Thursday, July 30, 2009

Elk Island National Park

If you've read my blog posts about our trip to Edmonton, I'm sure you've noticed that they're pretty similar to posts that I have written in previous years. I haven't bothered to include links anymore, or take pictures of every single thing because I've blogged about them before. When I come here, there are always "must-dos" like having certain foods, going to my childhood church, hanging out with certain friends, etc. To keep things interesting though, Jason and I have decided that we'd try out at least one new thing this wonderful city has to offer every year we visit. This year, our "new" thing was to visit Elk Island National Park (sorry, the actual Parks link won't work so here's the Wikipedia link). It is located about 45 minutes east of Edmonton, and is known for being a natural habitat for many species of wildlife such as bison, beavers, elk, and deer. It was created as Canada's first wildlife preserve in 1906. I first went there when I was in grade five. Our teachers took us on an overnight camping trip, and I enjoyed it so much, I still have fond memories of it. We were put into tent groups and had planning meetings during school to go over lists of things to bring, to decide who would help for big group meals, and to learn "outdoorsy" survival-type stuff. One of the memories that is engraved in my mind is when I had to wake up in the middle of the night to go use the outhouse. After I finished, I opened the outhouse door and just about had a heart attack. Right outside was a huge bison, just standing and eating grass. I quickly closed the door, panicking and wondering what I should do. Luckily, the bison didn't stick around- it started walking away... I ran back to our tent and remember how shaken I was, how long it took for my heart to stop racing!

Well, this past week's trip wasn't quite that memorable, but we still had a good time nonetheless. After we paid our admission, I began looking through the park's map and information brochures. I said to Jason, "I really hope we get to see some bison today." Just as I looked up from the map, guess who greeted us? He took his time, but eventually wandered off the road (we saw quite a few by the end of our trip!) We continued on to Astotin Lake where there is a small sandy beach to have a picnic lunch.Next, we walked over to the Living Waters trail, which is a floating boardwalk on the lake. When I was a fifth grader, we scooped some of the water out into buckets to examine the contents. We saw things like tiny fish, leeches, and water bugs. The boardwalk was surrounded by water. I was saddened to see that over the years, the boardwalk now seems to be surrounded by marsh and thick grasses. So, Grace and Jeremy weren't able to see any cool aquatic life. I was kind of glad that the boardwalk wasn't surrounded by the lake, simply because I wondered what Jeremy would've done.
There were several family friendly trails and we decided to go on a 3.5 km hike called Beaver Pond Trail.
It was an easy hike- no steep hills or anything like that. It was hard in that we were surrounded by mosquitoes. I forgot to bring the bug spray!!!! We were constantly slapping ourselves, and it was annoying to hear the constant buzzing. I will never forget the bug spray again!!! Somehow, I ended up being the only one with multiple mosquito bites!

As indicated in the hike's name, we passed a pond that had a beaver lodge. We searched for beavers, but didn't see any. Not only did Grace walk the whole thing, she talked almost the entire time, too. Man, when did she become such a talker? We kept telling her, "Grace, listen- can you hear the wind blowing in the trees?" She would pause and then keep talking. Jeremy walked half of it. Jason helped carry him a ways, and then he'd continue walking. Near the end though, Jeremy was so exhausted that he actually fell asleep in Jason's arms.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Last All-Comers Meet of the Year

Jason ran in his last meet of the season yesterday night. I think there are a few more All-Comers Meets in Los Gatos after we return to California, but school's starting up soon, so he won't have time to make it to those. He's seriously considering whether or not to pursue this further- next year's USA Masters Track and Field Competition will be held in Sacramento, and when he checked his times with those of this year's Masters, his time is competitive with those. I think it would be so cool if he decided to go for it! I am very proud him for his dedication, and the discipline he's put into training these last few months.
Anyway, Sarah volunteered to babysit Jeremy so that I could go and actually try to see Jason's race last night. My mom came along, too, and this was her first experience with anything like this. She was full of questions and observations, and it was actually pretty cute to hear/watch her cheer on Jason. Jason only ran in one event last night, the 200 m. Here's the video...
video

