The First White Thanksgiving of our Lives!

This Thanksgiving we have had the most memorable "Perfect" Snow "Storm"! (^_^) Hubby accepted his offer from Johnson and Johnson and would be leaving on Thanksgiving week with his little blue TSX, along with his work clothes, toaster and rice cooker! Before leaving, his coworker suggested that he drive instead of fly, creating a fun-filled, unforgettable family memory for all. I'd like to wring the sweet little necks of Mr. Ken and all of hubby's Alcon buddies for this 'wonderful' suggestion because that was the most scary trip of our lives! Of course, looking back, I'd have to say that this was an incredibly fun and exciting trip and I'll never forget it!

We embarked on our 3,000 mile trip on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The car was filled to the roof with abovementioned gears plus sleeping bags and luggage. We could not see out the back door! We went to San Diego, then over to Tucson, AZ. Strangely, a big storm followed us all the way from our house to AZ (plus fog, hail, etc.)

Snow Flurries!

Then we went over to Texas, and things started to get interesting......and icy! We were surprised that the storm had turned into icy rain, and before we knew it, snow had fluttered down and we were all driving on icy freeway! Pretty soon we scrambled to call all the hotels in Van Horn, Texas, as darkness began to blanket us. All 8 hotels were fully booked, and we felt like Mary and Joseph with no place for our fighting, whining, hungry and a bit annoying little offspring to stay. We went to a random hotel by a freeway and I begged for a way to find a place to stay. And if you've not experienced a miracle, this is one that I can personally attest to.

Tons of people filled the tiny lobby of that hotel, and as I patiently waited my turn, the lady at the counter (who also didn't have space in her hotel) kindly offered to search for a hotel room for me in Hotel El Capitan (the most famous hotel/landmark in West Texas)! I had called 5 min. ago and there was no room. She magically found one last room online, and mentioned it's a very small room.....but I said, "I'll TAKE it!" before she finished her sentence. We dashed to that hotel and prayed that the one available room wasn't a computer glitch or something....and blessed we were, it was available!


The room turned out to be quite small, and poor hubby had to sleep on the floor, but we were happy to have a roof over our heads.

Standing Room only at the El Capitan hotel  (^_^)

When we were checking in, a man barged in asking for a room, and the calm concierge told him that they were completely booked and that the sheriff's department had opened up emergency shelter at convention center and put several cots there for those stranded. Boy were we blessed!

The El Capitan Fountain Froze Overnight!

That night we had fine dining of grilled salmon, pistachio steak and something else (I can't remember now that it has been about a months, but it was a really yummy meal!)! After the meal, Abbie then proceeded to hold her throat and complain that it hurts....and we told her she was probably just tired from the trip. By 12 midnight she was still coughing and flopping around on our little bed, so hubby went to the hotel store to buy a claritin tablet. One tablet......he came back at 12:30am saying it was $2.75 for that tablet, and the expiration date was.... 9/2013! I told him to just pop it in because we had no choice and thankfully she relaxed and went to sleep. Unfortunately, 2 hours later hubby sat up and snorted. It turned out that his CPAP (Apnea machine) had died because the whole hotel (plus the whole town of Van Horn, in fact) had lost power.

The next day we were stranded due to the snowstorm and freeway closure, but thankfully we were in the best hotel in town. We scraped the car windows and tried to go to local grocery store. But all stores in the whole town were closed! So we chatted with travelers from all parts of the U.S. and left the following day towards Arkansas.

How did you get into the room, ladies? Why are you on the curtains?

We then headed to Tennesee, where we were met with an incredible experience of Nature vs. the Elements in the hotel! Abbie noticed a little ladybug on our hotel room wall, then another, then another....and eventually she found 9 of them! It was soooo cold outside that they had entered the room somehow (window/vents) to seek warmth! Hubby later read on wall street journal that ladybugs in hotel rooms were a sign of good luck, just like birds nesting on the trees in your yard (Asian saying).

We had a perilous cross country trip, literally at the heels of "Snowstorm Boreas"! This storm immobilized the mid-West all the way up to the Northeastern states! The roads were snowy, icy, windy, freezing and dear hubby drove 98% of the way!

WE loved Virginia! It's a nice place to live....hmm....maybe one day we will!

We had a "Happy Birthday Caleb" dinner at a wonderful restaurant in Virginia, where servers came and chatted with us and gave us ice cream for Caleb's birthday pie, free of charge!

Hollywood Café was a very yummy and highly recommended restaurant!

