Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm Getting a Makeover!!!

I've been deliberating about this forever but finally have made some decisions and took a leap. Check out this site! I am officially on the waiting list! Danielle does amazing work. I can't wait to see what she can do with my blog. I'm so sick of the pink!!!

Camping '08

Last weekend, we took our first camping trip of the year. We stayed pretty close to home and had a great time. The ski resort nearest to us looks like this for most of the year. We had no idea that you could ride up and down the lift during the off-season and had to try it out.

This was a scary view-sending my boys up the mountain dangling from a string with no parental supervision...

Here they are passing us on their way back down as Audrey and I reached the top-
Audrey and I-I couldn't get my arm far enough away from my body to capture the the view behind us. Enjoy a scary closeup instead...
This is a pic of Matt and Xander about to get off-but still scary to see them with no safety bar...Later, we heard a helicopter land just up the hill from our campsite so we climbed up to take a look. Apparently a biker had lost a pedal and had an accident-ouch. Here are the kiddos waiting to see the helicopter take off.
Near the end of our trip, Matt made a rope swing for the kids and it was a huge hit.
The tree that the swing was tied to was on a steep hill so you could touch the ground near the tree to get on but when you swung out, you were nowhere near it. It freaked the kids out a little bit but it added to the fun.
Audrey's turn...
Check out the concern on Xander's face...
...and how quickly he got over it.
Matt couldn't resist the swing, either. He said he was 'weight testing' it.

Ooooh, I either need a new camera or a photography class or both...
My husband, the pack mule...
My hiking buddy...

I think we can officially say goodbye to Jackson's puppy phase. He was such a good dog on the trip! He loves to be outside and hike trails with us.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Simple Summer

The kids go back to school one week from tomorrow. I can't believe how fast the summer has gone by and how relatively sane I feel this year in comparison to other years. I've been trying to analyze the situation and find the source so that it could be repeated in the future, if possible. The main thing that I can come up with is that we have kept it simple. Instead of scheduling the kids from sun up to sun down every day, we let each child choose one thing that they really wanted to do this summer and we made that happen. Taylor chose an archery class through the community extension program and Audrey chose 'Babysitter Bootcamp.' I certainly couldn't argue with that! Noah was old enough this year to do the golf camp that Taylor usually does so he chose that. Xander just wanted to go swimming at the Y so that was an easy one.

Another thing that has helped this year was limiting 'plugged in' time. The kids are only allowed to watch tv or play computer or video games between 3 and 5 pm. For the rest of the day, they have to do something else, anything else. This was hard to enforce at first but worth it in the end. Instead of waking up and vegging out in front of the tv in pajamas until noon each day, they are enjoying spending time together as brothers and sister and just being kids. They play games together, walk the dog, do crafts, build forts in the playroom, or make 'hotels' for their toy animals, etc. I'm convinced it is better for their brains and aside from Taylor and Audrey's need to torment each other for a small portion of each day it has brought peace to our home.

Another thing that has to be a factor is the kids' ages. Now that they are all getting older, there is certainly a different dynamic at work than there has been in the past. It is really cool to be able to sit and play a board game with all of your children, especially when there are enough of them to play any game and they are old enough to actually provide some competition. They are also much more helpful than they have ever been. One day last week, I was going through the playroom and they all joined in and helped to clean and organize it. It was as if my efforts grew five fold and it went fast and looked great when we were done. All of the kiddos even joined in last week when I was canning peaches. The canning process doesn't always go smoothly. Depending on the quality and cooperation of the fruit, mood I'm in, etc. it can be either heaven or hell but this time it was perfect. Taylor made the syrup and blanched the peaches. Noah and Audrey skinned them and Xander was happy to supervise. All that I had to do was cut and pit the peaches and get the jars in and out of the canner. So easy! Here are some pics of my kitchen crew:

I'm going to miss these turkeys next week, especially when I have to entertain Xander by myself for hours on end.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Golf Camp

Noah participated in junior golf camp this week. He had three instruction days followed by a tournament today. He learned alot and hopes his dad will take him golfing with him sometime soon!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I've Got Patience!!!

