Monday, August 2, 2010

Pickin' Peaches in Northern VA

Went on another adventure on Sunday afternoon with our house guests. This time, we went to Stribling Orchard and picked peaches. 2 bags full. I believe we will be eating lots of peaches in a short period of time. I love going to these orchards because they are nestled in the valley of the Shenandoah mountains. They are surrounded by so much natural beauty and history. The farmhouse was built in the early 1700s. The guy that runs it lived in the house growing up, and his family (dating back to great great grandfather and family) has been there since the home and farm were built. Now, that is a LONG history in a historic home. What a legacy! You drive up the dirt/gravel road and see log cabins. One of the family members working there told me that some of the buildings were slave quarters, one was a smokehouse, another a kitchen, and so forth. I LOVED it! We had been to Hartland orchards before, but had not been to Stribling Orchards. We had a fantastic day filled with lots of laughter and fun. The bags were so full of peaches that the straps broke on both of them. They had a HUGE, and I mean HUGE, bull that I was told was no longer a bull because he was castrated named Sparky. Poor Sparky. They had two donkeys named Hannah and Susannah. And they had some sheep. Gracie and Garrett loved every minute of it. Van kept picking up the kids to pick peaches from the highest branches, and he even lifted up Edward and Mary when they requested it. My back hurts me to just look at the pictures. It was a blast and we plan to go back to pick raspberries and apples soon.

Afterwards, we took the girls to Wegman's grocery store, and they were AMAZED at the size of the store and the amount of food in it. They were taking pictures of all of the different foods to show their families. So cute! Edward had said she wanted to try potato salad. So, we bought some and had it for dinner along with grilled steak, yellow squash, and portobello mushrooms. YUM.

It was a great day!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The National Harbor

We took the girls on trip to The National Harbor in Maryland. Van and I had never been to the harbor before so it was an adventure for us as well. It is really beautiful, and we plan to go back as soon as we can. We went on the water taxi over to Old Town Alexandria, enjoyed some live music, and an ice cream from Ben and Jerry's. It felt like a mini vacation. Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Boys Leave Us, and The Girls Arrive!

Huang, Bob, Dora, Mary, and Edward
Edward and Mary

This has truly been such a positive experience for our family in so many ways. It is hard to put it into words. I hope that all of my friends are able to do this someday. It has been hard physically on back is killing me as I write this...the extra cooking, cleaning, laundry, driving around, entertaining, BUT it has been sooooooooooo worth it.

First off, Garrett's 4th birthay was yesterday. We celebrated with a "Wiggles" party. LOTS of people, LOTS of kids...LOTS of fun. And the weather was great too. Thank you, God! Garrett had a total blast with everyone, and once again, he sat up so proudly when it was time for singing the "Happy Birthday" song. He sang right along with everyone. Wish all of you could have seen the excitement on his face. He loves being the center of attention, and he knew that yesterday was ALL about him. SOOOOOO cute! I will post pics so you can catch a glimpse. Another thing I love about Garrett is that when he opens presents, he really understands how to thank people for them. My friend, Lauren, says that he is very gracious, and he just is. It is heartfelt and you can tell. Not many children are like that. He just "gets it". Van says this goes back all the way to China when he bought him his first pair of new shoes. Van had told me that you would have thought that Garrett had won the lottery because he loved his shoes so much. Anyway, it is really sweet to watch him look at the person and thank them. He does it better than anyone I know. I am proud of my boy. I didn't teach him that either other than the "say thank you" reminders that most parents give. Like I said, he just loves people, and he is grateful for his friends, and it shows. It is something that I hope will rub off on me a little bit. He is way better than I am at not taking anything or anyone for granted. He knows how to love.

Bob and Huang left us early this morning. Such nice boys! It hit Garrett harder than anyone. I have never seen Garrett react like that, and I truly did not expect it. He kept saying, "Mama, plane. Mama China. I go. Boys! Where? I miss boys." and when I tried to explain is hard to say good-bye to our friends and they were just here visiting and had to go back home to their mama and daddy and we will keep in touch with them...he had a very sad, tearful cry. I didn't like having to say good-bye either. They stood at the door and thanked me for my care and concern for them. They told me to come to China and I would be welcomed. It was very sweet. Bob really looked kind of heartbroken to leave. It was kind of sad. We had a great time with them! Anyhoo...enough said. We will miss them a lot.

Now, our girls arrived night before last. My family will get a total kick out of this. Their American names are Mary (my first name) and.....drum roll please..........................................................................................
EDWARD!!!! How is that for a little divine intervention? No joke! She named herself EDWARD! My daddy's name was Edward, and he passed away in 2003. She really likes the "Edward" character in the Twilight movies. That was why she gave herself that name. I still think somebody upstairs is pulling the strings. HA! They are very sweet girls, both 13, though they seem very much older than that, very mature for their age, and they both speak a fair amount of English. Not as much as Bob, but we are able to communicate. And unlike the boys, the girls are very neat and tidy which is FABULOUS! The boys that just left...NOT so much. BUT that is ok because I knew they wouldn't be because they're boys. Anyway, we are getting to know them, and are having a great second round of company. They are teaching Gracie and Garrett some basic Chinese, playing games with them, singing, watching movies etc. It has been awesome. They were here for the birthday party, we took them to school, and then after school, we went to Costco to shop, and then Panda Express for dinner. Great times. And I didn't have to cook. Even better!

