Tuesday, November 29, 2011


On Rachel's birthday I was struggling with my emotions.  I finally sat down and wrote.  That is my way of processing what I am feeling.  I always feel better after getting words down on paper (or a computer screen).  I decided that the piece I wrote was too melancholy to post on her birthday, so I saved it for today.  Be warned - you may need a hankie, because it is kind of sad...

Birthdays Are Bittersweet

   Today is my Rachel's 4th birthday.  My baby is 4 now.  She, of course, is convinced that she is BIG.  And, like all birthdays, the change from one year to the next is always a little bittersweet.  Last night Rachel and I celebrated her last night of being 3.  She put on her pajamas for the last time as a 3 year old.  She did her last 3 year old tooth brushing.  And I read one last story to my last 3 year old.  We snuggled in her bed and sang Happy-Almost-Birthday-to-You.  And then I went out to the living room and blinked back tears.
   When we were going through adoption training, one of our social workers explained that birthdays are often hard for adopted kids.  That made sense to me.  It would be difficult to know, on an emotional level, that the person who gave birth to you chose not to keep you.  That loss would seem especially huge on the anniversary of your birth.  What the social worker didn't explain is that birthdays can be hard on adoptive parents, too.
   Like many people, I grew uphearing my mother tell my own birth story every year on my birthday.  I listened to her tell how excited she and my dad were to be having their first baby.  How as soon as she saw me she know that I was "exactly what she had always wanted."  Year after year those stories piled up layer upon layer, filling me with the knowledge that I had been loved and wanted from before my very first breath.
   Last night, snuggling with Rachel, I wanted so much to be able to tell her sweet little stories like those.  But I couldn't.  I don't know the name of the woman who bore her.  Or where she lived.  Or if she labored all alone.  Or even if today was really the fourth anniversary of it all or just somewhat close.  I don't know why she chose not to raise her newborn, whether it was because of gender or disability or some other reason entirely.  And, truly, I feel nothing but gratitude toward her for the decisions she made.  But I know, and someday Rachel will know, that the birth of this tiny girl was not "exactly what she had always wanted."  And that leaves a sad spot in my heart.  One that is tender to the touch.
   I think birthdays remind me of what adoption really is - a tangled web of joy and grief, sorrow and blessing.  And in our house, the birthday cake batter may always be salted with tears.
   So today we will celebrate Rachel and all of the joy and laughter she has brought to us.  There will be presents and a pink birthday cake and as many pictures as she will tolerate.  And I will tell her the stories of all of her birthdays so that layer upon layer, she will be filled with the knowledge of how much she was loved and wanted from before we ever saw her face. 
   And tonight I will go outside and look at the moon and tell Rachel's birth mother "xie xie".  Thank you.  Your baby girls is exactly what I have always wanted.  I promise.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


The big news in our house is that my sister is getting married.  It IS exciting and I am so happy for her!  The whole situation is long and complicated, but here is a condensed version of the story.
   Robin and Brandon met in college.  They've been friends for 19 years.  I've know Brandon since then, too, and he is a great guy - caring, funny, intelligent, and always willing to be a little silly.  Brandon married one of Robin's childhood friends.  When their three children were born, they asked Robin to be the kids' godmother.  When we first moved to our town, Brandon's family became good friends of our.  But then they moved away.  And Brandon and his wife split up.  And things got really crazy for all of them.  Robin and Brandon had stayed in contact and became close facebook and e-mail friends.  Robin went to visit Brandon this summer and they discovered that there was something more to this relationship.  So they are getting married in June.  And everyone is pretty happy about that.
   Brandon and the kids were at our big family dinner on Thanksgiving.  I hadn't seen the kids in several years, so it was fun to spend a little time with them.  They are such good kids.
Eymber is 13 and a fantastic artist.  She was very patient with Rachel's endless questions.  Eymber loves to draw and it is clear that she carries her heart around in her sketchbook.

