Surprise!

The toughest part about having my family spread out across the States are the holidays, especially when 3 out of 4 members of the family are celebrating together. Most often, my bachelor brother and my parents are together as their schedule is a bit more flexible than ours and because airfare for me, Scott and the 2 kids are just simply outrageous during the holidays.

If we’re going to spend $1,500 on travel, you bet we’re gonna stay for more than a just a long weekend. Of course, the school district frowns upon the kids missing school – I’ve already gotten my hand slapped a few times for that.

Last week, I was chatting with my brother and asked him what his plans for Easter were. Mom and Dad were at his house and they were just going to have a quiet dinner with just the three of them. Our plans were the same, Easter sort of tip toed in and snuck up on us, we didn’t have any plans at all, other than a hunk of ham sitting in the refrigerator.

We hung up and I just sat there on the couch, feeling a sharp ting of sadness, guilt and sorrow all rolled together. Talk about stacking some sad emotions! Well, I always say that when consumed with bad feelings, you’ve gotta do something drastic to change the situation.

So I let my fingers do the walking….errrr…tapping and checked prices for airfare on my phone. Surely, tickets would be outrageous given Spring Break, Easter and last minute buying. Normal prices are around $400 per person and I had reasoned with myself that I’d be willing to go up to $500 for each ticket, imagining the time the kids would get to spend with Gong Gong and Po Po would make such magical memories.

Tap-tap-tap and a few seconds later….score! Tickets were $250 each! Bingo! The trip was booked, I texted my bro and told him to keep hush about our visit. I wanted to surprise my parents.

My brother and I have never done such a thing before. My parents have always lived by qualities of practicality and frugality. They’ve tried to teach us well, my brother being a good example of their upbringing (um, except for that recent BMW purchase, which was neither practical nor frugal) and I think I just failed on all counts. Though I do start with good intentions, but almost always thwarted by shiny, new, pretty and….uh…hunger.

We did a great job keeping the secret. Even as the wheels touched down at the Wichita airport, my phone rang and it was my Mom telling me thanks for the ham we sent and that she missed us.

Were they surprised? Well, let’s just say that I was ready to catch my Mom if she fainted. We were crying,  laughing, hugging so loud (yes, we hug loud) that the neighbors came out to see what all the commotion was about – you know an abundance of high pitched squealing that could be mistaken for trouble in the neighborhood was certainly curious.

We filled the 6 days with LOTS of eating. Crawfish was sent in from Louisiana.

Twenty pounds of crawfish, corn, potatoes, sausage, cole slaw, salad, cheesecake, home made vanilla gelato, chocolate brownies, 8 bottles of wine. I think we can call this a feast.

Kansas BBQ at Hog Wild BBQ (amazing!) – the pulled pork sandwich smothered in their signature barbeque sauce, tender beefy brisket and ribs so smoky you swear the restaurant was piping in smoke through the vents.

Two thumbs up for Hog Wild.

Mom made my favorite home-cooked meals – Chinese porridge with Thousand Year Old Egg and Fried Sticky Rice Cake Noodles (nian gao) <- recipe! from my Dad’s hometown in China, LingBo. Normally, it’s served during Chinese New Year and it means “every year you rise higher and higher.”

On Easter, this cutie-patootie girl came to help me make Cheesy Poofy Puffs (Pate a Choux)

Can’t wait to eat!

The next day, she taught her Mom how to make them at home! Look at her puffs!

A peek into the garage and guess what arrived?!!!!

Other than eating, we played. The kids taught Gong Gong how to play Go-Go’s Crazy Bones, a game where you flick your plastic figurines and try to knock down someone else’s characters.

It’s a game that originated from ancient Greece and Rome – but instead of funky plastic, they were made from sheep’s knuckle bones, which personally I think would be more fun!

We played Bananagrams, a gift from Uncle Larry:

Nathan, who’s just starting to learn how to form words, spelled “FUNKA” and I asked him want that meant. He looked at me like I was nuts, jerkily swang his shoulders back and forth, snapped his fingers and said, “Funk-kay”

Okay, he got the points for that.

Uncle Larry (top left photo), a friend so close my kids call him Uncle, also gave them a book on Cat’s Cradle. I had totally forgotten how to play it, but Mom and Dad remembered and taught the boys.

Uncle Wayne spent quite a bit of time with the kids, so they returned the favor and made sure Uncle Wayne fit some weightlifting in the schedule.

In between play, we worked a little bit. Welllll….my lovely husband worked a bit (I photographed) and did some odd jobs around the house, like fix the door locks.