More later...Enjoy the pictures.

HUGS, Madeline

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Huang and Bob

Our exchange students have arrived. We are having the BEST time with Bob and Huang. They are from Chongqing, China in the Szechian region. Both are 16 years old, and I have really developed a huge fondness for them in just one week. I really don't want to see them leave to go back to China. I feel like I have two more children. BIG children, but children nonetheless. I really like them. They're pretty funny. We laugh a lot. And they can cook! Man, they REALLY cook! They totally put me to shame. IRON CHEF! Chongqing hotpot and super side dishes. No joke. It was GREAT! And they prepared the whole meal just for us. It took them close to two hours to just prepare it for cooking. Our friends, Dolores and Grace, also came over with their exchange student, Dora. She is from the same area in China as the boys. Very sweet girl. Beautiful too. She helped them.
We have had some great times so far.
Touring DC at night. The Washington Monument. The Jefferson Memorial. Walking the city. Sweating. Taking them to school and home again. Hanging out at home. Restaurants. Watching Bob and Huang try to eat the "Blazin" hot wings at Buffalo Wild Wings. Laughing. Movies. Wii. Walks. Sweating. Touring DC on Saturday all day. The White House. The Capitol. The WW2 Memorial. The Women of the Military Memorial. The Korean War Memorial. The WW1 Memorial Wall. The Museum of Natural History. Shopping at Fair Oaks. Shopping everywhere. Talking about everything China. Learning. Absorbing. French Fries. Burgers. Pizza. Computer time. Learning Chinese. Learning about their culture. I have loved every second of it! And Gracie is just a sponge. She really likes the boys. They are so kind to the children. Huang will pick Gracie up and put her on his shoulders. He will hold her hand. He is very sweet. Bob is too. They are very cheerful, good boys. Bob communicates very well. Huang is learning the language. They have been very good here together. They balance each other out.
Some of my favorite moments so far…
1. Finding out the boys are going to cook a meal for us. YEA!!! Then, Bob tells me in the car one morning that we do not have all of the ingredients. Ox stomach. Chicken hearts. No can do. Had to talk to the boys about that. Just cannot eat the internal organs of animals. I totally respect them. I do not want to insult them at all. BUT…I cannot do it. They were very understanding and used just plain chicken, and beef in the meal. It was awesome! Probably one of the very best Chinese meals we have ever eaten. Bob told me that his mom told him later in life that his favorite thing to eat as a child was pig brains. Hmmmmmm.
2. The boys went on a bike ride and got caught in the rain on their way home from MANASSAS. We thought they were riding around our neighborhood. NO. They were all the way in Manassas!!! Had to have another talk with them.
3. The boys are used to eating VERY hot and spicy foods in China. We enjoyed watching them try to eat the Blazin Hot wings at Buffalo Wild Wings…If you can eat 12 wings in 6 minutes with no drinks and no napkins and no ranch or blue cheese dressing, you get your picture on a wall and a t-shirt for your efforts. They ate some of them….five of them…Sweating, lots of water, and lots of laughter later…They passed on eating all 12 wings. Even the staff leader/waiter said he wouldn’t do it. It is just painful. You don’t even taste the chicken etc. But they ate five of them. Brave boys!
4. Seeing Gracie and Garrett light up around them. Hearing the kids try to speak Chinese. Listening to Gracie’s questions. Asking lots of questions ourselves. And listening to their answers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Our New Friends, Huang and Bob

Chongqing hotpot and side dishes with LOTS of chili peppers
Awesome meal, boys!!! It was so good!!!
Huang, the Iron Chef!
B-O-B handling the veggies called BaiTai or something like that.
Can you believe the chili peppers in this pot? This was before all of the meat and veggies were added to the pot.
Bob, Dora, and Huang learned how to cook from their grandparents. In China, their parents work and their grandparents help raise them and care for them in the same home. Historically, the reason that they eat such hot and spicey food is because it would be so cold during the winters that they would cook foods that would warm their insides. It must have been REALLY cold.
Gracie really likes Huang. He is very sweet to her. So is Bob. They are great boys and are very friendly.
D.C. at night. Beautiful!
Is that a UFO or a giant orb in the picture? Do you know that two days after Huang and Bob left Chongqing, China to come here that a UFO was seen by many many people hovering over a park in their city in China? It made the front page of AOL news stories several days ago.
The guys had a great time in DC.

My children...all four of them!

The guys are relaxing on the sofa together.