Sunday, March 28, 2010


Hi everybody, yes, we are safely in the US! I'm sorry it's taken this long for me to post, it's been a whirlwind these last weeks--leading up to traveling as well as just arriving here. We did arrive safely late on Tuesday night, but about 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, so that was very nice--making a 30 hour trip only 29 and a half. :)

Since then, we've been in constant motion. There's luggage to unpack, shopping to do, sorting and organizing, preparing for the next weeks ahead of travel, and doing the myriad of details that come along with transplanting your entire family overseas for a few months. John's also still been quite busy with financial work and emails, but is making some progress so that's good. We're so thankful to have arrived safely at this point! It's crazy when you've planned so long for something and then it actually happens, it's almost a bit surreal!

The girls were excellent travelers and were so, so very good on the long flights home. They slept a lot, played quietly, enjoyed their kids meals that John ordered for them and really did great through two countries, three airports, and in lots of new situations. Thanks for your prs for this! Unfortunately, I went into our travel day feeling a little queasy; first I thought it was just nervousness or excitement but finally I lost it "all" in a bathroom in the BJ airport. Yuck. I did feel better after that, though sadly, even Starbucks was not appealing! I got on the long flight feeling terrible, but the L was gracious and I was able to rest quite a bit, as I was only in charge of Clara Anne (our family was split over the aisle, and John had the other two) and she slept for 6 hours straight. There may have also been peace having to do with the fact that she watched Aladdin three times as the flight wore on. Hmmm, do you think so?

It's been wonderful to be back in my hometown again. My parents have had such fun playing with the girls--my dad took off work AND gave up an out-of-town trip this weekend so he could be with us, and my mom canceled all of her piano lessons so she could spend time just playing. What a blessing that has been! It's been so sweet to see them get to know the girls a bit apart from just webcam.

We've packed our days full since arriving back and will be leaving again quite soon to be visiting other family and attending a meeting on the East Coast. So, I'm shopping, organizing, and preparing to repack very soon. This afternoon John and I completed our once-every-three-years comprehensive trip to Walmart and whew, I'm glad to have that finished! I know I've mentioned before that I don't really enjoy shopping and so though I am thankful for the opportunity to do so, I am glad when it's done! We got smart this time and did NOT take the girls with us; in 2007 we did and that made the trip more stressful. So, we're now stocked up again on medicines, some food items, deodorants, you know, all those necessaries.

Of course, we've been to the Pizza Ranch and Subway already, and my dad grilled pork steaks for us tonight which are my favorite. Yum! We've had haircuts, the girls had professional photos taken yesterday and this morning got to participate in a community wide Easter egg hunt, which they thought was fun, fun, fun.

It's been interesting being back in the US again. This trip back feels so much different than our one in 2007. For one thing, we really left Asia on a high note. Things were going very well, we were seeing wonderful things happen in various areas. We were at home there, speaking comfortably, enjoying our relationships with other Americans as well as nationals. So our trip back to the States this year feels more like just that: a trip. As Clara Anne reminded me, "Mommy, first we go to Hong Kong, and then we come home. Then we go to America, and then we go home." I responded that she was absolutely right. I did feel like I was "leaving home" to take this trip. That in itself, my friends, is a grace and blessing. PTL! I could not have said that three years ago. Then I felt more like a displaced person, but now I feel more secure in my identity of a "between two cultures" person. He is faithful!

So, in the midst of transition and lots of details of things to do and accomplish, stuff to buy, etc, we are thankful. The L has been so good to us. We are enjoying the warmth of wonderful family relationships as we are back, trusting Him for the grace to do the traveling and visiting that we've planned, and thankful for the opportunity to be here.

And next time, (I hope!), pictures!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Catching up and Heading out!

It's been many a week (it seems) since I have blogged, and my only semi-plausible excuse is that we are busily getting ready for our trip to the States! We leave on March 23rd, less than a week away, and oh my, I still have many miles to go before I sleep!

Though this time in the States will be much shorter than our trip in 2007 (we took 6 months then and are only taking 2.5 months now), it still requires a fair amount of organization and planning. I won't go into the laundry list here, but we're just plugging away and hoping and praying that everything will get done before next Tuesday morning. John particularly has a lot of work to do in order to leave the business in other hands for 2.5 months. He is making progress but has been getting up really early every day in order to get solid work done!

