Saturday, December 10, 2011

Programs and Belts

It's been a busy week around here! Ruby had her Preschool Holiday Program on Wednesday and Lin had her first Tae Kwon Do belt test on Friday. Both the girls did great!

Here are Ruby and some of her classmates, showing the assembled audience how they say the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of every school day. So cute! They all did great until they came to the word "indivisible" and then they all fell apart.

It was a tough decision for Ruby, which pretty dress she should wear. These are big decisions for a 4-year-old!

The performance was great, and Ruby was very sweet to her beloved friend Avi, who was suffering from stage fright and spent the first several minutes of the program in tears. It was everything a preschool holiday program should be!

(My favorite part, by far, was when Ruby spent almost an entire song picking her nose and then trying to wipe her "find" on her dress! Hysterical! Yep, that's MY daughter!!)


Next up was Lin with her first Tae Kwon Do test. It started off a little rocky when we got halfway there and Lin realized she left her white belt sitting on the kitchen counter! Uh oh! So it was a mad rush to drop Dave and Lin off and then run back home to get the belt. Then at the start of the testing she was asked to recite the meaning of her belt and she couldn't do it. This being our first Tae Kwon Do, too, we didn't know she had to memorize it word-for-word, so we didn't practice it with her. Oops! But from there on out it she did great!

First up: push-ups and sit-ups. Look at that tough girl! On her knuckles, even! One of the black-belts said that if there had been an award for push-ups Lin would have won it!

Here they are going through their forms.

Next up, sparring.

The most awesome part of the night: board-breaking! Lin broke both her boards (one punching, one kicking) on the first try! Way to go!!

And here she is getting her yellow belt!

Lin and her Tae Kwon Do Master. He intimidates the heck out of me, but he's got a great heart and the students all love him.

The best part of this evening was the board-breaking. It was awesome! What a rush -- I cheered for every student.  And Lin was recognized in front of the whole class as one of the best breakers! All the black-belt judges got to choose who was the best at each different part of the test and one of the judges picked Lin as the best breaker!

I'm so proud of my girls!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Great Blog

I have recently become a fan of Jen Hatmaker, a Christian author of several Bible study books, amazing blogger, and fellow adoptive mother. If you haven't heard of her, you'll love her. And if you have heard of her and you're wondering what rock I've been living under all this time, please forgive me, and welcome me at long last to the Jen Hatmaker fan club.

Anyway, yesterday I visited her blog and read her most recent post, dated November 2nd (so again, if you're wondering about that rock, the ground under which I call home, my apologies). Her post is really directed at family and friends of adoptive families, and guides readers as to what not to say to adoptive families pre- and post-adoption (or "After the Airport" as Jen calls it). It is filled with both laugh-out-loud humor and startlingly heartbreaking truths. I highly recommend it for anyone who is in any way a member of the adoption community.

Read. Enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Coming Soon...

I promise I have new post coming soon... I am still here, nothing's happened, all is well. But I realize that it's been too long since my last post and I have some catch-up to do, so I will do a better blog post very soon.

Thanks so much for all the comments and emails from my last post, by the way! And yes, Ruby will be switching to ballet! We've got to get the details worked out, but the decision has been made. I'm still not totally convinced that Ruby actually wants to learn ballet... I think she just wants to wear the outfits. But, whatever. The cost is comparable, the class time is convenient... So there you go.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Very Painful Decision


(did I getcha? Hee hee)

Here's the deal -- Ruby has been taking gymnastics since she was 18 months old, which means she is currently in her fourth year of gymnastics classes. I just think gymnastics is so very cool and I would love to see Ruby keep going with it, at least through her elementary school years. And I personally don't have any interest in seeing her do a team sport like soccer, so I've never really presented that to her as an option. Gymnastics has been it.

But Ruby wants to be a ballerina. So. Bad. She begs us to take ballet classes. There is a dance studio where we go for gymnastics, so she sees classes there, plus a couple of the girls in her daycare take ballet. I have been putting her off whenever she mentions it, but she's starting to become really persistent.

Oh, how I do NOT want her to switch to ballet! In my opinion (my opinion) gymnastics teaches her balance, strength, coordination. It's a sport. And ballet for 4-year-olds is a bunch of 4-year-olds twirling around in their cute little tutus. Ruby can twirl around in a tutu at home.

I do think that Ruby's gymnastics class this year is just a repeat of everything she did last year, so it may very well be that she's bored. I am thinking about switching her class, which would put her back with the same teacher she had for the last two years. Or else maybe getting her into the 5-year-old class -- her birthday is in January, maybe she's ready to move up in her skill level.

