Sunday, December 20, 2009

School Holiday Pageant!

Check out our cute little reindeer....first video is simply kids getting ready, second is the big performance.  Sorry about the poor video quality -- Santa, bring me a video camera!

Awww, shucks. Just tried to upload and blogger won't take .mov format.  Anyone have any suggestions?

In the meantime, while we sort out the technical difficulties, here are some pictures of our big snow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Working our way back to August in Photos

A few highlights from the collection. 

Halloween...A bit late, Sorry

She was a skunk for Trick-or-Treating but it was a very warm night and a very hot costume.  We hit six houses and by then she had the hood off and the top completely un-velcroed.  I hadn't put a shirt on her and when it started to rain, she looked like a cross between an Orlando-area stripper and roadkill.  Needless to say, we have no pictures of this.  However, for the pre-school parade and the previous night's haunted barn party, she went as a cowgirl.  Whether it's smores or sugar babies, this cowgirl likes her sweets.  She also prefers to wear her hat in the extruded crown style.  And for those who haven't heard the story, her horse is named Jackson Pollock.  Yep, that's right, Grace named him Jackson Pollock.  Hats off to former pre-school teacher Ginger, who focused on a few key artists in February of 2009.  Certainly left an impression on Grace!   Ironically, the horse is a paint.

Pics follow:

[Note:  Haunted barn a bit scary.  She was concerned that the skeletons might eat her.  I noted that they can't eat anything anymore, as they don't have stomachs.] 

In line for Santa....

She was great.  It was late at night, close to 9 pm.  Lots of children waiting in cheerful outfits, lots of parents in sweatpants and sloppy shirts.  Grace told us that she was going to ask for "another Audrey" (favorite doll) and wanted to tell Santa she could go to the North Pole to help him make presents.   She was excited and pretty patient.  A cute little 15-month old boy ahead of us discovered he was no longer shy and persisted in trying to hug Grace, but our girl played coy (or more like Lucy to Charlie Brown's football) and dodged little Gabriel every time.  Finally, just as we got close to Santa's big chair, Gabriel burst out crying at the sight of Santa.  Grace ran forward and gave the little guy a nice hug.  He was all smiles then, at least long enough for one good pic for his parents.  Then it was Grace's big moment.  She said "Santa!" and ran forward, scrambling into his lap.  And then....nothing.  Just like the Easter Bunny in 2008, or the Santa later that year.  Silence.  She stares off into the distance, looking as though she had just eaten a raw frog.  Finally, she climbed down and came to us.  "I didn't feel like talking," she explained.  That's okay, Santa knows.

Santa, Baby!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grace - born in the The Year of the Fire Dog

I re-read G's zodiac description and now, with her personality in full swing, I find it even more appropos!  I draw your particular attention to references that would validate her tendencies toward quality control and her night-owl (or should I say "night dog"?) habits.  Oh, and with respect to the final sentence below, let's not forget her favorite question -- "Why?"

Here's one take on Fire Dogs (quoted below from :

