Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankfulness in 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! As the day comes to a close, I thought I'd share what I'm thankful for this year. 

I waited for what seemed like too long for this little girl. During the wait, I worked part-time, while Zane filled the role of main breadwinner for the family. Miracle of miracles: I got pregnant! Then, right after our sweet daughter was born, we decided Zane would go back to school to change careers. In January, I went back to work to be our insurance holder and main breadwinner. 

Since going back to work, this year has been downright exhausting. I've juggled wifehood, motherhood, working, Etsy shop, and whatever other roles I've probably dropped along the way. 

In many ways, it seems like our season of infertility would have been a better time for Zane to go back to school. No child to say goodbye to in the morning. No great parenting ideas to give up on because it just isn't going to work with four different caregivers. Plenty of alone time. Financial savings. Full-night's sleep. Every other reason people don't have kids. 

But it's actually emotionally easier for me to work having Daisy in my life. 

Working and momming is not an easy combination (when you'd like to be home instead), but I can only imagine how much more bleak the situation would be if I was still struggling with infertility. It would mean working a day job for the sole sake of putting my husband through school to fulfill his dreams when mine would possibly never be realized. I'm selfish like that. Maybe I could have done it, but it would have been grueling. 

Daisy's existence fulfills my desire to be a mother. I'm not aching for that anymore. Supporting our family is a cake walk compared to longing for a child.  

What's more, I am more thankful for my job than ever. I'm thankful for their pro-family culture, my coworkers who are also friends, my flexible schedule, great benefits, and the positive environment that I spend so much time in. 

I'm also thankful I can come home to this sweetie. 

Our situation isn't ideal. I never planned to go back to day-job work after having a child, but working is easier because of her.

Two years ago, I was thankful for my pregnancy.
This year I'm thankful for God's timing and providence through what could have been a more emotionally difficult time.
Hopefully, two years from now I'll be thankful for Zane's completion of nursing school.

What are you guys thankful for this year?

P.S. I'm not a freeloader. When I say "working", I mean working a day job, and not a creative job that most surely doesn't include insurance benefits, which is what I'll probably do someday.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Squash Soup Recipe

My aunt made this amazing, delicious, vegan copy cat recipe for Panera's Autumn Squash Soup, which I heard they rolled off the menu already (so soon!). She sent me the recipe, and now I'm passing it onto you. I wish I could give the recipe-writer credit, but I don't know who it was! 

In this version, I added my alterations, which were delicious. 

There were some variations that I tried that didn't go so well, like boiling the squash instead of roasting it. The soup made from roasted squash tasted better. Also, one time I used canned pumpkin instead of squash, and it was awful. Don't do that. Stick with the squash. 

I hate cooking, but this recipe is easy and yummy, so it's worth the work. I'm making it as my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner this year!

I ate it before I could take a picture, so just imagine yummy, creamy, orange-ish soup.


Copycat Panera Bread’s Autumn Squash Soup (vegan, Paleo and gluten-free)
Yield: serves 8-10

  • 4 cups of peeled and cubed butternut squash, roasted or boiled (basically one squash)
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and cubed (Honeycrisp for a sweeter soup)
  • 1 small-medium sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 TBSP coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk 
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  1. Roast cubed butternut squash that has been seasoned with cinnamon and salt for 30 mins at 425 degrees F. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over med-high heat, sauté apple and onion in coconut oil with curry powder and a few dashes of salt for about 10 mins and until softened.
  3. Add broth, milk, and squash to the large skillet with the apple and onion and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 20 mins. Stir in salt to taste. 
  4. Use an immersion blender or transfer soup to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until soup is smooth and creamy.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

DIY Grooming Your Dog

Ever since we got Rufio, I've been too lazy to take on home-grooming, until earlier this year when our favorite groomer moved away, and the new one nicked his sack (it was empty, because he's neutered, but it still got infected). He never liked going to the groomer's anyways, so after the injury, I decided it was time to learn to groom. 

In March of this year, I took my budgeted grooming money and bought this Wahl grooming kit from Target. I watched a few youtube videos and went to it. 

Rufio in desperate need of grooming. Where are his eyes? 

