This is my life...a series of dreams come true on a daily basis. Join me as I run down my dream - maybe you will find your dream in the process.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Santa sent some helpers!

Yesterday when we finally made it home in the torrential rainstorm, we noticed that something was slightly amiss about our Christmas tree.  It had gained a couple of small elves!  They were quite friendly, and came with a letter of introduction from Santa himself.  Santa had sent them to make sure Scarlett and Jackson were not naughty, but were nice!

The note Santa left stated that the elves were youngsters and needed to be named.  So, Scarlett named her elf Caroline, and Jackson named his Alex.  The kids played with them until bedtime, when they promptly forgot about them.  That is, until this morning. 

Those elves are quite the mischievous pair!  I've been told that there could be another elf show up to watch Alex and Caroline.  We shall have to wait and see, I suppose. 

Can't wait to see what happens next!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving - I am so thankful for...

Thanksgiving will be here in just two days!  It is hard to believe that this year is flying by so fast.  In all the hubbub of everyday life, sometimes I forget to thank God for all that He has given me.  I know that I should never take these blessing for granted.  I am so thankful for
  • my salvation.  It is the most valuable thing that I have.  And to think that God gave His only Son to die for my sins so that I might live. 
  • my family.  My husband and children keep my life interesting and fun!
  • my friends.  I have some of the most wonderful friends that a person could ever hope to have.  They have helped out during times of sickness and during times of celebration. 
  • my Church.  A lot of my friends are also part of my church.  I don't know where I would be without the encouragement and sometimes admonition of my church family.
  • my job.  I am fortunate to have a job during a time when so many are without work.  I am even more fortunate that I work for such an honorable man and with such fun coworkers.
  • my health.  I still have good health and plan to do all that I can to remain healthy for as long as I can.
  • my cars.  They are paid for and reliable.  They get us where we need to go.
  • my sense of humor. Because without it, life would be dull!
I am also thankful for those of you who take the time to read my thoughts and opinions.  Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just more of the same strangeness

Being the mother of a six year old girl and a two and a half year old boy, my days are full of strangeness.  Take for instance, this morning.  We like to listen to talk radio as we drive in the mornings.  This morning was no different.  As we were traveling, we heard the news story of a 300 lb chimpanzee that had escaped a home and was wandering around a neighborhood causing all kinds of mischief.  The newscaster stated that at one point, the chimpanzee opened a lady's car door (I assume the woman was still in the car) and put its hand on the seat. At that point, Scarlett asked me, "If a chimpanzee ever crawled in our car, what would you do?"  I told her I had no idea.  Then she said, "Well, what if we were in the driveway at the Git N Go to buy Bug Juice (a kids' drink), and it got in the car?"
I replied, "Then I guess that chimp better have its own money, 'cause I am NOT buying it any Bug Juice."
Strangely, this seemed to satisfy her.
Yesterday morning, I was left to my own devices on getting both kids, a dog and myself ready for the day (Hubby was away on a business trip).  I honestly have no idea how you single parents do this every day! I am simply in awe of you folks. Anyway,  I was trying my best to get the littler kid up.  Jackson is usually my Mr. Sunshine morning, noon and night.  But not yesterday - he was all out of sorts and grumpy.  He cried when I pulled his pj bottoms off. He cried when I put his jeans on.  He LOST IT when I tried to take off his Thomas the Train pj top.  So I did what every other harried parent would do.  I left him in it.  The child wore his pj top to daycare.  I know I am not the first mama to do this, and I am sure I will not be the last! Thing is, he looked adorable in it. He was happy.  I was happy.
Days like these always make me smile and wonder: What's next? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Precious Pup

Please allow me to introduce the newest member of our household: Sarita Marie!
Sarita is a four year old Yorkshire Terrier and has retired from birthing puppies.  Miss Scarlett has asked for a dog for awhile.  We think she is ready.  And even if she is not, her Mama is! (I've just wanted a dog forever).
She is currently being "fixed", so we won't get to pick her up until October 8th.  Thank you, Susan of Mystic Mountain Kennels for this absolutely precious dog!
We are looking forward to many years with this little girl!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My "Explosive Child"

