Sunday, October 31, 2010

Remembering the first Gotcha

   Six years ago on a steamy Sunday afternoon in Guangzhou, China, we met Katherine and became a family.  It was an amazing day...
   There were seven other families in our travel group and all of our daughters were from the same orphanage.  We flew out of Beijing early in the morning in a cold rain and landed in Guangzhou that afternoon in 85 degree weather.  We had time to drop our bags off at the White Swan Hotel and then climbed back on the bus to go get our babies.  On the way to the Civil Affairs Office, our guide explained that our babies' Chinese names would be announced, so we needed to practice hearing and saying them.  Thankfully, Katherine's name was easy to say.
   At the Civil Affairs Office we were directed into a small, very warm waiting room to fill out paperwork.  We could hear the babies in another room across the hall and every time a baby cried we wondered "Is that ours?"  As each family was called up to sign papers the tension in the room mounted.  Steve finally announced that he felt like a kid at 5:00 Christmas morning waiting for his parents to wake up so he could go see what Santa had brought.  That was exactly the feeling!  After what seemed like forever our guide announced that we would receive the babies and to come to the hallway when our daughter's name was called.  All sixteen parents and the assorted grandparents and older siblings were all tense with anticipation.  The first name called was Yang Guo Dan.  Our baby!
   Steve and I jumped up off a couch and hurried toward the hall.  There were civil affairs and orphanage workers milling around and we were pushed back into the waiting room.  Suddenly someone handed me a baby.  It was Katherine, the same little face we'd stared at in photos for six weeks.  She was beautiful!  Katherine looked up at us and smiled.
   Within moments, someone turned us back to the couch and we sat down to study each other.  Katherine was not at all afraid of us.  We passed her back and forth and she looked at us curiously.  In her referral pictures her hair had been buzzed off but now it had filled in.  She had huge chubby cheeks but the rest of her was stick thin (she was 9 months old and weighed 15 pounds).  We thought she was the most gorgeous thing we'd ever seen.  We had waited so long for a child and now here she was!  We were a real family.
   At some point I finally looked up and realized that the room was full of babies.  I hadn't noticed anyone else's Gotcha moments but now there were 8 babies, some happy and some crying.  The adults were all happy and crying, too.  It was one big delivery room and we were all aware that nothing would ever be the same for any of us again. 
   After being briefed on the babies' schedules and how to mix their formula we were handed a big envelope of papers and a bottle and waved back out to the bus.  I remember feeling so weird to just walk out with Katherine.  Becoming parents had been such a long, hard struggle that it felt strange that somone would let us just walk away with this beautiful baby.  Back on the bus I opened up the big envelope and found pictures of Katherine's orphanage, a feeding schedule, copies of paperwork we'd signed, a little photo album with pictures of Katherine and a business card.  The card said "If you are not satisfied with this child call this number!" and gave a 1-800 telephone number!  We decided that we were satisfied.
   Six years later, we are still satisfied. Katherine Guo Dan has exactly what we had been waiting for and she still is.  We became a family that day and Halloween will never be the same!  Happy Gotcha Day, Katherine!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Girls' Day, Part 2

After the zoo, we did some shopping and then went to a fabulous park.  It had some amazing equipment and the girls LOVED it!  We met Robie for dinner at a Mongolian style grill and then Granny arrived for a "sleep over" at Robie's house.  This morning the girls begged to go back to the park, so we did.
This was Katherine's favorite piece of equipment.  Everything on it wiggled, tilted, or spun and she worked and worked to figure out how to use it.

Spinning around and around.

There was a big round platform swing large enough for both girls!


Robie helped Rachel in the crazy spinning chair.  Rae spun until she couldn't stand and her eyes wouldn't focus.

Then Rachel decided to try it her own way!

This slide was literally hair-raising!

Girls' Day, Part 1

   We didn't have school yesterday, so we had a Girls' Day.  The first item on Katherine's list was going to the zoo.  So we called up her friend Amy and met their family for a tour of the zoo.  It was chilly out and hardly anyone was at the zoo, so we had the whole place to ourselves! 
Katherine and Amy are from the same orphanage and even through they came home a year and a half apart, they have a unique bond.  Amy's family just adopted 9 year old Aubrie, so this was the first time we'd met her.  Aubrie's story is pretty amazing.  She's from the same orphanage as Amy and Katherine, too!  They actually met Aubrie 4 1/2 years ago when they were in China to adopt Amy.  They thought about Aubrie and prayed for her often.  Last fall they found her on a Waiting Child list and knew that it was time to bring her home.  So here, on the other side of the world, three girls from Yangjiang Social Welfare Institute are together again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jack-o-lantern Time

We carved jack-o-lanterns this evening. 
Rachel was NOT impressed with pumkin slime.  She refused to put her hands in the pumpkin and insisted that she "can't reach" the slime.  Katherine ignored her and dumped seeds and slime on her hand anyway.  Rachel just got up and left.

Once her pumpkin had been carved, Rachel loved it.  She had a good time putting the eyes, nose, and mouth back in as a sort of puzzle.

Katherine, on the other hand, ADORES pumpkin slime.  She would bathe in it if I'd let her. 

Here's my gap-toothed pumpkin girl.

Do you see the similarities in smiles?

Happy Pumpkin Day!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Traditional Mum Pictures

We have a single enormous mum in our front yard - the biggest mum I've ever seen.  Every year I dress the girls in purple and take pictures in front of the mum.  Here they are this year.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Horse Girl

Katherine went on a class field trip this week.  The 1st graders went to the pumpkin patch and then to a ranch to ride horses.  This, of course, would be Katherine's dream field trip!  I would have loved to have gone with her, but my sick leave is limited.   So she went alone.  Honestly, I don't think she really cares since she was going to ride a HORSE!  One of the other moms on the trip noticed that Katherine was alone, so she took pictures of her and sent them to me.  What a sweet gift.
Katherine never mentioned that she'd sat on a donkey, but apparently she did!

