Lesson I learned from Petrified Wood ~ And the River of Life making it so beautiful!

It is a dark, chilly, and starry Christmas eve here in northern Arizona. I walked along a mountain trail and noticed soft, sparkly snow blanketing the ground beneath me. We had arrived in Petrified Forest National Park earlier that afternoon and visited the beautiful landmarks and trails.

A particularly memorable region had beautiful 'chocolate hills' covered in 'white frosting', as we called it.

It was 29 degrees F and we were reluctant to leave our warm minivan, but to experience a truly White Christmas, we had to explore and 'feel' everything here ~ even the cold, chilly air and icy/slushy hikes!

Both kids were given 'homework' by forest rangers as special project for kids. And after exploring the national park and answering questions about their observations, they were given  junior ranger badges and sworn in as official junior rangers! The Rainbow Forest Trail was truly memorable, and everywhere around us we saw huge trees with crystallized centers.

Petrified Wood (meaning: wood turned into rock) is formed when trees fall across river crossings. When the cold river runs through them, minerals from the river water fills the cavities inside the trees, which crystallizes into quartz, iron, cobalt and other mineral deposits. Hence the cross-section of these petrified trees have a reddish-orange/yellow, and sometimes rare blue/green hue resembling stones or rocks. Tomorrow I will buy some petrified wood keychains to show you all!

  ~Picture taken by Abbie ~

We made it back in time for the free Christmas Eve lasagna dinner at our hotel lunch room. We are so blessed that we have warm heating, delicious food, and great company during this trip. When I behold the amazing beauty of the petrified trees, I realized that  we are just like them.

Though we are fragile, vulnerable, not very beautiful, and dull in color.... but when we allow the river of life ~ the Holy Spirit ~ to fill us and do supernatural work in our hearts, something magical happens!

We will shine with beauty when God's love produce crystals in our speech, action, and attitude. Even if freezing water attacks us on all sides, when we hold on and let God refine us in and out, we will be powerful vessels for our Maker! Let us imitate the petrified trees and encourage one another to shine for Him! Merry Christmas and have a beautiful, silent night.


It was a dark, snowy,stormy Christmas night ~ Our Survival Story (^_*)

About 24 hours ago, our family was blissfully en route to Flagstaff, AZ, not knowing what lies ahead (or above) of us! We drove to ghost town (aka Barstow), had a quick lunch, and headed onto Highway 41 to Flagstaff. Around 5pm, unbeknownst to us, we were confronted with a digital sign declaring "road closure" due to fatal accident. The little store/gas station off the exit was packed with 50+ big rig trucks and a sea of cars and it was impossible to find a parking space.  We didn't know what to do next.

After wandering around, we saw a runned-down-looking Inn ahead of us but decided we should stay there anyway, since Hwy 40 will close until midnight or later. When we arrived, a big sign hung at the door informing us that there was "No Vacancy". It dawned on me how exhausted and frusrated Mary and Joseph must have felt, not having a place to shower/sleep and not knowing whether they'll have the baby right there on the city streets!

An elderly, wise man named "Ricky" who worked nearby became the stranded travelers' counselor, giving everyone advice on options they could take. We were told to try an alternate route south to Prescott then back up to Flagstaff, if weather permits. Since there was no room in the inn (nor a manger), we decided to take our chances and for 2.5 hours, we traveled the dark, perilous roads, with snowflakes beating against us on all sides, above paths covered in slippery ice.

Exhausted, we tried to find a restaurant and perhaps it was a sign from above ~ we saw "Safeway", then next to it, "Happy Wok"! That was the only chinese fast food and we had dinner15 minutes before it closed! Though the iphone reception was greatly interrupted, I was able to send intermittent facebook updates and prayer requests. Friends from everywhere encouraged us and prayed for us. Then at 8:30pm, en route from Prescott to Flagstaff, our communication was cut off and so was our one and only alternate route. We were stuck in the small mountain path, 7,000 feet above sea level, and the traffic stopped. Panic and fear came over us as we received the most dreaded news from nearby truckers with CB radio updates ~ the road would be closed due to a truck accident!