Our daughter Scarlett is a very smart, kind and loving girl.  She rarely causes trouble and is an all-around wonderful kid.  Like everyone else, she sometimes gets frustrated.  However, that is where things get a little different.
Sometimes she becomes so frustrated that she quite literally loses all capacity to think clearly.  She will scream, kick, hit and, for lack of a better term, lose her mind.  She will continue on in this manner for up to an hour before she comes to her senses again.  These episodes seem to occur when she is particularly tired or hungry, but not always.  Thankfully, she seems to only have this trouble when we are at home.  We were not sure if she was having this trouble as an "anxious attachment" problem, discipline problem or something else.
While desperately searching for something to make sense of this behavior, I recently ran across a book written by Ross W. Greene called, "Explosive Child".  In this book, Greene explains how children are sometimes deficient in the areas of frustration tolerance and flexibility.  In other words, these children are unable to handle and verbalize their frustrations in a manner which is both constructive and acceptable. 
By teaching caretakers and children how to use Collaborative Problem Solving (sometimes referred to as CPS), these "explosions" may be diminished, shortened, and many times stopped altogether.
My own parents just told me what they expected of me, and I did it. But here is what happens with an "explosive" child -
Child:  "I don't want to go to school!"
Parent:  "Well, you 're going. Get in the car." 
Child:  KABOOM! 
Laying down the law is not necessarily a bad thing, but then, most kids don't have trouble with frustration tolerance and flexibility.  As a child, even I became frustrated at times and stomped off to my room, but never to the extent of hitting, screaming, etc.  Other parents take the laid back approach of giving in whenever the child demands something.
Child: "I don't want to go to school!"
Parent:  "So don't go. No biggie."
Again, not always bad - depending on the circumstances. 
The CPS model starts with empathy and parroting back the child's concern. Then you put two concerns out for discussion - the child's and yours.  Finally, you ask for solutions from the child and hopefully come up with one that is mutually agreeable.  If not, then you go back to square one.
For example,
Child:  "I don't want to go to school!"
Parent: "You don't want to got to school?  You usually love going to school.  What's up?"
Child: "It's boring."
Parent: "It's boring?  What about it is boring?"
Child:  "I'm tired and don't want to go!  I'm just tired!"
Parent:  "You're tired.  I see.  I don't want you to feel tired.  Is it safe to say you don't want to be tired?"
Child:  "Uh huh."
Parent: "Well, how can we solve this problem?  You don't want to feel tired, and neither do I.  What do you suggest?"
Child:  "Sleep later!"
Parent: "Well, that is one idea.  However, sleeping late would make you tardy to school.  That would make the school and your parents unhappy.  Can you think of another solution?"
Child:  "Maybe go to bed earlier?"
Parent: "That sounds like a good idea.  Shall we give that a try?"
Child:  "OK."
These are oversimplified examples, but you get the idea. 
We have started working on this with Scarlett just recently.  It is too early to see if this will work in the big scheme of things, but already I think that I can see a difference in being able to head off explosions.  There is hope.  And that is enough for right now.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September already - I can't believe it!

I simply cannot wrap my head around the thought that it is already September!  Football season is upon us (Go Vols!) and the kids are all back in school.  Before you know it, we will be barrelling into October!
September has always been my favorite month. I love all the "back to school" sales, the excitement of football season starting, and the anticipation of cooler weather. 
Some of the things that I hope to do during this month include...
  • visiting my sister-in-law and her family over Labor Day weekend and checking out their new kitten.
  • buying a Nook!  I am an avid book reader and being able to put a TON of books on one device is exciting to me.
  • getting Jackson's speech therapy started.
  • getting matching shirts for the office to wear on "casual Fridays".
  • changing out closets from summer to fall wardrobe.
  • preparing for a yard sale - need to get rid of a lot of things.
  • decorating our front porch for the fall season.
  • getting my house "fall cleaned" for the upcoming Holidays.
Yes.  You read it correctly.  I said it.  Holidays! Holidays, holidays, holidays! 
I bought a Cinnamon Apple scented candle today.  Lit it at my desk, and it has infused our office with the fresh, autumn scent of apples.  Mmmmm!
I am starting to think about getting my Christmas Notebook updated and ready.  I have my receipes, gift ideas, gift list, Christmas card list, decorating ideas, etc. all in this three ring binder.  My friend Debbie got me started by showing hers to me a few years back, and I have been a devoted fan ever since.
I just love September!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Busy month...but all went well

August has been one very busy month for our family.  A lot has happened (some planned, some unplanned), but everything worked out exactly as God planned it -  all for the best.
 Here we go....

  • My sweet husband celebrated another birthday, along with our nephew's adorable girlfriend Caroline. Had a wonderful party at my sister-in-law's house.
  • Met with Early Intervention teacher for Jackson.
  • Scarlett started First Grade.  She loves her teacher and was quite relieved that she was able to remain in that class, as five students were moved to a new classroom due to overcrowding.
  • Jackson's cleft palate repair went extremely well, and he continues to heal.  Thank God for skilled doctors and nurses!
  • Even though I was completely out of leave time, my wonderful boss allowed me to take a week off to stay home with our son after surgery.
  • We refinanced our house from a 30 year to a 15 year fixed and got an even lower rate that we first thought thanks to a loan officer who was continually looking out for us.
  • We were able to put a new roof on our house, rewire our electrical box, and cut down five trees.
  • Family, friends and neighbors all pitched in to help out with meals, shuttle service and general support during Jackson's hospital stay and convalescence.
  • Scarlett brought home her very first homework paper - she had completed it while in after-school care, and did it perfectly!
  • Jackson discovered the joy of choo-choo trains.
August is not quite finished yet, but it has been a good, albeit busy, month.  Here is hoping that September is not quite so hectic, but just as good!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Surgery for Jackson

From the day the China Center for Adoption Affairs first made aware of our son Jackson's existence, we knew that a few surgeries would be in his future.  That did not deter us - he was our son, and we loved him.  Jackson was born with a severe cleft lip and palate.  Jackson's lip was successfully repaired in China before he came home to us, but his palate was not.  The cleft palate keeps Jackson from being able to drink from a straw or talk where people can understand him.
So his first cleft palate surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning.  We are holding near to our heart Phillippians 4:6  "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." We are praying for Jackson's physicians' hands to be guided by God, for the surgery to be a complete success, for Jackson's pain to be minimal, and for a speedy recovery.  Not too much, eh? 
If you would be so kind, please pray the same for our sweet boy Jackson.  Thank you, and God Bless!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Supper with Helen and Steve