He won with a time of 23.5 seconds! Yay, Jason!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Playgrounds and Spray Parks

I love how parks and playgrounds are in every neighborhood here in Edmonton. In Fresno, with the exception of a handful of community playgrounds, most are gated inside each school's property so you can't really access them, or you have to pay to go to one of the few public parks. We have gone to quite a few playgrounds on our trip here this year. Today, we met up with one of my friends, Linda. She lives in the basement suite in this guy's house. This guy, turns out to be Paul, who I grew up in church with. Paul is now married to Mel and they have 2 kids, Alex and Calla. It's such a small world! Anyway, we headed over to their house to hang out, and Paul made us lunch before Linda and the kids walked with us to their neighborhood's park. Right beside the playground is a spray park. The kids had so much fun switching back and forth between the two play areas, though Jeremy and Calla spent most of their time on the playground. It was a relaxing day and the weather was just perfect. We laid out a picnic blanket to eat some snacks and it was so tempting to just lie down and take a nap since there was a gentle breeze blowing. Didn't happen though, as there were active kids to chase! It's always great to catch up with good friends like Linda.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jeremy's Vietnamese

I don't have a Vietnamese community in which I belong to in Fresno. It's part of the reason why I get homesick a lot. I don't consider my Vietnamese good enough to teach our kids the language, and even when I've tried, it has been too difficult since I'm the only one they know in Fresno who speaks it. I really do value my cultural background, but it's so hard to pass something on when I'm the only one to do it.
When we're in Edmonton, they're surrounded by Vietnamese people, the culture, and the language. Here's a video of Jeremy learning how to count to 3 in Vietnamese (1 is "mot," pronounced moak, 2 is "hai", pronounced hi, and 3 is "ba", pronounced baa).
video

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Congratulations

It seems that every year we're here, there's a wedding to go to! Jason doesn't enjoy it so much because he always has to pack some "dressy" clothes, but I love it! It's the only time in the year I get to enjoy a typical 10 course Asian wedding feast. Unfortunately, this year, we're leaving just days before Ruth and Clayton's wedding. Ruth was one of the junior highers I worked with in my church's youth group. I am disappointed to miss out on what is sure to be a beautiful wedding. Luckily, I was able to attend Ruth's bridal shower last week. Congratulations, Ruth and Clayton!
(Here's Ruth with Ny, who just celebrated her first wedding anniversary)
One thing that I didn't miss out on this year is the birth of Ethan Andrew Quach, Linda (a close family friend), and Lenny's new son! He was born this morning at 9:28am, at 6lbs 11 oz., and 19 inches! Congratulations! I was able to visit him in the hospital today... People up here have been asking this a lot lately, so just to set the record straight... seeing a cute little newborn brought no desires for me to have another one of my own, and I'm pretty sure Jason is with me on this one!!! :)

Capital Ex

Edmonton's annual fair is called Capital Ex. It used to be known as Klondike Days (it was one way the city celebrated its history), or K Days, for short. Every year, we intentionally schedule our trip to ensure that my parents can take the kids to the fair. This year, we thought Jeremy would want to try some of the rides, but all he wanted to do was run around (surprise, surprise). My dad went on the carousel with Grace, and then she got her choice of rides to go on. She had so much fun!Seeing how Jeremy wanted nothing to do with the rides, got incredibly impatient when we were waiting in line for Grace's rides, and then threw tantrums when we put him in the stroller, it got me wondering whether or not we should reconsider having him join us in a few weeks on our trip to Disneyland (please leave comments or email me with your thoughts if you have any). Slideshow on the right!

