Monday, May 20, 2013

Too Soon

Sunflower: I choose Gabe.
Me:  What?
Sunflower:  I choose to marry Gabe.
Me: You are only 4.  It is too early to make a choice.
Sunflower:  Too late.  I already decided.
Me:  You don't need to worry about this when you are 4.
Sunflower: Well, it isn't like I would marry Abby's brother.
                   Gabe would have fun married to me.
Me:  Ha.  Still you can't decide now.
Sunflower:  Mom, focus.  Focus on what I'm saying.  I choose Gabe.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

My Biggest Boy

This one is so far our easy one.  The baby that observed everything.  The toddler that loved to please.  The preschooler that needed lots of sleep.  The elementary student that loved learning.

And now the Middle Schooler who beats to his own drum in a school that is below failing on paper.  His self-confidence is actually astounding. 

"I'm too hard to tease for any one to bother with me, Mom!  So stop worrying." 

In the last few years we've seen him grow from a child into a young man who looks out for his family, excels in school, builds underwater robots, leads others, and can even make somewhat beautiful music with his saxaphone.  He was also genuinely pleased with the study Bible he received for his 13th birthday from his Aunt and Uncle, eager to attend his youth group, and can't wait until next summer to go on a mission trip to Mexico.

Now he has chosen for his mini-term* topic "I Have the Power."   It is about showing that teens can make in impact on their community (hopefully in a positive way, he quipped).  They will spend 5 days doing different service projects in the area: cleaning the beach, helping at an assisted living facility, working with the humane society, etc.  Then the second week they will be creating their own plans for making a difference locally or globally and presenting it to their parents.  The other choices would have been great educational opportunities, too, but this one will take the most energy. We are pleased at his choice and that he will have this chance through his school.

I cannot wait to see what else this son of ours accomplishes as he continues to grow.  

* Mini-term is the last two weeks of school where they have no regular classes and instead spend the entire time on one subject.  Last year they had two mini-terms and he chose underwater robotics and built a Rube Goldberg contraption.  It is good that he is expanding his interests and skills. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On May 7, 2012...

Sweet Pea joined our family.
In our hotel room that first hour with her one year ago.
 It is impossible to describe what a blessing she has been ever since.
Today...she wouldn't put the water gun down once I took her outside.
 She loves life and makes it impossible not to love it with her.
"Metcha" Day/Family Day/Sweet Pea our first appt that first day with her.
She has done so well adjusting to her new life with us in the past year.
Today in the outfit we "sent" her through Ann at Red Threads and she was dressed in on our first day.
That day one year ago was so amazing and emotional.
At the end of our first day after a full day of appointments.
I cannot wait to see what our next year with her will bring.
The water gun did still have some water in it...and she finds it easier to point it at herself.
 Happy Fami-versary*, Sweet Pea! 

 * I like the name Fami-versary because I love word play/puns, but found it impossible to pronounce out loud...who knows what we'll call it in the long run.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hutong Tour

Well, it took year, but I am finally posting the pictures from our Hutong tour in Beijing one year ago.  Apparently hutong is just a older style of neighborhood throughout China, but some are now being protected as a historical district.  We visited on of these in Beijing.  Since the streets are narrow because they were built before cars (though some cars do go in them) they transported us in a bike-rickshaw.
The three of us rode in on rickshaw.  Our driver took a picture of us crammed in it.
It wasn't too tight and quite exciting.  Usually I'm a bit scared about being killed in cars, etc, but you kind of just had to go with the flow or there would be no fun.
Our guide explained that many doors were red with brass handles for good luck.  The home we visited was one courtyard owned by only one couple with one brother living there to help with the tourist visits.  Typically they said as many as 3-5 generations would share the area.  There were 4 little buildings facing each other and all the rooms in each building had one door that opened into the courtyard.
The largest building would be occupied by the head of the family.  The one in this residence had a nice covered porch where this man was sitting.  This was the room the couple who owned the place slept.  I believe traditionally this building would always be built facing a specific direction, but I cannot remember what exactly our guide said.  It was definitely a little fancier and very clear it was the "important" home.

Then next to it they had a building that had two rooms.
A guest bedroom.  Tourists could rent these rooms out to stay in while vacationing in Beijing.

And the other room was the kitchen.
I believe this woman was one of the owners but they did not speak much English and I didn't think to ask our guide, Spud.  He had a spiel to share and I didn't think about questions until later.
Our guide did say that because the area is so old it falls under different ownership laws and the people can actually pass it on to their family as opposed to just renting it from the government for 99 years.  It is also in the heart of Beijing, but feels like the country, so very valuable and desirable location on paper.  But some families like this one are having their children chose to live in the more modern areas of the city desiring more modern conveniences.  For instance, there was a water pump in the middle of the courtyard, but actually bathing area is down the street and shared with other little group of buildings.  