The other evening, our family had the privilege of dining at the home of two of our friends, Helen and her husband Steve.  Helen and Steve are newlyweds that have just recently been reunited after a few months of waiting for Steve's student visa to be issued.  They met in Beijing as students.  We met Helen when we were looking for a native Chinese speaker to teach our daughter Chinese.  We've been friends ever since.
Anyway, Helen and Steve wanted to treat our family to an authentic Chinese family-style supper.  We had no idea what to expect, only that we were excited to see what they would serve us.  We just knew that it would be wonderful - and we were NOT disappointed!
Steve had been working in the kitchen washing fruits and vegetables, slicing, dicing and cooking since 2:00 p.m.  When Helen came home from University at 4:00 p.m., she joined him in the kitchen.  The results of their combined efforts were tasty indeed.  We had the staple Chinese sides of noodles (long and moderately wide like fettuccine) and steamed rice.  A savory sauce made from olive oil, sesame see oil, teriyaki sauce and scallions added some flavor to the rice and noodles. 
Steve made a tofu dish using "a pepper jam" as Steve called it.  The remnants left in the jar it came from looked less like a jam and more like a thick sauce. Anyway, it gave a creamy tomato soup like consistency.  It did not taste tomato-y - just looked like it.  The tofu was soft and creamy. 
The second main dish was pepper beef.  Quarter-inch thin slices of beef and hot peppers made up this spicy entree.  You did not notice the hotness until after you swallowed.  It was delicious.  They also made a chicken and potato dish.  It was exactly that - chicken with potatoes.  'Nuff said.  The final dish was a beef, broccoli and carrot dish.  It had a savory brown sauce with it that added a lot of flavor.  I only wish I had thought to take my camera to show you how wonderful these dishes looked!
We had a terrific evening discussing their upcoming move to Boston where Helen would be working on her Divinity Degree; how they felt babies in China were not as happy as babies in the States(babies in China cry all the time); and who has the best muffins.  Yes, muffins.  And the answer is Sam's Club.  The muffins there are huge.
We are saddened that Helen and Steve are leaving our area, but we wish them all the best of luck in Boston, and pray that God's hand protects them.  Godspeed, Helen and Steve!  Thank you for a wonderful evening.

Monday, August 2, 2010

How to relax - if you can

I generally find it difficult to make myself just relax and enjoy the quiet.  I mean, I am one of those people who is not happy unless I am doing something.  Put it down to the old saying that idle hands are the devil's plaything.  This weekend, I found myself forced to be still and relax.   Having surgery kind of makes you do that.
Friday morning, I had what I like to call "a minor major" surgery.  Major in the fact that I was put to sleep and my belly was cut, but minor in the fact that it was laproscopic and didn't really hurt at all.  But anyway, I was told to get plenty of rest, eat light meals, and generally just veg.  I am not a good vegger.
Friday afternoon, I was standing in my Mom's kitchen, leaning against the kitchen counter having an in-depth discussion with my stepfather's home health nurse about surgeries.  We compared surgery scars, recovery times, and the like.  After awhile, Mom and the nurse were telling me to go lie down somewhere. I shouldn't be up wandering around.  So, like a dutiful patient, I flopped on the little bed that Mom had set up in her front room to read.  
By the way, I do not suggest that right after having a minor major surgery your read "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress".  I can tell you from painful experience that it hurts to laugh, and giggles just don't cut it for this book.  What was my friend Debbie thinking?  Maybe she thought laughter really was the best medicine.
Anyway, I read awhile and slept awhile.  Read some more, then got up to see if there was anything good to eat.  I was told in no uncertain terms that I should have a bland diet (i.e. potato soup) and not eat anything too exciting.  After eating, I slept some more.  (By now I bet you are wishing that you had moved on to the next blog - go ahead - I don't blame you.  Relaxing is pretty boring sometimes)
Saturday was more of the same.  The only difference was hearing the somewhat desperate tone to my husband's voice when I asked how things were going at home with the two small fry:  "Good. Great.  How are you feeling?" he asked, somewhat like a person who was trying to ascertain if the parole board had voted in favor of early release.
Sunday dawned hot and clear.  I was feeling the benefits of a lot of sleep, a lot of reading and a lot of potato soup.  I decided to take a walk down Mom's long driveway through the woods to the little street that runs by her house.  Mom has done a lot of work over the years fine-tuning her home into something I like to call Modern Forties Vintage Only Better.  I stepped down the front porch to see an old blue car putter by.  For a moment I thought I was in some time warp.  I shook my head and proceeded down the drive, swatting at the mosquitoes all the way. 
I had just reached the end of the drive when I spied a tiny spotted fawn nibbling the neighbor's front shrubs.  Its mama was nowhere to be seen.  It delicately munched its way across the front beds and stopped at the edge of the neighbor's driveway, looking back over its shoulder.  That is when I saw mama step from the woods.  She ambled toward her baby, not stopping until the "poot poot" of a bright yellow Studebaker (convertible!) motored past.  She and I looked at each other in disbelief, as if simultaneously saying, "A Studebaker out here?  Seriously?"  Then she was gone.
This is kind of what Mama Deer and I saw, only envision the top to be white and down.
Once Hubby and the children arrived, the relaxation was over.  Pandemonium reigned and things were back to normal.  I was ready for it, thanks to the tender care of my Mom and lots of rest and relaxation.  Which is a good thing, because my house is a wreck after a weekend of mayhem without mama!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Weighty Matters

