Friday, September 30, 2011

September Celebration

We had the longest, hottest, nastiest summer ever this year.  It was just endless.  But September?  It has been the perfect month.  We have had an entire month of sunny skies and temperatures in the 70's and low 80's.  It just doesn't get any better!  So to celebrate the last day of a gorgeous month we stopped by our local carry-out-only hamburger joint and took a picnic to the park.
And then we just played.
Well, played and struck cheesy poses for the camera.
And Mom didn't enforce the usual school rules, so going down the slide head-first was acceptable.  And way more fun.
Rachel the Determined (or Rachel the Daredevil) insisted on going up the 7 foot tall climbing wall by herself.  And did.
Eventually things got kind of silly, with lots of giggling and sitting on each other.
But it was the perfect way to end a beautiful month.  Goodbye, September! 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cleaning Spree

Here's how my children are happily spending their evening.
Despite Rachel's fake smile, she's having a great time.  They both are!  I know it won't last, but right now both girls LOVE to clean.  Well, clean anything except their own rooms.  This is evidence (or maybe blackmail) for their anti-clean teenage years.  So I'm going to enjoy it now!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Student Picnic

We went to a picnic this evening for the international students at our local college and their host families.  The girls were excited, because they knew they would see XiaoYue.  I think she felt the same.
When I was a student at our small college 20 or so years ago, there were never more than a handful of international students.  Now there are dozens and dozens.  The college set up an exchange program in China a few years ago and now there are more than 50 Chinese students on campus.  That's pretty amazing!  I love the cultural exchanges that occur when people of different nations get to know one another.  And I love that there are all these bright, eager Chinese students for my daughters to look up to.
Rachel, as usual, worked the crowd.  And the Chinese students doted on her, passing her from one set of arms to another and laughing at her antics.  She was in her element.
I didn't feel at all bad about carrying around my camera, because every time I turned around I saw this! 
There was a fireplace and a fire pit for making s'mores.  Although the girls have eaten s'mores, I don't think they'd ever made them by themselves.
Many of the Chinese students had never heard or s'mores, or even marshmallows.  They were quite fascinated by it all.
And everyone agreed that the results were yummy.
What a fun way to spend a gorgeous evening!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Day on the Town

We spent the day enjoying the beautiful weather and making a trip in to the city. 

Steve ran in the Race for the Cure early this morning.  He had run this race many years ago and started it back up last year, after his sister-in-law was disgnosed with breast cancer.  Maribeth was there today, walking with other survivors.  The girls and I met up with them after the races.  Rachel was delighted by the crowd of many thousand, all dressed in PINK!  There were pink clothes, pink balloons, pink tutus on dogs, pink golf carts, and a pink fire truck.
The fire truck was pretty cool.  It was entirely covered with signatures and messages about cancer victims and survivors. 
The girls and I met Aunt Robie at one of our favorite "special" restaurants - P.F. Chang's.
Noodles are always a welcome meal!  Before we went inside we admired this praying mantis and talked about what cool bugs they are.
Then it was off for some shopping.  Last week's sudden cold snap made us notice that the girls were rather unprepared for winter, as neither of them had long-sleeved T-shirts or leggings.  So we took care of that today. 

Now we're back home, spending a quiet evening at home.  Ahh....

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bluegrass Festival

We went to the 40th annual Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival today.  I first discovered this 4-day music festival when I was in college and have been back all but two or three years since (two years ago we missed because we were in China).  It's a wonderful, laid-back experience with musicians every place you turn and some fabulous people watching.  There are four stages playing bluegrass, folk, old-time, cowboy, Irish, and acoustic music of all sorts.  People bring their lawn chairs and wear their tie-dye and wander from stage to stage to hear performers.   We look forward to the festival all year.

