Archive for December, 2011

Happy 2012!

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

This year’s family holiday gathering was on New Year’s Eve. The plan was to get together and gift exchange in the afternoon before the buffet dinner at Golden Coast. As years go by, I am beginning to agree that perhaps Christmas gift-giving is really more for the kids. We have agreed to give each of our nephews and nieces a gift while preparing just one for the adults to exchange. It was great fun to see the kids open their gifts. Here are our precious little kiddos (minus Joel and Nathan who we missed dearly):

beautiful babies!

As we do every year, we got a gift for Papa and Mama from all of us. This year, we got them a roller bag that they can take to work. Also, Wensley had this great idea to give them mugs with the pictures of all the grandkids. I think they were very pleased with their gifts this year. Here, they are holding a family photo frame from Allen and Kristen:

gift for papa and mama

It’s always crazy and messy after gift-giving time because of all the Christmas wrapping papers. The kids had a great time playing in the middle of all of them. It was a warm and lovely time for the family. Here’s this year’s picture. As always, we miss TKNJ! We look forward to their coming in two months’ time!

family picture 2012

Kitayama

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Shixiong and I first met in this restaurant in Newport Beach. We decided to recreate and reminisce about our first date even though it was mere months ago. Still, it was meaningful to reflect on what we thought about at the time. We tried to recall our discussions and laughed about our first impressions of each other. Just for fun, we ordered the same dish (combo #1). It was also a time to rejoice for where the Lord has led our relationship, even as we cast vision for the future. We feel great hope and confident of the Lord’s hand in it.

Again, I really have to invest in a better camera than my phone. What a poor photo for a such a significant event. Oh well. It certainly doesn’t take away from the wonderful lunch with my fiance.

first date

Formal Engagement

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

For most women, a marriage proposal happens only once. I’m blessed to have had two of them from the same man in a span of weeks, one private and the other more public. After our personal moment together where Shixiong asked me to marry him in private, we had a public one where his family came to our house and asked for my parents’ blessing. It was a semi-traditional way of asking for the daughter’s hand in marriage. After the families met and the formalities have been performed, what else is there to do? Celebrate with a Chinese banquet, of course.

At the restaurant, Shixiong broke out the ring box again and made a beautiful speech (too bad only half was caught on tape). He didn’t get down on one knee but he did declare his commitment and put the ring on my finger again. Then, he toasted my parents with the tea cup and formally called them “Ma” and “Pa.”

formal proposal

In front of our families, we declared our intent to marry. In essence, it is a public promise to each other that we are betrothed. The ring symbolizes our commitment to remain true to our promise until the wedding day.

formal picture

Hot off the press: Wedding Day is on March 10th. Save the Date!

another formal shot

Christmas Eve

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

During the holidays, we were invited to several gatherings, one of which was this hotpot dinner at a friend’s house. As we waited for the broth to boil, we waited by the living area and had fun taking pictures by their colorful Christmas tree. I don’t think they minded at all.

hotpot

One of the most significant events of this holiday season is the reunion of these three brothers after being away from each other for 11 years. What a privilege to have been a part of this memorable event! The smiles say it all.

brothers

This year, I got to spend Christmas eve with my fiance and his family. We set up the table for our guests. Though the plates, cups, and utensils were not exactly matching, what really mattered was the fun and fellowship we all had. We even got to share the meaning of Christmas with a couple of girls who asked about it. We also sang some Christmas songs when big brother played some favorites on the piano. Here’s my wonderful and responsible fiance checking to see if there’s enough for everyone.

christmas eve dinner

For many weeks now, I had been excited about spending Christmas with a special someone. Tonight, we reveled in the fact that we get to hold one another during this holiday season. I hope I will never take it for granted. It was a most special evening.

christmas eve

South Coast Plaza

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

One of the places we ventured is the mall. With all the Christmas decorations, I thought it would be a good place to take a stroll and take in the American consumer scene. While they made a couple of purchases, the most important activity was probably just people/culture watching (besides fighting jetlag). In a Prada store, I actually met one of my former students who recognized me. When she told me her name, I remembered her as this high school girl sitting in a classroom, not a sophisticated, well-dressed sales lady in a high-end store. I felt a certain pride to have students who are now part of society when I was a part of preparing them for it.

