slight detour?? The Grand Canyon!!

Day #5: After Phoenix, the plan was to drive to Albuquerque and stay with more family. They (our extended family) were still in Phoenix....so we had an extra day to spend along the way somewhere!! The map was wide open!! We opted to detour north - and visit The Grand Canyon!! Gotta love flexibility & spontaneity!! Only Justin had been there before, so it was new for most of us! What a breath-taking place to visit!We spent most of that day walking trails, rock climbing, taking the tram, and lingering at different viewpoints along the way....what a brilliant canvas of color and shadows!! We also got to see some elk, deer and wildlife along the trails. It was so amazing!

It was a cold & windy winter day - but so beautiful!!

We rode the tram all the way to the end of the line - where we sipped hot chocolate to stay warm. It was so peaceful - since there weren't many people at all.

We even got to watch the sun set, turning the canyon all shades of gold & orange! Here is our clan - after a long day of road-trip and hiking around the trails of the Grand Canyon! Wow - what an amazing sight to witness!!

....now we drive on towards Durango, Colorado!!


Road-Trip 2010

The green minivan is loaded up.
Gas tank is full & windows freshly squeegeed.
Kids are strapped securely into their car seats.
Snacks & other various items are readily available for diversions.
Music is at my fingertips.
Off we go for 36 days of road-tripping across 7 states with our clan of five!
We haven't booked a single hotel...but we are feeling spontaneous.

Pray we stay safe and don't go stir-crazy!!

First stop (day 1): Santa Ana!!! ....for a 15 hour whirlwind visit with our beloved friends!
The kids loved playing with buddies Lily & Samuel. Syd & Sam were fast friends. They both like goggles and shopping carts, so it was pretty simple.

On the playground there was a slight traffic jam on the slide:

The visit is never complete without a group photo!! (the dad's were so patient)

Hello's & goodbyes within such a short time are always hard! We love you SoCalDoans!!
We consoled ourselves by finding the nearest In N Out Burger. Yup - still tastes amazing!

Next stop (Day 2): San Diego!!
Justin got to share with about 100 elementary aged kids about our lives in China. They were very attentive & loved that we make ice cream! They asked great questions and learned about life on the other side of the globe. We also got to see wonderful friends in the area and connect even more. We love this place!!

That same afternoon we drove onward to Phoenix, Arizona to visit with family for 2 nights (day 3&4). Justin's grandparents are 96 & 97 years old - still loving life and full of joy! We are so thankful that we got to see them again and hear more of their memories! Grandpa was so happy to see the girls!! (Grandma was recovering from a stroke, but still so very cheery)

We also got to visit with uncle Eddie & aunt KC who were in town for Thanksgiving! Uncle Eddie put the girls to work gardening outside, while aunt KC made us a gourmet meal! The girls each earned $1.00 for pulling weeds and filling the garbage bin with debris. They were so excited/motivated to earn some money! ...and play with uncle Eddie and the branches.

No visit is complete without the final group photo:
(if only Sydney weren't picking her nose)

We also got to visit aunt Gloreen who has been in the hospital after a major surgery and some new complications. She was so precious & sweet - even though she could barely speak. We did all the talking, praying and rubbing of her feet. It was a wonderful to see her again and just sit with her. She even had gifts waiting for the girls: games & artsy stuff! She is so thoughtful & generous. Please pray** for her - her organs are currently failing and she is battling for her life. **Updated Dec 30th, 2010 - Aunt Gloreen went home to heaven. She will be greatly missed by so many!!

Overall, the first 4 days of Road-Trip 2010 have been incredible. We are encouraged, challenged, nostalgic, brimming with love for our family, and eager to see what adventure lies ahead.
Stay tuned.....



The weather here is unbelievable.
There is beauty everywhere!
We are so very thankful.....

This morning we ventured down to the ocean to play in the sand. It has been over 2 years since we have touched American sand. This time the girls (finally) weren't afraid of sand in their toes. :) We all had so much fun soaking up the beauty....

Oh! ...and Nana & Poppa came too! (more beauty!)

We did make it home in time to finish final touches on our delicious dinner....and enjoy family time with Jamma & Poppy too. The girls aren't too fond of the typical turkey & fixings....since its not a common food in our neck of the woods. They DID like cranberry sauce though.

What a full day with countless reasons to be thankful!!


pre-birthday park party!!

Our littlest munchkin is turning FOUR in 2 weeks! We decided to throw a last-minute party for Santa Cruz family & friends - since will be traveling cross-country the day after Thanksgiving! Huge thanks to Jill & Laura (and Facebook) for the motivation & help, and to my momma for making heaps of cupcakes! Here are some highlights of our day at the park!!

The girls loved making friends (again) with old pals...and playing all over the park! Thanks to everyone who joined the festivities to celebrate little Sydney. She felt very loved!

SoCal Doans + China McNabbs

Sam + Emory + Lily + Eden
(these three girls were instant buddies)

more cute kids!
Holtzclaws + McNabbs

We love you Sydney!!
Thanks to all our friends for coming to our spontaneous celebration @ the park!

seeing family & friends:: week #1

: This is THE BEST part of visiting our homeland! We can't get enough time with people!! Our first few days were spent living with the Holtzclaw clan in Aptos, CA. We cherish this family! Their entire family has encouraged us beyond belief. Their kids are hilarious, and were so entertaining! I especially loved reconnecting with my best buddy, Laura and getting to know their newest member : Hana!

