Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!-Santa Claus Came to Town

Last night we had our traditional Christmas Eve program as a family complete with music and a nativity. After our annual Winterhaven (neighborhood decorated with lights) run, we turned in for the night. This morning, the kids were up bright and early to see what Santa had left them. We have some happy kiddos on our hands!

Santa even remembered Meili!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Special Night Out With My Girl

We have wanted to take Audrey to a performance of the Nutcracker since she was a three
year-old ballerina. She has always loved the play (in video form) and has been collecting nutcrackers for several years now. I realize that this will be our last Christmas having only one daughter-a perfect reason for a special mom/daughter night out!

We enjoyed the play, then Audrey was treated to dessert and her 5th nutcracker. Love you Audrey-girl!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Love this kid.

I almost went to work and skipped the Preschool Christmas Party. I didn't know that parents were expected to stay and would be treated to a performance (The note read more like you could stay if you wanted and maybe you could help pass out cookies, etc.) I'm glad I made a change of plans or Xander would have been the only one there without a parent with the exception of the kid whose mom was at the hospital in labor. My office hours would not have made as acceptable an excuse... I'm so glad I went. Xander was proud as a peacock and did such a good job singing his songs. I love the look on his face here.
ps- The little sweetie in the bottom right hand corner is my Mandarin buddy-only person I know that will practice with me! I've got my numbers down thanks to her!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

Some people love to hate family Christmas letters. Truth is, I thought about letting our annual Christmas letter go this year but the kids really look forward to hearing their year summed up in a paragraph and remembering the silly things said and done that might otherwise be forgotten. Before you proceed, let me just remind you that you are here and reading this of your own free will and volition...;o)Matt is still saving the world one package at a time as UPS’s most loyal employee. One of the highlights of his year was traveling to Seattle with his parents in June. They thought he was accompanying them to his cousin, Josh’s wedding. Really, he was along for the chance to visit the hallowed birthplace of United Parcel Service. Photos were taken and a rubbing of the founding plaque now hangs on his office wall. It’s in a 20 x 30 frame. (I’m in a 3x5.) If I could sum up Matt’s year in one word it would be ‘service.’ Matt has been involved with Make Way for Books, United Way projects and most recently organized an aid station for bike riders on the Tour de Tucson route. Next year he hopes to be a rider! Matt also works with the 12 and 13 year old scouts at church. He spent many months during ’08 working with them on their Personal Fitness merit badge charting their progress running a mile, doing pull-ups, sit ups, etc. He couldn’t resist charting his own progress, as well. When he related this at work, a co-worker made the observation - ‘So, basically you’re racing children?’
Jenn is still doing adoption home studies although business has been quite slow. To fill in the gaps, I’ve been reorganizing and managing the files at the main office and preparing Kyrgyzstan dossiers-almost makes me wish I'd studied Russian instead of Spanish. I was able to travel to Minnesota in April to attend an agency partner conference and then planned a small weekend getaway to Sedona with Matt for our 15th wedding anniversary (Time flies!) and to attend cousin Aprille’s wedding. My renewed hobby is grinding wheat and baking from scratch. I've conquered pizza crust and a variety of muffins and have my sights set on tortillas. With all the doom and gloom in the news about the economy, I’ve taken my bargain hunting hobby to a new level. I am now an avid couponer and find pure joy in getting many grocery items for free or close to it. (Check out the sidebar for details! Seriously, coupons are going to be cool in '09. Trust me.) This exuberance coming from the girl who used to hide in the car with the seat reclined to avoid being seen at Target as a teenager!
Taylor turned 13 this year and is in the 8th grade. He still plans to be a meteorologist one day and has registered as a Southern Arizona Weather Watcher. It is a crack up to hear him call in his weather reports complete with precipitation descriptions and estimations of wind velocity. Just yesterday, he met his favorite local meteorologist, Chuck George (For Taylor, bigger than Oprah!), who was kind enough to have a quick chat with him about the colleges that he should be thinking about applying to and the classes he should be taking in preparation. I can't believe that we'll be registering him for high school in just a few months! Taylor plays the violin at school-a self-proclaimed ‘orch dork!’ He is also busy preparing to complete his Eagle project in the next few months. A few months ago, Matt introduced Taylor to the Twilight series. He was quick to initially dismiss it as a ‘girl book’ but gave it another shot when he realized that it is also a 'girls will talk to me if they see me with it' book. Needless to say, he read all 4 books in record time!
Audrey is 10 years old and is enjoying being a 5th grader-top of the elementary school food chain in our state. She plays the flute and the piano and is still attending Achievement Days at church. In February, our family got cable for the first time and our only regret is Audrey’s obsession with the Disney channel. We’re convinced that she would jump through the screen and join them if she could. While the first name of her future husband is yet to be determined, Audrey is fairly certain that her last name will one day be 'Jonas.' Audrey participated in cheer camp again this year and completed Babysitter Bootcamp. She watches the little boys for us for short periods of time and has even babysat outside of our home on a few occasions. She is really good with small children. I can’t wait to see her with her little sister!
Noah, at the ripe age of 7, has a serious crush on Taylor Swift despite Jenn’s standing ‘NO COUNTRY IN THE HOUSE’ rule. He's asked if he can send her a birthday present and often asks to eat at Cracker Barrel 'because that is her favorite restaurant.' He is also strangely enamored with politicians. During campaign season, our otherwise shy Noah chased a state legislator down the street barefoot just to introduce himself and shake his hand. Noah loves 2nd grade and wants Ms. Tinney to be his teacher ‘for the rest of his life.’ He is looking forward to turning 8 next year. He has agreed to postpone his baptism by a month or two if China travel interferes but was concerned that doing so might preclude him from joining cub scouts (?). One of the highlights of Noah’s year was watching a bobcat stalking prey (quail) in the wash that borders our home from his upstairs bedroom window. It was better than the Discovery Channel! Xander celebrated his 5th birthday this year by fishing for ostriches and riding in a monster truck at Picacho Peak. He loves to do his chores, wants to marry his mother and often prays for divine intervention in vital skills like learning to wink. To give you the whole picture we should also report that during 2008 Xander added running away from home, being kicked out of his Primary (Sunday school) class and stealing a sizable amount of cash from Jenn’s purse and stuffing it in his sock drawer to his been-there-done-that list. We are crossing our fingers that he has gotten it all out of his system at an early age and will be a mellow teenager... He attends Mr. Merrit’s class at St. Andrew’s preschool two days a week with his best buddies, Evan and Bennett. His first report card was hilarious. We loved how it described his behavior in terms such as ‘Oral communication is an area of strength for Xander’ when we know it really meant, ‘This kid never shuts up!’
We really hoped that this would be the year that our Christmas card would read, 'Meili Christmas!' and feature 5 faces instead of 4. Nine months of pregnancy culminating in childbirth now seems like a relatively easy way to have a child. In fact, we now have waited for Meili longer than Jenn was pregnant with all four kids combined. What a learning experience this has been! We certainly recognize the children that we have for the miracles that they are and have also learned that patience and faith go hand in hand. If good things come to those who wait, we are convinced that Heavenly Father has quite a blessing in store for us! We are eager to prove that this adoption is not a figment of our imagination by sending out an email and posting to the blog as soon as we have some good news and photo evidence to share (April or May?) so stay tuned!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2009!