The Dog in Chinese astrology expresses its principle qualities of loyalty, faithfulness and unselfishness. The Dog is active and honest and is appreciated by his superiors and those under him due to giving priority to the collective interests of all rather than his own. His best role is as a prophet of future events and he barks to draw attention to the events of the day as well as to the injustices of the world. He does look to how wrongs can be corrected. He's forever on guard to look after his property and so anxiousness is a characteristic of his personality. Money is important for his family and so he will earn it to support them; however, he thinks of it as mere 'paper'. He delights in anything to do with the occult, the mysterious, the bizarre and the unusual so he yearns to investigate these things in his life.
Wild and Romantic
The Dog's favourite places are wild, romantic landscapes and the remote regions of the world. He feels at home in the wilds of Tibet or Mongolia, the windswept islands of Scotland and the jungles of the Amazon. For this reason he is an explorer, but he also prefers the comforts of peaceful evenings by the fire where it's far from the business of the everyday world. As a profession he is suited to be a manager or head of companies, but he cares very much about the quality of the work environment. He can be a priest, nun, missionary, teacher, nurse, magistrate, judge, lawyer, doctor, scientist, researcher or preacher. More than any other animal of the zodiac, the Dog is always asking itself, "What am I doing here on earth and what is my purpose in it all?"
A special feature of the Dog-born person is that he or she is the one who sits at the gates awaiting nightfall, wherein the Dog will prowl and keep watch. He is a faithful watchdog and is the guide and guardian in the underground invisible worlds and thus, lying at the gates of the underworld, is a figure of the subterranean world of life and death and is symbol of initiation into the rites of death and rebirth. He pleads mankind's cause with the gods and especially brings questions for us all about our life purpose. Cerebus, of Greek mythology, was the dog who lay at the cave entrance by the River Styx, the river that souls crossed in their passage from life to death, guarding the Gates of Hell and Pluto's underworld. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead it was the dog who guided souls on their journeys into the next world. This year then, will bring a certain edge to us questioning why we are all here.

A New Look for Grace's Blog

Many of you may notice that I was having trouble with the layout of the photos and text here.  In order to use the new and improved layout and editing tools, I needed to update the template.  In the process, I lost a few of the old links, to Grace's Chinese Zodiac sign and Scott Simon's piece on adoption.  I think that's it, as I have recreated the links (with pics on front page now) to G's referral photos and the link to Rumor Queen (although for fun and balance I ought to add the Canadian one, too).  I'll try to find the other two items and add them back.  In the meantime, please let me know what you like and don't like.  If any of the colors bother you or are hard to read, please post a comment and I'll fix the blog.  Thanks!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fewer words, more pics!

Eat Dessert First. [Actually, it's just my ineptitude with Blogger; can't get the pics to load in the order I'd like.]

She picked these shoes for her outfit because she wanted to run around the restaurant.
(Thanks, Al and Donna, for the pretty dress!)

Family Pics Before Heading out for Gotcha Day Dinner.

Yoo Hoo and the American Flag:

Steelers Fan.  No, she doesn't really sleep here -- she likes pretending that she's a "tiny baby" and having me feed her and rock her and climb in this bassinet (it's all we have to play baby with since we said goodbye to the pack n' play and crib last December).  I am sure when she grows out of this phase she will realize how immature she was and finally root for Tom Brady and the Patriots.

How We Spent our Summer....

Here are some pictures to show you what a wonderful, active and people-filled summer we have had!

As of this writing, Grace is unofficially over 25 lbs (maybe more, but if so, that means that I weigh more than I would like, so I prefer the accuracy of my scale to be somewhat nebulous), and quite possibly three inches taller than she was at the start of the year! We'll need to wait for the next doctor's visit to confirm these reports, but we have gone from a size 5 to size 7 toddler shoe in a year, so we have real evidence of growth. Happily, we also welcomed a new baby niece this spring, so someone will be able to use the clothing and shoes that Grace is quickly outgrowing (Yay Bella!).

And for a quick update, Grace likes Frog and Toad books, being barefoot, eating ice cream, visiting the monkeys at the zoo, doing flips on the bar at the playground (completely unassisted) and bouncing on the trampoline at gymnastics class (started in July shortly after we witnessed the flipping). She loves her grandparents (all six of them), her Uncle Alan and Auntie Donna from the U.K., her dear "aunties" and "uncles" in the neighborhood. The ocean. Noodles. Watching Kai-Lan, Dora and Max & Ruby. Playing at the playground. Running. Helping to cook, do laundry, set the table, wash the floor. She is less keen right now on washing her hair or going to bed (11 pm....!!!). Brushing and flossing are less fun now that she's met the dentist (really, she needs to understand that the more she does the former, the less she needs to do the latter!). And, she really wishes we would go on airplanes more often as she loves to fly!

Here come the picures.

