Saturday, January 31, 2009

We all scream for ICE CREAM!!!

When I was very little, my grandfather had an ice cream truck. I can remember the 'deep freeze' he kept on his back patio and particularly the treasures that were hidden inside. We just don't see them around as much these days. In fact, we've been here for 5 years and this was the first time that I heard the magical tune come down our block.
Overpriced to be sure but it's the memories, people!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Just love 'em.

Not sure how he stays upright...

I stopped Taylor on his way out the door this morning to weigh his backpack. 38 pounds! He doesn't weigh much more than that himself! He is going to have scoliosis if he keeps carrying it. His school does not have lockers-and having been a teacher in a jr. high with lockers, I agree with the policy. He does have a set of books for home use so he does not have to carry them around but while at school if he finishes his work in one class, he likes to be able to work on homework for another. He usually does his math homework (Geometry in 8th grade!) on the bus ride home and comes home with little or no additional homework which is a great thing. I asked him if he would consider a backpack with wheels but apparently it would be open season on him if he did. Not sure what the solution is.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

We had a very enjoyable and delicious Chinese New Year. The food was awesome. We cooked at home instead of ordering out with a little help from the frozen food section at C*stco. Next year, same menu but I'm going to make it from scratch.
After dinner, Noah wanted to burn his kitchen god that he colored at school.

So we did!

I hope he tells the Jade Emperor that we have been patiently awaiting a referral!!!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy Chinese New Year! I was born in 1974 which would make me a tiger based on the generic charts. But, since I was born on the 7th of the January, before Chinese New Year occured that year, I'm really an Ox along with the majority of folks born in 1973 including my dh. So, it looks like it is my year. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

This morning, I spent 2 hours in Noah's 2nd grade class sharing a bit about Chinese language and CNY. I taught them about the 4 tones in Mandarin, how to count to 10, read a counting story in Chinese and taught them to sing Shi Ge Xiao Peng You (10 Little Friends-to the tune of 10 Little Indians-from the same book.) Next, they colored a Kitchen God while I read a fable about him from Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats then they ate marshmallows with chopsticks. (There is a peanut allergy in the room, or we would have eaten something more authentic.) Then, they made paper lanterns and we read The Dragon Dance.

It was an action-packed 2 hours. I'm looking forward to Noah's critique later this afternoon. If I had it to do over again, I'd skip the language part and just focus on the holiday. Hopefully, they had a good time.

Tonight, we're eating Chinese and having family night. Happy Chinese New Year to you and yours wherever you may be!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

We Interrupt Our Regular Programming....

for an endorsement! As per usual, I'm probably last person to discover this but my real-life friend and fellow blogger, Emily told me about Google Reader and said that it would 'change my life.' And it has! I know that many bloggers use Bloglines but I never took the time to sign up so I don't know if it is better or worse than the Google version. It seems easy to me though and now I'm not missing a thing or wasting time clicking through my sidebar only to see that you haven't updated your blog for two months. (Ahem, Shannon-;o)

Thanks for the tip, Emily!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Retail Therapy

Well, I knew last week's positive rumors were too good to be true but here I am disappointed AGAIN with the measley 2 day batch of referrals the CCAA sent this month. I thought they would either match to the 3rd or to the 6th. The 2ND never even crossed my mind. I feel like we are just a few good strides from the finish line but are being forced to get there by dragging ourselves along the ground. With one arm. And the ground is covered in glass. And the arm is broken. And I weigh 450 pounds. And the finish line keeps moving farther away. Get the idea?

Anyway, it was a good mail day yesterday at Casa Bouton. My China gift loot all came, as well as my Lucky Mommy shirt. But the big news is that our third (and better be last!) I-171H arrived in the mail. That's a huge relief!!! Our next worry will be that our home study expires June 6th. I was holding out hope that we might be travelling to China by then but after this stupid two day batch, I'm not counting on it. I'll wait until the 1st week of March and then make a call. Our home study has been renewed twice already so we get to 'start from scratch' with this one. Joy.

So, what did I do today to make myself feel better? Well, I bought a 2nd Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag. Yes, I think I'm officially an addict. A 'secret' outlet sale started a couple of days ago. I've been visiting this bag at a local boutique for almost 4 years. It was 65% off and I couldn't resist. But that's it. The madness ends here. That's what Matt said, anyway.

So, it's time to regroup and keep busy for another month, or two or three. Thankfully, there's plenty to do. On Monday, I'm visiting Noah's 2nd grade class and doing a Chinese New Year presentation. I get to play teacher for 2 hours! My plan is to teach them some Mandarin (4 tones, counting 1-10 and a few phrases), let them eat a snack with chopsticks, make a paper lantern, read a couple of CNY children's books and pass out hong bao (red envelopes.) It should be fun!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The List-Updated

Electronics (aka Matt's job):

-Buy a lap top Done! (But I don't think we are taking it)
-Buy a new camera Going to get a new Elph
-Buy a video camera Done!
-Learn how to use the above
-Get extra SD cards Done!
-Look into Skype Skipping Skype!