Love , The Boutons

Friday, December 12, 2008

Some Progress and a Xander Funny

We can cross two more things off of 'The List.' I was able to sneak down to the health department and get the last round of my travel vaccinations yesterday. Glad to have those behind me! The lady who administered them asked why I was getting them. I said that I was going to China. (Wasn't in the mood for adoption talk, believe it or not...) She proceeded to say, 'Well, don't get sick over there. China wants you to think that they are advanced but they are not. What you saw during the Olympics was the only developed part... Everything else is NOT like that in China. I'm Japanese by the way.' I just smiled and nodded. I guess there is a little tension between the two countries???

I also received a phone call at 7pm from the orphan officer at our local USCIS office. She asked me when I'd like to have our fingerprinting appt. and gave us our first choice. We received our notification letters by email just a few minutes later. How cool is that? On December 20th, we'll have another paperwork hurdle behind us!

This afternoon, our I-600a renewal application will go out in the mail. When we have that new I-171H in the mail it will be such a relief!

So onto Xander... A few days ago, I picked Noah up from school and let the two little boys play on the playground while we waited for Audrey to get out of Band practice. There were a few other kids there as part of the afterschool program. One small boy proceeded to grab two fistfuls of leaves and throw them at Xander. I politely explained to him why that was not an appropriate thing to do and he walked away. Xander then turned to me and said, "Sheesh! Kids these days!" You said it, buddy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ebay and I: Friends Again

Third time's a charm! I lost two other bids previously on two completely different diaper bags but now I'm so glad that I did. I had never seen this style before but when I did, I fell in love. If you can't tell from the photo, it's chocolate brown with pink cherry blossoms. I've wanted a Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag for a very long time but never thought that I would be able to afford one. I can't believe I get to cross this off of my list! I LOVE ebay!!! (-and my husband who rolled his eyes but let me buy it anyway.)