We were late getting there this morning, as a major storm rolled though and it poured for two hours.  Once the rain quit, we went to hear some music.  The festival is at the county fair grounds and we ended up sitting in the pig barn.  It wasn't the best place to see or hear, but it did keep Rachel contained!
Later we moved up in to the grandstands. 
Rachel tolerated her confined space by chatting with anyone within talking distance, but this is where she would have preferred to be.
Eventually, Rachel got sent home for a nap.  It was certainly not her idea, but made the rest of the afternoon more pleasant for everyone else.  We sat in the sun and enjoyed John McCutcheon, Tom Chapin, and Michael Mark - three of my very favorite musicians.
Our friend and pastor, John, came and sat with us.  Katherine somehow managed to talk him into letting her borrow his i-pad.
Katherine's favorite part of the festival had nothing at all to do with music.  In the crafts building she discovered a woman spinning wool into yarn and was absolutely fascinated. 
We had to go back and watch the woman twice.  She was very friendly and talked to Kate about what she was doing and how this was the way people made yarn in "the olden days".  She gave Katherine tiny bits of soft wool and Kate carried them around all evening.
We had fair food for dinner (Kate and I shared a huge baked sweet potato and a grilled reuben sandwich - yummy!) and left just before the next big storm hit.  Happy Bluegrass!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Two years ago today we first met Rachel Fu Shen.
We had waited so long for her and were overjoyed to finally hold her.  She was just scared.  And sad.  And really, really mad.
But that only lasted a little while.  Before long she was flashing smiles and checking out her weird new family.
And by that night she had claimed us.  Well, at least me.  I remember being amazed at how strong and brave and funny she was.  And how fiercely I loved her.  Already.  The next day, we woke up to this.  (Steve's dad's favorite picture ever of Rachel, and one of mine, too.)
I knew that Rachel would change us, but it wasn't until that first morning with her that I understood that our lives would never be the same.  Not even close.  Rachel has made our lives busier, and funnier, and far more interesting.  She has made us more outgoing, more willing to take risks, more affectionate.  And she has made us laugh every single day.

Our lives are infinitely richer because of her.  So today, on the anniversary of Gotcha Day, I remember the pain, hers and mine, of leaving one world to join another.  But I also celebrate the joy that shines through the grief.  Rachel is the peice that completes us.  And we love her beyond measure.  Happy Gotcha Day, sweetie!

Poor Rae had dental work done yesterday and is still swollen and sore today.  She was so pleased about Gotcha Day, though I don't know how much she actually understood.  Every year on Gotcha Day the girls get a small gift, a little present that we bought in China to remember our first day together.  This year Rachel got a silk outfit for her baby.  She was pleased.  Aunt Robie sent her a fabulous pink kitty dress and Granny and Poppy gave her a funny little stuffed ladybug. 

This morning Katherine asked me, "Do people who are born here, I mean from their mother's belly?  Do they have a Gotcha Day?"  I said no, just a birthday.  "You mean we get more special days?"  I said yes, adopted kids get more special days.  Kate was quite pleased!  Definitely a plus for adoption in her book!
This evening Rachel, despite the swollen face, felt good enough to go out for dinner with Granny and Poppy.  She picked Braums.  I'm thinking it was just for the ice cream.
Here's to two wonderful years.  May there be a lifetime more to come.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Remembering Referral Day

Seven years ago today we first saw this sweet little face...
It was one of the sweetest, most exciting days of our lives.  We thought then that Yang Guo Dan, soon to be our Katherine Guo Dan, was the perfect little girl for us.  And she has been.  We love you Katherine!
Kate doesn't quite understand the nostalgia of Referral Day, at least not hers.  (She does remember Rachel's referral.)  But she was VERY excited that today was Grandparents Day at school and Granny and Poppy came for lunch!

Monday, September 12, 2011

School Bus Girl

Granny has been on a sewing kick lately.  My girls have been the happy recipients of about an outfit a week.  The latest was inspired by these adorable school bus barrettes from our local farmer's market.
So Granny just HAD to make a school-themed dress to match.  Rachel loves riding the school bus and she loves this new dress!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moon Festival

Last night we went to a nearby city's Chinese Association's Mid-Autumn Festival celebration.  (And no, I don't understand why it is called the "Mid-Autumn festival" when it's in September.  Chinese New Year is called the "Spring Festival" and it's in January or February.  Maybe the Chinese are just hopeful for the endless summers and winters to pass?)  We had never been to one of this group's gatherings before, and the only people we knew were another adoptive family, but it was kind of fun. 
There was Chinese food, silly riddles to solve (in both Chinese and English), drawings for prizes, and lots of time for conversation.
A woman played a traditional Chinese stringed instrument - beautiful!  The girls were delighted that she had the same hairdo as Katherine.
There was a performance of middle-aged women doing a fan dance.  We saw women do dances like this every morning in the public parks in China - they've just added American exercise costumes.
The girls were pleased to be in a crowd where they looked like everyone else and we all enjoyed the pleasant hum of Mandarin surrounding us.  When we left Katherine asked if we could come back next year.

This morning the girls wanted to put on their Chinese silks in honor of the Moon Festival.  So they did.

In China the Mid-Autumn celebration is also called the Moon Festival and it occurs during the full moon.  We were in China two years ago just before the Moon Festival.  Shops put up decorations and bakeries and hotel sold fancy moon cakes (which aren't actually cakes).  People get togther with family, re-tell ancient folk tales about the moon, eat moon cakes, and look at the full moon.  For our family, the Moon Festival has become a time to remember our girls' birth families and the nannies and foster family who cared for them in China.  Tonight we will go out and send our prayers and good wishes to the moon.  We know that the people we left behind are probably looking at that same moon.  Maybe they're even thinking of us.

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