Sunday, April 25, 2010

Faces and Places, part 1

I'm starting a new series today to give you all a glimpse of the fun times and beautiful places we've traveled to in the US! It may take me awhile to post all the pics, but here's a start anyway!

[Location check: at this moment we're in Louisville, KY, and will be here until Tuesday morning. This is our eighth stop in our whirlwind tour!] Can you guess where the above picture was taken? :)
Love this one of Clara Anne and Grandpa!
Looking at Grandma's beautiful, artistic memory albums!

Yum. Yogurt is still a favorite, not as convenient as Asian yogurt with the straw, but still yummy!

Reading time with Grandpa.

The picture below is taken at our all time favorite: The Pizza Ranch!!!

Sweet Christin, almost two years old! [She is wearing her new "jammy dress"--all of the girls have new ones that I bought from our favorite consignment store on clearance for just $1!! Yes, they were running a special on clothes that had been in the store for awhile--10 items for $10! I could hardly believe it. Gymboree velvet dresses for $1!!!]

Hope you enjoyed this brief look at faces and places...stay tuned for more coming soon!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reverse Culture Shock Funnies

We've been back in the States for a few weeks now, and you would think that any "culture shock" moments would be limited to our children, who have never really been here before. Alas, it's not true--John and I have had some moments too! For your enjoyment...

**Upon arriving in the US and landing in the Chicago airport, we needed to go through customs. There were two lines: Resident and Visitor. This gave us serious pause. What are we? John was convinced we were visitors, since we normally live in China but are visiting the US. I was convinced that we were Residents, since we hold US passports. True, we don't "live" here in a strict sense, but we have an address and can even vote in elections. It didn't help that we overheard a customs agent talking with a lady in front of us and when she wasn't sure which line to get in, he asked her where she usually sleeps. We didn't hear her answer but were even more confused. We ended up getting in the Residents line and got through, no problem. But it was confusing! It would have been more clear to give the line titles "US passport holders" and "Passport holders of other nations." Of course, they're not asking for my advice!

**Clara Anne has been the funniest one to watch in terms of reverse culture shock. She is the most aware and the most articulate. At our week-long meeting in Virginia, we were walking to breakfast one morning and she suddenly stopped stock still. "LOOK, Mommy," she said, pointing, "A REAL squirrel!" This apparently made her day. Perhaps it really was the first time she saw a squirrel? We do miss out on wildlife living where we do, in the urban jungle.

**We've been delighting in the blueness of the sky, the beauty of the clouds, and just soaking up all of the natural beauty around us. In our first week back, while we were still in Iowa, Clara Anne exclaimed one day, "Mommy, the sky really IS blue!" We just don't see it very often, it's usually white with pollution/smog where we live!

**My girls all have loved eating breakfast cereal since we've been back. Honey Nut Cheerios, Corn Flakes, even Grape Nuts have been eaten with great delight. But their favorite has to be Froot Loops. They've hardly had cereal in their lives and now to have multiple options (like at our meeting in Virginia where there were probably 15 different cereals to choose from) just seems like a dream come true. Chloe spoke for them all when she said, "Mommy, this is the BEST cereal I've ever tasted!"

**I had forgotten a bit what a fast-paced society America is. It's amazing to us to be able to accomplish so much in each day (i.e. shopping, driving, eating, DRIVE-THRUs!), it's all efficient.

**Yikes, FOOD has been a bit of a reverse culture shock. The restaurant portions are gigantic! We are slowly figuring out that all three of our kids can share one kids meal and John and I can share a meal, with everyone feeling satisfied at the end. And it's cheap! We're so used to paying extra for western food but we've been surprised several times at finding very reasonable prices for pretty good food. My girls already love Cracker Barrel! They love the peg game at the table as well as the kids menu with things to color. And, breakfast is served all day so they can eat pancakes even if it's 5pm!