I am trying to manage the home front: clean out the cupboards, frig, and freezer; organize and sort clothing so we know what to buy when we're back in the States; taking inventory of the house and household items, also for shopping purposes; thinking about homeschool questions and making plans to talk with people and attend a homeschooling conference when we're back in the States; and then there's the packing! In the midst of this, of course, life is going on. Spilled milk needs cleaning up, the girls and I are reading the first Boxcar children book together, there's the constant picking up of toys and meals to be made and laundry to be done. Whew!

But it's worth it! We are truly excited for this trip. For one, our girls are a bit older now and should (hopefully will!) travel a bit smoother. Also, it's just fun that they know a bit more of what's going on and they themselves are excited to see our family and friends back in the States. The other day I asked Clara Anne what she thought we'd be eating in the States.

"Jiaozi, Mommy. Maybe we'll eat jiaozi!" I mentioned that I thought that was pretty unlikely, except, of course for whatever we make ourselves!

"Well, then, egg and tomato--my favorite!" Well, Clara Anne, we probably won't be eating much of that, either!

"Zha ji liu?", she asked in a hopeful voice. (This is deep fried chicken strips). Probably the closest guess! I thought it was funny that all three of her suggestions were Asian foods!

So, the travel day is quickly approaching and at the end will be my dad, waiting late at night to pick us up along with all of our many pieces of luggage. We estimate it will be about 30 hours travel, door to door.

If you feel so led, we'd surely appreciate your prayers--not just for the travel to go smoothly, but for our entire time in the States. We'll be taking the girls into a lot of situations which are familiar and beloved to us, but completely new to them. They'll be seeing lots of new people, and probably getting a lot of attention. In the meantime, John and I will often be busy relating to others. My prayer is that we can find a good balance of family time and time relating to others, being sensitive to the girls' needs and feelings while at the same time spending time sharing with others. Also, our schedule is quite full, with plenty of traveling (we estimate about 7,000 miles). We love road trips, so that sounds fun to us, but we do hope that all goes smoothly with our vehicle, time in the car, and even not getting lost!

I hope to give a quick picture recap of our trip to HK on my blog if time allows before we leave. So look for that, and in the meantime count down the days with us until March 23rd!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Dear HK Disneyland

Dear Hong Kong Disneyland,
I always love to go to Hong Kong Disneyland, it's my favorite time of year. My favorite ride in Disneyland is the Small World. I really liked the fireworks that came out of the castle and the music too.

Thank you for letting me be in the parade this time, it was so much fun.

This was my very first time to be in the parade and ride in the special taxi.

I Love you Disneyland! Love, Clara Anne Wind
As we entered the park that morning, we were invited to be the Grand Marshal for the parade that afternoon. What a unique opportunity! We met the guest relations ladies at "City Hall" later in the afternoon, and they presented us with gifts (the Mickey/Minnie hats, embroidered with our names, some princess notepads and stickers for the girls) and gave us the huge Mickey hands to wave with. We walked to the front of the parade route and they ushered us into our special "taxi." What fun! I wondered how the girls would do, if they'd be shy, but when the time came they eagerly smiled and waved to everyone and were tickled that people waved back! Then at the end of the route, we were able to get off and enjoy the rest of the parade. It was a fun, special opportunity!
This was our favorite visit to Disneyland, mainly because it wasn't blazing hot like the other times we were here. The park was still beautifully decorated for the Lunar New Year holiday, but all of the HK students were back in school so the lines were short or nonexistent and we really enjoyed the day! I am still so impressed with the whole Disney experience--everything spotlessly clean, good quality food, fun and safe rides, and the "cast members" (i.e. people who work at the park) were always looking out for my kids and trying to make the day more fun for them. And it was a big day: we left our flat at 8:30 and returned at 9:30 that night! I'm so glad we persevered and went, even though it was during the night prior to our Disneyland day that Chloe and I got so sick. We took some airsickness bags along just in case, but thankfully no one had to use them!
The only bummer was that our camera's demise had happened the night before and so was very erratic during our time at the park; the few pictures you see were the only ones we got--we ended up just giving up on it. The pictures of us as Grand Marshals were taken by the guest relations ladies.
Clara Anne wrote that letter to Disneyland after we got home, so I hope you enjoyed reading about her day from her perspective! Chloe had this to add: "On the teacups I was a little scared, but not so scared, and I wanted to tell you the horses were lovely [she means the carousel]. And that's all. Goodbye."
Thanks for the memories, HK Disneyland!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Jiaozi, coming to a city near you

During the recent national holiday, a traditional activity is to make a traditional food together: dumplings, known as "shui jiao" or "jiaozi" in this country. Mothers and grandmothers all over the country whip up the "xiar" or meat/vegetable filling, throw together the dough (just flour and water), and then everybody rolls up their sleeves and starts to "bao jiaozi" (literally "fold dumplings"), making them together.

