Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Today is Katherine's 8th birthday.  One minute that seems perfectly realistic and the next I think how can she possibly be that old? 
Her dinner request was to have a fast food picnic at the park and then to play.  Since it was her warmest birthday ever, we happily agreed.  (It was 64 degrees here, one degree warmer than her birth city of Yangjiang which is on the South China Sea and has a tropical climate!)
The park is one of her favorite places.  At 8, she loves to list her favorite things:  books, American history, sausage, the color turquoise, doing math problems, playing the violin, the Titanic, dogs, sewing with Granny, going to school.
She dreams about living on a farm and raising horses and going to a one-room school.  She can't wait until she is old enough to cook all by herself and do her homework in cursive and play real songs on the violin.
Sometimes she wishes that she had a dozen brothers and sisters.  And sometimes she wishes she was still an only child.  But mostly, she likes being Rachel's big sister. 
I look at Katherine and am continually astonished at who she has become.  And that she is mine.  Sometimes I wonder what ever happened to that sweet, scrawny baby I first held in China.  Then the light catches just so...
...and there she is.  Happy 8th birthday, Katherine Guo Dan.
You are amazing...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chinese New Year

After our owl party Saturday, we changed into our silks
and headed off to celebrate the Year of the Dragon. 

Every year we get together with other families who have adopted from China to celebrate the biggest holiday in our children's birth country.  We miss the biggest parts of the real holiday, but we do get dressed up and eat Chinese food and enjoy being together.  And we always have fun.

Often I bring a craft of the year's zodiac animal, but dragons are hard.  We just colored instead.
Rachel was delighted to hang out with her buddy, Jacob, and boss him around a little.  There is WAY too much orneriness in this pair!
Rachel also had fun letting the bigger girls carry her around and make over her.  She SO loves a crowd.
Kate was all smiles most of the evening.
One of families brought in the most amazing cupcakes!  They looked just like lo mein and fried rice, but were decorated entirely in frosting and candy!
Have you ever seen anything like it?  Rachel thought it was quite tasty.
I never tire of seeing all of these beautiful faces together...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What a Hoot!

Katherine's "friend" birthday party was today at Aunt Robie's.  It really was a lot of fun! 

Kate and her unusual mix of friends (some from school, a fellow Chinese adoptee, and her old daycare buddy) are all craft lovers, so we had lots of craft time.  We painted boxes and added felt owl sticker on top.
I had hidden these little owls all over the house and sent the girls to find them.  There was lots of giggling as each girl searched for a mama and a baby owl.
Then we played pin-the-beak-on-the-owl.  It was a huge hit!
We even had an oh-so-lovely owl mask!
There were owl cupcakes and ice cream to eat.
And more giggling, of course.
Then we did more crafts - felt owls this time.
The perplexus made an appearance.
And gifts were opened.  They consisted almost entirely of craft kits, which the birthday girl and all her friends are eager to try.  It is almost always cold and snowy on Kate's birthday.  But not this year!  It was nice enough to end the party playing outside.
As she left, one friend commented "I should have had an owl party."  It was a hoot, indeed!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Look Whoooo Is Having a Birthday

Katherine had her "family" birthday party tonight.  Granny made her a terrific owl outfit to match the owl party theme.
We ate some pizza and chatted and then munched our way through an owl cake.
I found this owl cake on-line and I must say, cupcake cakes are really easy and very cute!  And Katherine was quite pleased with it.
Months ago Katherine asked for a pair of cowgirl boots she'd seen in a store - turquoise ones with embroidery.  Rachel and I bought them a couple of weeks ago.  Rae, of course, can't keep a secret for more than about 30 seconds, so she told Kate.  Luckily, she has a hard time keeping all of the details straight.  She told Katherine that she was getting "pink scary snowboots".  Kate didn't quite believe her and asked about it, but I could honestly tell her Rachel was wrong.  So today Katherine was delighted to find turquoise, non-scary, cowgirl boots just for her. And they even match her owl dress.
Katherine's one gift request was a Perplexus, a sort of ball-shaped three-dimensional maze.  She asked both sets of grandparents for one and received two different kinds.  She was a happy kid.
And they were popular (and addictive) gifts.  Everyone ended up playing with them!
Stay tuned - there will be more owl festivities tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


January is Kansas History Month, so like elementary school kids all over the state, Katherine has been coloring meadowlarks and cottonwood trees and singing Home on the Range.  Her second grade teacher decided to have the kids do an oral history report to learn more about Kansas history.  And that simple assignment caused some drama at our house.

Katherine climbed into the car after school last week and announced, "I can't do my homework."  This is not her usual attitude, so I asked why not.  Kate replied, "I have to interview an ancestor and I can't! I don't HAVE any ancestors!  Well, I do, but I don't know who they are and they're in China.  They were never IN Kansas!"  She was crying so hard that I pulled over to sort it all out.  I have long lived in nervous fear of the dreaded family tree assignment, but I never expected history interviews to be our downfall.  I looked at the assignment sheet and it said "Interview a grandparent or older adult."  No mention of ancestors at all.  But that's not how Katherine saw it.  Something about this assignment had brought her face to face with the huge black hole that is her history.  And it hurt.