We saw this very tall Christmas tree and I took a picture of the family in front of it.

big brother's family

And here is me and Shixiong, one of our many growing collection of “couple pictures” albeit another blurry one.

christmas picture

Meeting New Family

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

This evening, I nervously awaited to meet Shixiong’s family who came from China. When I got to his place, I found that they had prepared dinner and it was a most sumptuous meal. All kinds of dishes on the table … I was so full by the end of it. The fellowship was even better as I was able to practice my mandarin and local Fujian dialect. It feels good to tap into this part of my identity and find that it’s always been there all along, the Chinese part of me.

dinner at home

After dinner, Shixiong took us to see Christmas lights that this family puts together at their house every year. Every Christmas, they win the best Christmas decoration contest on their block. The house is so popular that it’s been featured in new stories and TV broadcasts.

christmas lights

Every year, there is a different theme. This year, the theme is the Nativity. They built an elaborate display in their garage. It’s not the clear in my phone camera, but here it is:

nativity scene

What is a romantic evening without a picture? Here’s a dark one of us. Trust me, that’s us.

yes that's us

Cutie Pie

Monday, December 19th, 2011

One of the most welcome sights in San Gabriel is my nephew, Allister. He is more interactive and smiley. Every time I hold him, I get the warm fuzzies. On this night, he learned how to bat his eyes when I ask him to … what a charmer! I can give him kisses all night! He is definitely one of the delights in coming back to California. He is barely one year old and he’s already walking, eating solid food, and trying to talk!

allister

Sojourner’s Journey

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Throughout the trip, we mostly saw flat lands. The weather was perfect — mild temperature and sunny, for the most part. On the last day of the road trip, we began seeing mountains. We also began seeing more clouds. We were reminded that we were about to cross terrains and hills, if not inclement weather. We were definitely moving from one state to the next.

road trip

There was time during an emotional conversation that we saw the sun breaking through the clouds. We were encouraged in our hearts because we felt the warmth just as we reached a resolution in our discussion. It was as though we were reminded that despite the gray skies in our lives, the light of hope will always manage to shine through. We could only praise God.

sun breaking through

At the end of our road trip, we reached home in the late afternoon at his place. Shixiong welcomed me home and got down on one knee. He laid out 11 dried red roses on the couch (long story), opened a small box, and asked me to marry him. I told him, “Yes, 100%.” It’s the most sparkly ring I’ve ever seen, able to catch and reflect light at any angle.

engaged

Las Vegas Stop

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

We stayed at a friend’s house in Albuquerque for our first stop. After spending the night there, we decided to have a little fun and enjoy the night life in Las Vegas. We walked along the streets, observing people and taking in sights and sounds. I almost forgot how many interesting things one could see if we just pay more attention.

paris vegas

What is Las Vegas without a buffet dinner? That night, we splurged on the buffet in Paris. The last time I was in these theme buildings, I remembered the interior decor best of all. I was mesmerized by the way they recreated the city within the building. The Venetian was the most memorable for me, but after this night, Paris comes pretty close.

paris setting

This was by far the best prime rib I’d ever tasted! I relished each sweet bite. It was so good that this portion was probably worth the entire buffet price. Loved it!

prime rib

We both liked it so much that we got a second helping. We ate other things but the prime rib was our definite favorite! Shixiong looks calm but he is actually excited on the inside …

prime rib pt 2

Back to CA

Friday, December 16th, 2011

The sky certainly seemed to open up as I drove away from Oklahoma towards the open road westward to California. I had many mixed emotions the farther we got away. The sense of closure even as I was just getting settled in a new environment swirled in my psyche like rolling waves. It made me nostalgic even as I was looking ahead in anticipation. It was a most remarkable sensation. On the way, I even got a phone call from a classmate who said that she wasn’t even aware I was planning on leaving. It made it all the more bittersweet.

open sky open land

My great consolation was Shixiong and being with him the whole time. We had good talks, fun laughs, and serious discussions. We also had quiet moments of reflection as well as awesome wonder at the nature all around us. Since we decided to fill up right when it got to half-tank, the sight of Shixiong filling up the gas tank became a familiar one to me (except when he really needs to go and I get to do it by default).

familiar sight