Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another Sad Goodbye

We woke up super early yesterday and left my parents' house by 5am to go catch our flight back to Fresno. I am sooo thankful that our kids did pretty good... Jeremy slept for much of both flights, and Grace kept busy by coloring and watching Little Einsteins. It's hard to believe how fast our month in Edmonton went by. It's incredibly difficult and emotional for me (and my parents) that our family lives so far away... In my heart, one month out of a year isn't enough, but considering everything, I know that I'm lucky just to have that. I am always grateful to Jason for agreeing to give up half of his summer to spend time up there. I am also grateful to my parents, who truly go "all out" and try to give and make the most of the time they get to be with our kids. Here's to our time spent together...

105... amount of dollars spent each time we filled up my parents' minivan
27... days we spent in Edmonton, at my parents' house, on their super uncomfortable futon
20... hours of school work that I did for the upcoming school year
11... pm, the time we went to watch "The Dark Knight"
10... days of Grace's swim lessons
10... courses at Ny and Mac's wedding reception
9... years Jason and I have been married
8... times Jason used his golf clubs (golf course, driving range, and pitch & putt)
8... number of people who stayed in my parents' small 3 bedroom house
7... amount of dollars spent on a stroller (which we depended on a lot!) my mom bought for Jeremy at a thrift store
6... amusement rides that Grace went on all by herself
5... pieces of checked luggage
5... bubble teas that I savored
5... number of times I went to the church I grew up in
4... planes to and from Edmonton
4... times we visited West Edmonton Mall
4... nights of playing Perpetual Commotion and Pick 4 with good friends!
4... times I ate at Pho Hoa
3... days we spent in Canmore/Banff, Alberta
3... times we walked down Whyte Ave.
2... times that Peter and Teresa came up to Edmonton to spend time with us
2... teeth that just came in, which now makes 4 for Jeremy
2... times each week that Grace's Ong and Ba bought her Timbits
2... kids who don't usually sleep together, forced to sleep together, meant a loss of a lot of sleep!

1... amazing and memorable month spent with family and friends...

Family dinners

My dad's 60th birthday

Teresa and Peter reading a bedtime story to Gracie My sister, my biggest confidante

Cau Son with his niece and nephew

Auntie Binh and Uncle Neil (2 of our close friends)

The "sisterhood!"

Time with the Sieberts

Time with Auntie ThaoAuntie Thao and Uncle Peter (2 of our close friends)
Time with Linda

Grace adores Sam (Thao and Peter's daughter)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Taste of "My" Edmonton

Here are snapshots of some foods I look forward to having when I'm in Edmonton every year! Ah, yes... Bubble Tea! I had five of them this past month

We went for Dim Sum with my friend, Binh. Here's Grace trying Tripe (which she loved; Jason however, did not) One of the foods non-Asians freak out the most about- Chicken Feet (which Grace also loved; Jason wouldn't even try it) (By the way, Tracy, Christa, and Jamie: Are you guys still up for trying Dim Sum?! You don't have to eat those 2 dishes listed above... There are many others. Anyone else want to go? Let me know!)

Harvey's Cheeseburgers

Swiss Chalet's Rotisserie Chicken


My sister's baking- here are Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Banh Mi Vietnam (Vietnamese Subs)

Pho (One of Vietnam's most well-known dishes)

Com Suon (Rice with Pork Chop, Vietnamese style)

Oodle Noodle Special (if Jason and I ever opened a restaurant, we'd consider something like Oodle Noodle- it's an Asian fusion noodle place and we both love the food)

Che Ba Mau (Sweet Bean Dessert)

Banh Bao (Steamed Bun with meat filling)

Ketchup chips (I didn't get a picture of the Old Dutch brand)

No wonder I gained weight this past month!!!!