There are some that weigh heavy on one's mind.  Things like: Should we refinance now?  or What was I thinking by eating that second butter biscuit?  Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying about things that might possibly happen, but generally never do.  Like thermonuclear Armageddon.
Our daughter Scarlett, however, ponders weightier things. 
As we were dining on some of the best crab legs to be found this side of the Mississippi River (you must really try Mayflower Restaurants in North Carolina), Scarlett pipes up with the following:
"So what exactly do crabs eat?"
I look at my husband - he looks at me. 
"Um, algae and other sea critters, I think," James replied giving me one of those you can step in and help me anytime looks.
"Well, who first decided to eat a crab, anyway?  They look scary - kind of like a spider," Scarlett proclaims.
Exactly.  What kind of person would ever consider trying something hard, with pinchers, no less, to eat?  I mean, seriously!  So being the hard-hitting, investigative reporter type person that I am, I did a little research.  This is what I discovered:

According to the website, crabs were used for food as far back as ancient Greek and Roman times.  As foods go, literature and art from those periods seem to suggest that crabs were not really enjoyed as a source of food to those ancients.  Why?  My guess is that someone had not yet discovered drawn butter.  Everyone knows that drawn butter could make even a soccer ball taste delicious.

So it comes down to the fact that no one really knows who ate the first crab.  Probably some Greek housewife was scrambling to come up with something exotic for dinner because her husband sent a message that he was bringing his boss home for dinner.  In the sort of move born from desperation, she ran down to the docks where the only offering were some freaky, spidery-looking shellfish.  She grabbed a few (squealing each time a pincher came near) and quickly tossed them in a pot of boiling water.  I can just imagine the husband and boss' face when she served up a platter of steaming crab.  I bet her husband never let her live that down!

Oh yeah, and crabs eat carrion (dead things - if tuna is Chicken of the Sea, consider crabs the Vultures of the Sea), algae and worms.  I looked it up on Wikipedia.

Now that I am armed with the answers to these questions, I feel ready to handle truly hard ones.  So, why did I eat that second butter biscuit?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nothing more American than...

(I think the photo says it all.  Don't you?)

We spent the Fourth of July celebrating our freedom and remembering those who had fought and died for that freedom.  But not only that, we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary by watching fireworks, eating more watermelon than Cas Walker (look him up!) ever dreamed of eating, and being with family.
Hope yours was fantastic in every way!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Third Kid?

The other day, Scarlett, Jackson and I were on the way home from work and daycare when the following conversation took place:

Scarlett: "I can't wait until we get the third kid."
Me: "What third kid?"
Scarlett: "The third kid from China.  You know, we need another kid."
Me: "We can't get another child, honey.  We have all we can handle now."
Scarlett: " Oh.  That's too bad."

Honestly.  Where does she come up with this stuff?  I would love to adopt again - from China or anywhere, for that matter.  Unfortunately, since Hubby and I being are of the "older" rank and file and are as broke as Potter's goat, kind of precludes that from ever happening.  But I still think about it.  And obviously, I am not alone in that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The best decision she'll ever make

This week was a busy but fun week for the kids.  It was Vacation Bible School at our church, and lots of fun was to be had, as well as some teaching about Jesus.  The theme for the week was The Victory Train.  Basically the children learned about the story of Joshua where he and the Children of Israel marched around Jericho and God had the walls tumble down.

Wednesday night,Scarlett was intently listening to our youth pastor, Brother Joel, explain how we were all sinners and that the price for sin was death and eternal separation from God.  However, because God loved us so much, He sent His only Son to pay that price for us.  And we don't have to do a thing but accept the Gift of Grace.

After Joel explained all of this (and I so wish I had been in the sanctuary and not in the nursery), he asked if any of the kids wanted to give their hearts to Jesus.  I am so happy to say that our sweet, precious Scarlett went forward!
After the evening was over, Scarlett came bouncing out of her class absolutely giddy and wearing a sticker that said, "Ask me about my decision!"  When we asked her about her sticker, she just smiled kind of shyly and asked, "Were you in the sanctuary this evening?  Did you hear Brother Joel ask if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into their heart?  Well, Mommy, I did! I asked Jesus into my heart."
Please join us as we celebrate the best decision Scarlett will ever make!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How to occupy a small boy...

Just in case you ever need something to occupy a small boy's time for awhile - get him a Hot Wheels storage case and a few Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars.  He will spend hours arranging and rearranging cars in the thing.  Case and point:
First you hand the boy the Hot Wheels storage case.  The wheel case is especially nice because it also spins!  Bonus!  We have the Cook Family to thank for this ingenious gift.  It is one of Jackson's favorite things.
After spinning the wheel case for awhile, the small boy  carefully inserts each and every car, truck, motorcycle, and construction vehicle he owns into the slots.  One must be deliberate in the placement of each item.  Some slots are bigger than others, and some vehicles are longer or higher profile than others.
Turn the case around and do the same thing.  Note that the slots on the other side are different.  Hmm.  Does this mean that he needs to rethink the earlier arrangement on the other side?
You dump them all out and start over.  After all, a boy's cars have to be perfect!   Jackson spent a good two hours arranging and rearranging his car collection in his new storage case.    And Mama spent a good two hours alternately cleaning and reading a book!  SWEET!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A recipe for adventure

I have been an avid reader all my life.  Starting with my first favorite book, "Whoa, Joey! Whoa!" (about a kangaroo who could never aim his jumps quite right) and graduating to the entire Nancy Drew series.  I am embarrassed to admit that I even went through a time in high school reading Harlequin Romances (Yes, I can't believe I did it, either).  I am now interested in books on food (think cookbooks, food memoirs - you get the idea).  I just finished reading "Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes" by Emily Franklin.