That first groom was an experience in learning to trust each other. Rufio and I have a very close, trusting relationship, but the electric clipper took it to a whole new level. He's very compliant when I'm grooming him, and I think he prefers my amateur grooming to the scary professional groomers. 

Yesterday I did my fourth groom, and I finally feel like I've got the hang of it. This post is not a tutorial. It's a "You can do it too!" encouragement post. 

Here's my the method:

1. Wash. I wash Rufio on a Friday night after we've done our evening walk. That gives him the entire night to dry, because I don't blow-dry him. 

2. Comb. I comb Rufio on Saturday morning after he's fully dry. I work out any mats and basically prep his fur for the clippers. 

3. Groom Station. I groom him on the back patio on Saturday mornings, because Zane can watch Daisy, and it's usually still cool enough to work outside. I would never recommend grooming indoors, because fur gets everywhere. My first groom was in the garage, and even that was a beast to clean up. 

I sit on newspaper and keep the things I need right next to me: scissors, comb, clippers, oil and clipper brush. The rest of my supplies is on the chair away from the fur. 

Sorry for the blur. I need to clean my iPhone lens.

4. Grooming the Fur. I start without a guard and shave the genital area and around his anus. I start there because the clippers aren't hot, and they're the most delicate areas. Then I slap the shortest guard on and go to town on his back, legs, and belly. Lastly, I use the scissors to shape his face, feet, and tail. I also use scissors to trim the hair between the pads of his feet. 

5. Ears, Nails, Anal Glands. After his body is in order, I gently pull out the hair from his ear canals. This takes a lot of patience for both of us. He dislikes this, but with lots of "Good boy"'s and breaks for petting, he endures to the end. I try to tell him that it's to prevent ear infections, but he doesn't get it. 

I bought nail clippers in March, but only used them once. I'm too afraid of cutting his quick, so I usually just file them when necessary. So far it hasn't been a problem, but I'm dreading the day that I have to really work on his nails. He's not as patient about his nails. 

I have never expressed his anal glands, but I've heard the vet will do it for you. 

Clean up. I always end up covered with fur. I wash my grooming clothes with the towel we used to dry him after his bath. I always do a rinse cycle first, regular wash cycle, then put them in the dryer. By the end of the drying the hair is mostly out, but I reserve these clothes for grooming, because there are usually rogue hairs that linger.  

I clean the clippers as the instructions say, then wipe off my scissors, clipper guards, and comb with my shirt. I sweep all the fur into our yard because it's bio-degradable!

Time. Not including his bath the night before, the Saturday morning grooming process takes me about two hours. It's not my favorite thing to do, and I would never groom anyone else's dog, but it saves me money and anxiety about Rufio's well-being, so it's worth it!

Freshly groomed Rufio. 

I'm not a perfectionist, so Rufio often looks "rugged" after a groom, but it's not about looking perfect. I'm a low-maintenance groomer, very non-professional. I like having the ability and confidence to do this myself, and I'm saving $50 a quarter (that's $200/year!). 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Traveling China with a Toddler

To end my China adventures series, I will discuss traveling from Florida to China and back with a 14-1/2 month old child. If you missed the other posts of our China trip, check here for the complete series

Overall, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I don't regret taking Daisy with us, and I believe our trip was better because of her participation.

1. The Flight. 

We bought Daisy a lap ticket to save money. It was very uncomfortable, but I don't regret it, because I would rather save hundreds of dollars than be comfortable. 

The flight from Chicago to Beijing was the worst part of our entire trip. Daisy slept most the flight because it was our bodies' night time, but she's a sweaty little sleeper. Zane is sweaty too, so we basically were in a 6'x3' box of sweaty cramped-ness. (And I brought jackets and extra socks thinking we'd be cold. Ha!)

What I learned: 
  • DO fly when it's your child's natural sleep time. That worked for us nicely both flights, because Daisy was tired enough to sleep several hours in a row in a place that's not her bed. 
  • DON'T over-pack. I took WAY too much stuff for us on the plane ride to China. Daisy didn't need or want all the toys I brought in my carry on. I packed more lightly on the way back, and she was find with a couple stacking toys and doodads that she put in and out of a cup. 

