Tuesday, July 27, 2010

USA Masters Track & Field Championships

On Friday, we loaded up the car again and drove to Sacramento. After many months of anticipation, the day had finally arrived- the USA Masters Track & Field Championships were held there this past weekend. Jason has been training for months for this huge event. It's basically a track & field competition for athletes who are out-of-college. It is inspiring to watch some of the older athletes- the oldest competitor this year was 96! With the wide range of ages, there are many different age brackets. This event was significant because it was the Nationals, with athletes from many all over the USA competing. Jason had lots of support in addition to me, Grace, and Jeremy- Jason's mom, his sister, his nephew and nieces, his sister's boyfriend and his daughter, Jason's uncle and aunt all made the trip to come watch him. His first race was the M30 (athletes aged 30-34) 100 m preliminary. It was incredibly hot and we were dripping with sweat while we sat in the stands! Before long, we learned that since some athletes had scratched, Jason automatically advanced to the finals (we had hurried to get there so it was a bummer he didn't even race).

On Saturday, since Jason's first race wasn't until after lunch, we were able to squeeze in a visit to Sutter's Fort. Unfortunately, it wasn't too interesting for Grace and Jeremy. We'll definitely have to return when they're older.
Jason's first race was the M30, 100 m final. It was so exciting to watch Jason finish in 3rd place, earning a bronze medal!

His next race was the M30, 200 m preliminary. There were two heats, and Jason's time qualified for the final. Unfortunately, that race left him feeling rather sore. For dinner later that evening, we were able to visit Old Town Sacramento.

On Sunday, we decided to head to IKEA before Jason's race. I love that place! Of course we left with plenty! Jason's race was in the afternoon, and he had a hard time warming up. When it came time for the 200 m finals, he did great coming out of the blocks, but injured his achilles tendon coming around the bend. It has bothered him in the past, but not in the past few months. Needless to say, that forced him to stop and he ended up hobbling over the finish line. He was so disappointed, and we were disappointed for him. It's one of those things- an athlete devotes to training for months, and it all comes down to a few seconds... We are already looking ahead to next year. The World Masters Track & Field Championships will be held in July at the same venue in Sacramento. Despite having to hobble around, after we left the meet, Jason still wanted to take our kids to the California State Railroad Museum. I am so glad we did- Jeremy LOVED it. I loved seeing his excitement as he ran from train to train. He couldn't get enough! After getting some treats in Old Town, we finally headed for home. Jeremy threw one of the longest tantrums ever, and he kept saying, "I don't want to go home!"
I am so proud of Jason and not just because he earned a bronze medal at this meet. I am inspired by his commitment, determination, discipline, and drive. What an amazing example he has shown our kids of how to live an active lifestyle, how to strive towards a goal, and to not give up when it really would be easier to quit. Way to go, Babe- we love you so much!

There's No Place Like Home

What an ordeal we went through to return to Fresno! Our flight was scheduled to leave Edmonton last Tuesday evening at 6pm. We got there at about 4:30pm to make sure we'd have enough time to go through customs. Upon checking in, we discovered that our flight was delayed 2 hours because our plane had mechanical problems. Once checked in, you can't turn back- we had to proceed to customs. That meant we had to stay at the airport until 8pm. We found a section to claim as our own and let the kids run around. Thankfully, they sent a different plane instead of the one that had mechanical problems! Due to our delay, we missed our connection from Seattle to San Jose. Immediately upon landing in Seattle, we had to line up to get a hotel voucher to stay overnight. Of course it wasn't until we were getting our luggage that we noticed an error- we had to go get back in line. This caused us to miss our shuttle to the hotel, which only ran every half hour. We were relieved when we finally got into our hotel room, but then we had to wait some more for a crib for Jeremy, and extra sheets and blankets for Grace. Our kids didn't go to bed until 11pm! They were still on "mountain time," so it was actually more like midnight. It was such a crazy evening!

The next morning, we woke up plenty early to return to the airport. This time, there were no problems and we flew back to San Jose. Our friend, Julie, picked us up. We left our car at their home while we were gone, and after going to get it, we finally headed for Fresno!