The blizzard worsened, and snowflakes became crystals. Outside it was 27 degrees and our right windshield wiper failed us. Abbie had a fever and I was nauseated, ready to toss cookies (and cashew chicken with rice). Then the formidable words came out of Abbie's mouth, "I need to go poo poo!!" Well, we did the 99 Ranch shopping bag tag team, one holding the bag and one holding Abbie, and managed to, well, help her with business.

We fumbled around looking for tylenol in the packed trunk, giving her meds without measuring cup, and tried to share jokes and remain calm. We sent FB status updates but there was no connection. It was just us, snowflakes, freezing cold, and God. IF you are ever in a similar situation, you will really need (1) one big sleeping bag, (2) medication, (3) full tank of gas, (4) a sense of humor, and (5) a heart-to-heart talk with God while you are still conscious ~ And let Him know whether you'd like to receive Him and accept Jesus and the eternal life He gave you, because honestly, this life could end sooner than you'd expect. I was nauseous due to anemia and altitude sickness, and I felt my first full-blown panic attack coming on. But suddenly, the CD played, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet....", and that calmed me down. Also, I started giving thanks for what we do have, and that was our eternal life thru Jesus, our family is together, heater, calming music, plastic bag for Abbie's........., snacks/water in the car, gas in the tank.....etc. I braced for a night in the freezing cold, expecting to be snowed in, and waking up in our "Igloo-on-Wheels".

Suddenly, a police car zoomed past us followed by a huge sign from above.....it's not a midnight star, but a midnight snowplow, and it scraped ice while leading us from complete stop to a turtle's crawl down the dark, slippery path. Yet we weren't complaining at all, given our worst-case scenario earlier.  It was a miracle, that after an hour, this snowplow would come out of nowhere and open up a road for us! Abbie was feeling unwell and Caleb was nauseated. We prayed some more and tried to distract them with more jokes and see spy games. We followed the snowplow and trucks as our lives depended on them, and continued our 10mph journey for another 2  hours until we finally arrived after midnight ~ concluding our 15.5 hour journey!

I thank God for this incredible adventure, and I know that this experience helped me grow closer to Him and my family (and you!), realize my insignificance compared to the magnificent nature He has created, and give thanks for the things I take care for granted every day! Thank you for your prayers, and for embarking on this Christmas adventure with us!

必有童女懷孕生子;人要稱他的名為以馬內利。(以馬內利翻出來就是「 神與我們同在」。)(馬太福音1:23) This trip, I truly know what it means to have Emmanuel ~ God with us. Sometimes, there's no one but God with us! (^_^)


Mr. Trager's Class Party 2009 !!

Today Caleb's class had a blast!! They had pizza, craft, book exchange and cookie decorating party! I was honored to be able to  join all the parents in helping (ok, I didn't actually help...I just stood around looking busy) and seeing our kids so well-behaved in public!

Mr. Trager has a magical way of keeping the class in near-perfect order, often speaking quietly (almost in a hushed tone) and looking gently and firmly at his 32 kids! The kids adore him, and by example, he shows them how to be respectful, firm, patient, and kind to one another!

It was so fun to watch each child and see how they've grown in the past years. Some kids were in Caleb's 1st and 2nd grade classes, and I still remember having to do the cookie decorating FOR them! Now they are 8 years old and all of them do things independently, even helping one another out!

I am so proud of them, and for the parents (Clap! Clap!)! Good job, everyone! Keep up the good work! And thank you, Mr. Trager, for the lifelong lessons you are teaching our little ones! Oftentimes, these are not things from textbooks but from a life full of enriching experiences! Mr. Trager was surprised when we presented him with a basket full of "Night Out" goodies! One mom suggested we ALL go with him to Beachfire Grill together!

I was surprised when I heard the theme song of "Jeopardy" in the background almost at the end of the day. I learned that this is a count-down time when the kids have to be seated and attentive before the song ends!

In the slideshow, you will see a variety of interesting events taking place in the classroom. I noticed a little "note" on Mr. Trager's desk from a "director of retired reindeer in Russia", which explains where your kids got the beautiful "Polar Express" jingle bells from!

Also, it was great to get a picture of the "parent-elves" who made today's party possible!