Then we moved to Santa Cruz, where we stayed with my mom! The girls adore her - and loved spending time with her! She took the entire week off so we could have more quality time together. We ate extra good this week!

We also took beautiful walks thru the neighborhood, exploring the beauty of Santa Cruz.

Asia got to see some of her ol' buddies: Corban & Abby!
We have missed you friends!

We also met my dad for breakfast and fed the seagulls at the wharf, which was a highlight for the girls. The weather has been amazing!

We love you, family & friends!


fire-station field trip!

My buddy Laura organized a field trip for a bunch of home schoolers to visit the Santa Cruz fire station! We got a personal tour of the huge red engine, the fire-house and lots of personal time with Fireman Dan, Fireman Mike and their trusty Chief. It was incredible to hear about their lives as firemen! They really sacrifice to serve the community.

I think I asked the more questions than any of the kids though. :)

During their presentation, there was an emergency call that the firemen had to run out for! It was exciting to see them rush around and hear the loud siren on the engine. Thankfully, it wasn't a serious call - and they came back pretty quickly to give us an even longer tour of their living quarters. The kids had a great time too!

We love you Station #1 Firefighters!


first week in America after 2+ years

(well, only 2+ years for the girls & Justin - Ali came 15 months ago for a wedding!)

We have landed in America friends!!
The flight was one of the worst I can remember, but I choose to forget those details and rejoice in the comforts of our homeland. The air is so fresh and the sky is so spacious and blue. Cars drive so fast, and the roads are wide and marked so clearly. FOOD!! Food is so tasty and there is variety everywhere! We have especially missed you Avocado & Salmon.

Can I just tell you how much we love car seats? These things are for more than just safety, friends! I (the momma) can actually sit in a car and look at the scenery with my arms free. I like the freedom for a bit, and the peace of mind knowing the girls are strapped in safely (especially when these crazy Americans drive so speedily)!

Also, water pressure is a given. I just love that small fact.
We also LOVE the sprawling green grass!!...that you can walk on!!
America, we have missed you!


the Great Wall

We are off!! Our little family is taking a winter break - traveling to America for 3 months to be with family & friends over the holidays! We are SO excited! We are all packed...and ready for our 16 hours of flight time and reunion on American soil. But first, we have a short layover in Beijing - and an opportunity to see one of China's most famous wonders - The Great Wall!! (Cháng Chéng 长城)

We had the entire day to explore! We chose the Mutianyu (south east) section of the Wall, which sounded more remote, mountainous & surrounded by forest, so that we could walk this section with the kids. To get up to the Wall you could hike uphill, or take a cable car (which sounded appealing with three littles).

It was a very cold day, but we came prepared! The girls loved the cable car ride, and were great hikers/joggers all along the steep, winding, stone walkways. Sydney was the youngest walking visitor we saw all day!! We definitely took snack breaks, photo breaks, potty breaks and pep-talk breaks....but the girls made it!!
The Great Wall is compared to a great dragon winding its way over the mountains. It was definitely impressive!!

Some of the stairs were half as tall as Sydney. She was such a trooper!

We must have hiked thru at least 7-9 of these parapets (watchtowers/barracks) which were used as signal towers when enemies were in sight.

It was breath taking to see up-close this massive structure that was built so long ago. The visit was incredible!!

Now for the next flight across the Pacific Ocean. America, here we come!!


a special gift

Asia just finished a project she has been working on for a few weeks now, and she wanted to give it away to her buddy Andrew. That is why she chose this great brown yarn - since he likes darker colors. I had to take a picture of this since she is giving it away...like right now!! It's so wonderful to watch her create and share. She is always thinking of her friends, and I know she is going to miss them while we travel. She is such a compassionate & loving little girl, and very attached to her loved ones. I love that she is growing in generosity too.

She also attended her first "group sleepover" at her Finnish friends' homo where they meet for a crafty class each week. Our friend is so brave & energetic to take on four little girls for the night! She had them over for dinner, crafts, a movie, dessert & the sleepover, plus morning activities too. Asia had such a great time with her friends - and we are so thankful for these blessings in her life. It was truly international - Korean, Canadian, Finnish and American, plus 4 beloved baby-dolls. :)


our first bit of winter....

This is actually our 2nd snow of the year - but the first one that really stuck. It will melt away soon, but managed to last for about a week. Winter is right around the corner....and we are always bundled up when we go out now. We still haven't worn long-johns yet, but we are always asked by our neighbors if we are cold! The first snow is always exciting - wherever you live! Lots of kids run around throwing bits of powder & ice chunks, frolicking in the mounds of snow piled up on the hillsides. I love the crisp air and wearing a warm scarf.

Our apartment is warming up a little - the radiators are warm but not much. We have a few radiator leaks which need repair, though I am not sure it can be done before we leave. I will just put buckets under the valve and hope they hold. :) We have a friend who will check on them for us too, and water my 4 plants.

We won't experience much of the winter this year - since we are traveling to America shortly! We are very excited to see family & friends, and get a break from the cold for a bit. I love California winters! We will be busy packing and saying our goodbyes the next few days....and then boarding an airplane for Beautiful-Country (America in Chinese is literally Mei 美 = beautiful, Guo 国 = country)! Hopefully we can cross paths with many of you along the way!

Goodbye winter in Urumqi! Have fun without us!! We will miss you!