I managed to calm Kate down that day, but it took most of a week before she could discuss her history assignment without getting emotional.  I finally convinced her that it was not about ancestors, this was simply learning how people in Kansas used to live.  Then we had to choose someone to interview.  Since relatives were too close to "ancestors", I ruled out grandparents and great aunts.  I gave Katherine a list of "older adults" that she could talk to.  She finally chose our good friend Roger.  Roger was a college acquaintence of my parents, one of my college professors (we spent hundreds of hours in theater practice together), and a church friend.  He loves my girls and has great rapport with Kate.  He was a perfect choice.

One afternoon this week Katherine and I went to interview Roger.  As it turns out, Roger went to grade school at one room school a few miles from town.  He suggested we take a little trip out to see the school, which is now a house.  So we did.  The little limestone school had an official name, but the students always called in Frog Hollow.  [Isn't that a fabulous name?]  Roger told Kate all sorts of stories about his childhood and the daily life of Frog Hollow School - being in class with 8 grades of kids, playing on the delightfully dangerous playground equipment, catching frogs in the woods, the barn where kids once left the horses they'd ridden to school, the outhouses, the joys of being a farm kid.  Katherine just soaked it all up.  It was wonderful.

When we got home, I looked up Frog Hollow on the internet.  I found pictures of the building and students and a list of all the pupils from before 1950 (including Roger's dad).  Katherine has pored over them all.  I am quite certain that Frog Hollow would be her ideal school, outhouses and all.  And I am grateful to Roger for giving her a glimpse of this part of our local history and letting her feel a part of it all. 
Katherine turned in her project yesterday.  There was no mention of ancestors and no more grief.  She was just excited about her interview with Roger and eager to share the details of one room school life.  Today on the way to school she told me she was saving all of her money.  To buy a horse.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year, 2nd Grade Style

I talked to Katherine's class about Chinese New Year today.
I first did my Chinese New Year presentation when Katherine was in kindergarten.  There was a story about Chinese New Year in the little weekly newspaper the kids read.  Katherine is the only Asian child in her school and no one was at all familiar with the holiday, so her teacher asked me to come and talk about it.  Katherine was all for the idea.  And the kids loved it.  They loved seeing items from China.  They loved learning about red envelopes full of money and dragon dances and luck.  They loved eating noodles with chopsticks.  They loved admiring Katherine's beautiful silk clothes.  They loved everything about Chinese New Year.  As other teachers saw how excited the kids were, they asked me to come and talk to their students.  This year, I am doing Chinese New Year with both kindergartens, both 1st grades, and the 2nd graders.  Eventually, the whole school is going to celebrate Chinese New Year.  And that's a good thing.

When I started the Chinese New Year events, I was just trying to expose the kids in my school to a different culture.  I never realized how good it would be for Katherine, too.  Katherine loves having me visit her room (I'm sure that will change someday...).  Chinese New Year has been a good way to affirm her history without making her the center of unwanted attention.  And because of my visits, Katherine has become the envy of everyone 8 and under at her school.  She gets to wear those fabulous silk clothes.  She has real Chinese things in her house.   She has a cool lion puppet.  She knows how to use chopsticks.  She has a Chinese name.  She gets to watch a real dragon dance. Her whole family celebrates Chinese New Year.  At least for today, she is a star.

Today we looked at hong bao (red envelopes) and some of Katherine's silk clothes.  Then we read a story about dragons and made dragon puppets.  The kids thought it was grand.  And Katherine?  She was one happy girl.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Xin Nian Kuai Le

Xin Nian Kuai Le!  Happy New Year!
Tomorrow is the beginning of the Spring Festival in China, what we call Chinese New Year.  It is the Year of the Dragon, which is seen as particularly auspicious.  Dragons are very wise and very powerful.  To celebrate, we all wore our Chinese silks to church. 
As you can tell, it's sunny and windy in Kansas!  The girls are always thrilled to wear their Chinese clothes.  They know that they are especially gorgeous in them.  And I have to agree.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


We have had a week of sunny, but unpleasantly cold weather.  We've been stuck inside and we are all ready to be OUT.  So today, despite windchills in the 20's, we went to the park to scoot/bike/walk.  It was just what we needed.
Katherine loves her scooter.
She loves finding a long stretch of path and just...flying.
Rachel chose to ride her "new" bike (which was handed down to Kate by a cousin).
Rae is terrific at peddling.  And good at balancing.  But steering still gives her some troubles.  It requires more attention and coordination than she can quite manage (and to be fair, it is harder to do one-handed).  So she spends a lot of time like this.
And even this.
But she doesn't seem to mind.  It's a good thing she wears a helmet.  And probably a good thing that I am not one of those moms who panics at every little stumble.  Rachel just hops up and drags her bike back on track.
...and again.
She is nothing, if not determined. 
I admire that about her.
It is supposed to be warmer this weekend.  Maybe we'll go wheelin' again.

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