It was sooooooooo nice to be home! We unloaded our luggage, checked our plants, looked for our cat, and went through our mail. The kids pulled out every toy they owned, so glad to see them again. It was nice to relax in our own space. Of course that didn't last!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Our Last Weekend

Our last weekend here was a busy one! On Friday night, I was able to go out for dinner with my sister, Sarah, and our close friends, Thao and Binh. We had so much fun- I laughed so hard!We grew up together and I am grateful that despite the distance, we're all still close. We spent Saturday with my brother, Peter (aka PT), and sis-in-law, Teresa (who came up from Calgary), Thao and her husband, Peter, and their daughter, Sam. Jason went golfing with PT and Peter and the rest of us went to watch Sam play soccer. After some shopping in the afternoon, and a visit to a new bubble tea cafe, PT and Teresa prepared dinner for all of us at Peter and Thao's house.
After church on Sunday, we went out for a family lunch before heading to Galaxyland, the indoor amusement park at West Edmonton Mall. My parents get a lot of joy from watching the kids go on the rides. Actually, they enjoy taking the kids to the annual fair here, but it doesn't start until later this week. Grace was old enough to try going on some bigger rides- she definitely inherited her "guts" from Jason!
Tomorrow, we leave Edmonton... It's hard to believe that we've been here for 3 weeks! Despite the crazy weather not allowing us to do as much as we wanted, it has still been a good visit. We were able to spend some quality time with family and close friends. This past Saturday evening was particuarly meaningful for me. My whole life, I have never known the whole story of how my parents met, how they escaped Vietnam during the war, and how they ended up in Canada. I have heard bits and pieces over the years, but I have never heard it from them. They finally opened up and shared about things from their past. I finally know more about my family's history! That evening is one of the highlights of this trip for me. Often times, I tell people that I keep this blog as a way to journal things that I consider important. I will most definitely be writing everything down that they shared with me in the weeks to come.

Tomorrow, we'll be flying from Edmonton to San Jose where we'll spend the evening with our friends, Darren and Julie, before driving back to hot hot Fresno! To our Edmonton friends- see you next year, and to our Fresnan friends- see you all really soon!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Auntie Sarah, aka Di Dao

I love my sister! We're really close and have been able to remain close friends despite the distance. When we're in Edmonton, I'm glad that I get to spend a lot of time with her. She's one of the most giving, kind hearted people I know. The kids warmed up to her immediately. She really wanted to have special "dates" with Grace and Jeremy this year, some time to bond with them individually. Last week, she took Grace to Crankpots, a ceramic painting studio. Afterwards, they went out for dinner together.For her special time with Jeremy, Sarah decided to bake cookies with Jeremy. I am certain that he felt important, particularly since he got to be the only helper. Luckily for us, we got to reap the benefits of their hard work! Thanks, Di Dao, for being such a fun, amazing auntie! We love you!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


With the constant rain here during our visit, it was such a welcome break when the sun appeared for most of Thursday. We were able to have lunch with our friends, James and Ann, and their children. James and Ann used to live in Fresno, but moved to Edmonton several years ago. Every time I think of it, I am still amazed that someone I knew in Fresno moved to my beloved Edmonton... Anyway, we always look forward to our annual visit with them! It was wonderful to be able to talk and share about each others' lives. Our children are also very close in age, so it's nice for them to have friends to play with. Later in the evening, my sister offered to watch our kids for us so we could have an early anniversary dinner. Our actual anniversary is July 24, but we're going to be in Sacramento that day for Jason's track races (he'll need to focus on that). The weather cooperated long enough for her to take the kids to the Millwoods Farmer's Market. Being the good aunt she is, of course she let them get all kinds of sweet treats!Jason and I are celebrating 11 years of marriage this year! To celebrate, we went out for a special dinner. For years, I have wanted to try The Melting Pot. It is a fondue restaurant chain, and oddly enough, its first and only Canadian location is in Edmonton. There are tables for various sized groups, including cozy booths for parties of 2. We'd love to go with a group some time- it'd be a fun "group experience." Aside from the loud people in the booth next to us, it was a wonderful evening- the food was fantastic, and the ambience was romantic. We highly recommend it, but if you go, be prepared- it was the most expensive meal we have ever had! There have been many ups and downs over the years. I don't ever want to take for granted how God has really protected and strengthened our marriage over these past few years. I have seen first hand how God has moved in and through both of us- I feel incredibly blessed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Week 2 of Edmonton Visit