I witnessed Mr. Trager and the kids enjoy "pay day" Fridays, which is when the kids are rewarded for upholding their tasks listed on the "Resopnsibility Chart". This chart shows who the teacher's pet, trash people, line leaders, dusters, bankers, sweepers and spongers are for the week. This will help greatly when they get married, so thank you Mr. Trager ~ and our kids' future spouses thank you too!

It was very interesting to see the process! Our government officials should mimic see how orderly these kids proceeded this election (ok, lotto) process!The kids also did a victory dance at the end of the day to celebrate!

Dear Mr. Trager, Room#11-12 kids, and Parents ~ We love you and are so blessed to know you this year! Merry Christmas and see you in 2010!

Caleb's and Abbie's Last Week of School in 2009 !!

It is hard to believe, but Caleb's school year is 5.5 hours from being officially over! I have this 'flash forward' of him finishing up high school and I too, am still blogging here at our the dining table on his graduation morning too! Abbie and I went to pick up Caleb a couple days ago and ran into Mr. Joe, our Chaparral principal! Abbie saw him and screamed, "Sponge Bob"!! I quickly covered her face and apologized profusely to the principle ~ until I looked up at him and realized that Abbie was right! Mr. Joe really IS Spongebob!

Abbie asked to take a picture with HER principle, since she has assumed the position of "Incoming Kindergartener ~ September 2010", and as an official Chaparral student, she wanted a picture with SpongeBob. And so.....we did!

I had a fun discussion with Mr. Joe, and found out that his wife (a teacher), is my UCSD alumni "sister"! They have 3 beautiful kids, and are very athletic! Mr. Joe went to Cal State Fullerton, and it was wonderful to chat with him in his pajamas! Abbie was amused and content looking at the pictures of Mr. Joe's family in his office!

It was pajama day, so all the kids in school studied, played, and ate lunch in their PJs. I wish we had that tradition in my 'past life',  when I was still working outside of my home (at my drug company). Imagine our company director of Regulatory Affairs, Mr. D, walking into our weekly meetings in his Spiderman fleece PJs! We will definately pay attention! I also got to see the kids during recess in their PJs too! Wish they had special dress-up days in my childhood elementary school too!

Today is the last day of school, and Caleb's class will have a Christmas & Pizza Party! I was so blessed that Abbie's preschool director let us bring Abbie in today for a special Chapel service, and I can leave Abbie at school until I'm done helping Caleb's class party! Stay tuned everyone!

p.s. Here's the very first "Chapel time" in Abbie's "Kid's Kingdom" Preschool in Calvary Chapel RSM!

Dear Chaparral and Kid's Kingdom Principal, Teachers and Staff ~ Thank you for your love, wisdom, patience and time. You made the kids who they are today. We are blessed to have you in their lives!  Happy 2009 and We look forward to 2010 Together!


Nutcrackettes on the Loose!

Today is the last ballet day of the year for Abbie and her 5 ballerina friends! I was so excited to get her ready for her little 'show and dance' performance for the parents today!

Well, as Mr. Murphy would say.... "My Law states that ~ Meltdowns are mandatory during the most important recital of the year"....and here Abbie, out of the 15+ classes she's attended since Autumn....decided to do her very first melt down and refused to be anywhere near the dance floor.

I was ready to throw my own tantrum, so I decided to go to Kohl's for stress-relief... And after 20 minutes, I returned fully expecting her to still be planted on that chair. Well, lo and behold.... there she is, dancing along and preparing for her mini-winter recital!

The girls did a fantastic rendition of "Nutcracker" and "Susie Snowflake"! My mommy friends were so happy and enjoyed their little girls' performance!

I learned that sometimes it's hard to separate our expectations of our lovely kids from our hope of unconditionally loving them. When they don't appreciate and enjoy what we've done ~ oftentimes through fire and ice, for them ~ we get frustrated, angry and disappointed. At Kohl's, I had to regain my composure and emotions, and remind myself of what really matters.  What matters, is that the kid is happy and knows what makes her comfortable. It's not about me, but about her experiences. If she doesn't dance, that's ok. She will lose some memorable moments, but she will also gain some self-calming skills too!

