Big Basin with most of Maile’s class for a family camping trip. As far as camping goes it was pretty easy going – we stayed in small cabins and there were nice, clean bathrooms – but it was just enough to whet the appetite and we had a ton of fun.

Including siblings there were about 30 kids there – so lots of playmates for Maile. They ran all over the camp ground, exploring, playing. We hiked to a small waterfall and had a great picnic lunch. We slept in sleeping bags and even though it was cold and rainy for the first night and early morning, we survived! Lauren was a trooper as well, although the rain and mud made it a little frustrating for her – not quite as much freedom moving around as she would like at this age.

There was no cell reception at all, so the phones were put away – hence not a ton of pictures to share (although I did sneak it out to take some video and pictures when we were doing S’mores around the fire :)

The only family picture from the trip - at In-N-Out on the way down :)

The only family picture from the trip - at In-N-Out on the way down :)

Mommy and Lauren survived the night - although Lauren was a little confused as to where we were I think...

Mommy and Lauren survived the night - although Lauren was a little confused as to where we were I think...

Daddy taught Maile the fine art of s'more making!

Daddy taught Maile the fine art of s'more making!

Maile was VERY focused on her marshmellow – she wanted to make sure it didn’t burn!

A full day in and still a little bit confused...

A full day in and still a little bit confused...

There's a marshmellow in there along with those fingers... Yummy!

There's a marshmellow in there along with those fingers... Yummy!

(Click here for the video.)

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In one week we’re headed to China with Maile! (Lauren is going to be staying home for this one with Grandma and Papa Hawaii). Maile is very, very excited!

Christine and I wanted to make sure she was indeed going to be able to deliver and help get us around – I think it’s safe to say, we’ll be okay ;)

(Click here for the video.)

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Mid Week Twist Twist Muah

by Papa K on April 2, 2014

Nothing like a little mid week mini dance routine from Maile Girl to keep things going…

(I’ve solved the mystery of the twist btw – she’s picking up these moves from a dance/movement class they are doing at school. Daddy approves :)

(Click here for the video.)

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