Sorry for not posting regularly about our visit to Edmonton! It's because we have been up to nothing- seriously! We haven't done a whole lot. We've had such a low-key visit so far- I've been able to do plenty of reading, napping, and watching TV (we don't have dish or cable at home, so I've loved having access to HGTV, TLC, Food Network, etc. I've watched A LOT of t.v. this trip). Part of the reason why we haven't done very much is because Edmonton has had a very wet summer. Last year, it was really warm, so for this year, I packed a lot of shorts and t-shirts. Instead, we've been wearing mostly our jeans! The weather has been a good excuse to lounge around and be lazy.
A few days ago, we spent some time at West Edmonton Mall, just walking around. If you recall from previous years' posts, it's one of Edmonton's biggest tourist attractions. It's not that big a deal for Edmontonians, but for others, it's pretty amazing for a mall to have so many stores (about 800), an indoor water park, an indoor amusement park, a casino, a rooftop driving range, an indoor skating rink, movie theaters, sea lion shows, etc. We'll be returning there on Sunday when my parents take the kids to the amusement park.
This past weekend, Jason signed up to run in the Alberta Provincial Track and Field Championships. One race was on Saturday, and the other race was on Sunday. I actually got to watch it- the kids were great spectators for this meet, despite the wind and sprinkling of rain.It was interesting how the meet divided up the age brackets. At age 34, Jason was in the 20-34 age bracket. In fact, in that age bracket, there were only 2 people who weren't currently in college. That means that he had to run against athletes that are currently competing at the collegiate level. Well, for his 100 m race, his time was 11.60 secs. He came in 13th out of 14 runners. For his 200 m race, his time was 23.4 secs. He came in 7th out of 10 runners. Jason was really disappointed, but the upside is that he was able to compete in 2 events without getting injured. His next meet is the "biggie!" It's what he's been training for all year: the 2010 USA Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships taking place July 22-25 in Sacramento.
Anyway, that's what we've been up to. With only a week left here, this week is shaping up to be quite busy as I try to meet up with as many friends as possible. Hopefully, I'll be able to post again really soon!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Weekend Visit to Calgary

It has been a few years since we've visited the city of Calgary. It is located south of Edmonton and takes almost 3 hours to get there by car. My brother, Peter, and sister-in-law, Teresa live there, but they usually come up to Edmonton when we're here so we haven't visited Calgary in a while. Last Saturday, we made the drive down. In addition to visiting with friends, I wanted to take the kids to the Calgary Zoo. It is well-known and definitely a memorable zoo to visit. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend it. Grace's favorite part of the zoo was the Dinosaurs Alive Park. The dinosaur park has always been a part of the zoo, but its new exhibit showcases 20 animatronic dinosaurs- think huge, loud, and scary! Some of the gigantic dinosaurs have motion detectors that will activate the dinosaur, causing it to roar and move. Every few seconds, you can hear screams from little kids. Our kids didn't scream but they held onto our hands very tightly as we walked by. This exhibit was very, very cool! Part of the reason why I love this zoo is because of how everything is organized. There are different sections/pavilions representing the continents of the world. For example, in the African Savannah, some of the animals we got to see were the hippos (my favorite), giraffes, lions, ostriches, and zebras. I also love this zoo because the habitats are incredible- they're roomy and look "authentic."
We were all tired after walking around for 3.5 hours. There were some exhibits that we didn't even get to- maybe next time!

We got in the car and drove another 30 minutes to get to a town called Okotoks to see my dear friends, Jenny and Huy. I haven't seen them for 14 years! They used to live in Vancouver and we lost touch over the years. Thank goodness for Facebook! Jenny and Huy moved to Calgary last year, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to reconnect with them. My brother and sister-in-law were also able to come and join us for dinner. Jenny made a delicious authentic Vietnamese hot pot for us. While the guys watched UFC, Jenny did my sister-in-law's and Grace's nails! Boy, did Grace get spoiled! We stayed up late sharing and reminiscing... Next morning, we shared breakfast before heading on.

It was July 4, and who better to spend Independence Day in Canada with than dear friends who we originally met in Fresno!? We still consider Don and Lavonne to be close friends, despite the fact that it has been four years since we've seen them. They are from Winnipeg and we became close friends when they lived in Fresno for several years when Don was going to seminary there. Their trip to Calgary coincided with our trip to Edmonton, and so we made it a priority to make sure to connect with them. We had planned to spend the day at a nearby park, but the weather did not cooperate, so we ended up spending it at their friends' house. Their friends were so gracious, and gave us the place and time to be together. We got to meet their son and they got to meet ours. We have missed them so much over the years, and are so grateful we got to spend time with them!

For dinner, we got the chance to meet up with my friend, Brian, and his girlfriend, Aja. Brian was my best friend during my university years.He was an important part of my life-a great listener, supportive, and incredibly fun to be with. Our life journeys took us on different paths over the years, but I still value him and our friendship. It has also been about four years since I saw Brian last, so it was good to see him and get a chance to catch up. After dinner, we headed back to Edmonton.