  • DO ask for a vacant seat for the kid if you do a lap ticket. We didn't ask on the way to China (cue Chris Farley "I'm so stupid!"). We asked on the way back to the U.S. and, bless those flight attendants, they moved people around for us, so we could have three seats in a row. The difference between Daisy in a seat and Daisy on my lap was heaven and hell (slightly exaggerated): less sweat and more playing contently with her toys.
  • DO bring food for your child for the plane. We planned for Daisy to eat Chinese food throughout the trip, but airplane food is unpredictable and portioned to feed one adult. I guess lap tickets don't include a meal. I brought her a banana, Cheerios and plenty of toddler puree pouches. I think she ate four pouches during one flight. 

2. Jet Lag

I've heard many ways to combat jet lag, and since we've only done this once, I don't know what is best. The first day of touring, Daisy just conked-out in her stroller, which never happens at home. It didn't happen the rest of the trip either, but it was really nice that afternoon. 

Can't say enough great things about the MacLaren Volo stroller!

We woke up early in the morning, went out up until lunch, took afternoon naps in the hotel or apartment, then went out for dinner. We were usually in bed by 10:00 pm and up the next day by 6:00 am. 

The first two nights, Daisy woke up in the middle of the night hungry and cranky. She sat between us in bed watching her kid shows on Zane's phone over and over again until she fell back asleep. Which brings me to the next point...

3. Shows/Movies on a Portable Device

The most genius thing we did was download some of her favorite shows on Zane's phone. It saved us during jet lag recovery, long bus rides, and other random times when we needed to calm a crying child. I try to regulate shows at home, but I gave her (and us) more freedom on this trip since we were off routine anyways. 

4. Schedule down time. 

Daisy did great on all our tourist adventures. She slept in the vehicles to and from our destinations, though a private car was the best venue for sleep versus a bus or train. She was happy to walk around and explore whatever cool thing we were doing that day.

Exploring the Great Wall of China

She also needed her routine and down time. We stayed at my sister's apartment for five days in a row, which helped Daisy to get on China time and just relax. It felt more like home to her. She had freedom to walk around, play, and adjust to a nighttime routine.

We went out to dinner almost every night, because there were so many restaurants we wanted to try.
Daisy's only meltdown happened one night at an outdoor Chinese BBQ restaurant. She wouldn't be soothed by anyone or thing, so Zane and I left our group and took her back to my sister's apartment. As soon as we walked in the door, Daisy cheered up and started playing with her toys. Apparently, she just needed a night in.

5. Food. 

We brought an entire box of Cheerios and 20ish toddler pureed food pouches from the states. Daisy did really great with Chinese food, and we usually found enough to feed her wherever we went. Noodles, eggs, bananas, and veggies were all pretty available, but it was nice to have the pouches in case she rejected the foreign food.

We also bought Chinese breakfast crackers in the grocery store, which Daisy loved. I tried to limit how many she ate a day, because they were probably full of preservatives, but it was only for a short period of time, so I didn't stress over it. 

Daisy eating duck-shaped pastries filled with duck meat.

6. Baby Gear: To Bring Or Not To Bring?  

Two products I highly recommend: MacLaren Volo Stroller and Ergobaby Carrier.

MacLaren Volo Stroller. The stroller was great for airports, Forbidden City, Terra Cotta Warriors, and any city exploring. There's always the chance you have to fold it up and sling it over your arm, but it's small, lightweight, and easily folds. We actually got this stroller just for the trip (give to us by a friend), but soon discovered that it's far superior to the other stroller we were using. Plus, it's super durable!!

LOVE that stroller.

Ergobaby Carrier. The carrier was perfect for places that required hiking. Where there were too many stairs for a stroller, the ergo was priceless. We used it on the Great Wall and Leshan Giant Buddha. Daisy was too independent by this age, so she didn't particularly like being in it, but it was very helpful for us parents to move quickly with her securely strapped to one of us. 

Her expressions says, "I want to walk." 

Diaper Bag. We used a small backpack as our diaper bag. We had a change of clothes, 6-7 diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, a couple toys, and food. While you want to be prepared for everything, you also don't want to haul everything around China. Try to keep it light.

