Sunday, July 25, 2010

Horse Show

Steve took Katherine to a 4-H horse show yesterday morning.  They watched lots of kids showing horses, talked to people they knew, and saw the horses close-up.  One girl offered to let Kate sit on her horse and was Kate ever impressed!  Steve convinced K. to tell everyone at home that she'd ridden the horse, jumped the horse, and was just quite the cowgirl.  We didn't believe THAT, but I could tell she'd had a great time!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Classes

Our city runs excellent recreation/arts & humanities programs. During the summer there are classes for children on every imaginable subject and sport. Most run a week or two and cost around $10. I signed the girls up for lots of classes this summer and they have loved it! Classes give us somewhere to go every day and let the girls socialize with other kids. In the past two months, Katherine has taken classes on drawing, Backyardigans (a cartoon series), pirates, dinosaurs, and is taking a camera class this week. She's also had swimming lessons and gymnastics class. Rachel has taken a couple of art classes and a sort of music and movement class. She's also taking toddler swimming lessons, where she has earned the reputation of being the resident daredevil. Both girls are in a "Wacky Water" class this week. I am so glad that we have these opportunities - it's made our extra long summer go by more quickly and it's been fun!

Pirate Girl

Katherine has really been into pirates this summer - pirate books, pirate class, pirate dress-up. She has a pretty good pirate accent and even makes up songs in pirate-speak! She's trying to teach Rachel how to play pirate, but Rae doesn't really get it. This was the pirate look this morning. Argh! It's Pirate Girl!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Friends

Katherine came home from China Camp talking about her new friend, Anna. I did some checking and discovered that Anna lives only 50 miles from us - quite a discovery, considering there were kids from a dozen different states at camp! I e-mailed Anna's mom and she said Anna had been talking about Katherine. So, we set up a playdate for today. We met at a McDonalds Playland (where else do you go when it's 102?) and had a great time. Anna is 6 and has a sister almost 6 and a brother and sister who are both 4. That means we had 6 kids between 2 and 6! All 6 got along well and we had a lot of fun. I think there will be more playdates in the future.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

YJ Girls

When we adopted Katherine 5 1/2 years ago, we traveled with 7 other families. All of our girls were from the same orphanage and 7 of the 8 were born within a month of one another. The trip bonded all of us in ways I had never imagined. These people were there when we became a family and we spent the first days as new parents together. It was an amazing time. We try to get together every year, usually at China Camp. I am always to happy to see our travel group friends. They feel like family. We always have a great time just talking and watching our girls. It's always hard to leave...

When we were in China, I looked around at all of those beautiful babies and hoped with all of my heart that at least some of them would remain in contact with us. I wanted Katherine to know her orphanage sisters. I can never give her information about her birth family, but I hoped that she could at least have friends among these girls who had been a part of her life since she was a newborn. After all, they had known each other long before they met us. Now, 5 1/2 years later, my dream has come true. All 8 families have stayed in contact. We all know that our girls have a special bond and we love that. Although we have reunions yearly, for one reason or another all 8 girls have not been together since our first summer home. Until last night.

Last night, we were all together again. And it was wonderful. There were lots of hugs and laughter. The girls posed for pictures and giggled and just hung out. We had dinner at a nice restaurant and then all of the kids ran through some outdoor fountains, dancing and screaming. And when I looked at all 8 of those beautiful faces, my heart overflowed. These are the Yangjiang sisters - Katherine, Jada, Hannah, Emily, Emma, Sophie, Brooke, and Kelsie. They are our miracles.

Swimming Fun

We stayed at a hotel in Tulsa that had a wonderful indoor water park, just right for little kids (Rachel could touch the bottom in nearly the whole pool). The girls loved it! Katherine is working hard to overcome her fears and learn to swim. She and Steve have been practicing floating. Rachel just wants to be a mermaid. She has NO fear of water at all! She constantly puts her head underwater, splashes, wants us to let go of her, and will try anything. She's crazy in a pool!

China Camp had a pool party one evening. It had rained earlier in the day so only about a dozen families came. We had the whole pool to ourselves! Rachel threw a fit when I wouldn't let her jump off the diving boards! She had to make do with jumping off the side of the pool over and over and over again.

China Camp

Our adoption agency hosts a fabulous Chinese culture camp every summer. We went for the 3rd time this week and had a terrific time. China Camp is a place to meet old friends, put faces with assorted on-line friends we've never actually met, learn new things, and be a part of an amazing community. At China Camp, every family looks like ours and we don't have to explain ourselves. And for once, Katherine and Rachel don't stand our in the crowd, not with 240 other Chinese kids!