Orion will be 12 next month.  I think he wished we'd all just leave him alone.  Which is pretty much what I thought at 12.
Anthem just turned 9.  He was happy to join in the Thanksgiving festivities.  He's a funny, social kid and just makes himself at home wherever he is.
The kids live in the city now, and they were fascinated by the farm.  Especially the hay barn. They laughed and played and swung on the rope, screeching in delight.  It was fun to just watch them and know that they are now a part of my family, not just some friends that I once knew.
My sister is marrying a man who has long been her good friend.  And that is a wonderful way to start a marriage.  She is adding three step-children, but they are kids that she has known and loved all of their lives.  And they have known and loved her.  They will be a unique kind of family, but they will make it all work.  I'm sure of it.
I am thrilled that my sister has found the partner of her life.  And I welcome Brandon and his children with open arms.  The only difficult part is that Brandon lives in Chicago.  My sister will join him as soon as she can find work there.  And Chicago is a long, long way from Kansas.  I have so loved having Robie close...  My heart already aches at the thought of having her so far away.  But that is what she needs to do and I understand.
Our family is growing.  And that is good.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Party Girl

Today was Rachel's long-awaited birthday party.  Granny made her a most fabulous cupcake dress and we had cupcake plates and napkins and I made 7 minute frosting this morning, so Rachel was READY!
For the past couple of years Rachel has been totally obssesed with I Spy books. We have at least a dozen of them and she looks at them every day, even though I'm sure she has memorized the location of each object on every page.  She loves to play I Spy at church or around the house.  She loves it when I hide little objects and she has to find them.  Let's just say her visual scanning skills are excellent!  I decided that it might be fun to have an I Spy birthday.  So we did!  Here are the invitations:
And here is the cake:
(And how did I collect all those different candies for free?  I raided the girls' Halloween buckets and I sent an e-mail out at work, asking my teacher friends to share a piece or two of any candy they had at school.  They brought me whole piles of it!)

Rachel thought it was all a terrific idea.  Now she could even play I Spy on her cake!
But first, there were presents to open.
She found lots of clothes and some games and another I Spy book.
And then there were three more pairs of "click clack shoes"! She wears her plastic dress-up shoes as much as possible.  In fact, she has loved them to pieces.  Literally.  Click clack shoes were her one request for her birthday.  So she was a happy kid.
There was time to hang out with the cousins and Aunt Robie...
...and Grandpa and Grandma.
And then it was time for the I Spy cake!
Happy 4, Rachel!
Everyone chose which section of the cake they wanted by the candies on top.  Rachel picked the gumball eyeball.  Of course.  But it was pretty tasty.
It was a festive day.  And the Party Girl was pleased.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


We went to my uncle's house for the day.  As usual, there were 40-some relatives and enough food for an army.  The adults stood around and chatted and packs of children roamed everywhere.  After an enormous dinner, the kids worked on a turkey craft (thanks Granny!).
And then my cousin saddled up her horses and took the girls for a ride.
It was Rachel's first time on a horse.  She was nervous at first, but then she loved it!
We brought XiaoYue and MengTing with us.  They were excited about seeing horses.  They are city girls and had never been close to an animal that large.  With some coaxing, we convinced them to try riding.  They had so much fun!
Then we explored the old hay barn.  I had not been there since childhood.  My uncle lives on the old dairy farm where my mother grew up.  I have fond memories of playing with calves, watching my grandpa milk cows, and playing in that very same hay barn.  The cows are gone now, but there is still old hay in the barn.  And it is still a great place to play.
I was so glad that my daughters got to experience the hay barn.  Now my memories are part of the next generation.

My Uncle Don has always loved old cars.  He has "fixed up" several of them, quite beautifully and takes them to antique car shows.  He brought them out to show us.  They were amazing. 
It was a wonderful day.  I am thankful for many things, my big, warm, complicated family is one of my greatest blessings.  And the time with them today was perfect.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm 4 on my birthday!

Here is what 4 looks like...
Okay, it's a little cheesy, but poor Rachel hasn't felt well for several days.  She had 3 days of fever and now a bad cold.  It's the second year in a row that she has been sick on her birthday.  (And the second year in a row that she has missed her preschool Thanksgiving feast.)