Friday, July 24, 2009

10th Wedding Anniversary

July 24 marked our 10th wedding anniversary! WOW! Those who know us well know that it hasn't been the easiest journey. We have had many ups and downs in this first decade, but we can say that these last few years have been the best in our marriage. It has certainly strengthened over the years, and we feel incredibly blessed to be where we're at. I look at Jason and am grateful for who he has become- a wonderful husband, caring partner, and amazing dad.
My sister agreed to watch the kids for us so we could celebrate with a dinner date. That doesn't sound like much, right? Well, in case you haven't already heard, we're also treating ourselves (yup, no kids) to a getaway trip, but that won't be until Feb. 2010 when we go to the Olympics in Vancouver. Most people go somewhere tropical to celebrate anniversaries, and yet we're heading north! We're super excited- going to the Olympics is one of those things that's on our "gotta do before we die" list. Anyway, we marked our wedding anniversary with a wonderful meal at a restaurant here in Edmonton called Murrieta's. It was very classy and the food was delicious. It's not the type of place we would normally go to for dinner, so that made it just as special. We were able to enjoy each other's company, do some dreaming, and set some goals for the next 10 years of our marriage.
Meanwhile, Sarah took the kids to a local farmer's market and then they headed out to watch our friends' daughter's soccer game. Jason's hoping to get Grace into t-ball or soccer really soon, so it was good for her to go watch Sam play. Thanks Sarah, for helping us celebrate our anniversary!

Edmonton's Valley Zoo

One of the things I look forward to every summer is spending time with my friends here. We met up with the Gartlys yesterday (Unfortunately, Kevin had to work). I met the Gartlys over 10 years ago, when Kevin became our church's first English ministries pastor. They've been at the Vietnamese Alliance Church ever since and now have 4 kids. We went to the Valley Zoo with Christine, their kids, Sarah, Josh, Jennifer, Benjamin, and Christine's niece, Chanel. Jennifer and Grace are about the same age, and Benjamin and Jeremy are about the same age. Naturally, they gravitated towards each other. We worked our way through as much of the zoo as we could, but Jeremy didn't last. Let's just say that it became obvious when it was time for us to leave. We did get to see animals such as lemurs, a snow leopard, Siberian tiger, llamas, snakes, an Asian elephant, and a bactrian camel. We were able to enjoy lunch under a tree, and heard the zookeeper talk about Lucy the elephant. The last stop was the petting zoo, where the kids got to pet chickens, roosters, sheep, and goats.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Taste of Edmonton

Of the many festivals that are held in Edmonton each summer, one of our favorites is "A Taste of Edmonton." It's held in Edmonton's Churchill Square downtown. 40 Edmonton restaurants sell samples of two of their dishes in smaller portion sizes. It has become somewhat of an annual thing for us, and every year we've gone with one of my close friends, Thao. In addition to the food booths, there is also a wine tent for "A Taste of Wine" and a separate beer garden for "A Taste of Beer." Unfortunately, none of us really drink except Jason, so it wasn't worth checking out. To save some money this year, we decided to eat dinner at home and then go to the festival to sample desserts. It was packed, but that's how we like it- the atmosphere is fun and festive. We were able to sample: Triple Layer Chocolate Explosion, Deep Fried Mars Bar (Sammy chose that!), Sno Cone w/ Fruit and Cream (turned out to be a favorite- so refreshing, we actually had 2 servings), Canoli (custard filled pastry dipped in chocolate), Caffe Affogato (ice cream with chocolate and espresso), Raspberry Chocolate Mousse, and Mexican Deep Fried Ice Cream (which turned out to be the worst thing we've ever sampled at this festival, and that's saying a lot). YUM! Needless to say, our kids devoured everything! I think all of us will have gained a few pounds by the time we return to Fresno.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Edmonton All-Comers Meet

This past Tuesday, Jason ran in an Edmonton All-Comers Meet. If you recall from a previous post, I mentioned that Jason has recently started running track again. It just so happens that Edmonton holds open track meets throughout the summer, so Jason decided to try it out. My sister came with me and the kids to watch his race. Due to his ongoing tendonitis issues, he decided just to run the 200 m. In his glory days, this was his favorite race. Unfortunately, Grace and Jeremy did not cooperate- between Jeremy not wanting to sit and instead wanting to run along the bleachers, and Grace constantly complaining about how hot she was and how she wanted to go home, I once again missed Jason's race. Luckily, Sarah was able to record the race while I tended to Jeremy's screaming and Grace's whining. Jason was the only person in his age bracket to race, so they put him in a heat with two college runners. His time ended up being 23.90 seconds (no injuries- yay!). He will probably run in next week's All-Comers Meet, but there's no way I'm bringing the kids! (If you listen closely, you can hear Jeremy's screaming in the background!)

video

On a side note, Jason was looking up Canadian records and he discovered that if he had been born in Canada, his high school record for the 200 m in 1994 would've made him the fastest high school 200 m sprinter in Canada that year. Isn't that crazy to think about?!?!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Only in Edmonton!