Ny and Mac's Wedding

Pretty much every year that we visit Edmonton, we have a wedding to go to. I love it because I'm able to see a lot of people all in one place. This year was Ny and Mac's wedding. Ny used to be one of "my junior highers!" (blurry picture, but it's the only one I got!)I used to work with the junior high group at church before moving to Fresno. It was in its first stages when Binh (one of my closest friends) and I were involved with it. The English ministry at church was really new and just starting. Ny is now working as a labor and delivery nurse! Wow! Ny is one of the sweetest, most genuine people I know, and I've been told that Mac is a perfect match for her. Congratulations!
The traditional tea ceremony took place earlier in the morning. Jason and I didn't have a tea ceremony. It's very traditional, rooted back in the time when dowrys were the norm. The groom's family and party arrive at the bride's home bearing gifts. The groom's parents give gifts to the bride, exchanges are made between both families, the bride and groom "serve" their parents, and it's followed by a feast. The wedding ceremony was held in the afternoon. Jason stayed home with Grace and Jeremy so that I could go. We knew the church was going to be packed, and with the ceremony around nap time, we didn't want to take the chance that they'd get fussy. The reception was later that night. My friend, Linda, offered to watch Jeremy, and we brought Grace with us to the restaurant. Nine years ago, Jason and I held our Edmonton wedding reception at the same restaurant as Ny and Mac. Being there reminded me of our reception. Many of my Fresnan friends have never experienced anything like this, so I'm going to share a few details. Vietnamese receptions never start on time. It's expected that the bride and groom take pictures with everyone as they enter the restaurant (another reason why the reception doesn't ever start on time). The meal is a feast- 10 courses! Everyone at our table made fun of me, but I took a picture of each course just so that I could blog about it! (as usual, extra pictures are in our photo album). Every dish represents something (for example, noodles represent longevity). The bride usually changes from her wedding dress into a traditional Vietnamese outfit, called an ao dai (Ny's is the red outfit seen in the pictures above). During the dinner, it's customary for the bride and groom and both sets of parents to visit each table to thank everyone for coming. Toasts (other than the usual) can be made at this time. In recent years, western traditions of throwing the bouquet/garter, first dance, etc. have been added. I love weddings!!! (Check out photo album. Sorry for the blurry pics!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Grace's Swimming Lessons

Agh! I've fallen behind with my posts! My parents' computer is outdated and slow, so it has been hard to blog. Sorry!
This past Friday was Grace's last day of swim lessons. I am so proud of the progress that she's made! She passed her swim level with no problem, and her confidence has grown so much. We're thinking about enrolling her in another class as soon as we get back to Fresno, just to keep the momentum going. We were so glad this year that my mom was able to come watch Grace's lessons. In the past, her work schedule never allowed her to. This year, she not only got to watch Grace, but also helped her (me) in the locker room. (More pictures in the photo album)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rexall Edmonton Indy 2008

My brother, Peter, works for Westjet, a Canadian-based airline and with his position, he can get some pretty cool perks. His company received access to the Edmonton Indy this weekend, and he invited Jason to join him for the time trials today. I made Jason bring the camera so that he could take some pictures. It's a pretty big deal for Edmonton, and there are some high profile people in town this weekend for this event, such as Gene Simmons (Grand Marshall), Danica Patrick, Helio Castroneves, etc. My brother's passes gave them Pit Walk Access, Paddock Access, and their seats were in the Pit Row Suites. Jason had a blast walking around to see everything. The highlights for him were seeing all the cars leaving the pit at the same time when the trials actually begun (everyone jumped because no one expected how loud it would be), and the free food. Man, talk about having a job with benefits! Thanks, Peter! (Pictures above were taken from Peter and Jason's seats. There are a few more pics in the Photo Album)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Food, Fun, Friends

On Monday night, our family went with Sarah, and Thao (one of my closest friends), to A Taste of Edmonton. It's an eating festival, set up in downtown Edmonton's Sir Winston Churchill Square with restaurants selling sample sized dishes for people to try. It's become an annual outing for us, but it was certainly different going with 2 kids this year. We tasted a variety of things such as sweet potato fries, beef skewer on pita with hummus and parsley salad, ginger beef, Vietnamese papaya salad, lemongrass beef skewer, green tea ice cream, mocha ice cream pie, and triple chocolate explosion cake. We woke up on Tuesday to loud bursts of thunder. Lo and behold, by noon, the rain stopped and the sun started peeking through. It was slightly overcast when our family went out to dinner with Sarah and my parents and then on to Capital Ex (equivalent to the Fresno Fair). Grace had an incredible time! She went on the carousel with her Ong, which has become "their thing." Ong also insisted that Jason get on the carousel with Jeremy. So, I guess that could be considered Jeremy's first ride at the fair. Jason got to go with Grace on a Super Slide, and then she insisted that she wanted to do everything else on her own. We pretty much took her to the rides she went on last year- she went on a kids' roller coaster, a bumble bee, and this huge jungle gym. I look at her and think to myself, "She's 3! How is she already wanting to do all this herself?! She's certainly growing up!" The kids had no trouble falling asleep that night!Wednesday was a perfect day for a trip to Kinsmen Park to meet up with our dear friends, the Sieberts. They moved from Fresno to Edmonton last June, so it's been a year since we've seen them. The girls used to play together a lot, and it took a little bit for them to get reacquainted. Once they started playing, it was fun to see them together again. We really enjoyed reconnecting with James and Ann, hearing about how life has been in Edmonton, and then sharing about how things are in Fresno. We have truly missed them! (More pics in our photo album)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Our Weekend

There was a survey out this past week in the local newspaper that indicated that Edmontonians aren't as proud of their city as Calgarians are. In fact, many people I know complain about how it "sucks" to live in Edmonton. It's interesting because a lot of Fresnans LOVE their city, and Jason and I don't understand why. We're often wishing we could live elswhere, and we often say that we're "unfortunately stuck in Fresno." As someone who used to live in Edmonton, I wish Edmontonians would see that there really is a whole lot to be proud of here. We always look forward to being here. I guess it really is all about perspective.

