rushing to beat the storm

After an emotional & teary goodbye in Virginia, we flew back to Denver for our final bit of road-tripping: three days of driving to get back to Cali for a wonderful friends' wedding! This part of our trip was very unplanned and more based on weather. Denver was beautiful and sunny - but a storm was predicted to hit the night we arrived. We knew we did not want to get stuck in snow & blizzardy weather.....so we trudged on!!!

We can honestly give most of the credit to Mr. Caramel Frappuccino who gave us the motivation to push onward. Days 34-36 were full of driving, navigating, lots of music, and SNOW!

We drove over 8 hours the first day - trying to get out of Colorado so that we might avoid the snowfall. Unfortunately....the snow began coming down, covering our world in a blanket of white. We had to drive extra slow since our van was not equipped for ice & snow. We finally made it to Green River, Utah : to a dingy trucker hotel, complete with cockroaches and beds from the 70's. The one advantage: it was cheap!! We sleep great anywhere, maybe due to the fact that we are used to hard Chinese beds. Yea!!

The next morning, we were greeted by an icy green van! We kept going....though it was very slow with icy roads, and frozen wiper fluid. We had to stop every so often to clean the windows!

I think we were in the car about 12 hours this day, slowly making it out of the snowstorm. J did amazing with all the snow & weather. It would have stressed me out to drive in this storm, and for SO long! We kept trudging on....even thru Las Vegas!! We had stayed in Vegas before, and didn't feel like doing it again. We made it to Barstow, CA for our final night in a hotel!! We were SO ready to settle down somewhere and stretch our legs!

The girls have done incredibly well this trip! They are so witty & hilarious, which keeps our car-conversation quite fun. Its tough to sit in one place for so long, but they were troopers!!

Our final day on the road (Day #36) was only 7 hours!! We were greeted by wonderful friends and a final 2010 dazzling sunset on December 31st. This is the reason to race back to California!!

I can't believe we are surrounded by such beauty!! Only 6 precious weeks left in America...


Virginia part 5 : our final days...

Our final days in Virginia consisted of soaking up as much time together as possible! We played games, worked on puzzles, went on a double date (!), and took the girls out for "cousin haircuts"!!

Here are some cute before & after picts:

We went to a kid-haircut spot in the mall (thanks to NanPop) and each of the girls were lined up in a perfect line. Asia & Syd got their hair chopped, and Eden just wanted a trim. Cousin Jordan also got a big chop too!! I am a huge fan of short hair for the girls - so easy & carefree! Eden had so much hair that its better long...and so luxurious! She is also the ONE that allows me to braid and put up in all kinds of ways. Thank you E!!

It was a momentous occasion!

I also spent heaps of time snuggling my nieces, and staying up way too late. We wanted to squeeze in all the time possible before we said goodbye. Its so hard not knowing when we will see each other again. In the next few months J&K will be moving to Armenia for two whole years for his job with USAID. They will be closer geographically to us....but its hard to coordinate visits, with families, jobs, holidays, etc. This was one of the hardest goodbyes ever.

We had such a full, yet very relaxing trip to see some of my favorite people on this planet. It took me FIVE blog posts to summarize our two week visit!! Miss you guys so much already!!


Christmas magic in Virginia : part 4

I love holidays! I love making them special and going ALL OUT with every single detail.... and Christmas has always held a special place in my heart. This year (2010) will be hard to beat as it was so filled to the brim with childlike wonder, beauty, creativity and joyous moments being together as a family.

It was SO incredible to be reunited with our family (and some of our closest friends) J&K, as well as their two beautiful girls - our nieces! Being an Auntie has made my heart swell with even more love than I thought possible! ...which makes these visits so sweet!!

Christmas felt like it lasted over the course of three days, all just flowing together like one big dream. The house was toasty and filled with laughter, yummy smells wafting from the kitchen, and constant restfulness. It was such a beautiful time of living together in one big house, serving each other and having great conversations throughout. I felt so encouraged and challenged and loved.

Christmas Eve was so dreamy too: crafting, wrapping, baking, and lounging around in comfy clothes. I even got to watch ELF - for the first time!! Close to midnight - Nana & Poppa arrived to surprise the little ones on Christmas day! It was such a celebration! And even though the Christmas tree was overflowing with sparkly, tempting presents, the kids were more enthralled with spending time with their fam! It was really sweet to see their excitement be focused in the right place. Of course, when the time came for presents to be passed out and ripped open - there wasn't any complaints! We were so generously blessed this year.... and it was fun to give some creative things as well!!

I finally made my niece Jordan her very own rag doll. It was so fun to make with her around, as she got to see it come together, and help choose the colors for her eyes, etc. I think it made her love her doll even more!

Doesn't this picture prove her love??

We also debuted our 2nd annual family-movie : "The Christmas Story"!! Everyone played a part as we reenacted the birth of Jesus, with lots of laughter! Jason would be mad if I posted it on youtube, but let me assure you: it was good!! ....complete with outtakes and musical credits.

A huge highlight for me was waking up the next morning to find Asia reading her new Book in the bathroom on the floor. She loves her new bible, and is so enthralled with the book of Mark right now. I am beyond amazed that she is reading this on her own. Of course I invited her into our warm bed to share the joy!!