Merry Christmas to my Sweet Nutcrackettes! And Thank you Miss Marcie for your love and patience! We love our dance studio managers Chris and wife, and may the Lord bless you!


On the 12th day of Christmas/December....we bring to you...12 Princesses!

We had a blast at Mizuki's 4th birthday party on Saturday! It was really exciting to go to "Bears, Buddies &Toys" party place in Laguna Niguel for the first time!

It's like a "Build-A-Bear" PLUS princess-themed toy store and party place all rolled into one!All the girls arrived in their regular outfits, went into a special room, and Voila! Princesses are here!

They also were given pretty little princess crowns to wear on their heads!

We were greeted with Ariel and Cinderella and a dozen "Mini-Princesses" all dressed up! Abbie also changed into her Cinderella outfit and it was so fun to see the little girls (and a few little pirates) pick their animals to be stuffed!

They listened to a wonderful story, gave their blessings to Mizuki, and danced around too!

Lunch was delicious, and mommy Yoshiko and daddy Fumi even made sure parents had hot coffee from Starbucks and exotic tea!  I feel so blessed that we have so many good friends to share birthday wishes with!

Happy Birthday, Mizu! Thanks for inviting us! We love this party place!


We get "Worst Parents of the Year" Award!

Last night we had a good discussion at our fellowship about Jesus' birth and the events surrounding it. Hubby facilitated a wonderful discussion and we happily ate desserts and chatted with friends afterwards.

We didn't know at the time that we'd be one of those parents on 'supernanny' who actually lost their child and didn't even know it !

Abbie and I drove home in my Odyssey while hubby and boy went home in the CRV (or so I thought). When we arrived at the stoplight on Oso Parkway near our home (at 10:45pm) on this rainy, cold night ~ I noticed hubby's CRV next me! Excitedly I rolled down the window to wave to him, and he grimaced and hollered, "Caleb's in your car..... right?" Then....chills ran down my spine and I realized that....we both thought one of us had him! Hubby zipped back to church while Abbie and I sped home.

Turned out that our beloved church buddies Tony and Erinn, bless their heart, saw Caleb meandering and called hubby to inform him that we've evidently forgotten to bring our child home. I told hubby that we'll be nominated the worst parents of the year for sure. Thank goodness Tony and Erinn considered bringing Caleb home for an impromptu slumber party (followed by a call to child services?)!

So....Now we know firsthand how badly Mary and Joseph felt when they realized boy Jesus wasn't with them on their way home! But we're not THAT bad, right? We discovered after 30 minutes....not 24 hours, right? Unfortunately, unlike boy Jesus, our boy wasn't teaching in the synagogues, but playing hide-and-seek in one of the classrooms... hence daddy couldn't find him!

The Boy Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:39-52)

[39] When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.

[41] Every year his [Jesus']  parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. [42] When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. [43] After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. [44] Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. [45] When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.

[46] After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. [47] Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. [48] When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." [49] "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"


On the 9th Day of Christmas your true love sent to You (via her blog) ~ "6 Ballerinas Dancing"!

Today I brought my camera to Abbie's ballet class. Usually I would go to Kohl's or Home Goods for that one good hour, but today I decided I'll sneak into the dance studio and hopefully.....Abbie's teacher Miss Marcie won't notice me.

 I figured it is one week before Abbie's ballet class is done for the year 2009, so I better take some videos and share the holiday joy with Miss Marcie and the attentive parents of these sweet little ballerinas!

Miss Marcie is a gentle, sweet, and patient ballet teacher whom I admire greatly. Abbie enjoys and looks forward to every class! So I dedicate this post to her!

Looking in from outside the one-sided glass is very different from experiencing the action and festive music from the inside! I had a blast sitting and filming the action! The girls are practicing their little "Nutcracker" dance too!

The hour went by so quickly, I was reluctant to leave after class was dismissed. It was so fun and enjoyable! So I think I'll come back next week and record some more of the girls' Christmas dances! It will be the last class of 2009!

Stay tuned! And hope you enjoyed what Soph sent you on the 9th Day of Christmas (December 9th) ~ Six Ballerinas Dancing!