Anyway, Saturday was absolutely beautiful outside. We decided to go to Old Strathcona Farmer's Market. It's well-known, yet I had never been there! It's housed in an older warehouse type building, and is open year-round on Saturdays despite the winter season. As we walked through, we were amazed by the variety- bison meat, perogies, Mennonite farmer sausage, organic fruits and vegetables, gluten-free/sugar-free foods, baked treats, etc. We could see why this farmer's market is so popular. We ended up only getting some ice cream because we weren't heading home right away.
Next thing we did was board Edmonton's High Level Streetcar. This was also something I've never experienced. The actual trolley was called, "The Melbourne" because it was previously used in service in Melbourne. It was sent over as a "symbol of friendship" from Melbourne. The trolley took us on a trip over Edmonton's High Level Bridge. Unfortunately, I didn't get any cool pictures of the river valley because I didn't want to get up while the tour guide was talking. He was very informative. I learned things I didn't know before (eg. along the route is a tunnel that goes under one of Edmonton's busy streets). After returning, we took some more time to walk around on Whyte Ave.

A quick shot before the trolley filled up with people

View while heading northbound (North Saskatchewan River)
View heading southbound (LRT tracks runs alongside the High Level Bridge)

Leaving the trolley

Friday and Saturday nights were spent teaching our friends how to play one of our favorite games, "Perpetual Commotion." We had a blast! Jason won on Friday night, and I won on Saturday night. We joked that there must've been a conspiracy to let us win, since everyone knows how competitive the two of us can get!

On Sunday, we went to the Edmonton Vietnamese Alliance Church, the church I grew up in. It has changed a lot over the years. There used to only be a Vietnamese service, but about 9 years ago (right before I moved to Fresno), an English ministry was started to minister to the youth. It has grown tremendously! Now, both services take place at the same time, with the Vietnamese ministry in the main sanctuary, and the English ministry in the basement. One of the things I enjoy about visiting every year is seeing how God is at work here. I especially love the worship- I just sense a real vulnerability and authenticity from the worship team that isn't always the case in many church communities. The songs are current and contemporary, but it's not about "show." What a blessing they've been!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rainy Days

In case you're wondering why I haven't been blogging, it's because we haven't done a whole lot this past week. It's been raining here! I can actually say that we've been kind of bored this week. On the flip side, it's been kind of nice and cool, unlike the scorching hot of Fresno.

In between the bouts of rain, we've actually gone on quite a few walks, and taken the kids to the nearby playground. My parents got Grace a scooter, so she's been learning how to ride it. We were reminiscing and remembered that when Grace was Jeremy's age, she had already been to the beach. Sadly, Jeremy just had his first experience with sand this past week! We also went and spent some time at "The Greatest Indoor Show on Earth," West Edmonton Mall. I blogged about it last year- it's one of Edmonton's claims-to-fame. Apparently, it's Alberta's #1 Tourist Attraction, has over 800 stores, and 9 attractions (including Indoor Amusement Park, Waterpark, Ice Rink, etc). Aside from visiting a few stores here and there, grabbing a bite to eat, and people-watching (it really is hard to do some serious shopping with 2 kids!), the only touristy thing Jason and Grace did was go aboard WEM's actual replica of the Santa Maria. We considered doing a few other touristy things, but thought they'd be better for when the kids are a little older. Yesterday was beautiful! We met up with an old friend of mine, Linda, who I haven't seen for over five years (thank goodness for Facebook). She brought her "niece and nephew" to join us for lunch and a walk down Whyte Ave. in a historical area of Edmonton called,
Old Strathcona. It's an eclectic area, known for its Farmer's Market every weekend, and many one-of-a kind shops, restaurants, and bars. There are some really trendy places, but also some really "alternative" places. Alex is 5, and Calla is 2. Grace and Alex immediately became friends. We found a gelato shop for dessert, and sat down to catch up. It was great to see her!
As well, Grace started her swimming lessons this past week. Jason's been in the pool with her, and Jeremy and I have watched from the bleachers. She's the only one in her class! It's been nice to get "Teacher Kristy" all to herself, but it would've been great to have other kids. It's amazing how peers can motivate/influence kids! She's been doing a great job- day by day, it is awesome to see how her confidence is building. I haven't been able to take any pictures of her in class. Jeremy is so squirmy, every picture I've taken has ended up all blurry. I'll try again next week.

Check for other pics in the photo album.