What a day we had yesterday! I definitely have something to blog about now! It was certainly a busy day... Grace and I joined Peter and his fiancee, Teresa, to go shopping for flowergirl dresses. That was so fun! More importantly, we got to spend some time with them. Jason and Jeremy spent their day grocery shopping with my mom and Sarah. We invited people to come over yesterday night for a barbecue to celebrate my brother's 30th birthday. The get-together consisted of our family's closest friends, people who are practically family. We're very close and have pretty much grown up together. These are the same people who will be in Hawaii with us for my brother's wedding in November.
(Standing left to right: Peter, my brother; Teresa, my sister-in-law-to-be; Peter, Thao's husband; me; Jason; Binh, close family friend; Thao, close family friend; Sarah, my sister; Neil, Binh's husband; Linda, close family friend; Lenny, Linda's husband
Sitting left to right: my dad; my mom; my aunt, Binh/Thao/Linda's mom; Sam, Thao's daughter; Jeremy; Grace)

After the party, we headed over to Thao and Peter's (friend, not my brother) house to play one of my favorite games, Perpetual Commotion. As if that wasn't enough for a fun evening, right before midnight, two more of our friends, Ny and Mark showed up with 6 crabs, freshly caught in Vancouver. They boiled them and then we feasted- yum! Talk about a midnight snack! The crabs were a real treat, and we ate to celebrate Ny and Mark's 1st wedding anniversary. Between the barbecue and then our crab feed, we ate so much we were all stuffed!(Left to right: me; Ny; Jason; Peter; Mark; Van; Thao)

At about 1am, we headed home. Can I just share, that we have many memories of Edmonton that revolve specifically around its unpredictable weather patterns? We have one more to add! There was a severe storm that blew through here yesterday night. It didn't seem so bad out at Thao and Peter's house, but it was really bad in my parents' area. The winds were so strong that they broke off tree branches, snapped trunks, and even uprooted trees! That's what happened to the tree in my parents' front yard. It got uprooted and fell into the street, blocking one lane of traffic. Isn't that crazy!? What a day, right? Only in Edmonton!

More pictures in the slideshow on the right

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hello from Edmonton!

Here we are, in Edmonton! We didn't really do very much this past week after arriving, so I didn't have anything to really post about. An overview so far (and no pictures, sorry!)...
We left this past Monday to stay with our good friends, Darren and Julie Pozzi in San Jose. We don't get to see them very much, but always have a great time with them. Our kids are around the same ages, so it's also fun to see them play together each time we visit. John and Sarah Patrick also joined us for the evening. It was so fun to hang out! The next morning, Darren drove us to San Francisco to catch our flight to Edmonton. We expected that Jeremy was going to be quite a handful on the plane. Maybe it was because we expected the worst, it turned out to be better than we thought. He did great on the plane. He fell asleep for part of the time, but then we were able to entertain him the rest of the time. Going through security lines and customs? Not so much. He was eager to run off, and thought the conveyor belts were fascinating (he really wanted to climb up on them). Anyway, we made it to Calgary just fine, and my brother, Peter, was able to meet us there during our layover (Peter lives in Calgary, which is about 2.5 hours from Edmonton). Then, we boarded our plane to Edmonton. My mom and sister, Sarah, met us at the airport. It didn't take very long for our family to get settled in at my parents' home. We basically spent the next few days doing absolutely nothing. How nice it is to not have any major responsibilities. Jason has already gone golfing twice, and has spent some time at the track. I'm looking forward to some shopping time with Sarah this next week. Since most of our friends work during the week, we weren't able to get together with them until the weekend. I'm sure there'll be plenty to share after I see them!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Overnight Trip to Calaveras County