My brother isn’t the most handy person around – he’s a cardiologist who works with delicate tools.

His toolbox:

The screwdriver:

Chip (we call him Chip-Chip) is the newest member of the family. He’s a Pointer, highly curious and loves to run around in circles. He’s my brother’s best friend.

Not only does he love to play ball with the boys….

He loves to eat too, which makes him my favorite.

I think it’s safe to say that this was the best Easter ever, certainly one filled with magical moments.

Comments 43

  1. grace

    Looks like a great time was had by all.

    And you went to my favorite BBQ place in Wichita!

    I get so irritated by the schools being upset about taking the kids out for a trip. They come home with all their homework done and even a little bit ahead of the rest of the class most of the time, but that just doesn’t matter. What really upsets the school is that they aren’t getting the government capitation money for the five days the kids aren’t there.

    Not that I have any opinions on this. :D

  2. Laura

    Great story and photos. Please ask your parents what their secret is for staying so young. They look fantastic!!

  3. Winter

    Yay for Po Po and Gong Gong! I love that you took such an impromptu trip to see your family. And the food looks mah-velous!

    Where do you get crawfish sent in from? I might have to try that sometime!

    1. SteamyKitchen

      I got them from lacrawfish.com. It’s a pretty good deal 20 pounds for $100 (feeds 10 people if you throw in the corn, sausage, etc) and that price already includes shipping.

  4. Danny Yeung

    Well Jaden, this is certainly a surprise for your parents and I am sure they will be talking about it when we see then in LA next week.

  5. Jun Belen

    What a lovely holiday!! Thank you for sharing. Oh how I wish it was easier for us to visit family for holidays like Easter. Since almost everyone is back home in Manila, it’s ridiculously expensive to visit more often. We just have to make the most out of every chance we have. Lovely family you have!!

  6. Peggy

    Reading this just makes my heart smile. So glad you got to spend time with the family and everyone had a great Easter. You have a beautiful family. :)

  7. skip to malou

    Ooh how fun! The hardest part of surprising is hiding the “surprise” itself haha. I was grinning with a wide smile while reading your post. So did your parents move to Kansas or just visiting.
    I remember the greatest surprise we did was for my sister (she lives in Orlando) and myself surprised my dad on his 77th birthday in the Philippines. It was so much fun and yes it was magical. We didn’t know that was my dad’s last birthday after all. So the 24 hour travel and the $1300 for a single ticket was well worth it.

    Happy easter to you jaden!(i know it’s not too late yet haha!)

  8. Ginny

    Thanks for the wonderful post. My kids love their Gong Gong and Po Po. They are living in NYC now, which is far away (we live in VA) but not too bad. They are planning to retire and move back to Hong Kong though. Visiting them is going to be EXPENSIVE!!!

  9. Aggie

    awwwww…I have chills of happiness for you! I am so happy you got to see your parents, looks like a wonderful time. I totally remember Cat’s Cradle…kinda sorta! It’s been a while!
    How fun!!

    I’m lucky that my family only lives an hour away, but I always surprise my grandparents with the kids everytime we have a Monday holiday off…we always call as we are driving up, then ring the doorbell when we are on the phone. It’s definitely one of those magical moments that doesn’t ever get old.

  10. elaine

    Super nice to have that chance. Sometimes you gotta go with your gut. I would say the airfare was a small price to pay for the memories you gave your boys.. They will never forget that Easter and that… is priceless… (gosh, sniff sniff – i think me becoming a grandma (finally) for the first time has my hormones all out of whack!)

  11. foodwanderings

    Aww Jaden, love this Easter weekend post. You all look so happy. Seems like grandparents everywhere are the same loving pair. Love the games they played with the kids so universal. As much as we needed to be frugal we couldn’t skip earning our child just like you did this weekend with your kids, priceless memories. I’ve got an 18 year old son believe it or not and he cherises these memories and they are such a big part of his identity. It meant we had to fly all the way to Israel for that:). I can tell your boys will hold on to these memories just like my grown up son:).

  12. Rowena @Saraplicious! Kitchen

    That is so awesome! It looks like everyone had a great time and that’s how family visits (surprise or not) should be. I feel ya about having your “hands slapped” I used to pull my kids out of school often quite a bit when they were younger. But you know, we were always making memories. Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

  13. SMITH BITES

    goodness Jaden ~ i didn’t expect to tear up but i did; see your face, seeing your boys’ faces and then your parents . . . well that is priceless and way worth the money spent. goodness those boys are growing up – they have lost their ‘little guy’ looks are are looking like men . . . yes, the money spent was well worth the trip – am so happy for you!