Rachel started off the day by climbing into bed with me, holding my hand, and saying, "You my friend, Mommy."  I can't think of a better way to start the day!  We spent a quiet day at home.  There were presents to open.
Shiny pink shoes...
...and two new games.

We visited Granny and Poppy, read books, and took a nap (which Rae didn't even protest).  We did make a quick trip to a local drug/gift store, where Rachel announced to everyone that today was her birthday and was rewarded with a sucker from the store ladies and a quarter from a total stranger.  AND she got to ride in a booster seat instead of her strap-em-down carseat.  Rachel picked a Mexican restaurant for dinner and ate mostly chips and cheese dip, as usual. 

Rachel keeps repeating, "Today is my birthday!  I'm 4 now!", as if she can't quite believe it.  Neither can I.  Happy Birthday, Rachel Fu Shen!  You bring us so much joy and laughter.  I am so thankful that you are mine.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


In the next five days we have someone's 4th birthday, Thanksgiving, and a an I Spy themed birthday party to celebrate.  It's going to be a crazy week!  So, in case I don't find time to blog - Happy Thanksgiving!
(Don't you love preschool art projects?)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chinese Food

The Chinese students at our local collage made a big dinner this evening and invited the community to come share it.  This was not the American version of Chinese food.  It was the real stuff.  Comfort food for a bunch of kids a long way from home. 

I filled my plate with some of everything.  I have no idea what most of it was.  (Just like in China.)
It was all good.  I especially liked the asparagus and the wonderful hard-boiled eggs soaked in tea.  (Just like in China.)  The bright yellow mango flavored "aloe juice" was new to me, but quite tasty.

It was crowded, so Rachel sat on my lap to eat.  (Just like in China.)  There were noodles, so she didn't care.  I don't think Rachel remembers China or the people who loved her there.  But she most definitely has food memories.  Just the sight of rice noodles cooked with a little cabbage makes her quiver with excitement.  She doesn't do that with any other food.  Noodles make her happy.  They are her comfort food.
And Katherine, who refused to eat much of anything while we were in China, tried all sorts of unusual dishes and had seconds.
The Chinese students can cook for me any time.  That was some good eating...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Leaf Pile

Granny called today and left a message saying she had a very large leaf pile in her front yard that really needed jumped in.  So we headed over for some leaf jumping.  It was a huge pile - much taller than Rachel!
The girls flung themselves into the leaves until they were completely buried.
And then Granny jumped in, too.  Of course!
Leaf pile jumping is an active sport, and involves lots of leaf throwing so most of my pictures look like this.
But other pictures were good.
And one was great.
(If you are on Granny and Poppy's Christmas letter list, I think you'll be seeing this one again...)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Red Dresses

My girls always look forward to Sundays, because they get to wear their "fancy" dresses.  Last Sunday, they both picked never-before-worn new dresses.  And, as is often the case, both dresses came from Aunt Robie.  I am continually amazed at the beautiful clothes my sister manages to find, usually at a fraction of their original cost.  And my girls LOVE Aunt Robie dresses!
Rachel's red and white dress (with matching striped tights!) is just too cute.
And so is she.  (But don't tell her!)
(Although I'm pretty sure she knows.)
Katherine's dress was this year's Gotcha Day dress.
I love the classic design.  And the butter-soft corduroy fabric.   I told Katherine that I could have worn a dress like that when I was little.  And so could Granny.  And so could Granny's mother.  She was impressed.  "Old fashioned" is a good thing in her mind.
And she always looks good in red.
And this picture is just for me.  Katherine does not understand why I love to see her with her hair down.  But my 9 year old self is so jealous of her hair...  This is what I wanted my hair to be like.  So I could look like Laura from Little House on the Prairie.  (I thought "old fashioned" was a good thing, too.)  But even when I grew my hair long, it never looked like this.  Katherine has beautiful hair and she still lets me fix it for her, so I'll admire it while I can.

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