My sister helped process my mother’s papers to clear the way for her to visit us here in the United States.
She traveled with friends the second time she visited the USA and stayed until Christmas. It was great to spend that time with Mama. For her to be with my sister and me together with all her grandchildren in the United States was a blessing that others only dream about.
Jollibee Road Trip
We left our husbands to take care of the kids while Juhan, my sister, mother, and I made the two-hour drive each way to New Jersey to have mother-daughter bonding time in Jollibee. I drove my sister’s family vehicle as Juhan doesn’t know how to drive yet.
It was an easy drive, made less boring by Mama’s complaining about everything. I am glad my sister was there to entertain and talk to Mama while I concentrated on hearing the GPS’s instructions.
When we arrived at the parking lot, a middle-aged man came to us and asking for water to drink. We invited him to line up with us and order from the menu. We paid for his order separately so it would be packed in a different bag. It was a great feeling to see him smile and his face light up when we paid for his meal.
We ordered the things we craved. We each ate the burger steak with rice, spaghetti, pancit palabok, and halo-halo dessert. Of course, we also ordered the big bucket of chicken that included gravy and rice. And we couldn’t forget our favorite: mango pies and peach pies. If you visit Jollibee, the pies are a must.
After we ate, we immediately went to the Filipino store near Jollibee and bought some Filipino groceries and other Filipino products that we enjoy using.
This time together felt new and fresh as we renewed bonds between my mother, sister, and me. It had been a long time since we had had that opportunity, but of course, it wasn’t complete as our brother wasn’t with us.
Then, the three of us headed back to my sister’s home, another two-hour journey.
Santa Train Ride
On our second day, we went to a Santa Paradise Express. Juhan has been following these activities. It’s an hour away from their home. We thought we were late and feared we wouldn’t be able to book a ticket, but thankfully there was an opening, and we were able to purchase a ticket.
We drove in two vehicles. It was a quick trip from my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Tobyhanna to Strasburg, Pennsylvania.
There was lots of free parking in the area, so it was easy to find a parking spot. We proceeded to the main entrance and into the waiting area. The station provides hot cocoa and cookies for you while you wait. They have a mailbox, a pen and pencil, and paper for you to use if you want to write a letter to Santa. Of course, kids didn’t want to miss out on sending letters to Santa. Writing their wishes and stories to Santa Claus kept them busy while we waited.
While on the train ride, Santa and Rudolph visited each table and brought presents to the kids. The kids got to sit in Santa’s lap, ask Santa some questions and talk about anything that concerned them. They also read the book titled “The Night Before Christmas” on the 1 1/2 hour train ride.
Our kids sat with their grandma, auntie, uncle, and cousins. Nate and I had a table all to ourselves a little ways away.
Dinner at a Guy Fieri’s Kitchen
It was around 5:00 pm when we headed home, so we decided to try some restaurants nearby my sister’s house in the Pocono Mountains. We decided on a barbecue restaurant owned by a famous American chef Fieri that is located inside the Casino.
It took us a long time to order and get our food. It shouldn’t have taken so long because there weren’t that many people dining it. The long wait made our younger children cranky and impatient. Because this is a Casino, the kids were not free to roam around while they waited, which was challenging for them. The barbecue is good, and the other dishes we ordered were delicious.
Guy Fieri’s Mt. Pocono Kitchen is advertised as “kid-friendly.”I disagree. The restaurant is not kid-friendly, and neither is the menu because it offers no kids’ meals. We had to order adult food for them. In the end, our children didn’t eat much of their food.
This place is only good for adults or adults with teens, not for families with younger children.
We celebrated Christmas with Mama and my sister’s family in Pennsylvania. We prepared mostly Filipino food as Mama, Juhan, and her family are all Filipino. We made some American food that Nate and my kids would eat. It’s hard to feed my kids sometimes because they are picky eaters. I’m glad Juhan has learned to prepare bacon and chicken nuggets or breaded chicken when visiting them.
It’s a Catholic tradition to attend mass both on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. We missed going to church on Christmas Eve as we get busy preparing the food and taking care of our small children. We opened our presents earlier that evening before my brother-in-law left for work. We had a great time exchanging gifts before he left.
The kids enjoyed their remote control cars from their parents. They all ended up having one, so they had a great time playing together.
My nephews enjoyed the keyboard we got for them, and we’re so happy to press every key. They sang and danced in front of the adults. It’s a joy to watch the cousins get along and having fun together.
On Christmas Day, we woke up early to have time to feed the kids breakfast before heading to church. We had to search for a church celebrating mass at the time we can attend. This time we drove a little distance from Juhan’s home. The cousins were good. I’m glad they were well-behaved and listened to the priest.
The younger of my nephews wanted me to carry him all the time. Keira enjoys holding him, too, so we took turns taking care of him.
This was a small church. The priests and everyone in the church were happy to see us occupying the seats. We arrived in a big group and took up two rows of the church benches.
We went back to my sister’s house after the mass to eat our abundance of leftovers.
It’s not an easy process to apply for a visa to visit the USA. Mama’s first visa application was denied. I’m glad she got approved the second time and was given a ten year USA visa. I’m happy my mother had the opportunity to visit us here as I know many others are waiting and dreaming of traveling to the United States.
We’re grateful to have spent Christmas with Mama here and show her where we lived and how it is living here in the United States.
The younger grandchildren were happy to have their grandma around, and my sister and I were happy to have our mother here for Christmas.
I hope someday we can all go home to the Philippines and spend time with our brother and his family so all the cousins can be together.