What Not To Bring:
  • Car seat.  No one uses them over there. We took taxis and private cars, and just had her on our laps. For the most part, I wasn't worried, but I did pray a lot for our safety. 
  • Highchair/booster seat.  Most restaurants have high chairs. Otherwise, Daisy sat in a regular chair or on our laps. 
  • Pack-n-play/Baby Cot.  My sister bought one for while we were at her apartment. When we were in hotels, Daisy slept between Zane and me. We don't co-sleep at home, and I'm not sure we got the best sleep while co-sleeping, since there's always that fear of rolling on her (or getting kicked in the ribs by tiny feet), but it was better than dragging a pack-n-play across China. Even if my sister hadn't provided a baby bed, we would've co-slept the entire time or made a pallet for Daisy on the floor. 

7. Diapers. 

We brought enough diapers for the plane ride and our first few days in Beijing. After that, we bought them in China.  

Get used to changing your child in public, because most restrooms don't have changers. No one is offended by changing a kid in public (I did it in subways, park benches, the Great Wall of China), and I think it was more sanitary on my lap than in some gross bathroom. 

7. Be Flexible.

Everyone will love your child in China. They love kids in general, and a foreign child even more for their cute foreignness. Daisy was given so many gifts by about anyone who saw her: food (you have to monitor that!), candy, toys, books, etc. 

If your kid is extroverted, then most Chinese people will try holding them. Daisy didn't like that, but one frown or crying face, and they backed off, because they don't want to make the baby cry. 

There were times when Daisy only wanted me, so I just enjoyed being the momma. I used to long for my own child, a baby who would want me and only me, and now I have one. It just means that sometimes you have to get your hair done with a baby on your lap, which might not fly in the states, but in China, if the baby wants it, the baby gets it. 

Getting my hair done with a toddler on my lap. 

This list has been kind of random, but I hope it helps if you are considering traveling across the world with a toddler. If there's something I missed, feel free to ask questions. We loved having Daisy with us. 

I also have a Pinterest board with articles that I researched before our trip. You can find the link here

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chengdu Panda House

The last big tourist site that we went to on our China trip was the Chengdu Panda habitat. We saved it for the last day of our trip, and it rained the entire time we were there. It felt like we were in some misty jungle with paved sidewalks. 

Mistake 1: I didn't bring a rain jacket at all to China. What?! 
Mistake 2: I wore shorts. It was cold and wet, and I wore shorts. 
Mistake 3: We brought the stroller. Daisy didn't want to be in the stroller at all, so we basically pushed around a soaking wet, vacant stroller the entire time.
Mistake 4: I dressed Daisy in a onesie. It was cold and rainy! The entire time I felt so guilty for being "that mom" that dressed my child improperly, especially in China, where they dress their babies in parkas in the summer. 

But, we made the most of it. We squishedly walked around the park seeing things like crazy koi. 

And baby pandas! This was definitely the best part of the day. Most of the the grown pandas were hidden away taking shelter from the rain, so it was nice that we got to see some little baby cuties. 

We went into the red panda part where on a nice day, you might encounter the pandas close up, but on a rainy day, you get to see them in the trees. 

The panda house ended up being kind of disappointing, but all due to the weather. It's okay, because the main point of going was to hang out with our friends who live there. 

Yay for friends!

Plus, I didn't feel too bad leaving early to go to Peter's for lunch. 

Travel Tips and Take Aways

1. Go on a nice day. The park might be more crowded, but at least you won't be soaking wet. Also, the pandas are more likely to be active and interesting. 

2. Go to early. We got there later in the morning, and the pandas weren't really active (again, maybe because of the rain). My sister has gone first thing in the morning when the pandas were being fed, and she said they were really active. 

3. Only bring a stroller if your kid likes the stroller. Daisy doesn't like strollers, so it was just a nuisance to carry it around. There were a few times we had to carry the stroller up stairs, but most of the park has ramps. 

4. Wear good shoes. Like every other thing we did in China, the panda house requires a lot of walking.

Bonus Video - our almost-encounter with a red panda.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Breaking a Social Media Addiction

I was addicted to Facebook.