-renew fingerprints Done!
-Renew I-171H Sent application out December 12-Should arrive in the mail any day.
-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) Done-I'm sure they think we're nuts!
-Agree on a protocol if Matt is at work and the kids are at school when the call comes. Done! Matt and I will be together when the call comes-we'll clue the kids in later if they are in school.

For Referral Day:
-Charge phone, cell phone, camera and video camera Taylor's job.
-Hopefully, have a person to man the camera and video camera when the call comes in. Bought a tripod!
-Update email addresses and prep an email announcement Done!
-Have Diet Coke, Chocolate in mass quantities, 'The Call' sheet, flower/ladybug pens and Kleenex handy Done!
-Gather links for Orphanage yahoo groups, Name translation sites, Chinese growth charts, map of China etc. Done!-See my sidebar under 'Adoption Resources'
-Print yard sign It's by the computer.
-Order a photo necklace kit.

For Care Package:

-blanket Done!
-stuffed animal/blanket thing Done!
-2 disposable cameras with instructions Done!
-Photo album (bought 2-1 to send and 1 to keep) Link to photo labels in sidebar-Will take photos of each kid and us with Meili's referral pic.
-SafTPops for orphanage children Done! Should arrive by mail any day.
-Jelly Bellys for nannys Done! Should arrive by mail any day.
-save a shoe box Done! (Found a box that is shoebox size anyway)

Shopping Necessities:

-baby shampoo, wash, powder, and lotion Done!
-diapers, wipes, diaper rash ointment We have started a supply.
-bibs, formula, rice cereal, baby food and baby snacks Am I just picky, or what? Can't find a cute bib anywhere! Will wait on the rest until just before travel.
-outfits, pj's and onesies to round out her wardrobe Will do this after referral-nervous that Meili might end up being a 4 year old boy.
-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 Done!
-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 (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-We're probably screwed here. A year ago, our bank said, 'no problemo.' Now, they say try again next DECEMBER. 'Like new' is going to have to do.
-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-Bouton Brood 2009?
-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)
-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 Going to give these a shot.

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!
-American Ginseng Done! (Found it at the dollar store-even has an American flag on it!)
-Jelly Bellys-Ordered!
-red bags and tissue Done!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Referral Day Prep

Last week, some crazy rumors about a huge batch (that would include us!) started making their way through the queendom. Just to see it in print about sent me into hysterics but the rational side of me thinks it has to be a load of crap, especially considering that the behemoth March 7th has yet to be referred. At the same time, the practical side of me says that I had better be safe than sorry and get ready for the big day just in case. After almost three years of waiting, I REFUSE to be caught with my pants down! Here's what we have been up to in preparation for the big day, bullet style:

  • Updated email address book, made a Family Referral Email contact group and a Friends Referral Email contact group for initial announcement. Don't worry, I'll post to the blog shortly thereafter and any of you that I have corresponded with by email are in the Friends group.

  • Added new links to the Adoption Resources section of my sidebar-including links to Asian Growth Charts, a China Province Map, Photo Album Labels for Meili's care package, and a link to orphanage specific Yahoo groups. I've also printed out an Asian growth chart as well as a series of links to translate Meili's name once we get ahold of the Chinese characters. Am I missing anything?

  • Purchased a tripod for the new video camera. I hope that I'm at home and have the presence of mind to turn it on when the call comes in.

  • Purchased the 'Lucky Mommy' t-shirt that I've had my eye on for 3 years. It's on sale here!

  • Ordered SafTPops for the care package and some to take to China with us.

  • Ordered Jelly Bellys for the Orphanage/Nanny gifts

  • Bought some American Ginseng for the gift bags.

  • Crossed several other items off of 'The List' which I will update later. The problem is that I can think of things to add to the list faster than I can cross them off!

  • Assembled a Referral Day Basket-I'll take a picture later. It has my call sheet, my ladybug pen, kleenex, chocolate, assorted snack items for the stress snacker (me), a frame for Meili's picture, Martinellis, the camera, video camera and tripod in it. Am I missing anything? If I end up having to go to Matt's office to get the call with him, I'll just grab the basket and go. When referrals are imminent, I might just have to drive around town with the basket in the passenger seat. I love Karen of Gwenblog's referral video (darn, can't find the link on y-tube-but she managed to video herself as she received the call in her car mainly driving down the highway...) but I'd like to avoid recreating it if possible. ;o)

Now that I've got most of my ducks in a row, I've probably ensured that our referral won't arrive this month but I'll be ready when it finally does. This feels alot like a birthing plan. After 4 births, I can fully assure you that these don't always pan out. I'm hoping with the referral we at least hit some of the marks!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The End of an Era

I haven't blogged for more than a month!!! When I finally catch up with all that we have been up to, you will know why. It's been crazy around here! I'll start with the most recent and work my way back.