Okay, maybe it was kind of fun.
Now THIS was what she'd been waiting for!  She is riding a real horse!!!!  She's talked a lot about that ride.  She was a bit disappointed that they walked her around the corral rather than handing her the reins and turning her loose, but still, she really got to ride a horse!

Friday, October 22, 2010


Katherine has had a front tooth that has literally been hanging by a thread for weeks.  She has shown remarkable restraint (or just plain stubborness) over this tooth.  She has not bit into food with it, wiggled it, pushed her tongue against it, or allowed me anywhere near her mouth.  She was just going to wait until it fell out on its own.  This morning Rachel inadvertently took matters into her own hands.  She climbed on Katherine, pressed her little hand over Kate's mouth and pushed the tooth out!  Katherine thought it was funny and Rae was quite proud of herself.  Personally, I think the Tooth Fairy should reward Rachel for her vital supporting role in the tooth drama.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sick Day

   Rachel has been sick this week - the first time in 13 months.  She woke up yesterday feverish and miserable.  She told me "Head hurt.  Bandaid right here,"  and pointed to a spot between her eyebrows.  Steve stayed home with her.  She did nothing but lay limply in his arms and whimper all day.  She was NOT the Rae we know - no talking, no walking, no smiling.  Poor kid...
   Today she seems to be back to her usual self.  Her fever is gone and she is chattering nonstop.  She occasionally complains of her head hurting, but motrin makes it go away.  So we're just going to enjoy a bonus day at home!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Picking Pumpkins

After enjoying all the rides and games at the pumpkin patch we climbed on the trailer and rode out to pick some pumpkins.  Rachel was not overly excited about the big orange pumpkins scattered everywhere, but she was fascinated with pumpkin vines, pumpkin flowers, and little green pumpkins!
Katherine and her good friend Piper on the trailer.

Walking in the pumpkin patch.

Rachel inspecting a not-quite-ripe pumpkin.

Pumpkins make good seats!
Eww!  A rotten pumpkin!  Rae could hardly tear herself away from this one.
Katherine carrying Rachel's pumpkin.  The one she chose weighed 20 pounds, so she couldn't even lift it!

Pumpkin Patch

   We went to the pumpkin patch today with some of our Families with Children from China friends.  It was gorgeous out, but not very fall-ish at 85 degrees!  Katherine loves the pumpkin patch and Rachel had never been, so it was all new to her.
Rachel rode on a little train with her buddy Li-Ying - they thought they were big stuff!
Both girls went down the giant slide over and over.
Then everyone tried the inflatable bouncy "pillow".  Lots and lots of giggles there.

I'm not sure who had more fun, the girls or Steve.

Rachel had fun in a sandbox full of corn.  Here she is making snow angels.
Here's a picture to prove that Mom was there, too.

Li-Ying, Katherine, and Rachel

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crazy School Days

   It has been crazy around here!  As you've noticed I rarely post anymore.  We are just too busy to do anything but get through the day.  None of us really like this, but that's life during the school year.  This week has been even more nuts.  I had parent teacher conferences both Monday and Tuesday evening until late.  Not fun.  Then Rachel's daycare provder called to say one of her kids was sick.  Granny and Poppy were not around.  My backup daycare plans were not available.  So, Rachel came to school with me.
   Rachel, of course, thought this was fabulous!  She played with the kids and explored my classroom and did some work and went out for recess.  Then we ate lunch and did it all again.  I think Rae's very favorite thing was drinking chocolate milk out of a pint carton!  Katherine was so proud to have her sister in school!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Typing Lessons?

Katherine and I were in the car last night.  Outof the blue she comments "I don't have a capital E in my name."  Well, no.  "Unless I write in shift and then all the letters are in capitals."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Festive Dresses

Granny has been at it again!  Her sewing room has been full of business with both clothing and Halloween costumes in progress.  Last week she finished this adorable pumpkin dress.  It is actually reversible and has a turkey print on the other side!
Friday, Granny and Rachel were out shopping and visited a fabric store.  Rachel found a bolt of fabulous black sparkly material with Elmo dressed for Halloween printed on it.  She was very insistent that Granny buy it.  She announced "Cut! Cut! Dress!".  Granny bought it, of course, and today the Elmo dress was ready for wear.  I realize that Halloween themed clothes are not at all practical, but boy are they fun!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Marching for Ed

   Our friend Ed is running for re-election as a state representative.  Ed's a good guy and one of the few political figures in the state that always votes in favor of education - a mighty big issue in our house.  So, we volunteered to march with him in a parade in the little town where I teach.  The girls were thrilled to wear their bright yellow Vote for Ed shirts and ride in the wagon.  Katherine was excited about throwing candy to the crowd, but Rachel was a little unsure.  She'd really rather eat the candy herself!  The weather was crisp and clear and the parade was one of those fabulous small town events that could have been a subject for Norman Rockwell.  You know, the kind where there are more people in or watching than actually live in the town. Where the parade consists of all the city's fire trucks, the 20 member school marching band, kids on decorated bikes, lots of antique tractors, and a girl leading her pet goat.  It was great!
   Later we went to a picnic with some other families from our adoption agency.  I didn't manage to get a single picture, but we had a lot of fun.  There were children there born in China, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, and America and they all ran around and explored a playground and just enjoyed hanging out together.  The adults stood around chatting and admiring each other's kids.  It is always fun to be around other families that look like ours and talk to people who "get" the whole adoption thing.

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