It's embarrassing to even say that. I'm not a tween. I'm an adult woman with a family, job, and real-life responsibilities, but I had a problem with spending too much time and energy on Facebook.

The first thing I did everyday was wake up and check my phone for texts, emails, and Facebook. Even if I didn't have notifications, I scrolled through and read anything on my news feed until I caught up to what I had remembered reading the night before.

I was on Facebook throughout the work day. I got sucked into Facebook at home too, even if I went on my computer for something completely unrelated. The notifications lured me in, and before I knew it I'd be looking at my old school chum's bachelorette party pics and wonder where my afternoon went.

I knew it was probably a problem.

I would get frustrated and close my computer, then remember why I had opened it in the first place. Even with diligence to stay on task and ignore the eternally open Facebook tab in my browser, notifications pop up in real time, and I just HAD to know what people were saying.

As for my phone, anytime a red notification showed on my FB app, I opened it. I read the notification, which was usually, "so-and-so liked your photo," then stayed on the app for 10+ minutes reading rabbit trails of random information.

The last thing I did before I went to sleep was catch up on anything I missed throughout the day. I was a zombie scrolling through statuses of nonsense.

Then I went to China for two weeks.

Through Instagram, I was able to post to Facebook, but due to country-sanctioned censorship, I couldn't directly get onto Facebook at all. My little FB icon kept adding notifications as more and more people commented on my awesome China pictures, but alas, I couldn't respond.

It was SO freakin' frustrating! I wanted to see the gold mine of "cool's" and "fun!" and "I'm seething with jealousy that you're a world traveller!" comments. (Mostly because I spent the last couple years being jealous about other people's trips).

After a few days, I gave up hope of checking Facebook and accepted it. I read a real-life book, journaled, and enjoyed vacation time with my family.

I inadvertently went through rehab for Facebook, my social media drug of choice.

The absence of FB in my life was refreshing. I liked the new freedom I had to ignore 50+ notifications on my phone. I didn't have to answer questions like, "Are you in China?" I didn't have to navigate online social mores, wondering what's the most polite or wittiest way to respond. I liked not being forced to know what my random friend from middle school was doing on a Friday night, just because it's on my news feed. I liked being disconnected, because I realized that too much connected-ness was making my life too complicated.

The Plan

I desired that freedom to remain when I came back to the states, so I came up with guidelines for myself to break my FB addiction at home:

1. I deleted the FB app from my phone. I didn't delete my entire FB account, but I can only check FB on a computer.

2. I close the browser. When I visit the FB site, I check my notifications, scan through some of my news feed, then close the browser. This keeps me focused on my next computer task by removing the temptation to check new notifications that pop up in real time.

3. I hid a bunch of people. There is already too much information running through my head at any given time, that I don't need to clog up that space with random posts from random people. In the past, I would have gone on an un-friending binge, but now I can hide people, and if anyone becomes more relevant in my life, I can un-hide them later. This way I don't have to waste (1) mind space thinking about someone else's life that I honestly don't care about or ever see in person or (2) emotional energy when I disagree with the opinions of people that I, again, never come in contact with in person.

There are people on my news feed that I never see in real life, but I just like what they post, so I keep them. My rules for hiding are super flexible. The main thing is that I implement that tool and trim my news feed down to what I actually care about.

The Results

After a couple months of living with less Facebook, I have enjoyed life more. I'm noticeably less anxious, because I'm not:

1. Comparing my life to that of others' and feeling jealous or like a failure.
2. Irritated by religious, political, or other ridiculous opinion posts that I disagree with.
3. Spending too much time on something and regretting it after that time is lost.

There are many days when I don't get on Facebook until late afternoon. That would have driven me crazy before, but now I'm like, "eh, all those cute pics of my friends' kids will be there when I get there."

Give it a try. You might find you like it.

P.S. Facebook was my social media drug of choice. I went through a similar problem last year with Scramble and Words with Friends. My time was getting stolen away with games, so I deleted the apps to free myself. I can get sucked into Pinterest too, so I have to regulate myself on there too through the same method I use with FB. And because I know my weaknesses, I haven't even tried Candy Crush Saga.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Leshan Giant Buddha

Back to China posting! The final leg of our journey was to the south to Chengdu. We got in late on Thursday, which was a holiday, Autumn Festival, where people give each other moon cakes, even though I kept calling them moon pies, which are more tasty than moon cakes. That was a long sentence. 