I have served as the Primary (children's organization) President at church for almost 3 years. Today I was released from that calling and it was bittersweet.
Bitter-because I've been so wrapped up in my responsibilities for so long that it is hard to let go, and because I will miss the children, and because I will really miss working closely with the three ladies (above) that have become dear friends. We have certainly bonded in the trenches and these women have taught me what it means to go the extra mile because they have done it with every assignment that they have been given.
Sweet-because the calling has served it's purpose in my life. When I was first called, it was just a couple of weeks after our dossier had been sent to China and I wondered how I was going to occupy myself during the wait-that question was quickly answered! I don't think that it is any coincidence that I was released on the same day that our agency called checking to see that our file and immigration paperwork was in order because we are 'getting ready to receive a referral in the next couple of months...' (Yep, that's what they said!!!)
Every adoptive parent has to ask themselves at some point if they are capable of loving a child born to someone else. I have been blessed for the last three years to have had a calling that taught me that yes, I most certainly can.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ilan's Memorial Service

On our way home from our last trip to CA, we received the call that Matt's grandmother had passed away. Our one last trip to CA before China turned into two as we travelled back for her memorial services. She had been ill for some time and had led a full and long life. The service really felt like a celebration of a life lived rather than lost. It turned out beautifully-mostly music. All of the great-grandkids sang and Noah and his cousin Maya sang a duet. It was really sweet and we now have a CD of all of the musical numbers to enjoy. For some reason, this is the only picture that I took that day but it is a great idea. Some friends of the family helped put together a memory table with pictures of Ilan throughout her life and all of her family members. The whole day was a lovely tribute.

Friday, January 09, 2009

My Sister Julie, Gainfully Employed

While on our trip to CA, Matt and I stopped by the yogurt shop where my sister recently got her first job. The place is really cute. I should have taken better pictures because you can't tell here that it is a self serve place and has really interesting flavors. Some were so weird that I can't remember what they were. Anyway, you fill your cup with whatever concoction you want and then pay by the weight. The place is decorated really cute too with fish tanks in the walls, etc. I'm glad that I was able to spill a huge fountain of chocolate down my white jacket just before Julie introduced us to her boss. Hope I didn't embarrass you too bad, Julie. Keep up the good work!

New Family Pics

This is our engagement pic, taken at 'The Big Tree' near our parents' homes in So. Cal in 1993. I think we were both 19 when this was taken. It has been a dream of mine to return to the scene of the crime and have a family pic taken here and we finally did!

So, I've explained the location. Now, let me explain the OP shirts. I knew that I was going to marry Matt on our second date. I was 16 and had a hard time reconciling that fact with the crotch length corduroy OP shorts that Matt would wear. They were atrocious in the 70's when they were in style and even more so in the 90s when he was still wearing them. Thankfully, I was able to look past them and love Matt in spite of his fashion faux pas but on some days I am still amazed that I married that OP shorts-wearing boy and have since had 4 of his children. The kids crack up when we bring up the 'OP' days and Audrey about peed herself when I showed her a pair of them hanging in the girls dept. at W-mart recently. (Yes, they really were THAT short, honey) So, anyway...just be glad I didn't have us all pose in the shorts!

These were too late for the Christmas card but I'm glad we did them anyway. Thanks, Jennie for taking them for us! I know that it was a tight squeeze into your day.

Another Niece!

On this trip, we were finally able to meet niece #8-Brooke Sadie! She is a sweetheart and is mesmerized by the television-comes from Papa Jim-Jim's DNA, I'm sure! If I wasn't baby hungry before meeting her, I sure am now. Thanks for sharing her with us for a little while, Jason and Amber!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Last Minute Getaway

Our niece, Maya, was baptized on January 3, 2009. We were trying to stick to our guns about saving money and not making any more trips to CA until we were on our way to China via LAX but when we opened her invitation, we just couldn't resist. It was a great trip and we're glad we could be there for her special day.

We had some time to kill before the baptism so we took a hike in the mountains near our parent's homes. The boys found the last vestiges of CA snow.

Me and my mom on the path.

Xander gearing up for the hike.

The kids could have skipped the hike and just enjoyed swinging on the revolving gate to the trail.

When little legs got tired, they hitched rides on Grandma Debbie and Papa Bill's trikes.

It worked when big legs got tired, too!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Uncle Jared and The Hula Hut

During our trip to CA, the kids had fun building a fort out of palm fronds with their Uncle (and my youngest brother) Jared. When it was complete, he brought in a guitar and they made up a song about his fish, Poseidon.
As you can see, they had a great time and it is something they will always remember. Thanks-Jared!

Post Script-We were informed that after we left town, Papa Jim-Jim stepped on one of the palm fronds and a toothpick-sized thorn stabbed him in the calf and broke off. He had to have it removed in the ER-ouch! The kids had no idea that they were so close to danger!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!-Rose Parade 2009

We (us, my mom, dad, brother and grandma) woke up at what my family of origin refers to as 'the buttcrack of dawn' to make our way to Pasadena and claim a spot on the parade route. You can't tell by this pick, but we make ourselves a home in the storefront of a Footlocker. It was cozy and made a nice buffer between us and the masses.Here's Papa Jim-Jim who was behind the camera in the previous pic.

The kids' favorite float.
Best seat in the house!