Memories of the Gotcha Day

(....continued from 8/26/08)

We arrived the night prior, to a sweltering Hunan airport. The tropical plants and palm trees were a change from Beijing's more familiar environment. The humidity clung to everything. We were hustled along in the dark by a young woman who would become our guide in Chang-Sha, "Vicky." She moved us en masse, with all our luggage, into a waiting van.

The vans smelled a bit of mildew, which would become a common scent here and farther south in our journey. I had tried to do a little laundry in Beijing the day before, washing it by hand in our hotel room and hanging our thin, microfiber clothing to dry in the bathroom and bedroom. Needless to say, the short turn-around time and relative humidity of China made air-drying nearly impossible, and our luggage was now significantly heavier, as we carted around very damp clothing.

We were very tired, and eager to go to bed. Our hotel was stunning on the inside -- featuring a massive lobby with marble pillars, koi pond and dramatic gold accents along the walls. We checked in to the Dolton, selected our pillow preference (feather and buckwheat for me), changed some money in the lobby and headed to bed.

Upon unlocking the room and heading inside, I was struck by an unfamiliar but momentous sight -- a crib, tucked in the corner, awaiting its occupant. All the talk, the work, the expense to prepare the papers, to nest, to pack, and to make the long journey to get to this room, with this crib, was suddenly very much in the past. Looking at the crib, I realized that everything from here forward would be different. We unpacked formula, bottles, a few things we needed in the morning. And although our beds were as unyielding as plywood, we piled on the comforters, said goodnight to each other and the room that would soon be filled with a world we had only imagined...and went to sleep (one of us needing a sleeping pill to calm his anxiety).

The next morning, we headed to the hotel buffet. The big event wouldn't occur until after lunch, so we joined our fellow travelers and worked at calming nerves enough to eat a meal. Following a joint meeting in the hotel conference room to review all our paperwork and meet two other families (from Maine and Minnesota), we headed out to lunch (who could eat???) and then to get the babies. Three families proceeded to the county offices in Chang-Sha, while the two others (second-time adopters, matched with slightly older children) settled in for a long drive to southern Hunan for their girls.

Two years later, I can't remember if the bus riders were quiet or bubbling with excitement. Three of the six future parents had never experienced parenthood before, so I am sure that even if there was noise, there was nervousness as well! We pulled into courtyard alongside the building and proceeded inside. At each step, we were asked to wait -- just a minute here or there, but it was agonizing. Other vans would pull up and we would get excited, thinking that the babies were in the vans. But one after the other, the vans were just delivering more prospective parents. We started to cluster in the lobby until we were invited into small elevators for a trip upstairs. Again the crowd built, as adults speaking several foreign lanuages spilled into the room. Some took posts along the walls, some in the ornately carved wooden benches throughout the room, and some just milled around blocking the doorway. We quickly prepped the camera for video, having run through the basics in the hotel room that morning (why I hadn't taught him to use the video before this day, I'll never know! Fortunately, he did great).

Then, Chinese women carrying babies began to enter the room. People were craning for a look at the children, seeking facial characteristics they could recognize from the pictures we had coveted for month or more. It was an amazing moment to realize that the 2-D image that filled your dreams and palms for so many days was now a physical presence, breathing, blinking and, in some cases, crying in the arms of the young aya's (nannies/caretakers). I saw a baby I thought was Grace, and we craned our heads for a better look. But a Spanish family crowded around her and gathered her up as I stood there, shaken by the thought that I didn't really know what my child looked like.

Then our guide returned, with three babies and ayas behind her. The noise was now cacaphonous, with various languages, cries of happiness and relief from the parents and sadness, fear and separation emanating from babies. R. turned on the camera, narrating his top-of-mind thoughts about the crowd and chaos. Suddenly, he spied Xue Chun. R.'s remarkable facial-recognition skills gave me instant relief, as I knew our daughter was finally here. He followed her with the camera as they first offered her and then retracted her until I could present my passport for identification. Xue Chun was staring around, expressionless but alert. When they handed her to me, my arms lifted a bit, overestimating the weight of the slightly built little gift that was now, finally, ours. She gripped firmly to a tissue box that was her comfort or toy -- I had imagined her playing with it on the long drive to the official building and now, needed this familiar object among all that was noisy and erratic and new.