...on my wall, at least.

Our friend and neighbor, Ed, just returned from a trip to China with several of his teaching colleagues. He brought this Chinese calligraphy of the character for 'Patience' back for us. I'm surprised that they read the blog (Hi, Keira!) and also extremely touched that he would think of us and have this made for us while on his trip. It is a gift that we really do treasure. Thank you so much!
Just a couple of days after his return, Ed, Keira and their crew came over for dinner and we enjoyed a slideshow of Ed's China pictures. What an adventure! We have to give Ed some props because he went out of his way to take it all in. He saw it all, did it all and we're convinced that he tasted it all as well while in China.

We also sent Ed on a wild goosechase for a picture of a pregnant Chinese woman in China. With his entire tour group on the hunt, it took several days to find one but find one, they did.
In all likelihood, we will never know who Meili's birth mother is. As a mother who wants to provide her children with everything they need and at least a few of the things that they want, it is hard for me to accept that I will not be able to provide Meili with that basic piece of information. I know that Meili will wonder about her and what she might be like. I thought a picture of a pregnant woman in China at about the same time that Meili's birthmother was pregnant with her would be something that might be of interest to Meili one day. While this picture does not capture the actual woman, it does serve as a frame of reference for the place and time period. I plan to place this picture in Meili's Lifebook so that from time to time we can wonder about her birthmother together...

To end the post on and light note (and just because it's just too darn cute not to include)...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How cute is this?

My sister, Janine, found this online somewhere and is thinking of doing something similar for a quilt for Meili. I think that it is a really cool pattern-we are still all about the ladybugs in this house! If I had come across this before doing Meili's One Hundred Good Wishes Quilt, I may have used this for the pattern. It's too late for us but I thought I'd put this out there in case any of my 3 devoted readers still need an inspiration for their own quilts.

My sister must have headed straight out to the fabric store after we talked on the phone this morning. She sent me an email with samples of the fabric she bought to make the quilt. She says this is the last I'll see of it unti it is completed. I'm excited to see the finished product!

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Co-Workers

Jackie, the director at the agency that I work for, sent me this photo of her dogs chillin' out on the office floor with the following caption:
Adoptions have been a little slow lately. The staff has been taking a lot of breaks.
Love it!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wo zai xue Zhongwen. (I am learning Chinese.)

I did something crazy recently. I decided to recopy all of my notes from Mandarin class in legible form. There were lots of them and the process took about 15 hours in all. I noticed that they were dated as far back as June of 2007! It was really cool to look back over the notes that I wrote down feverishly and understand fully what they meant for the most part. It wasn't necessarily the case when I wrote them down the first time.

Matt and I have come a long way in our Mandarin skills but there is an infinitely longer way to go yet before we even approach becoming fluent. Case in point: the opportunity I had when we were in CA to have a chat in Mandarin with the Chinese language teacher at my mom's school. She asked me what my name was in Chinese (Ni jiao shenme mingzi?) and I answered in Chinese (Wo jiao Jenn.) That's about all I had. I didn't even follow up with a 'ni ne?' (and you?) I only managed to eek out a 'Hen gao xing ren shi ni' (nice to meet you) and a 'zai jian' (goodbye) and that was pretty much the extent of the conversation. Hundreds of dollars and a year's worth of Mandarin classes later, that's all I could manage-what a dork I am!

It would be great to have a friend or neighbor that speaks Mandarin right about now. When I was in college working on my Spanish minor, a friend of ours married a girl from Spain and they moved into our apartment building. I helped her learn English and she helped me with my Spanish. At one point, I was able to spend hours on end with her and function using only Spanish, speak Spanish exclusively to my Spanish-speaking coworkers, wait tables in Spanish, write 10 page papers in Spanish, etc. Something similar will have to happen if I'm going to be able to progress any further with my Chinese.