  14. Jeanette

    Hi Jaden, what a lovely post, it reminds me of my last minute visit to my parents over Easter Weekend. You tugged at my heartstrings! I remember cats cradle when I was growing up and all the yummy Chinese dishes my mom would make. Now that they’re getting older, they don’t cook much. In fact, when I visited them this past weekend, the roles had officially reversed, and I prepared all the meals and cleaned up. As for crawfish, we didn’t have any, but we did have Maryland crabs, a family favorite!! My kids don’t get to see Gong Gong Puo Puo too often, so I’m glad we made the trip, as it sounds like you were too.

  15. Lil @ sweetsbysillianah

    the photo of your parents running out to greet you guys is priceless – i just about bawled… thinking if i ever did something like this with my mom, she’d surely pass out!

    you had me smiling thru the whole post… and made me hungry with the talk of thousand year old egg porridge and stir fried nian gao… that’s the good stuff! =) thank you for sharing your wonderful Easter with us.

  16. Michelle F

    I’m half Chinese, and I call my grandparents Gongs and Poops (although it took us 25 years to figure out how to spell it)! And I love Nian Gao! We call them “sticky things.” I was in South Korea last week and ordered it!!

  17. Kathy Ayers

    Ohhh that was such a lovely post! I remember flying home from NYC and surprising my folks for Easter once. My brother and I switched kids, so he took my daughter in the house (they were expecting him), and when my mom took off her coat and saw she was my daughter and not his – the look was priceless! Thanks for stirring up that wonderful memory!

  18. Eleanor Hoh

    Jaden, so glad you decided to gather with your family. Looks like good times had by all. This made me swell up with emotions, I miss my family, we’re dotted all over the world and so hard to get together. Love this.

  19. Tickled Red

    Wow Jaden! When y’all have a feast you go all out :) But what I adore most is the look on your mom’s face when you surprised her. What a gift you gave her and your father. Your boys are little heart snatchers by the way!! I am so glad that you all were able to get away and reconnect with your family {hugs}

  20. Rosey

    You brought back some great memories for me (we used to surprise my mother and grandparents from time to time on holidays), and I relished in your joy. What a a perfect holiday! Thanks for the great share.

  21. kayenne

    that was sweet! i love surprising people too!

    all those crawfish… i only ever had them once in my aunt’s hometown.. just plain steamed and served with tomato-mango salsa and a chili-soy-vinegar dip… steaming white rice and fresh mountain breeze… YUMMM!

    that was a funny expression on Chip-Chip… what a cute dog! your brother’s cute too! lol

  22. cheryl

    Ok, now you’ve made me homesick. I’m originally from Wichita, moved to Oregon 26 years ago and haven’t seen friends or family in a couple of years. To make it worse, your parent’s kitchen looks exactly like friends of mine there. I also miss the Asian markets that don’t exist in Southern Oregon. Thanks for sharing your fun trip. I need to find those sticky rice cakes. (haven’t had sticky rice in a very long time)

  23. Brooke

    Oh, praise for cheap tickets! So wondrous that you were able to visit family…and over a holiday weekend nonetheless. I now pretty much want to tell our Grandparents to move where they have crawfish. Because those pics are amaze! Such fun! So glad!

  24. Fran

    I’m happy you had such a good visit. It looks like an unforgettable time that everyone will remember fondly.

    Good stories like this are a nice way to end a week like this.

  25. Caneel

    Aww, I loved reading this. Thanks for sharing these special moments and reminding us that sometimes, the expense and missing school is more than worth it for the memories. :)

  26. Uno

    What a wonderful surprise a lovely holiday!!!
    I am always delighted to see the happiness of his family, congratulations Jaden!
    God bless you always! :)

  27. Thereasa Gargano

    Looks like you all had a fab time. What a great surprise for your parents and your children. :-)

  28. Chris

    What a great surprise trip, glad you were able to pull it off without her finding out. Chip looks like a great dog.

  29. Cathy

    Jaden,
    Good for you, and glad a good time was had by all. My folks live close to us so my kids and nephew are lucky to have their grandparents around. I love nian gao, in fact, I love all variations of sticky rice, just wish it’s good for my waistline! I have been baking all kinds of moichi cake using mochiko flour, besides the red bean kind, I made ones with raisins, and a red velvet version sans cream cheese frosting.
    My husband grew up in Wichita, and still has one brother there, the rest of family moved to CO. Hope your bro likes Wichita, it’s really flat! It is the birth place of White Castle and Pizza Hut. I love your blog, check it everyday!

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