Just a mere two hours outside of Chengdu is Leshan, where there's a ginormous Buddha relief sculpture carved into the side of a cliff. We went to it on Friday. 

We made a major mistake in (1) going on a holiday weekend and (2) passing up the private car for the public bus. If you are going to travel more than one hour in distance in China, take a private car. They're not that much more expensive, and it's worth the comfort and ease. You can negotiate a price before you get in the car too. 

After two hours in a dirty charter bus with some weird Chinese movie playing where people were getting tortured and killed, we arrived in Leshan. Then we had to take the city bus to the giant Buddha site. 

We ate lunch across the street, then bought our tickets. This was the entrance. I kinda felt like we were in Chinese Jurassic Park. 

The entrance had a huge patio, so Daisy enjoyed walking around. 

We took some pictures in front of the river (which river? I can't remember) before heading into the park. 

There's a mild hike to get to the giant Buddha. Along the way there are smaller statues, including this cool tiger. 

I carried Daisy on my back in the ergo carrier. We didn't bring the stroller to Leshan, and that was a big win. There are WAY too many stairs for a stroller. 

When we reached the top of the mountain and walked through the arches, we saw the top of Buddha's head. Those are people next to his eyebrows. He's giant. 

Because it was a holiday, there were TONS of people there. Our friend who lives in Chengdu said that it took him about two hours to do the entire giant Buddha experience. In two hours of waiting in line, we hadn't even gotten to the to the point where we could descend the stairs to the bottom of the cliff. 

While we waited in a Disney-like switchback line, Daisy was entertained by Angela's beautiful hair and by all of her many fans. If we held her up, then everyone in line took pictures of her. If we put her on the ground, then only the people in front of took pictures of her. 

It was crowded. 

Chinese people have no concept of "personal bubble." If there is an empty space, they will fill it in. This is not out of ambition to cut in line, as much as it seems common sense to them to fill all empty spaces. We foreigners had to use elbows and wide stances to create enough space for Daisy to stand and breathe at our feet. 

So many people, so little personal space, but you can see they love Daisy. 

We descended very steep stairs all along the side of a cliff. The entire time I was envisioning dominoes of people falling down the stairs. 

It was steep, but the railing was taller than me, so I felt pretty secure. 

A view from the bottom of the stairs we descended.
When we finally reached the bottom, we weren't even sure if we cared anymore. It had been almost three hours of waiting in jammed-packed lines. The only good thing at the bottom was that there was plenty of space to walk around.

After I recovered from near claustrophobia, I was pretty taken back by the size of the statue. We theorized how the monks carved him out, but it all happened so long ago, that there's no real way to know. It was incredible to be able to witness another thing that had been around for hundreds of years, even possibly thousands (like the terra cotta warriors and the great wall). My mind can't even believe it. 

The only bad thing about being at the bottom is that we had to climb out the other side. It's like canyon hiking: all the work is on the second half. All the stairs I climbed in preparation for our trip and during our trip was conditioning for that moment of climbing out of the Leshan Buddha monument thing with Daisy on my back. It was an incredible workout. 

Another view from the top on the exit side. 

We rode the city bus back to the bus station, then had to wait 40 minutes until the next bus back to Chengdu. We ended up getting in late, but went out for a late dinner with our friends anyways, because we were only with them for a couple days. 

Basically, Leshan was very tiring and taxing on our foreign nerves, but in retrospect, it was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. The climate was also very pleasant and cool, and the park was beautiful. I would recommend it, but under certain conditions: 

Travel Tips and Takeaways:

1. Take a private car from Chengdu. If we had gone private, the driver would have driven us straight to the giant Buddha park and waited for us to take us home. She would have been on our time, and we wouldn't have had to ride in a dirty, crowded bus. Daisy could have slept in the middle of us in the back seat. 

2. Don't bring a stroller. This excursion had more stairs than the Forbidden City. There's NO way we could have used a stroller. We would have carried it folded up the entire time. 