And just to be clear, the courtyard is an outdoor courtyard.  They had some coverings that worked great for shade, but I don't know how they would do for winter warmth.
This was hanging from the courtyard covering...
 As was this.

Then the next building was the one the brother lived in and we weren't allowed to see in.  Then the next building, maybe it had two rooms, but the one I remember is the honeymoon suite.
In case a honeymoon suite that is a bed of plywood and no air conditioning appeals...
I did sit on the bed just to see (those are my feet), and yes, it was very, very hard.  Worse than any of our hotel beds.
I think this is the other room in the honeymoon suite building and it is the dining room.  In the far past each of these rooms would have been filled with your children and children's children all living as a community.  It was a privilege to get a tiny glimpse into this beautiful way of living even if now for this family it is just a tourist attraction.

Then we rode in the rickshaws some more and took a walk along the river where I guide talked, but I couldn't hear him.
Then we rode back to our starting point in order to catch the bus back to the hotel.

May 6th was our last day in Beijing, a very busy day, and the last day without our precious Sweet Pea in our arms. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

This Day Last Year...

...We started the day at the Great Wall of China.
I didn't realize we were color coded until I uploaded the pictures later.
And we ended our long day with a visit to the "Bird's Nest" home of the 2008 Olympics and a walk to dinner.  My regret from that day is that we did not order the Peking duck at the restaurant.  We were tired and not feeling adventerous, but we never did get another chance to try it on our trip.

Today we are going to a lunch event to watch the movie Stuck.  Our local friend with whom we traveled is hosting it to raise awareness of the needs of children stuck in the sytem and to raise funds for their family's adoption of a little boy in Uganda.  I am looking forward to seeing our friend and supporting them.  I'm not really looking forward to watching the film with a whole bunch of strangers.  I don't know enough about the film to judge it on my own, but I have heard it is pretty emotional.  Who wants to cry in public?  And while I believe there are children who need families stuck without one because of beauracy, I am also not sure what can or needs to be change. For some children that beauracy is the only thing protecting them from unethical, immoral, heart-wrenching adoption practices.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our First Full Day... China was pretty much covered in two posts from China one year ago.  But I never did post about the hotel itself.

We stayed at the Chang’anGrand Hotel in Beijing.  It is a pretty nice hotel especially compared to the International student dorms I stayed in my last trip to Beijing in 1997.

The lobby was quite grand...
...with flowers...
 ...and lovely chandeliers.
Though my favorite decoration in the hotel was the large urns...
 ...with actual fish swimming in them.
I do really think fish are cool as long as I don't have to take care of them and keep their water clean or eat them.

We had to stay in the hotel our agency chose, but I wouldn't go there again.  It seemed to cater mostly to business travel and we did not run into any other adoptive families except for those from our agency.  It does have a very nice pool, and I think the guys ended up using it once, but I never had the energy and time.  When we go to Beijing again I would prefer a hotel much, much closer to the subway line.

The breakfast buffet was very good, but not astonishing great like I was expecting.  I did like all the different drink options and it did have more variety than the best buffet we've had in the US, but somehow I found it a little disappointing, less than exciting (unless you count the fire the first morning.)

The room was large enough and the two "twin" beds were almost queen sized though very,very 2x4s.
There wasn't much more space than this in the room, though enough room for a desk, table, and chair.  I have a few pictures of the remaining part, but we are pretty messy travelers.  Yes, that is Oak counting out our money before returning it to the safe.  We had already wired half of our money to the SWI, but somehow US dollars become a lot bulkier when converted to the equivalant - half in RMB.

Huckleberry is writing in his China journal as part of his homework, and I was hoping to share those entries with you...but we can't find the journal anywhere.  I'm pretty sure that means we put it somewhere safe so the other kids wouldn't write in it.  Someday maybe we'll find it.  He would know if they used the pool or not and exactly what he thought of it.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

And the Next Day...

...We landed in China.
Then we took the longest bus ride ever to our hotel (it seemed like 8 hours, but I believe was 45 min to an hour).  

We were hot, tired, and hungry.  Two other families from our agency were with us, but I don't think any of us said a word, not even the children.

We arrived at the hotel, checked in, ate, and went to bed.
Oh, and apparently I did post on the blog that day one year ago, too.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

One Year Ago Today...

...We were on a plane to China to finally meet our Sweet Pea.
We talked, read, played games (though my Bejeweled Blitz doesn't work without the internet), watched movies, talked, ate some, and did everything but sleep.  (And apparently I only took 3 not very good photos.)
There were several others on the plane traveling to China for the same reason.  In addition to others we didn't really meet there was one couple and their 7 year old daughter from our agencies travel group and one woman who I'd met on-line and in person a few weeks before the trip who was traveling alone to pick up her 3 year old daughter.

It was one of the longest plane rides of my life that led to the shortest year ever.