**Also along the food line, we've already stopped at tons of McDonald's on our way, and been pretty impressed with how they've remade their image into more of a cafe style place. On one of our first road trips, we couldn't find a starbucks so stopped for coffee (for me) at McDonald's and were amazed to find the interior with leather armchairs, a flatscreen tv playing fox news, and a beautiful brick fireplace. We've done lots of Mcdonald's stops just for the playplaces, which are huge and FUN! Many have also had outdoor seating near the playplace which is just perfect. Usually it's not crowded and the restrooms are fairly clean, always with a baby changing area as well. That's a blessing! On our trip from Iowa to Louisville a few weeks ago, we stopped at four McD's along the way, once for coffee, once to clean up a child who had just thrown up, after lunch to play at the playplace, and finally by the time we were ready for supper there wasn't much else around, so we finally stopped at one to eat there. Crazy times! They are truly ubiquitous.

**Still getting used to the car seat thing. It takes me several minutes to get everyone buckled in or out! The girls are doing fine though and have not complained about having to sit in their "special seats."

**John had a little trouble figuring out how to "prepay" at gas stations when you just want to fill up the tank, but most places require prepayment. How can you prepay if you don't know how much it will be? At one point he even drove on, looking for a different station that didn't require it because he wasn't sure how to make it work. I think he's got it figured out now though. :) (I have no idea since I am never the one to get the gas!)

**We've already taken a few wrong turns, mostly due to not having specific maps. We discovered when trying to navigate the Raleigh/Durham area that our atlas was printed in 2001. Oops. We did eventually find our way through that tangle of highways/freeways and are mostly traveling on more "known to us" routes the rest of our trip. We'll see! Keep pr for safety on the roads, we've done about 2500 miles and have about 4000 to go!

Thanks to the generous hospitality of the New Prospect folks, we're enjoying a stay at a Hampton Inn near Laurens, SC. That Southern hospitality is famous for a reason! We are looking forward to sharing with their body tonight (after a potluck) and then will hit the road again tomorrow morning and drive back to Louisville, where we'll stay for 9 days and actually unpack our bags for a bit!
And by the way, the picture at the top is from one of those Mickey D's playplaces. Any playground or park is now a "playplace" in my children's vocabulary!

Monday, April 05, 2010

A quick word

Because a bit of news is better than no news, right?

We're doing great, just a little short on sleep. We are currently in Louisville, KY, driving here on Friday after being with John's brother Andy and his wife Laurel in Iowa for a few days. What a fun visit that was! We enjoyed some absolutely gorgeous weather together, playing at parks and eating out on the deck of their brand-new house. We made dumplings together, ate excellent Mexican food, and just generally had a great time. They are now living in a new development on the edge of Iowa farmland and it was such a blessing to me to look out of their big windows to that beautiful view! Lovely.

So far, we're two for two on motion sickness...each travel day we've had a little girl throw up, bummer! We got smart now and have a change of clothes packed for each girl right in the car (not in the luggage) and they each have a bag "for motion discomfort" (haha) right in the pocket in front of them.

Our two days in Louisville have been a wonderful, beautiful whirlwind of seeing old friends, being at our home church, meeting new folks, celebrating Christ's resurrection, and soaking up the gorgeous weather. We simply cannot get enough of blue skies, daffodils, tulips, green grass, dogwood, and great Christian fellowship. The blessings and beauty are almost too much to take in!

Tomorrow morning we're leaving early for Richmond, VA. We need to be there by 4:30 and I anticipate that it will be a beautiful drive. Let's pray for no motion sickness! But our leaving time is quite early, so I've got to get some sleep tonight. The last several nights have been VERY late as we've been catching up with our friends--so edifying and encouraging that we were reluctant to have the conversations end, but eventually one does have to go to bed!

Happy Resurrection Day to all! Though I don't have time to catch up on all the photos today, hope you enjoyed the picture of our family on Easter day! Blessings!