This past Friday, we drove to Calaveras County to attend Uncle Ken and Aunt Rosalee's 50th wedding anniversary. We definitely wouldn't have missed the wedding anniversary party, but we were also really looking forward to driving out to that area. It is dotted with quaint little towns- Jamestown, Sonora, Murphys, Angels Camp, etc... Jason and I visited there about 8 years ago, and fell in love with it then- we discovered we still love it. The main streets have so much charm with their antique stores, mom-n-pop shops, cute cafes, etc. We stayed with family friends, the Atchisons, who live in Murphys. They have an incredible home that backs onto the golf course. Everywhere you turn in their home welcomes you to sit down and relax. We are so thankful for their hospitality- in addition to our family of four, Jason's mom, and his sister and her family also stayed there.

Jeremy loves playing with his cousin Noah!

The main reason we went was for the anniversary party. It is truly an occasion worth celebrating- 50 years!!! I am still in awe! Jason's cousins, Brad and Terri, did an amazing job organizing the celebration. In the foyer in the church, they displayed original wedding gifts amd cards that had been received 50 years ago. In addition, they displayed items of sentimental value that Ken and Rosalee had exchanged during their dating years, and then later throughout their marriage.

I was most impressed by the pages of records that Ken had kept of every single date that he and Rosalee had. How romantic! At the front of the church, they displayed Rosalee's wedding dress. They were even able to find the original cakemaker to recreate the wedding cake. The actual program consisted of a meal, slideshow, a few games, toasts, cutting the cake, and a sharing time. After the party, we all returned to Ken and Rosalee's home and were able to spend some quality time with family. I truly felt blessed to know this wonderful couple, and felt very encouraged by them through this special occasion. What an example for Jason and me! We love you, Ken and Rosalee! Congratulations!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

For the past several years, our family has been in Canada during the 4th of July. This year, we were actually in town! We were thrilled to be able to spend our evening with a great group of friends, hosted by Allen and Kristen. We all met to swim (everyone except me, that is), eat, and hang out. When it started getting dark, our families walked together about a half mile to a grassy area outside of Buchanan's stadium to watch the fireworks show. I was sure that Grace was going to freak out by the loud fireworks, but she surprised me, because she did great. I wasn't as concerned about Jeremy, and of course, he was awed by them. He started getting squirmy near the end, wanting to walk around, but then what's new. I'm actually amazed he sat as long as he did. Our kids had a lot of fun this past week celebrating Canada and the U.S.'s birthdays! Isn't our family so patriotic?! (Slideshow on the right)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

I've been here in Fresno for 10 years! In all this time, I have never celebrated Canada Day down here. I used to know quite a few Canadians in Fresno, but alas, they have all returned up north and 0nly a handful remain. Our friends, James and Marcy, had a Canada Day party today, and of course I have been looking forward to it all week. Unfortunately, James and I were really outnumbered- we were the only Canadians celebrating with "honorary Canadians." We all dressed in either red or something "Canadian-ish" (even Jason wore a shirt that had a small Canadian flag on it). After everyone arrived, the kids did a craft- they painted Canada flag placemats. James even drove around Fresno earlier in the day looking for maple trees to get the leaves!
After dinner, James had us do a quiz to test our Canadian knowledge. Marcy, Jason, and I all scored 80%! How embarrassing it would've been for me if Jason had beat me!!! For prizes, they had a huge assortment of red/white stuff. I picked a Canada hat (I don't have one, ok?), and Jason picked a bag of Twizzlers.Soon afterwards, the kids all got in the pool. I love the Bergens' pool- it's so kid-friendly, unlike ours, and the water was 90 degrees! Being around other kids has really helped boost Grace's confidence. She has shaken her fear and was jumping in from the side and even going down the waterslide on her own! Jeremy is definitely going to be "our fish." That kid seems to be fearless around water. He went down the waterslide many, many times. To finish off the party, we had vanilla ice cream with strawberries (red and white!)... The Bergens thought of everything and we had such a fun time! Thanks, Bergens! Happy Canada Day!