3. Don't go on a holiday. Our friend went on a regular day, and he did the entire part in a couple hours, which leaves time to enjoy the city of Leshan and even possibly climb the mountain there. It took us about four hours in the park and three hours of travel each way, so we're talking a 10-hour day just doing the Buddha and lunch. 

4. Take the stairs. There's a boat option that we wondered if we should have taken, but you are prevented from seeing the Buddha up close, and it's definitely worth the hike to see it so well. 

Bonus video: Here's our reactions after the descent: 

Update: Here's the wiki page if you want more information: Leshan Giant Buddha on Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Family Time is Fine

It's 9:00 at night, but my body things it's 2am. I'm beat. The craft fair that I've been preparing for during the last few months is done. Halloween is done. I have a ton of back-listed things I could do tonight, but as I enjoy the quiet (D's asleep) and empty (Z's at work) house, I find that I just want to talk about my family. So here's a long overdue post on my sweet family. 

I still have China stories to share, but they can wait. 

Last weekend we went to Plant City. Zane picked me up from work at noon and we stopped in Hunter's Creek for lunch at a lovely little cafe called Bistro Europa Express. It was a beautiful day, and I heartily recommend the restaurant for their delicious food, fanstastic service (they brought a bowl of water for Rufio!), and comfortable atmosphere. 

In Plant City, we enjoyed the great outdoors by feeding Zane's grandpa's goats... 

...and meeting his geese. Daisy's not a fan of scared geese who make loud honking sounds. 

Daisy and her cousin Maddie walked along the grounds holding hands, and wouldn't slow down for a good pictures, so all I have are blurry ones. But they were darn, stinkin' cute. 

Zane and I took advantage of free grandma babysitting and had dinner with friends in Tampa. Make that: dinner and strategic games. We spent five hours eating, drinking, fellowshipping, and playing Dominion and Small World. I seriously, seriously needed an adult night of lighthearted laughter and fun. Thanks, Heather and Olon!!! 

Saturday we went to a local Plant City corn maze, where once again, we basically basked in the utter cuteness of Daisy and Maddie. 

We went into a screened-in butterfly exhibit, which was really cool and full of butterflies, except that Daisy was afraid of them. She loves them in books and shows, but in real life she was baby-talk saying, "Back away from me, you winged spawn of Satan!" 

I liked it and even had one butterfly land on my finger. I was also proud of Daisy, because she eventually overcame her fears enough to touch one butterfly with one finger. 

Plus I got to wear my cool cowboy boots, and in Florida, you don't get to wear cool cowboy boots all the time, so you have to take every opportunity you can. 

Saturday night we went to Cracker Barrel, and after dinner we hung out in the store for a long time watching Daisy and Maddie parallel play with the different toys. They're favorite was the kitchen set.

Daisy is 16 months now and continues to blow us away with her smarts and cuteness.

My dad asked me how many words she knows the other day, but I haven't been keeping track. She says lots of words prompted ("Where's your nose?" "Nose") and lots of words unprompted (points to the moon and says, "moon"). She loves giving hugs and kisses to us and inanimate objects. She loves going "side" (outside), but not in her stroller. She wants to walk and interact with the world and put leaves in her purse.

I'm still working three long days a week, but I'm more at peace and grateful for my job situation than I was earlier this year. Daisy gets full days with her grandmas, dad, and mom. When I say goodbye in the morning, she gives me a hug, a kiss, and a confident "Bye-bye" with a wave. She loves her caregivers, which gives me peace when I have to leave her for 11 hours. 

Plus, thanks to i-devices, they share photos with me throughout the work day (above pic), which only makes me feel somewhat left out as opposed to completely in the dark. 

Best of all, I get two weekdays with her. It took me too long to snap out of being sad that I miss out on three days a week and realize how fortunate I am to have a benefits job with two weekdays and weekends at home. 

Of course, we're crazy busy (speaking of, I read the book Crazy Busy, and if I wasn't so busy, I'd do a book review post, because it was awesome. Go read it!), but as long as I get up early and find time to read the Bible and journal, I can manage this crazy life. I still look forward to the day when my main job is being at home, but I can see the blessings of this season too.