Living in the Old Pueblo doesn't lend itself too well to opportunities to practice Mandarin. Last Friday, Matt and I went out to what we thought was the most authentic Chinese restaurant around hoping to have an opportunity to practice. We asked our waiter if he spoke Mandarin. Nope, Vietnamese. Well, we tried. The next time we go to LA, I'm going to try to spend a day in Chinatown and try to function using only Chinese. With my luck, everyone there probably speaks Cantonese!

In the meantime, I've been trying to teach the kids a little Mandarin and Xander seems to be the one picking it up the quickest. He even gets the tones! I caught him chastising the dog the other day in Chinese by yelling, 'bu hao!' (not good!) That's my boy!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

28 Months LID

That's 2 1/3 years that have passed since our paperwork landed in China and we're still not sure when we will see Meili's face. I'm still hoping for a December referral, but the hope is starting to fade a bit. This last month's batch of referrals went up to January 25th and only covered 5 days so things are still going painfully slow. I am absolutely sure that Heavenly Father's hand is in all of this and it will happen when it is supposed to happen but that doesn't mean that there aren't hard days and efforts to extrapolate guesses as to when our referral will arrive based on the info that is out there in the meantime...

Word on the China adoption street is that there were no files logged in from January 28th-February 5th of 2006 due to CCAA's closure to celebrate the Chinese New Year holiday. That means that of the 44 LIDs that are ahead of us (our LID is March 10, 2006), there are at least 9 that have no files logged in. So next month, if the CCAA can match 2 days worth of LIDs, then they can really match 11 and that would make the mathematical equation that is constantly running in my head have a more desirable outcome than it does right now.

We watched a friend's two children last night. The youngest is 15 months old and it was his first time being left. He was a joy. He was obviously concerned when his mother left him but never cried. I could tell that he knew that I wasn't his mom but I was a mom so it was okay. He went with the flow throughout the evening as we fed him, changed him and played with him and was thrilled to see his mother when she returned.

I couldn't help but think of Meili. If she has been born, what is she going through right now? How well are her physical and emotional needs being met? How will not having a mother in her first months of life affect her transition into our family? The 'li' in her name means strength and that she will have enough of it is our prayer for her as we wait, hopefully not too much longer.

Monday, July 07, 2008

4th of July Weekend

It's been so long since I've blogged that I've almost forgotten how! We have been a busy family of 6 since school has been out and, aside from the occasional sibling altercations, I'm enjoying every minute with the kiddos. School starts back up in only 4 weeks and I can say not only that I think we will survive, but also that it will be a little sad to have the house so quiet again.

We had a wonderful 4th of July weekend complete with the 3 F's-Family, Food and Fireworks. We started the morning with a wonderful breakfast and patriotic performances at church, then a brief walk around a desert arboretum-type place that is near our home. We veged out for most of the afternoon, then despite the ominous clouds overhead, picked up chicken and headed to local park for fireworks. The pic above is pretty sad but what we were trying to capture was the simultaneous lightning show that we experienced with our fireworks. It was as if Mother Nature was competing with the fireworks and based on the onlookers responses, she was winning!

On Saturday, we headed up to the mountains for some relief from the heat and a hike.
Here are some pics:

Noah (aka Nature Boy) discovers a ribbon of Quartz.

Typical Xander pose.

Audrey's turn for dog duty. Since this photo was snapped after he had already played in the creek, you can probably only tell from looking at his head but we ran out of dog shampoo and used Pantene instead for Jackson's last bath and it was amazing! His fur was so soft and shiny that he looked blue in the sunshine. I think we may use it from now on!

We are very blessed to have surroundings like this
about 30 minutes from our home in the scorching desert.

The whole crew on lunch break.

I didn't get any great pics of Taylor on the hike so I took the camera back out once we got back to the car only to find that he was 'watering a bush.' I threatened to take the picture anyway but only got him fleeing the scene.

I hope that you and yours had a wonderful holiday weekend! We certainly feel blessed to enjoy the freedoms that we do in this nation and are grateful to those who serve at home and abroad to ensure those freedoms for us!!!