Birthday boy ... surprised by the birthday cake...ur....pie!
The people in Virginia were very friendly, like people you see in diners conversing with one another in the 80's sit-com. We then went up to Maryland, and finally....finally....to Pennsylvania!

We Made It! 7 days later!

We finally brought hubby to the Philly suburbs to start his new job/adventure after 7 days of being on this freezing adventure!

Hubby's English Village Apt! Icy on Thanksgiving day!

His apartment was on the 3rd floor and I felt like we were taking him to college! He would stay here to start his new job on 12/1 while the kids and I would fly back and start cleaning house.

Hubby cooks yummy chicken porridge! We had no tables, beds, or chairs!

So our adventure for Thanksgiving 2013 came to a safe and memorable end! We plan to list our CA house at the end of January 2014! We're thankful that we made it there and back home safely and that we had decided to drive to Philly.

Finally got 2 folding chairs & 1 big plastic table at Costco!

I'm not sure how we survived the trip (the inside of the car was equally, if not more....gut-wrenching and head-aching than the outside of the car, due to kid-sibling-fighting-factor), but I will always remember it! I learned that the United States is a REALLY big place, and no matter where we go, if God's with us, then we're in a Good place! (^_^) Thank you all for your prayers!

In front of daddy's apt! Double Rainbow came down and reminded of God's faithfulness!!


Miracles Happen Every Day ~ Like Today! (^_^)

When hubby and I looked back at the last 3 months, it seemed like a Dream! Actually, more like a nightmare in the beginning, but now as life unfolded, we realized it was a MIRACLE!  We couldn't imagine life to take on such a dramatic transformation in merely 88 days! When God is at work in our lives, Boy.... His plans are monumental and life-altering!

One day early August, hubby saw a pop-up on the corner of his LinkedIn screen as he worked on his resume. It said, "Micro-Catheter Engineer, Johnson & Johnson. So he thought it sounded interesting, had something to do with eye and catheter (his background), so he sent in his resume online. Then he forgot about it. At Sequoia, he received a voicemail about phone interview with HR in Johnson and Johnson but he had no idea what job this was. In September, after the phone interview, he was asked to have an on-site interview at the Pennsylvania headquarter of J and J....on his 44th Birthday Eve!

It was a grilling 6 hours interview (plus lunch...but their on-site cafeteria, chefs who cooked to order, and huge grilled catfish entree was unforgettable!), but he was very impressed with the talented scientists, the wonderful potential boss, and research team there! So on his birthday eve, he completed his only on-site interview in this career-search journey thur far.  This week....we got the official (PAPER) offer letter and related forms, and we so shocked and grateful. God is soooo good and this whole process had His fingerprints all over it! Hubby had applied for about 80 jobs from SF down to SD, and a couple of them in the East Coast. We had no in-person interview at all (but lots of phone interviews which didn't lead to further interviews). Had he not change his job to Bausch & Lomb last May, he would not have been laid off this August, hence we would still be living status-quo as the last 16 years had been!

Hume Lake in Sequoia (Hume Christian Center)

We were also so blessed because this job description seemed far-reaching, yet they hired hubby. Hubby applied for the micro-catheter Engineering position, but they hired him to work with the design contract company on the actual console (macular degeneration machine) itself! It is a job more for Electrical Engineers, it seems (^_^). We spoke with friends and family, and realized that many of their parents had macular degeration, and they themselves were at risk as well. We are so thankful for this opportunity to venture out into a new life and a new world. I feel like a college freshman to be.... ready to spread my wings upon the big, vast, mysterious, yet inviting sky!

Do you Think Our 3 Amigos are ready for Philly? Or Not?

Getting the chicks used to SNOW....by giving them ICE cubes! They were confused!

If we did not face layoff the last 3 months, we would never have dreamed of going to a wonderful company like Johnson and Johnson, and actually MOVING to the other side of the  United States! Thankfully it is a beautiful place with New England states just a couple hours train ride away! God is so good, and his blessings are unfathomable!

What to Do when Waiting for Offer ~ RELAX!
So We all watched the new Japanese drama:  DOCTOR X  !! REALLY GOOD!

Thank you for standing by us in the whole journey....not only was it a job-hunting journey, but a soul-searching one as well. We will continue to update about our migration to the East as soon as information arrives! Our biggest head-scratcher at this time is.... HOW do we relocate our whole zoo? Perhaps our feathered friends all can fly East for the winter and save us a bundle on pet transport!



Good or Bad News? Hubby Flies North for the Winter!! ~(^_^)~

      ~Hubby napped with Mocha after sending out 45 resumes last week ~

Wow, life truly is like a box of chocolates (from See's candies)....you never know what you're gonna get! I always liked dark chocolate covered almonds from Mission Viejo mall....but very soon....I think our family will be trying a brand new flavor ~ Philly's dark chocolate covered pretzels!