But she wants ballet!!

So I need help. Please, someone tell me something I don't know about the value of ballet classes. Someone tell me whether I should let my 4-year-old make the decisions, or should I keep her in gymnastics because it's what I want for her (she likes her class and has fun there, so it's not like it's a battle to get her there). I need someone to be the rational voice for me, to make the pros-and-cons list for me.

Decisions, decisions... Oh, the drama!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy Halloween 2011!

Better late than never...

Heading out for Trick or Treating: Ruby as a fairy and Lin as Little Red Riding Hood

Unfortunately, we don't get trick-or-treaters at our house so we always go to this neighborhood to trick-or-treat. I asked one of the residents of this area how many kids came to his house Monday night and his estimate was 900 !! And our house, in a perfectly wonderful residential neighborhood, gets nobody. Makes no sense to me.

Dave and I are sporting "Last-Minute-No-Money Costumes" this year. We did a pretty darn good job, don't you think? Dave called his look "Backwards Dude" and I called mine "Good Morning!" I even wore my cruddy old slippers. The red around my mouth was supposed to be smeared lipstick, but I can see now that it looked more like zombie makeup. Oops. .

Our last trick-or-treat house... Grandma Linda's house. Here you can see the girls' costumes in all their glory.

The basket was my idea, but the red-checked cloth was borrowed from Ruby's play picnic set. Borrowed under extreme duress, I might add. Do you think Ruby will ever stop coveting everything Lin has/uses/borrows/eats/wears ... etc etc etc?

I couldn't resist posting this picture from Ruby's preschool Halloween party. What do you suppose Ruby is thinking here? The boy in the middle is the boy Ruby has informed me she plans to marry someday. They really are ridiculousy sweet together!

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

I Heart China

Every once in a while I find myself thinking about my life, taking a step back and looking at my life and my family, who we are, what we've become. The day I met Dave I knew that he was the one for me. I'm serious. I may not have realized it on a conscious level that day, but I can honestly say that in my heart, I just knew.

But I never would have imagined these two beautiful Chinese girls in our future. And how my personal corner of the world has expanded to include such a total love of their birth country.

I am amazed that I have become a person who can describe several Chinese food dishes as "comfort food." Growing up, I never even liked Chinese food. On our first trip to China in 2008 I struggled a bit with the food. I tried everything, and tried very hard not to be an American food snob, but I just didn't care for a lot of the flavors. Then when we started preparing to adopt Lin in 2009, Dave started really cooking a lot of Chinese food at home. And by the time we arrived in Shanghai in 2010, the flavors were so utterly familiar to me. I loved it! At this point in our home I'd say that maybe 60 - 70% of our meals are Chinese. When we adopted Lin, instead of teaching her to love American food, we opened our minds (and mouths) to true Chinese cuisine. That I feel completely comfortable in the Chinese grocery store amazes me.

I am amazed that when I hear someone speaking Mandarin it sounds familiar to me. I am certainly not fluent, and I may only pick up on a mere fraction of the words spoken, but it is a familiar sound. I'm not intimidated when I hear it. I tend to get a big goofy grin on my face and smile at the people talking, trying to convey that, even though I don't understand you, I love hearing you talk.

I have a favorite Chinese TV show. Isn't that crazy? But I do.

I guess I don't know why I'm feeling so philosophical today.

I just wanted to say, I Heart China.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen... I Don't Cook

Many of you know that the guy I share my life with, aka my husband Dave, is a fabulous cook. I spent the first several years of our marriage trying desperately to prove that I am a good wife/representative-of-the-female-race and cook our meals for us. A couple years ago I decided to officially throw in the dish towel and declare to the Universe: I Don't Cook.

Here are some examples of what you get when Dave cooks:

Hot Pot with beef, chicken, shrimp, veggies and noodles

Dan Dan Soup

Steamed Barbeque Pork Buns

Chinese Feast (I don't remember the names of each individual dish...)

Dave's specialty is Chinese cuisine, although he is also a master chef on the grill or in the smoker.

On occasion, however, I am forced to provide dinner for my family. Here's what happens on those nights:

Pigs-in-a-Blanket, a la Mama

Bon Appetit!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dave's Dream Weekend

My husband rarely takes a "break" from family life to go do his own thing with a buddy or two. Not like me. I have my book club, my monthly dinner out with my mom and sister, even my Sunday School class I enjoy as a little "me-time."

But this weekend is all about Dave! It kicks off tonight when he heads out to a concert by the heavy metal band Anthrax. Yep. Dave is a metal-head. He invited me to go along -- and I must admit that not only have I been to an Anthrax concert myself, I even enjoy some of their music -- but this time I declined. So he's actually going out with a friend!

