Monday, March 19, 2012

The Reflective Post: Part 2

Early that Saturday morning the girls and I hit the open road and headed back to Peoria. We were spending the weekend there and had several appointments scheduled for that Monday morning. 
Quick catch-up: This is part of two of three installments regarding our family’s first trip back to the states. (Read part 1 here: The Reflective Post: Part 1 )After nearly a week of struggling to get some sleep – at the proper time – the girls and I find ourselves hitting the open road once again and heading back to Peoria. Since I’d scheduled several appointments for a Monday, we decided to spend the weekend there. Two words I could use to describe the weekend: wonderfully crammed!
I really do miss driving myself places, but this trip quickly reminded me of the reality of driving young children around. I do not miss driving with children complaining, yelling orders, and fighting from the back seat. The trip was a mixed-blessing for sure.
We started our whirlwind weekend attending our former neighbors Christmas party. In the 10 years we’ve known them, I’m not sure we’ve missed a party yet! Besides that, we got to totally surprise the host, who didn’t know we were coming! The hostess kept “the secret,” though. She knew we were coming because she’d called my old cell phone number a month or so before. You may recall that I’d switched phones with my mom before we left for China. Consequently, they had a chance to chat and catch up.
Let me tell you a little bit these wonderful people who hold a very special place in our hearts. They were our first neighbors when we moved into first house. They took us under their wings when didn’t know a soul in town. In fact, to announce that I was pregnant with LBean, I put a sign in our bathroom window because their kitchen window looked directly at it. When we remodeled our only bathroom in our first house, these were the people that gave us a key to their home and let us use their bathroom for not one, not two, but three weeks! They are those kind of people!
That weekend I tried to cram everything that LBean might have possibly mentioned that she missed or do some “regular” things that she missed. We went swimming at the local indoor swimming pool with friends and even ran into a former preschool classmate that had sent Lilly a pen-pal letter. Since the girls and Jamie fell asleep early after being worn out from swimming, I snuck out for a little girl time at the local Mexican restaurant. Nothing like chips & salsa and some gabbing with friends to make a girl feel good!
We attended our home church and the girls went to Sunday school (and we didn’t even have to take a bus to get there!). After church, we had lunch with friends. Later that evening, we went back to the church to catch up and eat with our small group. We plunked the food down in the middle of the table, pulled up chairs and ate, and talked the night away! It wasn’t nearly long enough, but it meant so much, especially during the busy Christmas season.
Me with two of my dearest friends...our friendship is older than our children!

This is quite a crew!

Monday was a slew of doctor’s appointments and dentist appointments. We took LBean & EBean to the one place they requested to eat...McDonald’s. They got to run around the play land and we caught up with even more friends who met us there. Next, we snuck in a quick trip to the “square” to buy some cute hair bows -- a rarity in China.  This was a well-timed-out weekend!
At our last appointment of the day  -- the dentist – it was discovered that LBean had some “suspicious” spots on her teeth. We were told “the spots” should be monitored over the next few months. As they’re telling me this, I’m thinking: “What?!? We’ll be in China! How are we going to make this work?” I desperately tried to explain the situation that we were flying out in just under two weeks, and that coming back really wasn’t an option for us.
Regardless, we made an appointment for three days later and tried to mentally prepare ourselves for wasting an entire day on the road to come for her appointment. Clearly this was important and I wasn’t go to ignore it, but it was messing up my carefully planned week!
Thankfully, it all worked out. Here’s how: as Jamie and I were sitting there discussing what other errands we needed to run and when and how we were going to return his rental car, etc., the receptionist approached us and said that the doctor had finished an appointment early and could squeeze LBean in right now. What a relief! I was so happy and I need to make a mental note to take back some pearl earrings for everyone in the dentist’s office!
Our “cramming” didn’t just end with this wonderful weekend. Let’s see, what else did we cram into the next few weeks?
-My niece, Rachel's basketball game.
-A trip to the salon to have my oldest niece, Alison, cut my hair.
-A trip to St. Louis to see the Illini v. Mizzou basketball game and catch up with more friends.
Me & my Dad!

Jamie with his college friend J.C. and his wife Jennifer.

Jamie standing under the Toyota sign talking with
Craig, one of the famous college "study buddies".

Me with my friend and former college roommate Sally.

-Another party for EBean’s birthday, this time we celebrated with family.
-Lunch with my best friend from high school.
-Lunch with a treasured
friend from college.
-Jamie and LBean went to his sister’s elementary classroom to talk about China and teach them how to write some Chinese numbers.
-Shopping, shopping, shopping...I wish I could say that shopping was all fun, but mostly it was hurried and frantic. Everyone needed new shoes. Quality shoes are hard to find in China and it’s hard to find shoes that fit my larger-than-the-typical Asian woman-sized feet. I found some clothes for the spring, things for LBean’s May birthday party, and food and household items.
-Four different family Christmas celebrations. We made them all!  Here are some of my favorite photos from Christmas.
The annual Christmas photo at my parents before dashing
out the door to Christmas Eve service.
My nephew Ian with his
steak-flavored Pringles...all the way from China.

My niece Molly with her new pink Chinese slippers.

EBean & LBean showing off some new
dress-up clothes.

My sister-in-law Angela with a book
that I gave her for Christmas called "Dreaming In Chinese"

EBean and Molly putting the finishing touches on
the Baby Jesus Cake (everything on the cake
symbolizes something related to Christ's birth).

My niece Alison and Jamie's grandmother, wearing her
new Chinese freshwater pearls.
Ian and his new Mickey kung fu
t-shirt from Hong Kong Disneyland.

Jamie with the Christmas tree I won
at a charity auction.

Uncle Matt with his new Chinese ear picks
from Hong Kong Disneyland. What every man needs!

Grandma Callie with her Chinese painted tile...
a pig of course (from the Chinese zodiac).

By the end of the week I was literally exhausted. I didn’t want to say no to anything. This was my one chance (at least for a while) to see friends and family and I didn’t want any regrets. I did spend one day lounging around on the couch because I was fighting off sickness and didn’t want to spend 14 hours on a plane feeling miserable.
The last few days and nights were spent slowly and methodically packing our 9 bags. I had Christmas presents, new clothes and shoes, food and other comfort items to stuff into our bags. I thought I was going to have to leave a small box of things behind, but when I turned it on to its side to weigh it (yes, I had to the luggage weigh-in dance again) things shifted and I got it all to fit!
LBean & EBean playing by "the holding area"
with all of our Christmas treasures.

We said goodbye to some of our family and my mom and Jamie’s parents divided our luggage between their two cars and we headed back to Peoria. We were ending our trip where we started, at our friends’ house. The grandparents said a quick goodbye, no reason to prolong the emotional part. 
Our college friends that had faithfully sat with us through 10 years of Illini football drove up to Peoria as well to watch the Illini bowl game with us. We spent a quiet New Year’s Eve with some of our closet friends. We stayed up late chatting and trying to avoid the inevitable. Finally, we gave in and headed to bed.
We were up by 3 a.m. or so to make our 5:30 a.m. flight. We had our personal chauffeur (my friend) to drive us to the airport and it did make the check-in process go much smoother than our move to China.
But, the big question is, did Jamie have to drag me back on the plane? To be continued... 


  1. Replies
    1. You'll have to wait for the next post ; ) It's so suspenseful!