It feels like we jammed a lot into one weekend, but I am so incredibly grateful to have had the chance to see these wonderful friends. What a blessing!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Canada Day

It has been a few years since we've been in Canada for Canada Day. We intentionally sought out things to do as a family for this special occasion. The day started off with the Silly Summer Parade down Edmonton's Whyte Ave. I've never been to it, so we truly didn't know what to expect. We found a perfect spot near the end of the parade route, and Jason walked to Oodle Noodle to get us some lunch to eat while we waited for the parade to start. I LOVE OODLE NOODLE! Yum! The parade itself wasn't very long, and it was "silly" in the sense that there was no rhyme or reason to it- very random. However, because it was silly and random, the kids really enjoyed it. It was also neat to see everyone decked out in Canada gear all day!

Later that afternoon, we went to Louise McKinney Park, located right above the river valley. This Canada Day celebration included midway rides, a craft tent, cultural dancing, and live entertainment. The kids had a blast going on some rides and with all the walking we did, quickly fell asleep as soon as we got in the car.
Around 10pm, we took Grace with us to find a spot in the river valley to watch Edmonton's fireworks show. We decided to leave Jeremy sleeping, since it was so late. Can you believe that by the time 11pm rolled around, it still wasn't really dark outside?! The fireworks would've been more amazing against a dark backdrop... The show was pretty good (definitely better than what they've done in the previous years, but paled in comparison to Buchanan High's in Clovis). We didn't get home until past midnight and Grace was definitely wiped out! It was a fun day- Happy Birthday, Canada!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tahoe Family Reunion

Okay, like I had previously mentioned, Jason's mom's side of the family gets together every 2 years. This year, we all met up at Lake Tahoe. The family rented a facility that allowed each of our families to have a room, but we were all close together and were able to spend time in the main lodge. The drive from Fresno to Tahoe took about 5 hours, and our kids did incredibly well! We were shocked! It was definitely a good start to our time there. With so many details, here are the main details from each day.
Day One
After greeting everyone, we quickly ate pizza and headed out to South Lake Tahoe's All-Comers Meet. Jason had researched beforehand and discovered that he could run in a meet at the reunion. From what I've been told, the family used to gather quite frequently to go watch Jason run track meets when he was in high school. It was fun for them to see him run again. Jason ran in the 100 m and won with a time of 11.44 seconds, as well as in the 200 m, which he won with a time of 23.40 seconds. Not only that, he didn't get hurt!!! That is significant, considering his goal to run in the National All-Comers Meet in Sacramento in July. The meet had kid races, and we entered Jeremy in the 50 m and 25 m races. Watching him was a blast! He was the youngest runner- we really didn't expect for him to actually stay in his lane, much less finish, but he did great! Jason's cousins signed up at the last minute to run in other races, too, and so we cheered them on. It was a fantastic evening!

The Penner cheering section

Jason's 100 m race

Jason's 200 m race

Jeremy's 25 m race

Day Two
Unfortunately, it was a rainy, windy day! It was a nice excuse to stay inside and play cards and board games. We got to introduce Ticket to Ride and it became a reunion favorite! It took Grace no time at all to bond with Jason's cousins, Brian and Tara, and their dog, Tika. Every time we wondered where Grace was, we only had to look for either them or the dog. It was so sweet!
Day Three
We headed to the beach! Some cousins found a less known beach near a dog park and we pretty much got the beach to ourselves. The kids splashed in the water, rode kayaks, and played in the sand. We were pretty tired by the end of the day, and this day was significant in that it was also when a lot of family members started getting sick! The stomach flu got passed around to many family members during our time at Tahoe! That didn't stop us from having Game Night! We had a lot of commotion during Perpetual Commotion, Mexican Train, and 13, to name a few...
Day Four
No one really wanted to do anything because people were sick... A group of us decided to take a hike. We drove up to Inspiration Point (overlooking Emerald Bay) and hiked to Cascade Falls. The trail consisted of many rocks and boulders but it was the perfect-sized hike for our group that consisted of a lot of kids (including Jeremy). Jeremy made it the entire way without us having to carry him. At the falls, we sat in the shade and had a snack before heading back. Later that evening, Jason and his cousins had a good time of reminiscing about their childhoods. We got a chance to see the movie, The Blind Side, since a group of us hadn't seen it yet. Day Five
Jason went golfing with his uncle and Brian, so I went with his other cousins and their kids to Pope Beach. It was another relaxing day. Later that night, since it was our last evening together, we let the kids have a slumber party in the main lodge. They got to eat popsicles and popcorn in their sleeping bags, and then watched movies. The ulterior motive was so that Jason and his cousins could go out. We went to The Brewery- it was such fun to hang out together.
Day Six
Our final day! It consisted mostly of packing and cleaning, saying our good byes... Considerations are already being made for the next family reunion in 2012! Can't wait!