We love you JKJ&M - thanks for making Christmas so amazing this year!!

“What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life…to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.”

~ George Eliot ~


Virginia : part 3 : Washington DC!!!

A huge highlight of our trip was a jam-packed day in the city, touring all the major sites and visiting two of the larger Smithsonian museums (Natural History & American History = both free!). The girls loved touring the exhibits and learning about animals, dinosaurs, cave people, hands-on science experiments, and some exciting cultural events in American history! I loved seeing the actual Star Spangled Banner that inspired the National Anthem, and seeing Julia Child's kitchen!!!

Asia loved ALL the animal exhibits.
Here are some ancient cave wall replicas. In front of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull - replica! One section of Julia Child's kitchen - I was in awe!!
Asia's top highlight: seeing the actual red shoes that Dorothy wore in Wizard of Oz!!My highlight: being with my nieces & girls together!!

It was very cold that day - but we still got some pictures in front of the Capital Building, and drove by many of the larger monuments too. There are so many other places that we could have gone to see - but this was perfect for our family!

The Capital building is behind us here, but mysteriously isn't showing up!Thanks J&K for being such great tour guides!!


Virginia - part 2

Here are some highlights of our trip to Virginia! (warning: long post & lots of picts)

Our Vehicle : a trusty Dodge Conversion Van - lent to us by some incredible friends who live in Tennessee! They drove up, dropped off the van - and let us use it for 2 weeks!! They are so generous & thoughtful! We nicknamed it "The Ark" since we could fit two of everything/everyone inside!! The cousins loved getting to ride together everywhere we went!!

Christmas Tree : We attempted to cut down a Christmas tree - but ended up with a cheaper one @ Lowe's. They were all discounted by the time we got one anyhow!! Even so...the kids had a great time hiking in the snowy tree farm!

This one makes me smile: SISTERS!!What's really funny - is that we searched all over Fairfax, Virginia for a LIVE Christmas tree - and then it took us FOUR days before we attempted to decorate it. Maybe we have just been a little preoccupied with all the fun going on around us!! :) ...or tired from staying up until midnight!!

Christmas Tree Decorating : The girls decorated by branch & height. By looking at the end product, you can see how each lower branch was loaded down with ornaments, while the top was pretty sparse! They had a blast, that's for sure!! We also made some new ornaments this year too.

David & Cyndi : Justin's Georgia-cousins were in DC for business - and they extended their trip to come visit for 2 extra days! I (Ali) have never met them in our 9+ years of marriage - so this was extra special! They are SO fun!! The girls loved them so much too, and we enjoyed every moment with them!

All 11 of us got to visit the Air & Space Museum in Fairfax - and see hundreds of REAL vintage airplanes, fighter jets and even space shuttles!! Cousin David has served in the marines, and he was full of tour-guide-knowledge, that helped us appreciate the museum even more.

This is sad: but my only group picture is blurry. Still, we are pretty cute!

We enjoyed lots of deep conversations, yummy soup for dinner, and even a big 1000 piece puzzle!! I really love this family, can you tell??



BACK IN CHINA: We got an email today that made us cringe.
There is a LOT of snow and ice where we live right now. It's pretty much in the constant negative degree range for the majority of our winter.

And today, a garbage truck skidded on the ICE down the hill and straight into our NEW Ice Cream delivery van. Yup...couldn't stop if they wanted to. Here is the evidence and damage:

Crazy, huh??

We should have parked in a different spot. But thankfully, the garbage truck is insured by the city - and they are paying for all the repairs!! Isn't that incredible?? We are also SO very thankful for our amazing business partners who are taking care of all the details while we are away. We love them so much, and its less nerve-wracking knowing they are taking care of everything so well.


magical moments in Virginia : part 1

We have been awaiting this part of our trip for way too long!!! : Days 20-33!! We flew from Denver, CO to Fairfax, VA - where we got to spend 14 joyous days with Justin's brother & fam: Jason & Krissy! AND they have two amazing girls - Jordana & Madison, who are such beauties!! It's the best feeling to be surrounded by family at Christmastime AND have five cousins bounding through the house with their joyous giggles....well, Madison just rolled around - but our 2 weeks felt like we were magically suspended in time.

Sydney & Jordan are only 5 months apart - so they were quite inseparable the entire two weeks! They both wanted the same toys, the same food, the same hair, and on and on. It was pretty hilarious! Jordan did pretty amazing as her entire world was invaded by older cousins.... she is so sweet, thoughtful & full of LOVE! Isn't she adorable??

Madison is such a JOY!! She loved to be around the action, and she was just learning to scoot around (in a slight army crawl). It was amazing to finally meet her (7 months old now) and bond with my NEW precious niece!! I really love the stage she is in too - so snuggly & little!

I attempted to make up for lost time by taking 509 pictures to document this biennial event! Here is one of the good ones!! ...with all five cousins smiling at the same time!! Jordan & Eden look like twins!!

Here is another sweet one in front of the fireplace....
Their hair just blends together....so many cute girls!!

Taking a walk outside in the fresh snow...

Five cousins....all lined up!! (I love Madi's grin!)

Our time in Virginia was so full & sweet. We had so many fun adventures - this is only Part 1!!!