On 9/22, Autumn appeared at our church lobby, ragged and hungry. She became our newest family member!

Life was not easy the past 6 weeks, as hubby searched high and low for job opportunities. These days, it is almost impossible to get a face-to-face interview. Hubby only had 1 face to face since July! Being home in the last 2.5 months, however, we treasured precious moments spent together cooking, walking, chatting, and hanging out together. Since we were married 15+ years ago, he's never had this long of a break! Waiting is the biggest challenge for him, he said. But I know that this is a defining and refining stage for us all, and we are learning to stick together and lean on God, knowing from experience that He gives us the best, always! Patience is so hard (esp. when hubby's previous company insurance ran out last week), but I look back and see how God carried us in his arms as we crossed this uncertain terrain!

When mocha turned 6 mos 1 day (9/29) Sunday, she laid a GREEN egg!!
Abbie baked daddy's surprise 44th bday cake with mocha's egg on 10/2!
The following Sunday, hubby sunny-sided-up Mocha's egg! Orange yolk!

Friends and family blessed us tremendously as we shared our (lack of) job situation. Everyone prayed for us and encouraged us with their own tales of job-hunting and lay-off horror stories. The good news is that eventually, if we keep on with persistence, we WILL find a job! Hang on, and let God take the steering wheel!

~ ~ Would our family go from this "BEFORE" Picture ~ ~

..............to THIS picture?............

~ ~ AFTER ~ ~ Let it Snow... PENNSYLVANIA !! ~ ~

After more than a dozen phone interviews (which ended....right there), hubby got called to go to Johnson and Johnson for a face-to-face, 6 hour interview in Pennsylvania! He was very nervous and excited, all rolled into one, because the project is a revolutionary cord blood stem-cell delivery system with hopes to bring vision back to people with macular degeneration.

George took hubby to tour China town!
So hubby jumped on the plane on the plane and off to Philly he went. On his birthday eve, he faced a large panel (of genetic scientists, HR, hiring manager) for 6 hours. Our buddy George took him around Philly and the boys had a wonderful 44th bday dinner for dear hubby!

Yummy Cantonese Restaurant in Philly Chinatown

To make a long story short, 3 weeks after his interview, we get a phone call. Coincidentally, the donation truck was coming today so I was cleaning out tons of toys and puzzles from Abbie's toy bins and bookshelves upstairs.

Hubby sounded super excited and gave me a thumbs-up gesture as he happily talked with the man who is to be his future boss. They had given him a verbal offer!! YEAY!  We both had mixed feelings for the rest of the day, as we cleaned out clothes from our closet for donation. Part of us were excited about embarking on a new adventure on the East Coast, where we have never lived before! But the other part already started to miss our loved ones!

Happy July Family Reunion and Welcome Baby Christopher!

We also had a back up plan.... See, hubby had interviewed with Medtronics (a heart valve company he worked for in 1995) yesterday, so we had hoped that maybe this local company would offer him the job.

Ok, kids are hungry after 5 hr basketball championship. Happy Bday Grandpa!


It was only 2 miles from our church, and he could join us for lunch after our mom's fellowships on Thursdays! Unfortunately, we got a call this afternoon that this position has been filled by another candidate.

The 3 amigos shower together ~ for the 1st time! (Wake up, Autumn!)

But God is good, as we had prayed for a clear direction, not too many options that we didn't know our way. And it looks like Johnson and Johnson is front and center, and it is where God would take us for the next few years!?

Surprisingly, today the orchid which lives in my front porch....blossomed! I know they live indoors usually, but hubby/Caleb are allergic to plants so it thrived the last 6 months outside! I guess the flower is telling me that it can brave cold outdoor temp. and hot sun/wind, so I will definately be able to do the same....in snowy cold Pennsylvania!

My orchid lived in the outdoors since March....and now she's re-blossoming again!

Our plan would be this: Hubby would go first (maybe early November!), and the kids and I would stay until school ends next June. I'm sure that this big change will be challenging at first, but with God and loved ones who pray for us and encourage us....nothing is too difficult! (^_^)

Thank you ALL for your love and faithful prayers the last 3 months! We are determined to move forward with joy, flexibility and faith. I think I need to get myself a BIG Snowsuit and rightfully a nice pair of UGG boots, as I will be shoveling snow probably during this time next year! I feel "Brrrr...." just thinking about it! The weather today is super sunny and 82 degrees!

p.s. I remembered how God told Abraham to trust and obey, though the future ahead is unknown. And He would lead His people to the land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:3).....  This time I really know how Abraham feels, going places simply by faith! I have never been to the East Coast (more than 1 week in my life, see NY pix below!) but I am at peace knowing that God is taking me to the Promised Land....filled with... Cheese and Steak (Philly-style)?!?! HUGS....and like a good soap (Soph) opera, this story WILL be continued, I promise!