And then tomorrow his favorite movie of all-time is playing in the movie theater. Star Wars? Nope. The Godfather? Uh-uh. Field of Dreams? Not so much (although that is a good one). No, my husband's favorite movie of all time, the movie he owns multiple copies of in multiple languages, is George A. Romero's 1978 classic, Dawn of the Dead. Yep. Dave is a zombie freak.

And not only is Dawn of the Dead playing in our local theater for one weekend only, it is also the opening weekend of another movie Dave has been anticipating for months -- the prequel to another of Dave's all-time favorites,  the 1981 horror masterpiece John Carpenter's The Thing. This new movie is just called The Thing but it is, in fact, a prequel to the original (didn't you, like Dave, always wonder what had happened to the Norwegians?!? Or is it the Swedes? Now I can't remember which is right...).

So yes, tickets have already been purchased for a theatrical double-feature for Saturday evening. Dawn of the Dead and The Thing with just 15 minutes in-between to chow down on a popcorn dinner. I will be going with him to the movies -- Woo-Hoo! Date night! With zombies... and shape-shifting aliens... woo..hoo... Oh well. I'll take any date night I can get.

Last but not least, we certainly can't forget about Sunday! A television season premiere that Dave is so excited about he can hardly contain himself! AMC's The Walking Dead (yep, more zombies). It's a 90-minute premiere! Can you even stand the anticipation?!?

I sincerely hope you all enjoy your weekends, but I can almost guarantee you won't be having as much fun as my hubby!

(He deserves a great weekend. He's a pretty great guy. I really like him. But don't tell him I said so... I don't want it to go to his head...)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Greetings from Disney World!

Just kidding... We got home last night. I'm so sorry we didn't end up blogging while we were on vacation. On Sunday and Monday nights we were just too exhausted to even think about it. On Tuesday night we realized we didn't have an internet cable in our room, and we were again so exhausted that we decided to forget it. On Wednesday we got the internet cable, only to realize that using said cable would cost us $10 per day and, since we would be home on Friday, we figured we would just wait and do a huge all-encompassing blog post when we were home.

Here is the afore-mentioned all-encompassing post:

We got up and took our time packing and doing a last-minute house-cleaning before heading off to Detroit around 3:00pm. Our flight down to Orlando was at 10:00am Sunday, so we decided to stay the night at an airport hotel the night before. The girls were very excited to have an extra vacation day of swimming in a hotel pool. It was hysterical! It was the smallest swimming pool we have ever seen! I wanted to get a picture of it but never did, unfortunately. Luckily we had the pool to ourselves -- I don't think it would have fit any more people! We swam for a little while, went out for dinner and called it a night.


The flight to Orlando was uneventful -- we even landed 30 minutes early! Ruby kept asking if we were in the air yet, while we were still parked at the terminal! Two hours in an airplane is a piece of cake compared to the two trips we've taken to China and back.

Window seat!
Once we got to the hotel we were off to Epcot. We rode a couple of the rides and wandered through a couple of the countries until we got to "China." We stayed there for quite a while and finally called it a night around 9:00pm.

Outside the China pavillion


Happy Birthday, Lin! Monday was Lin's 14th birthday and we kicked off the day with Winnie the Pooh and some of his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood.

Winnie the Pooh breakfast

After breakfast, it was off to enjoy the Magic Kingdom.

The Halloween decorations were beautiful! I wish I would have taken more time to enjoy them.

Ruby on Dad's shoulders, where she spent much of the week.

The Evil Emporer Zurg, outside the Toy Story ride.

Disney World wasn't what Lin expected it to be, unfortunately. She was thinking it would be all roller coasters and thrill rides. She had no interest in the smaller rides and shows, and she made sure we knew! So, I can't lie, Monday morning wasn't exactly the fabulous start to our Disney vacation that I was hoping for. She and I exchanged a fair share of "words," but she lightened up a bit in the afternoon and had a good time from there on out. We had a long chat on Monday evening about some of her behavior that day and I think we came to a good understanding.  It's times like this that I need to remember that she's still learning about family life. I think she didn't really grasp what a big deal this vacation was for us and how this is not just something we can do all the time. Once I was able to explain it to her and make her understand that she should be more grateful for what we as a family are able to do, she really did have fun. She even enjoyed those smaller "little kid" rides!

Anyway, back to our day. We had dinner Monday night with Cinderella, Prince Charming, Drizella, Anastasia, and Cinderella's wicked step-mother, Lady Tremaine. It was fabulous! It was by far our favorite of the character meals we had planned and I highly recommend it for anyone travelling there soon (Dan and Kerri, that's for you!).