For the 'choo choo' dance, I tried a new cinematography technique known as "Soph's 360"! Abbie shrieked with joy when she saw herself dancing on the ceiling! Try it for yourself sometimes, it's really neat!


California's Ark ~ (^_^)

Today we woke up to something round, wet, cold.........hitting against our bedroom window. What is that called again? Oh yes, RAIN! Like people in Noah's days, we Californians are unfamiliar with this wet slippery substance typically known as *r-a-i-n*! And so....like any person in their right mind would do on a 55 degrees day.....Abbie and I ran outside and played in the rain (and held a tiny Dora umbrella that only shields someone the size of a cat).

Abbie had fun in the rain and refused to come inside the house. And our birds thought they were back in the wet rainforest....

And finally.....Caleb came back from his carpool all drenched!

What do we do in this crazy, messy, depressing weather? As you can see, Caleb (and Abbie) filled up on hot cocoa and chicken noodle soup. They also took hot baths (but that's censored, no pix~)!

Finally, they played "Hi Ho Cherry Oh!" board game! Now I know why Seattle people can easily get depressed.... There's nothing to do but eat, sleep, wake up and repeat (and change into dry clothes in between)! Driving anywhere is inconvenient, and No sun = no exercise = no happy hormones, and you just feel like curling up and doing nothing all day. So hats off to my fellow Seattle folks ~ You are my hero!!

When You've Had a Bad Day....

Sometimes, when things don't go our way, it is best to laugh it off, which is preferable to choking your spouse, children, or family pet, or at least make an effort to, anyway. This past weekend had not gone as wonderfully as we envisioned.

 It started with daddy provoking boy to tears because he couldn't put together his first 1,000 piece lego set in approximately 10 minutes (which is awfully complicated even for a 35 year old like me, though the box says "for 7-14 yr olds", IMO).

We then managed to compensate hubby's inadvertent parental cruelty by cajoling traumatized and weeping 8-yr-old with Shabu Shabu USA (near the Mission Viejo mall, for those of you shooting me with emails inquiring about this secretive and undeniably delicious place).

Here's the big shocker when we excitedly arrived at the restaurant at 12 noon on a Saturday!

Disappointed, we settled for another "gourmet" restaurant, suggested by our health food-loving, nutrition-conscious kids.... yup, you guessed it, we went to Micky Dees!

We then went to Costco to get our necessities (plus wants).....and while hubby skips along carefreely among the aisles.... here I am spending 'quality' time with the kids....

I seriously considered geting a hearing test, MONTHLY, after being around these two loudspeakers!
That night, we took our church friends to see the houselighting contest in our neighborhood. That didn't go too well after the kids started fighting.....about 1 minute after we got them seated and strapped down in the car...

So guys, like the chinese saying, 在人生中10 芝 8 9 不如您意 [in life, 8-9 things out of 10 don't go your way]. So try to laugh it off (or overdose on fruity rose milk tea, or do whatever it takes to relieve your stress)....because your day probably couldn't be worser than mine....Well, perhaps tomorrow, the table will be turned and your family will turn into a circus. Nevertheless, enjoy while this madness lasts, because one day we may actually miss it! Yeah.........right.


Caleb's Birthday Surprise!

Abbie and I bought a bike for Caleb, as we've shared in a previous post. But it turned out that Toys R Us oversold on this bike, and we were told (48 hrs later) to go back and pick out another one. As it turned out, due to their error, we got a great deal and a better, heftier, more expensive Mongoose bike with a 55% discount and free assembly!

Well, Abbie and I picked up the assembled bike and hid it in our trunk! We went to school and waited by his classroom when the bell rang. Here's Caleb and his 3rd grade teacher, Mr. Trager! We walked Caleb to our minivan. When we opened it he was thrilled! We also got him a Mongoose helmet, which will hopefully last 'till well into his teens ('cuz he has a small head, shhh....)!

It was lots of work to re-decorate the whole Christmas tree 'cuz I forgot to put the lights on first, but I'm glad I finally got that done when the kids are in school! And did you know that the tree drinks half a gallon of water almost daily?! Whoa......

Also got Abbie a rainbow "TuTu". See it under the tree? I can't believe Christmas comes in 21 days! Time flies!