4 years ago this weekend, we went to visit our buddies Julie & George in New York!
Who would've known, this year, hubby will be going to their neighborhood very soon!


~ Our Wonderful, Bitter-Sweet Stay at Sequoia ~

I love our one and only family picture....except..... how can I edit out my butt?

This has been an unusually rough summer as news of hubby’s company (Bausch and Lomb) acquisition (by Valeant) loomed over our heads. We knew that the day would come….but surprisingly, It wasn’t long before the ax brought hubby home! On 8/7, hubby came home with 5 boxes of work stuff, including his favorite Chinese tea set and puffy casual office slippers.  Though we were in for a challenging August (and onwards), I knew this was a special time for our family. We’ve never experienced layoffs in our lives (another blessing to count!), so this was a golden opportunity for the kids (and parents) to learn how life could still be fun and meaningful without all the stuff and guarantees! While tossing out online resumes at lightening speed, hubby also spent lots of time playing “Texas Hold’em” with the kids, cooking delicious foods (like steak and chinese chicken noodle soup), and hanging out with us! Back in June, we had already booked a 7-day stay at a modest cabin in Hume Lake Christian Center at Sequoia National Park, so we decided that we should stick to our plans. This was a good opportunity to get away and not think about job openings and interviews (or the lack thereof, at this time).

The coordination of 4 beloved friends to care for our numerous feathered, furry and scaly friends took more communication and time than the packing itself, and I’m so thankful that all of my buddies (despite one mom’s extreme fear of any creature with a small head and a beak) offered to help out without hesitation (they may be regretting now, but I’m out of reach on all electronic levels, hahahaha). I hope my two sweet chickens don’t fly over the wall, attack their chickie-sitters, or get stolen/eaten in our absence….
Abbie does NOT like the little triangle house.... We all kept bumping our heads on the walls!

After a gruelsome, nauseating 7.5 hour trip up the mountainous terrain to our final destination, we were shocked to find that our online elegant, 2 bedroom cabin turned out to be a triangle (half-built-looking) scrawny little homestead with a super hot triangle attic/loft divided by a piece of board (carving out the website’s touted “beautiful 2 bedrooms”). It was like ordering a big, fat, juicy premium burger from the menu and being handed a tiny, dry value-deal cheeseburger…without cheese.  

Find Abbie among the Card-playing, Dodger-watching boys!

We eventually accepted our fate and it turned out we didn’t need all that much space after all, since grandpa Caleb, grandson Caleb and daddy Mark spent 85% of the day planted on the sofa playing “The Game” (as it was called by hubby, ‘cuz he doesn’t know what that game  was called). Maybe it was Napoleon or Bridge or something. The excitement wore off after 2 hours for mama Soph, because I was literally living like the olden-days mom in the black and white 60’s TV show….I love Lucy?!
The kids built super cool forts at Hume Lake!

There was no cell phone connection, no Texting/WhatsApp/Facebook/Email/Internet access, no TV (well, there was, but the boys hogged up the Dish-network watching Taipei vs. Japan Little League baseball & Dodgers games all week long), no rice cooker/toaster……..not even sofa space for Soph! I didn’t know what to do all day long! So I read and read and by day 3, I’ve exhausted myself of all my books, magazines, even reading all print-outs stuck on the cabin fridge, and was sooo ready to go home. I was bored to tears by Monday night and decided that hubby should not consider applying to be a Hume Lake full time employee, as we originally daydreamed about earlier in the day.

ROARING RIVER WATERFALL (from 12,000 ft elevation)!

The good thing was that every day I walked about an hour down, then up the mountainous roads to the General Store in order to experience some type of civilization besides sitting around with my beloved card-playing, junk-food eating, TV-watching couch potatoes. That was the highlight of my day! Each day I walked up and down the 45 degree mountain sweating and realized know why people have so many kids in the olden days….. because there was simply NOTHING to do all day long!   So, people had to DO SOMEthing, right? Anyways,   I insisted we leave the house at least once a day. We had fun driving on our golf-cart for the free tour and hearing the Hume Lake tour guide share about the history of this wonderful 320 acre Christian Center. It was a miracle they were able to buy this huge place back in the 40’s! (http://www.humelake.org/about/hume-history/)

We also went down to the south side of Hume Lake and enjoyed hours of playing in the water! The kids (grudgingly at first, esp. tween boy Caleb) spent 2 hours building their cool forts/moats while Grandpa took beautiful scenic pictures for his next book.  I was just glad to be out of the cabin! Tomorrow hubby, Caleb and I will go on the Zipline (glide down a dinky metal wire with minimal safety gear) ride! I can’t wait to go on this ride because that will be the highlight of my day.  