Emily Franklin makes me want to move to Connecticut, become a stay-at-home mom and experiment with cooking.  Ms. Franklin is a young mother of four whose culinary adventures are warmly amusing.  From jaunts to her father's and step-mother's home in Italy to visits to farmers' markets in the Midwest, we are swept along with Ms. Franklin and her family as they discover delicious and sometimes exotic foods.  Her storytelling includes sweet anecdotes of her family life - typical of many homes.

The real bonus is that the book is filled with the recipes of the many foods she has cooked (or sometimes attempted to cook) - from Apricot Almond Bread to Celeriac Mash.  All the recipes entice one to try them out, or better yet, make up something of your own!  Experimenting and improvisation are encouraged.

The book does not read as a cookbook. Rather, it reads as a memoir of life, parenting, travel and food.  I highly recommend it both for the good read and for the yummy recipes included.

This book has left me feeling like I can have something good come out of my kitchen and that in so doing, my life might be a little more enriched.  My life.  As in The Girl Who Is a Non-cook.  I think I will try.

So with what recipe will I begin?  Will it be Buttery Apricot Bars or Crunchy Sesame Tofu?  Maybe I will choose Polenta or Roasted Broccoli Rabe and Baby Greens.  I will let you know.  But whatever I choose, it will be an adventure for me! 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Relay for Life

Scarlett, Megan & Jackson

Part of the team - My WonderTwin and Wonder Woman!

Laura, Lexi & Debbie - Lexi won best dressed dog!

This past weekend, our office participated in the Relay for Life to help raise money to defeat cancer for good!  While I have been fortunate enough to not have the specter of cancer follow me, several family members have not been. My sweet grandfather passed away from lung cancer.  I have an aunt, mother-in-law, step-father and niece who have all survived various types of cancer.   It is for them and others who are always listening for the footsteps of cancer behind them that we walked.

The day was oppressively hot and humid, but that did nothing to dampen our spirits!  We arrived at the track bright and early - ready to walk and raise money for cancer research.  A mother/daughter on our team entered their pup in the Dog Parade.  Miss Lexi won Best Dressed.  She was adorable in her Little Miss Perfect outfit on her float.

I am happy to report that the event was a success.  We are all looking forward to next year!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Surprised, but pleasantly so...

I am not really sure why I decided to chronical a portion of our lives on this blog instead of writing it down in a diary like I used to do as a young girl.  I suppose that I wanted to embrace the latest technology of a diary blog.  I love surfing the blogosphere and reading all kinds of blogs. I have discovered some gems:  One of a husband to a a woman suffering wtih MS.  Another touting the simple delights of daily life.  Blogs about music, special needs, photography, spirituality, travel, scrapbooking and cooking.  But I also found blogs that were extremely depressing or just downright disturbing - causing me to immediately stop and pray for the authors.  I suppose that I am not alone in the voyeuristic pursuit of finding entertaining and useful blogs.  I was delighted and pleasantly surprised to discover that there are people "out there" commenting on and following Running Down Dreams. 

I am not really sure what the purpose of this post is, other than to say thank you for your supporting and encouraging words.  It is nice to know sometimes that someone - somewhere - is listening. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What once was lost...

now is found! 

Two days before we left for China to adopt Jackson, I lost our camera.  I was devastated. Not due to the loss of the camera, per se, (although I was upset about that) but because of the photos that were on the camera.

I am happy to report that the camera (and photos on it) was found in the bottom of my closet.  Amidst a pile of shoes.  My shoes.  Man, am I ever embarrassed.  So what do I do?  Tell the world!  I am so relieved.  This is yet another answered prayer.  I am still puzzled as to how the camera ended up where it did.  My husband says he believes it had "help".

So now my thought is:  now that we have two cameras, I can take the old one with me everywhere and catch those pictures I always seem to be missing.  Like the other day, when Jackson walked into the den in my high-heeled shoes, wearing a pull-up and a smile, waving his sister's foam sword around.  I mean, come on, we are talking teenage blackmail photos of the future here!

Here's to having two cameras.  So, smile and say, "cheese!"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Busy times

I cannot believe that it has been so long since I was able to write on the blog!  Our lives have been so incredibly hectic with doctors' appointments, school (it's winding down, folks!) and just transitioning into a family of four.  The biggest hurdle has been taking care of Jackson's medical appointments.

It is no secret that Jackson came to us with an unrepaired cleft palate.  However, we have discovered some other issues that will need to be addressed.  I think I mentioned in an earlier post that Jackson had a positive TB skin test.  We are currently undergoing INH therapy to lessen the chances of him ever contracting TB to less than 1%.  Modern medicine is a marval.

Our family anticipated possible speech therapy and ear tubes being necessary as part of the cleft diagnosis.  We were not wrong in that.  Jackson will be getting tubes placed in his ears during his cleft surgery.  The speech therapy is being set up now.