It's a fun group activity as long as you keep the chopsticks with the raw meat in the raw meat bowl and don't accidently use them to eat your dumplings! It can be a little time consuming as well, since everything has to be chopped very finely and our national friends insist that if you chop and roll everything by hand, (as opposed to using a food processor), it's more tasty. Call me crazy, but I think they're right!

Random trivia for you, according to some of my neighbor lady friends, traditionally, you don't just make and eat jiaozi on the lunar New Year's Eve, you have it all prepared, including the water boiling, so that at the stroke of midnight you plunge the jiaozi into the pot of boiling water. "That's the way to eat jiaozi!", they told me with beaming, satisified faces.

One of our friends suggested having a jiaozi party during the holiday, so we enlisted our house helper and prepared for a festive evening. The possibilities for the fillings are endless: green bean and meat, green onion and pork, pork and cabbage, egg and tomato, shrimp and egg, egg with black mushrooms and green onions, carrot and beef, you name it! For our party we chose three favorites: cabbage and pork, carrot and beef, and egg and tomato.

I can "bao" the dumplings all right; mine are not particularly pretty but that's all right. Actually, everyone has their own style, from perfect fan shaped dumplings made with three folds on one side and three on the other, to rounder packages made by folding the dumpling closed using the space between the thumb and first finger, all at once in one smooth movement. So I sat down and assigned myself to that role. The fun is to talk, laugh, and have a good time together while doing the (seemingly endless) handiwork.

Here we are in the midst of the messy fun: the girls are already eating some that were freshly boiled, even as I and some friends are still folding the dumplings. With jiaozi, there's always a party in the kitchen!
This next picture isn't me at my most flattering, but I thought it was a funny picture. Yum, yum, jiaozi!
We like to eat them dipped in a bowl of dark vinegar with a few drops of sesame oil, with a little spicy sauce on the side.

The girls had a great time with their aunty making the jiaozi!

These were ones that I made. Not perfect, but deliciously edible!
We all enjoyed the jiaozi so much that night that I have decided it will be on my "take to America" repetoire. The last time we were in the States, we did a little cooking as we visited various friends and relatives, and it was really fun! But up until this morning, I didn't know how to do all of the jiaozi process. Now I am learning, and plan to make it for friends and family that we see as we travel during April and May.
So, if we're coming to see you, let me know if you're interested in eating jiaozi! We'll bring our skills with us!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Cause and Effect

I think I've mentioned here before that I've been hosting a mom's study on Tuesday nights. Well, recently, since the entire country was taking 2-3 weeks off for the biggest holiday of the year, I invited some of those moms over for a morning of baking. Usually I serve them something sweet from my kitchen on Tuesday nights, just because I enjoy baking and enjoy even more when people enjoy my baking, and they always express interest in what I make and how I make it. So I invited 6 ladies over, and 5 of them came, bringing 4 children.

And you know what happens when you invite people over and keep their moms occupied, so that the kids are playing unsupervised? Things like this: [Oh my! They helped themselves to a box of beads, foam pieces, and foam stickers from the cupboard and dumped them all out over the floor. This one thing alone took 45 minutes to resort and clean up!]

But then things like this also happen:
My dear friend and neighbor, she lives right across the hall. And, things like this happen, kids having fun, glad that you invited them to your house:

And there are smiles all around. And everyone loves the oatmeal raisin walnut cookies and pumpkin bread that you make together.

And they enthusiastically eat everything! And have fun in the process!

And then it's all worth it. We live in 502, the lady in blue is in 602, the mom on the left is in 402, and the mom in the middle is in 202. What a wonderful blessing! Father certainly knew what he was doing when He found this apartment for us. I am thankful for these good friends!
It's truly a blessing to have friends to invite over and make a mess together! Recently my girls have complained, because often on Tuesday nights the guests (children) will play really wildly, pull out every toy and throw it around, break things, etc. And we always clean up before bed--living in a small space really doesn't allow us to let the clutter lie. But we often remind the girls, and I remind myself, that cleaning up a few toys is so worth it when we think about building relationships with these moms and families and reaching out to them. If a mess comes along with hospitality, then we want to be thankful for that cause and effect!