Third Time's a Charm...Let's Hope!

Matt and I made a third trek across town to be fingerprinted for immigration purposes for our adoption this morning. No worries-we still aren't criminals and our fingerprints have not changed since we began the process. It's a minor inconvenience really when we consider what is in store for us when this process is through!

33 Months

I've said this before but when we started this process, we expected a referral 6-8 months after sending our paperwork to China. When timeframes started to lengthen, I never dreamed it would extend beyond a year. We're now looking at three. Each month as we 'celebrate' yet another month since our LID, I can't believe how much reality has differed from our expectations. What really strikes me this month is that after 33 months, we still can't say for certain if our referral is 3, 4 or 5 months away. In a weird way, to write that is frustrating and exciting at the same time. We really are getting close and the thoughts that we have about how hard it is for us to wait are still there but quickly shift now to thoughts about our baby girl who has likely been born and what this situation must be like for her right now.

And now on to my monthly mental exercise...It looks like the cut off date is going to be February 23rd this month. That's a six day batch which leaves only 15 LIDs to go until they get to ours. (!)If the CCAA maintains their 5-6 day per month average, we could see a referral in March. However, looking at the RQ polls, it's hard to ignore the huge number of people logged in on Feb. 28th and March 7th. It is quite possible that those LIDs will each constitute a referral batch all on their own. So I have to face the reality that we may not see a referral until May.

Here are my predictions for the next few months. I'm trying to prepare for a worse case scenario and just hoping that it can't get any worse than this.

January-February 27
February-February 28
March-March 3rd or 6th
April-March 7th
May-March 10th or 13th

I really hope that it ends up better than this. I will be particularly curious to see if they can match Feb 28th or not next month. (In fact, CCAA-I dare you.) If so, you'll have to scrape me off of the ceiling but I'm not holding my breath.

We received official notification from our agency yesterday that the orphanage 'donation' has increased by $2000. We knew this was coming but hoped that we would be able to sneak in under the wire and avoid paying the extra $. In the end, if children receive better care and more orphanage directors are encouraged to make children paper ready for adoption, then it is a good thing.

The List-Updated 12/10

I realize that this is a completely boring post. Feel free to skip it. It mainly serves the purpose of making me feel like I am accomplishing something to get our daughter home (and it's in a place where I can't lose it.)
Electronics (aka Matt's job):
-Buy a lap top Done!
-Buy a new camera (I have my eye on this one but would settle for a new point and shoot)
-Buy a video camera Done!
-Learn how to use the above
-Get extra SD cards Done!
-Look into Skype Need to get a webcam, etc. May opt to skip this.

-renew fingerprints Appt. 12/20 8:00am
-Send off I-171H renewal request Mailed out December 12
-renew home study (if we aren't going to be back from China by June or if we plan to readopt/finalize when we get home) If we don't have a referral by March, we'll start on it then.
-Request that our agency send our referral packet to us via UPS, not Matt's mortal enemy (Fed Ex) They want a pre-paid envelope ahead of time.
-Agree on a protocol if Matt is at work and the kids are at school when the call comes. I need to have Matt in the room with me when the call comes. I want to see his reaction, plus I may not be able to function well enough to receive the call once it finally comes and may need his help. Our agency will send out a 'Stork Has Landed' email and then proceed to make calls. We are going to email right back and request that they not call us until the time we think that we can get in the same room together. Matt might come home or I might drive to his office depending on the time of day and his work load. If the kids are home, great. If not, we'll clue them in later. That way I can focus on their reactions and not be writing, etc when they get the news. I know this sounds OCD but after waiting so long for this, I plan to savor every moment when it finally happens!

For Referral Day:
-Charge phone, cell phone, camera and video camera
-Hopefully, have a person to man the camera and video camera when the call comes in.
-Prep a blog post
-Update email addresses and prep an email announcement-Have Diet Coke, Chocolate in mass quantities, 'The Call' sheet, flower/ladybug pens and Kleenex handy.
-Gather links for Orphanage yahoo groups, Name translation sites, Chinese growth charts, map of China etc.
-Print yard sign (oh yes we are)
-Order a photo necklace kit (not sure if I want a square or rectangle but I'll know when I see the referral pics)

For Care Package:
-blanket Done!
-stuffed animal/blanket thing Done!
-2 disposable cameras with instructions I have one camera.
-Photo album (bought 2-1 to send and 1 to keep) with pics each family member with Meili's pic and labels in Chinese
-SafTPops for orphanage children Order in February
-Jelly Bellys for nannys Done!
-save a shoe box Done!