The one thing we never considered was that he might come to us needing a little male-type surgery.  To put it delicately, he will be having a little nipping done to his nether region at the same time his cleft is repaired.  Poor baby!  Usually this sort of thing is done when a boy child is a couple of days old - not over two!

Miss Scarlett's kindergarten class is about to finish out its school year.  She has truly loved her first year of "Big Kid" school with Mrs. Butler (formerly known as Miss Blanton).  Having a teacher who is so dedicated to sharing a love of learning with children early on is such a blessing.  It will be hard for Miss Scarlett to leave Mrs. Butler.

This week has been a whirlwind of activities at her school with zoo outings, Field Day, and Awards Day.  In between all of those activities, there was some learning done, I imagine!

The transition from a family to three to a family of four was not as difficult as I had thought it would be.  I suppose the fact that Miss Scarlett is such a good helper with her little brother has smoothed the way a lot.  She tries to put him first, even when we tell her that she needs to be first sometimes.  The bond that they have together is so incredibly sweet and fierce at the same time.  When he cries, she tries to comfort him.  If she cries, he is patting her with an expression of such concern that it makes me catch my breath.  However do we deserve such wonderful children?  It has to be God's doing, that is all that I know!

Now I am back at work.  At first I was so upset to leave Jackson at daycare.  But after seeing his bond with Mrs. Wendy, I feel so much better.  He has definitely attached to her - and her to him!

Now that things have momentarily calmed down, I will hopefully have more time to write.  Fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

But I didn't finish week one!

I had such dreams of writing down our first week of home.  Unfortunately, life got in the way.  Let's just say that it was a good week - after we made it through all the doctors appointments.  Which we are still going through, by the way.

So on to week two.  And welcome to it!  After yet another week of doctor appointment for both kids, we managed to get very little done other than survive the week.  Jackson has completed his first week of daycare, but not without a lot of tears.  Unfortunately, the tears were from both Mama and son.  I HATE leaving my children in the care of someone else while I work. 

Scarlett treated us all to a "Reader Cafe" at school Monday evening.  The family met at her school cafeteria where she and her classmates all came out of the kitchen with their chef hats and books to read to us.  Her book was "Maddie Loves to March".  She did an awesome job!

Tuesday, Scarlett awoke with a nasty cough that sounded like it was deep in her little chest.  We were able to get into her doctor with no trouble.  Happily, she just has an upper respiratory cough due to allergies.  The pediatrician gave us some samples of Singulair, so hopefully she will be soon on the mend.

My stint at Weight Watchers has continued to go well.  I have now lost over 10% of my total body weight and lost two dress sizes, which thrills me.  I celebrated by purchasing a Points Calculator to keep track of my points.

Today I heard Jackson call me Mama for the first time.  So, so sweet to this Mama's ears.  Just an early Mother's Day gift for me.

Speaking of Jackson, we will be going though yet more tests due to his positive TB skin test in China.  The one here in the U.S. was negative, but the chest X-rays were unclear.  The poor little fella has been in a doctor's office almost every single day since coming home from China.  

My two weeks of being a stay-at-home Mom are almost over.  I would have loved to taken another week off.  Two weeks to transition from China to daycare/work is just not enough.  Praying for a solution to my dilemma....

Sunday, May 2, 2010

One Week Home - Part One

I am so far behind on posting that I have divided the first week home into parts.  This is the first one...

Who knew that being home would be thousands times more tiring that living out of suitcases in a hotel in China?  We left China on Friday morning - an uneventful trip until we reached the Chicago-O'Hare Airport.  We thought we had plenty of time to spare between flights.  We had budgeted almost 2 hours.  However, Immigration thought it would make life more exciting by calling in the U.S. Dept. of Health on Jackson's positive TB skin test.  That phone call cost us our connecting flight home.   We were fortunate enough to have the assistance of a wonderful United Airlines employee who helped us get on the next flight out (6 a.m. Saturday morning) and find an inexpensive hotel connected to eh airport.

After taking baths and getting a good night's sleep, we left Chicago for home.  We had a wonderful welcoming committee of my Dad, Brenda, Leigh Ann, Lindsey, Kylie and Luke.  We were thankful that Lindsey and her family came along, because we needed their big Suburban to get all our luggage home!

Upon reaching home, we were met by almost ALL (and I do mean all) of the surrounding county: sisters, brothers, mothers, cousins, friends all came to meet Jackson.  Like the little politician he is, he met everyone with a smile and blowing kisses.  Our family brought tons of food (which was such a blessing) and our friends: Sara, Lena, Sammy and Jack had decorated the yard with balloons and a welcome poster.

The rest of the weekend was spent trying to get acclimated to the time difference.  It took the children only 3 days to get back on schedule, something for which I am extremely thankful.

James started back to work on Monday and Scarlett to school.  Jackson and I went in with Scarlett so that she could show her new brother off to the class.  It was a good day.

Tuesday was spent going to the pediatrician and getting shots,  Jackson is not a fan of shots, but he forgave the nurse by blowing kisses.

Wednesday we went to my niece Lindsey's to play with her son Luke.  Jackson and Luke had a grand time.  After lunch and a short shopping trip with them,  Jackson and I went to the Health Department with Jackson's chest x-rays.  The nurse did a second TB skin test and told us to come back on Friday to have it read.  By that time, we were all pooped out and took naps.  After naps, we went to church to work in the bookstore.  People I had never seen before came into the bookstore to meet Jackson and ask Scarlett how she liked being a big sister.