She was so very soft, with arms and legs that while not sickly, seemed to have no muscles contained within. I couldn't believe this delicate little child could so tightly grip the tissue box, or so steadlily hold her head aloft. But she did -- watching with intense interest and growing horror at the crying and screaming of her fellow babies. Finally, she started to cry too, a loud and unending protest, her sweaty head and face turning red and anger pouring out of her. I cooed "bu pa" and "wu aie nee, xue chun" (don't be afraid, I love you) and her new daddy started the rocking that would not stop to this day, the swaying to calm an upset child (or maybe parent?).

Otherwise, she looked well. Her hair was fine and uneven, evidence of being shaved for some medical procedure (they would reportedly draw blood from the side of a child's head, or for other purpose). She had a few large red bumps on the back of her skull, from heat, we were told. Otherwise, was fine-featured and beautiful. Her clothes were cotton separates, made in India with the odd slogan "Ethnic Baby" imprinted in a colorful orange pattern across the front (just bizarre). Someone has tied up the undershirt strings and rolled down the waistband of the shorts to keep the clothing from falling off her.

We were finally removed to the van to return to the hotel, mothers now holding their precious babies, fathers gearing up with bottles and plastic keys and any manner of tchotchkes to calm the children's fears and provide entertainment. One baby peed all over her mother, and we all suddenly realized our daughters were not wearing diapers. Quick diapering ensued, and then we were at the Dolton.

At this point, Grace had stopped crying and was nearly asleep, worn out from the effort and the trip and the trauma. I can't quite recall whether we slept first, or bathed first. Either way, both were done as was a successful bottle-feeding. Shi-goo stopped by with the type of formula they used at the orphanage ("Sanlu" -- later found to be the brand contaminated with melamine) -- at the time, we were just thrilled to provide some continuity to our new little baby. After all had rested, we dressed her and went downstairs for a late and quiet dinner. She was calm, quiet and taking in everything with her lovely, shiny dark eyes.

I remember tucking her in her crib that night, incomplete phrases from dozens of lullabies and nursery rhymes floating through my head. We snapped a few pictures of our sleeping beauty, kissed her goodnight and went gratefully to bed.

I'll close this post by saying that following the hand-off, Grace never again had a crying spell in China. She woke up the next morning, cheerful and alert. She slept through the night, except when she needed a diaper change. We even realized that when we held her over the potty, she would pee -- an awareness that would later in her life lead to a very easy and early potty training. She was a happy, well-adjusted baby who took her bottles well and tried many solid foods at many Chinese buffets! She could suck a noodle like a champion, and, despite having no teeth, would go with gusto for fruits and rice, eggs, soft meats and other foods. We enjoyed our time with her in China, delighting in her laughter and surprise, her many facial expressions and interests. For the duration of our trip in China, passersby would stop to interact with Grace, saying to us "beautiful baby, clever baby," and we agreed.

On this second anniversary of our first Family/Gotcha/Adoption Day, we are no less thrilled, thankful for or awed by our sweet and spirited, intelligent and lovely little girl. We love you, Grace Xue.

Happy Gotcha Day 2009!

It was two years ago today (okay, yesterday, the 27th) that we met our Gracie. Last year, I posted the wind up to the meeting... one year later, before the exact memories fade and are replaced by just emotions and "recollections" jogged by the video and pictures, I will attempt to write the story of our first day as a family......

The pics in this post are a mix of old and new. Grace is on the left of most of the pictures, in the middle of the three girls on the first red couch photo. The girl on her right in the old and the new pics is C., who just came to visit.