Shopping Necessities:
-baby shampoo, wash, powder, and lotion Done!
-diapers, wipes, diaper rash ointment I'm going to start buying a pkg of diapers every couple of trips to the store.
-bibs, formula, rice cereal, baby food and baby snacks Looking for some cute bibs...
-outfits, pj's and onesies to round out her wardrobe
(Once we know her age, size and the season that she will be home)
-baby bathtub (will wait until after we're home-she may be ready for a seat)
-stroller (will also wait until we are home-we may just buy one in China)
-pack n' play (can wait)
-bouncer (also can wait)
-small cd player for Meili's room In progress.
-Make some bows (if she has hair...) Having a bow-making party in January with my China adoption friends. I've been collecting ribbon.

Shopping Frivolities:
-The remainder of the China/adoption children's books on my Amazon wishlist
-Mei Tai Baby Carrier (espresso straps with 'carnival bloom' fabric on the front)
-Kozy Pal cart cover. After surviving the better part of a year in an orphanage in a third world county, I'm not too worried about exposing Meili to germs. But after 4 kids I've never had one and I think they look cool! They also have this in the same 'carnival bloom' pattern as the mei tai.
-Asian brocade Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag (as soon as the money tree sprouts in the back yard...or I can win a bid on ebay) Proud owner of a Petunia Picklebottom 'Spring Roll' Boxy Backback Diaper Bag!

For Travel:
-Finalize packing list (and pack!) Luggage is purchased. The packing list spreadsheet has been made and many things are already packed.
-Decide if Taylor and Audrey are going to China They probably are. They would handle the trip well and would be very helpful. Taylor could handle all of the electronics-take photos and video, upload to the laptop, update the blog and keep everything charged. I know that Audrey would be so good with Meili and help ease her transition. We play with the idea of leaving them home to have the two-on-one time with Meili and to save a few bucks but we're coming home from China up to our eyeballs in debt anyway so it's not going to make much difference.
-Make arrangements for kiddos All of our family lives in So. Cal. We'll probably drive to LA and leave the kiddos with family there, then fly out of LAX. The trick will be driving back home (7.5 hrs) with a baby who has never been in a carseat before and two jet-lagged parents. Maybe my parents can drive our car (and kids) back and we'll get them a couple of plane tickets home? The more I think about it, the more I think I want to come directly home to my own bed. It would also be less transition for Meili to deal with.
-Make arrangements for dog and bird A friend has recommended another friend who is a trainer and does in-home boarding.
-get cash in new or like new condition from bank
-have a lock engraved with our name and date for the Great Wall We've got the lock-not sure what to engrave on it.
-Get last round of vaccinations I'm done! Need to call and check what Matt needs.
-Finish Quilts (We are making one handmade quilt for each month of the wait to donate to Meili's orphanage) Maybe during the Christmas break...
-Finish OHGW Quilt scrapbook (If it's not done before we travel, it may never get done)
-set up crib before we leave
-put car seat in the car
-Make appt. with pediatrician for when we return
-add Meili to our insurance
-make ahead and freeze some dinners

Gifts for Officials/Nannys:
-Stuff from our state Done!
-Buttons, keychains and small autographed prints by Azuzephre (Jenn's brother) Done!
-Lotion from Bath and Body Works 4 for $10 sale last week-Done!
-Jelly Bellys-I've been pricing them. There is a cute tin that is shaped like a jelly bean that has the American flag on the bottom. I think we'll go with those. I'm curious how long they are good for because I may be able to find them on sale after the holidays...
-red bags and tissue Done!

Friday, December 05, 2008

'Merry Christmas' by Third Day

Matt is deeply touched by the 'Christmas Shoes' song that plays on the radio this time of year. It makes me want to vomit and yell at the radio. I'm convinced that it is a contrived attempt to empty wallets. Whoever wrote it is getting neither a penny nor a tear from me!

I feel much differently about this song, however. It's not played on the radio nearly as often as 'Christmas Shoes.' I'm guessing that is because not many members of the general population can relate to it. We can. If you are a friend or family member, you may want to grab a tissue before watching the video. If you're also waiting for your child from China, several tissues and good fistful of chocolate are in order before hitting the play button.

We have already spent several Christmases waiting for Meili. This one is particularly hard knowing that since we are so close to referral, it is very likely that she has been born and will spend the winter in a Chinese orphanage. It's almost too difficult to even think about. I just pray that she will be safe, healthy and well cared for until we can bring her home.

Monday, December 01, 2008