We will be glad when things settle in a little bit so we can get back to a normal life!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Goodnight from China!

So now I am putting the blog from China to bed.  I will continue the blogging once we come back home.  Tomorrow is the last full day before we leave, and we want to pack up early.  Some of you have asked for our flight information, and I am happy to give it to you if you will email me.  I just don't want to post it publicly on our blog. Sara S., I'll email you the information.

Our trip to China was better than I could have ever imagined.  Not only did we complete our family, make new friends, and show our daughter part of her birth country, but I fell deeply in love with China all over again.  I cannot wait to come back.  In many ways, it feels like home.  In others, as alien as another planet.  But I love it just the same.  It has left an indelible handprint on my heart and my soul.  Someday I will come back.  Someday...

Red Couch and Consulate Oath

Today was another laid back day.  After breakfast, the kids played in the Swan Room (basically a huge room with toys in it) for a couple of hours with a break only to come upstairs and Skype with Nana and Poppie.  It was so good to talk to them after having not being able to for so long.

At 10:00 a.m., the group met downstairs to take the famous "Red Couch" photos.  I am sad to say I am the parent of the only child that cried for the entire photo shoot.  Poor Jackson.  I cannot imagine what was going through his mind.  Whatever it was, he cried and was only comforted once I picked him back up.  Here are photos from the couches:

And finally the photo of our entire group.  It's a big group, but not as big as our last group.

I made this photo extra large so you could see all the sweet children's faces.  The oldest child in our group is 10 years old - the youngest is 9 months old.

After lunch and a short nap, we all traveled about 45 minutes to the United States Consulate in order to take the oath of Citizenship on behalf of our children.  Apparently, there is some sensitive areas to the Consulate, as we were not allowed to take photos.  We did, however, get a picture of the sign.  If you can see the small letters under the flag, that was it.

So that was our day in a nutshell.  As Scarlett was singing on the way back, "One step closer to U.S.A." to some tune I cannot put my finger on.  Rock on, Scarlett!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fun day with no plans

Today was the first day we had nothing planned.  We did a little bit of everything.  We started out as always with the huge breakfast buffet at the White Swan.  We sat overlooking the Pearl River and watched the riverboats and ferries go by.  Simply lovely.

After breakfast, we all took a walk around the island and yes, did some more shopping.  James is now officially known as the shopper extraordinaire among the group.  We bought Jackson some more 18-24 months clothes, and Scarlett a couple of dresses that she fell in love with.  She has some very extravagant tastes, that girl!  We picked up some souvenirs for family and friends, then James and Mom headed back to the hotel while Scarlett and I hot-footed it to the little park.  There we met up with a family from Wilkesboro, NC - grandmother, mother, older daughter Olivia (6), younger daughter Lydia (2).  Scarlett and Olivia played well together, as did Jackson and Lydia.  We will hopefully see them around some more.  They were staying at the Victory Hotel, which is just down the street.  Also at the park, we met up with another Bethany family who adopted an 8 year old boy.  I only remember the mother's name is Kendra, and the boy is Matthew.  They are a sweet family from Michigan.
Scarlett and Jackson were hot, dirty and sweaty by the time we left an hour later, so we headed back to our hotel for baths.  On the way, we saw some ladies practicing Tai Chi.

Of course, we had to dodge all the construction on the island.  The streets and sidewalks are not without their perils.  Some of the streets are just muddy paths, and the sidewalks are often blocked. 

But at least the 7-11 was still open - business as usual!

After baths and a quick lunch at Lucy's, James, Mom and Jackson went back to the room for naps and reading.  Scarlett and I headed down to the pool to try it out.  IT WAS FREEZING!  The water must have been in the 50s.  Needless to say, we did not stay long.  We ran back up to our room to warm up and take a quick nap.

After our naps we sallied forth again to further stimulate China's economy.  We did a fine job, as we bought several outfits for both kids at two stores.  I hope that we are almost done with the purchasing.  We already had to buy another suitcase (the first we one bought in Changsha turned out to be too small, so we sold it to another family).  It is my sincere hope that we will NOT fill this one  up!

So that is the latest news from Guangzhou, China.  Tomorrow we go take the oath at the U.S. Consulate and have the famous "Red Couch" photos with the kids in their traditional China clothing.  One day closer to coming home.  As our friend, Mike Coffey, said Monday, "I'd gladly pay $1,000 if I could just go home today.  We love China, and her people, but there truly is "no place like home."

Monday, April 19, 2010

God took care of us!