Ruby and Cinderella

The girls with Lady Tremaine. I love the grimace on her face! She never broke character and spent the dinner sneering at everyone she spoke to.

The obnoxious Anastasia! At one point during the dinner someone accidentally dropped and broke a glass and, right on cue, both Anastasia and Drizella screamed out "Cinderella!!"


We slept in just a little and then headed off to Animal Kingdom, where Lin went on the Expedition Everest ride 4 times! Ruby was running a mysterious fever that day, but a couple doses of children's ibuprofen cleared her right up. In fact, we joked that her ibuprofen must have been laced with an energy drink! She wasn't sick before, and never had a fever after that day, so we still don't know what was going on. Thank goodness it cleared up on it's own.

Dave and Lin on the dinosaur ride. Hysterical!

That's "Expedition Everest" rising majestically in the background. It was a super-fun ride!

A giraffe along the safari expedition
Poor fever-girl... Oh wait, that fever actually didn't slow her down one bit!


We went back to Epcot on Wednesday. At this point Lin was starting to get a little worried about the homework she had piled up back in the hotel room, so we told her this would be an early day since we had already been to Epcot on Sunday evening. Wrong! We stayed until dark, again!

Here are the girls with Ariel -- can you see how Ruby is just about ready to burst? Ariel is her favorite and Ruby was just thrilled to meet her. This was another character breakfast -- Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and Ariel. Honestly, I think I was just as excited as Ruby to see all these characters in "real life."
Bruce the shark!
Meeting Mulan in the China pavillion
Ruby trying on a "Belle" dress
Shopping for Hello Kitty merchandise in "Japan"
At this point I have to stop and tell a funny story about Ruby. On Sunday night when we were first looking around in the park, Ruby zeroed-in on the gorgeous princess dresses for sale in all the shops. However, at a whopping price of $65, there was no way we were going to buy her one. But she kept asking and kept asking. She wanted a Jasmine outfit so bad! So on Monday I finally said, "Alright, we'll buy you a Jasmine outfit. But here's the deal: that's the only souvenir you'll get while we're here because it's so much money." I told her to think long and hard about it. Well, she decided that she really wanted that Jasmine outfit, so we told her we'd buy it at the end of the week. All day Monday and all day Tuesday, whenever she saw something she liked, she would stop herself and say "No, I'm getting the Jasmine dress."

And then we got the the Japan portion of Epcot on Wednesday afternoon. And she saw... Hello Kitty. As far as her little eyes could see... Hello Kitty. I could see that she was in utter turmoil. Hello Kitty vs. Jasmine. She thought and thought. She asked me what she should do. I told her it was her decision, but that I thought it would be a lot more fun to get a few smaller souvenirs instead of just one outfit. And I told her to think about it some more. Well, Hello Kitty won the battle and Ruby, very reasonably for a 4-year-old, decided that she could just get a less-expensive Jasmine Halloween costume at the Halloween store once we were home. A wise decision, don't you think?

Gee, Lin is strong, isn't she?

Our last day was spent at Hollywood Studios. We started our day making an unfortunate choice -- we took Ruby on the Tower of Terror! I know, I know, you're all thinking what terrible parents we are! All I can say is, we didn't know! We've never been on it! And Ruby was tall enough, so we figured, why not? She's loved all the rides she's ever been on! She's a thrill-ride junkie! ... Ha! Were we ever wrong! It took about 15 minutes for her to stop crying but at least we're all able to laugh about it now. She can go back to preschool on Monday and tell everyone that she actually went on the Tower of Terror!!

That's the Tower of Terror in the background. Notice Ruby is eating Doritos in this picture; I can't lie, we had to bribe her with chips to calm her down!
Another great ride photo, this time on the Rock 'N Roller Coaster
Heck of an outfit, don't you think? Lin was inspired by the Indiana Jones stunt show we'd just seen.
Dinner at the Sci-Fi Cafe. Not sure how well you can see it, but everyone ate in cars at a drive-in theater which played old sci-fi film trailers. So much fun! This was all indoors, by the way. Very cool!
Leaving the park on our final night. Sad to go, but ready to be going home.

By the end of the week we were all ready to get home. Although the girls got along great for the most part, it was obvious that they each needed to get back to their own comfort zones. In fact, even as I write this, Lin is vegging-out with her Chinese TV shows. I know she was a bit frustrated with the food choices. I didn't realize how much Chinese food we eat in our house now, until we were faced with a week of not much variety outside of pizza and burgers!

It's great to go on vacation and it's great to be back home!