Can you spot me in the picture? For my birthday wish this year, I’m gonna be adventure,
enjoy God’s surprises, and hang on to the tail end of my 30’s!

Each day in the mountains felt like 40 hours instead of 24. The day stands still when you are in the middle of nowhere (ESP. without mom friends to chat with). I was beginning to have conversations with the squirrels and tiny pine tree sprouts crossing my path because I seriously had no one to converse with. Now I think that’s ok because I should savor the moments that daddy and grandpa are occupying the kids! Abbie doesn’t come to me and whine, “I’m Bored” every 75 seconds anymore! I suppose Human Nature always complains of what they do not have at the moment…. Like wanting a Vacation when stuck home in the daily rat race, and complaining that home is sweet and comfy while we are stranded on the mountain top (with super dry lips and sneezing uncontrollably from pine pollens). Yesterday Abbie and I went for a 1 hour walk…only to get caught in a thunderstorm after we bought 6 Airheads at the General store….a mile away from our cabin! My first reaction was “this is horrible!”….but now I think it is extremely memorable, because we’ve never been so wet and helpless and determined to reach the same goal (Get Home!) together!! We also raced to pick up the prettiest pine cones lining the hillsides, and look forward to decorating our front yard with them! What I thought was Boring was now exciting, and what I thought was exciting (Access to electronics) were actually Distractions! My perspective slowly began to change. 

Simple Pleasures: Making PB and J sandwiches for everyone by the river!
Today Abbie and I wandered off to the back patio, looked down, and discovered a slope full of baby pine sprouts! As I beheld these little ones, a thought hits me, “Wow, if under these harsh, dry, and rocky conditions, a 2-inch sprout can grow, thrive, and reach 7 or 8 stories high over time……Then surely hubby, and I, and the kids, can overcome our challenges however difficult they may seem right now!!”  ((^_^))  Who knew that playing with pine cones and transferring little pine sprouts could bring about such a big inspiration! This trip was beginning to take on a special meaning.
Abbie poses with little sprouts....then we replanted them back!

God wanted to show me something bigger than my own self-preoccupation. Another thing that struck me was that, these Sequoia trees, and squirrels, and Blue jays, and wild mallards, and whatever else was crawling/flying/growing out there…..Didn’t have a care in the world and didn’t mind if people were watching them, or if no one was watching them. They enjoyed BEING, period. They don’t need to please, perform, compare or compete with one another. Maybe people get away once (or many times a year) to the mountains or oceans where no one knows them exactly for the same reasons….so they can be anonymous and carefree and just BE.

God's Comforting Words were everywhere during our stay!

It’s harder to be in this natural state when you have neighbors, bosses, coworkers, parents from your kids’ school, friends, relatives, or phone/door marketers all revolving around you on any given day. It’s actually quite liberating not having to do anything productive but just vege out all day long. The result of this cherished down time is a super clear mind… and an enlarged waistline (esp. with the amount of real and junk foods we consumed)…..unless you hike up and down a steep mountain road 1+ hour a day. I enjoyed taking pictures of all the wildlife and majestic scenery of mountains, Giant Sequoias and the Lake ~ And I’m thankful my Samsung Galaxy was actually really clear and the pix came out great!

So after we descend this mountain, we will begin a brand new adventure. Not only will it be a new school year for the now 3rd/7th graders, but for hubby and me as well (Gasp! I will be 39 years old when we leave our tiny triangular cabin on 8/24!). We don’t know where God will lead us geographically or vocationally, but I know that if we walk with Him daily and grow spiritually, anywhere is a good place to be!! Thank you all for your love, prayers, friendship and for just BEING here!

Hugs and blessings,
Soph (Written on 8/20/13)

Cute Yellow-legged frog hangs out with blue dragonfly

I wanted tiny bottom-feeder fishes for my birthday ~ So hubby went and scooped away!

p.s. We came down the hill on my big “39” birthday yesterday (8/24) and I was blessed with well-wishes from all my dear family and friends! (^_^) Thank you ALL!!!!   (On 8/25/13 at 6:12am)