Today we went back to the Medical Exam Office to have Jackson's TB skin test read.  His little arm looked like a wasp had stung him.  The skin rash was very red and raised.  As we feared, the skin test showed positive.  So we had to get a chest x-ray of the little guy to be sure that there was no sign of TB in his little chest.  This medical center is extremely crowded, hot and close.  But I can say that the medical personnel there were all very sweet, extremely competent and we felt very well taken care of whil we were there.
I had asked another couple, Mike and Sherrie Coffey, to please pray that Jackson's test was a false positive and that we would not have any problems.  They prayed with us, and God took care of the rest.  We are happy to report that Jackson's chest x-rays show his lungs as completely normal.
After that little drama, James, Jackson and I did a little looking around the island.  Mom and Scarlett played in the park and did some shopping of their own.  As we were walking around, we saw some soldiers practicing what appeared to be riot control exercises.  Since this area will be home to the Asian Games this fall, I am guessing that they are preparing for that.  Although some of the drivers we have seen could use some riot control.
After lunch at Lucy's (yes, again), Mom, Scarlett and I went to the Pearl Market and Jade Market with Ann of Red Threads.  Ann is this tiny little wisp of a girl who can flat out move.  I tried to get a photo of her, but it just came out as a blur.  Seriously.  I am not kidding.  But I did manage to get a photo of the loads of pearls in the market.  The ladies there let you pick from what look like thousands of strings of beads to make a pearl necklace.  Then, they tie knots between each pearl as you wait.  It is simply amazing.  We bought Scarlett a two strand pearl necklace to wear on her 16th birthday and/or wedding day, as well as Jackson one to give a future bride someday.

Choosing the pearls.

Creating the jewelry.
The cab ride to and from the jade and pearl market was not without its perils.  I thought the bus ride was scary.  Whew!  The cab ride cost 10 yuan, but I tipped the driver an extra 10 yuan for just bringing us back alive.

Street scene from inside the death cab.
Anyway, just another way that God took care us.  We made it back in one piece to the hotel, and had a blast with Ann.  If anyone reading this plans on coming to China anytime soon, I hope that you consider using Ann at Red Threads.  She is does a fantastic job at facilitating in the pearl and jade markets.

At night here on Shaiman Island, I believe I have mentioned that there is a light and laser show.  I was able to capture some of the action last night in photos.  So, until Tuesday!

Laser and light show.

Another on of James' signs he loves to collect photos of.

Two very life-like statutes we found.  They kinda look familiar...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Excitement

Sunday was an exciting day.  Shiyan took our group to the Guangzhou Folk Art  museum, also known as the Chen Family Museum.  It was a series of buildings build around a common courtyard that the Chen Family used for ancestor worship and to stay at when they were in the city for important events.  It had also been used as an academy.  The buildings are all over 100 years old - relatively new when you think about all the history of China.   This is also where our camera battery died, so enjoy the photos of the day!

These are pottery and lime sculptures on the roof ridge of the museum.

Badminton is popular here.  This is in a little park adjacent to the museum.

Good outside view of the museum before the battery died.

After the museum, we went to Yuelu Park in Guangzhou.  It is one of the most famous parks in all of China.  The large statue of five goats is purportedly known by anyone in China.  This park is where we lost one of our group members and left her behind to find here own way home. I could not believe that we left her.  It really upset me.  The good news is that she was able to hail a taxi and make her way back to our hotel with no problem.  She is an experienced world traveler, so to her, it was no big deal.  To me, and the majority of our group, it was so upsetting.
I will try to find photos of this park from my Mom's camera and add them later today.

The five goats statue that is famous country-wide.

Here are some great photos of the inside of the White Swan Hotel.  There are innumerable artworks here in jade, wood, stone, etc. that we just had to take some photos.

Large jade bullfrog. Purple Rosabelle (Scarlett's African dwarf frog) has something to aspire to!

Jade ship in the lobby.

Scarlett showing Jackson the Koi in the hotel pond.

Waterfall in hotel lobby.

We did some more shopping this evening (big surprise, huh?).  Scarlett is turning into a little James with the shopping.  Watch out!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Adoption Paperwork, Supper at Lucy's and Shopping Crazy

After the medical exam portion of the day, a group of us met in Shiyan's room to fill out our consulate paperwork and do some trading at Shiyan's free store (which was basically stuff other parents had left behind and she was giving away).  We exchanged some little girl swim diapers for 5 pullups and a sippy cup.  The paperwork was completed and left for Shiyan to take to the consulate.

Afterwards in the evening, our adoption group all went to Lucy's for dinner together.  We enjoyed the companionship of friends and catching up on all the sweet children.  The youngest child in our group is 9 months old and the oldest is 10 years old.
Our rather large group has about 11 families in total.  You can see the group in its entirety down the long line of tables.  Scarlett is the little pink shirt on the left about half way down.

Below is Scarlett and Jackson Xinqiang chowing down together on the fried rice.  As we had more than enough rice, we shared it with our friend Kathy and her daughter. who did not like the chicken quesadillas that her Momma ordered.

After supper, some folks made a whirlwind trip to the Carrefour for some necessities of life.  James purchased pull ups, wet wipes, bibs, and little girl underwear (we did not bring enough, apparently).  While he was doing that, Scarlett and I left Jackson with my mom and rushed back to Jordan's for a little tea set she had seen earlier in the day.  When we got to Jordan's the lights were off and it appeared he was closed.  Scarlett was crushed.  But then, out of nowhere like the angel he is, Jordan appeared and opened up his store so my little girl could buy her tea set.  Jordan is absolutely one of the sweetest Christian men I have met in a long time.

Around 8 p.m., the hotels along the Pearl River (the White Swan is one of several) take part in some sort of laser show that lasts about a half hour.  I attempted to take some pictures of the spectacle.  Not sure how well they turned out.

Tomorrow we are going to the Guangzhou Provincial Museum and a park so the children can run amok.  Should be fun.  Hopefully, we will get some good photos.  Until then, enjoy one of Jackson with his new cell phone.