Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Longbranch Lagoon

We spent a couple of days with Steve's parents in Dodge City. One of the highlights was visiting the new city pool complex, which was pretty impressive!

The water park is called The Longbranch Lagoon, a pun that went right over my girls' heads. It made me giggle, though. Since this is Dodge City, the pools have a Western theme,

complete with rattlesnakes spitting water in the kiddie pool!
The girls didn't care about that, though. They were thrilled that there were giant water slides!

Eventually, I even tried the slides, which was perhaps the most un-Mom thing I have ever done. I don't like heights or rollercoasters or most water slides (and I didn't like the red and pink slide because you are in total darkness) but I really enjoyed this yellow boomerang one.

The girls talked their Uncle Brian into coming to the pool, too, and they floated around the lazy river together.

They played in the wave pool and insisted that Brian and Grandma watch them try out all the smaller slides in the park, as well as their underwater handstands and somersaults. Then it was back to the big slides for another turn. Or two. Or three.
The water park was a lot of fun and a great way to start our family vacation!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Watermelon Girl

Granny made Rachel a watermelon dress which led to a watermelon photo shoot, of course!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Lion Dancer

It is tradition at China Camp that during Closing Ceremonies, the 6th graders perform a lion dance. They practice all week, with some kids wearing the costume and other playing cymbals and drums. Katherine has looked forward to this since her first year at camp, when she was 4 years old. This year, her last year as a camper, she was finally old enough and she could not wait!

After the first day of camp Katherine announced that there would be three different lions this year and that she was to be the head of one. (One of her orphanage friends was the tail.) The dance is long and lively and exhausting to dance. So dancers work in teams, with one pair dancing for a while and then handing off the lion costume to a new pair. At camp, one team "woke" the lions and another danced the lions up and down the aisles. Katherine was on the second team.

The dance begins with drums.
Katherine and her team crouched in the aisle waiting their turn,
Three lions were ceremonially "wakened" and made their way down a set of steps and into the aisle, where they were passed off to their new dancers. First an orange lion...
...and then a black one...
...and finally a yellow one with familiar legs.
The lions pretended to take naps and were awakened by a dancer with a ceremonial sword.
 And then they just danced,
 twisting and turning,
 blinking their eyes and opening and closing their mouths,
 teasing and flirting,
working the adoring crowd.
 It was beautiful and gloriously loud, an ancient Chinese tradition enthusiastically embraced by young girls on the other side of the world. This was a piece of Katherine's Chinese heritage that she can forever claim, an experience she will never forget. She was once a lion dancer!
 The lions were handed off to the first teams for the ending of the dance. They bowed and lay down to rest. The drums quieted into silence and it was over.
Another year of China Camp came to an end. It was amazing!

Sister Tricks and China Camp Pictures

On the second morning of China Camp we arrived early at the enormous church where camp is held. The girls were bored, so they found all sorts of ways to keep themselves occupied!

Later that morning was the traditional group picture, when the whole camp dresses in matching shirts and takes a picture together. For parents it is a fun game of Where's Waldo? as we try to find our child's familiar face in the crowd!

China Camp 2016

We just returned from another year at China Camp, our adoption agency's annual heritage camp in Tulsa. China Camp is one of our favorite places in the world. For three days, our family looks just like everyone else's and no explanations are needed. We have lots of friends at camp - families we traveled with when we adopted Katherine, people we've met at other camps, friends from our agency, a family from our hometown. And we have shared experiences with everyone at camp, strangers included. I had a conversation today with a woman I'd never met about trying to sight see in China while chasing toddlers. China Camp is a place where no one gives us strange looks or asks questions about adoption, a place where none of us feel different from the status quo. All of us enjoy being in a place where everyone "gets" our family!

Camp always begins with drums and cymbals and a local kung fu group's lion dance.

Lion dances are loud and exciting, no matter how many times you have seen them. After the dancing, all the kids head out for three days of fun. They spend time with other kids their age, some of whom have been in the same class for years. Katherine had two of her orphanage mates in her group. They are each others' oldest friends, born within a month of each other, living their early months in cribs in the same room, adopted on the same day, and spending time together at China Camp 12 years later.
The kids take classes in Chinese cooking, language, dance, calligraphy, art, and kung fu, as well as playing games, learning strategies for dealing with questions and comments about race and adoption, and just hanging out with other kids whose life stories are much like their own.
The parents spend time chatting with each other and taking advantage of some kid free time. There are adoption and culture related classes for parents, too.

The last event of China Camp, Closing Ceremonies, is a time for all the kids to share some of what they have learned during the week. Each class performs a dance, sings a song, recites a poem, or demonstrates kung fu moves in front of an audience of proud parents. I always find Closing Ceremonies to be a deeply emotional time. The joy and pride in the room is palpable. I look around at all those beautiful Chinese faces and think of the sorrow and hard places that brought them to their families and see how far all of us have come and I fight tears. Every. Single. Year.

The youngest classes were, as always, adorable. They sang a song about tigers, wearing tiger masks, and making claws with their fingers.

Rachel's class recited poetry in Chinese this year. She wasn't much interested in language class and she hates to perform at China Camp, but she did her part. She hid in the back of the group, but she did it.

A dance troupe did a few tradition dances - beautiful to watch, but hard to capture in a photo.
China Camp always ends with another lion dance, this time performed by the 6th grade campers.
This year's performance was eve more special than usual because this lion was danced by Katherine. And there will be more on that later...

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