Katherine was in a class with 25 other girls (and one boy) her age, including 4 girls from her orphanage and travel group. Her buddy Sophie was there and they hung out together a lot. Sophie is a day older than Kate and they've known each other all of their lives. Katherine's class went to all sorts of fun activities - Chinese language, crafts, recreation, king fu, cooking, adoption talk, and her favorite music and dance. On the last day every class does a presentation for the parents - songs, dances, acting out folk tales, kung fu demonstrations. Katherine did a lotus dance and performed beautifully with a look of such joy on her face.

Rachel happily stayed in the nursery, where she hugged everyone and played all day. A little boy in the nursery fell in love with her and followed her around trying to kiss her. I'm not sure she was as enamored with him!

Steve and I spent a lot of time talking with other parents. It's always nice to talk to other adoptive families because our stories are often similar and our kids have the same issues. We also attending a couple of parent workshops and learned some new things.

Katherine talks about China Camp all year long. She is always axious about going, but she gets so much out of it. China Camp fills her. She leaves so happy and confident, proud of who she is and where she came from. I think it also reminds her that she is not alone. And that's worth returning year after year.

Deacon Reunion

We have spent most of the past week in Tulsa, attending China Camp and visiting friends. The first evening we were there we met up with our friend Deacon and his family. Deacon's family traveled with us in China last fall. Deacon is a month younger than Rachel and they were, and still are, an exciting duo! It was wonderful to see Deacon and his mom and dad again and we enjoyed meeting his big brother and big sister. All 5 kids had a grand time in a fast food playland.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th Festivities

We went to my aunt and uncle's house for a big family get-together. All of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and their kids were there - quite a houseful! There are 8 kids, all between 2 and 9 years old, so it was lively! The kids had a grand time playing classic games. Don't Break the Ice was a huge hit! Robie and my aunt had fabulous red white and blue accessories (like feather boas!) and some of the kids set off a few fire crackers. Rachel commented that these were "a lotta loud". We ate way too much food and told stories and laughed a lot. I love hanging out with my extended family and watching my kids play with the cousins. We pulled back into town just as the local fireworks started. We found an empty parking lot and watched the show. Rachel was scared (how did she ever survive New Year's in China?) but was happy to watch from the car.

Musings on the 4th

It's Independence Day, but we aren't very patriotic around here. None of us like loud noises so fireworks aren't a big deal. (Besides the thought of Rachel around explosives is more than a little scary!) We don't decorate for the 4th. We don't even own an American flag. I'd have to say we're pretty ambivelent about the whole holiday.
I will quietly admit to pride, or at least deep contentment, at being American. After all, I don't really want to live anywhere else. I admire the men and women who sacrificed to help build America and who saw different and better ways to do things. I love the beauty of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. But I am also always aware of the terrible injustices that have been carried out in the name of America. Our history, and our present, inspires both awe and shame. And I have serious issues with the whole We're No. 1, God Bless America attitude. My favorite piece of patriotic writing is Emma Lazarus' poem The New Colossus, the poem written at the base of the Statur of Liberty. The one that says "Give your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." I'm thankful that America was here to welcome my ancestors and my daughters. So, happy birthday, America, and happy July 4th to people everywhere.
That being said, we'll join my family for a big 4th of July celebration this evening. The girls will wear red-white-and-ladybug (we don't have stars and stripes) and we'll probably decorate them and anything else around in the gaudiest red-white-and-blue we can find. After all, who wants to miss out on the opportunity for a party? More on the festivities later!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Big Girl

Here is my big girl, Rachel. When Rae came home 10 months ago she was still a baby. She needed bottles and diapers and a crib. She couldn't talk yet and she still toddled around. But not anymore. Now she is BIG. Just ask her! In the past week we have traded the highchair for a booster seat and the potty chair for potty seats that fit on the toilet. Rachel has mostly potty-trained herself. She's not all the way there yet, but she knows what to do and stays dry for long periods of time. It was wonderful to have a baby for a while and I am so glad that we got to be a part of Rae's babyhood. But I'm also happy to see the baby things go.

Rachel has been slow to talk. She's always done a fabulous job of communicating, but words have been slow to come and learning to talk has taken so much effort for her. But in the past month, language has exploded. Rachel is talking constantly and we understand most of it. She is now stringing together words and concepts and it is so much fun to see how her little mind works. This morning I was reading a novel when Rae climbed up and peered over my arm. Here is our conversation.

"Lotta word."

Yes, there are a lot of words.

"Lotta page."

Uh-huh, there are lots of pages.

"Mama BIG book!"

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way