Saturday, August 30, 2008

I have not fallen off the face of the planet

I have not drowned in flooding from Fey, Gustav, or Hannah. I have not taken a vow of silence. I have not even fallen in a big black hole where no one can find me, unless you are my cellular provider, internet provider, or any other service provider that I need. To all of them, my brand new home which was the first to be built and occupied on a brand new street is located in a big black hole where nothing works and no one even knows where it is. I had to finally bring my laptop to Panera to see what's going on in the world.

Needless to say, I still do not have internet service at my house. It's now hooked up, but there's no service turned on in the big black hole. So we continue to wait. I also have a new cell phone because my really cool one didn't have a strong enough antennae. Why is it that the phone with the best reception is the dorkiest base model EVER? I would go back and see if I can switch it out for something cooler but I have to take Mr. at Home with me because I'm not an "authorized user" on the account.

So that was my week. Move, deal with nincompoops at various service companies before they'd let me talk to the people who know what they're doing, move some more, pack, unpack, organize, clean, and do it all over again each day. I am SO GLAD this week is over and I promise to never move again if there is ANY POSSIBLE WAY to avoid it.

Aside from the moving drama, I l.o.v.e. our new house. It's beautiful, awesome, and has the coolest appliances on the face of the earth. The girls and hubby have been amazing with helping to trot hither and yon to get everything moved out and cleaned by our deadline.

Hopefully, the internets will be up and working in the new house sometime this week and I'll get caught up with life and do more than just dig my way out from under my inbox. Don't worry, I'll post pics and stories, including how I know that my oldest is going to be an interior designer one day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Adoption Story - Part 12

The real L stuck around this time with just a few more episodes of screaming tantrums and passive resistance to her new environment. These faded away and she finally began to settle into her new situation.

One of the services provided by our adoption agency is a trip to the orphanage to see where your child and to meet the people who took care of her. When we arrived in Nanchang, I discovered that the agency had only planned a trip to the *other* orphanage where most of our group’s babies had come from. Our daughter’s orphanage was 4 hours in the other direction. After I complained enough, the agency agreed to split the cost of the cab to get us out to our daughter’s hometown, so that was the plan. Unfortunately, the trip was scheduled the day after L had decided to “wake up”. Remembering what happened the last time L saw her nannies, we didn’t want to risk interrupting the bonding process by taking her back to see the other aunties who had been her primary caregivers. So we gave up the idea of going to the orphanage that day and decided that we would go back to China in a few years to visit. I hated the idea of not seeing the orphanage and meeting their staff, but L’s emotional well-being had to come first. So that day we spent with a few of the dads and kids that didn’t make their orphanage trip at a beautiful garden. We then met the other toddler’s family at McDonalds and just had a restful day.

There are many things that they warn you to watch for with your child those first few days. Some have scabies or fevers. For many, the changes in routine and diet have one common and painful effect - constipation. It became obvious that L had fallen victim and the medication we needed had been left at home. One very important thing to have when traveling in a foreign country is a good phrase book. Ours did happen to include the phrase for “I need medication for constipation” so I sent Mr. at Home in search of a pharmacy while I stayed in the room with a crying L who was obviously in pain.

When Mr. at Home returned, he told me the funny story of his adventures. He had found a pharmacy and dutifully showed them the appropriate phrase in the book. As the shopkeepers giggled, they brought out a box with some enormous pills. Then Mr. at Home was faced with the problem of getting them to understand that it was for a small child. He pantomimed rocking a baby and eventually they switched the boxes out for one with a powder. He brought it back to the room, but the instructions were all in Chinese and he wasn’t comfortable giving her the medicine anyway. So we found our guide who translated and assured us it wouldn’t hurt her, but Mr. at Home still didn’t trust it so I sent him to the store for prunes. While he was gone. L continued to scream and cry and I remembered something I had read on an online adoption board. Armed with baby oil and a Q-tip, I applied a little...ahem!..motivation and the problem was solved.

That was good as she refused the prunes anyway. So now you know just in case you ever run into that problem.

We left Nanchang on Halloween, piling into the buses for our first plane ride with 16 new babies. Now *that* was an interesting experience. One thing about traveling with a large group is that they wanted to check everyone into the flight together. Well, that would have been fine except that many of the families had ignored the weight restrictions and were going to have to pay overage charges. The guides solution was to just split the charges evenly among the group, except that those of us who had worked to make sure we weren’t overweight insisted that we weren’t paying. So we split the group into those who were over the luggage limit and those who weren’t, which made the check-in process very, very long. A few of us moms plopped ourselves on the floor and made a spot filled with toys to entertain the restless kids, which earned us many stares from the Chinese as they consider the floor far too dirty to ever sit on. But with bored kids who are about to go crazy, what else can you do?

Our last stop in China was 5 days in Guangzhou, to complete the US side of the adoption paperwork. We had to have a medical exam, apply for our child’s visa, and attend the oath-taking ceremony to make the adoption official in the eyes of the US. We would also receive the paperwork that would make our new daughter a US citizen as soon as she touched down on American soil.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tomorrow's the big day

Tomorrow is the day we dive back into the world of home ownership. Phone calls, walk-through, paperwork--it's all scheduled and has to happen in a precise order and time frame so we keep all our ducks in a row. The girls are going to a friend's house so we can concentrate and they won't get bored. Heck, K won't even miss a day of school.

We're planning to start moving tomorrow night. Everything we can fit into the minivan will be squeezed in over the week so that come Saturday, we'll be down to large furniture and heavy boxes. Heck, I'm planning to cart the camping stuff over as one of the earliest loads and we're going to be "camping out" in the new house very soon so I can get this place *cleaned*! I've got it all planned out and we can "move" ourselves over anytime after Tuesday at 4pm.

Why Tuesday at 4pm?

Because the internet gets hooked up between 2 and 4 on Tuesday.

As you see, we have our priorities in order.

Don't worry, I have a few more adoption story posts already scheduled so even if the internet doesn't happen on time, you shouldn't miss any of the riveting story that is how we became an adoptive family. And if you're getting tired of it, don't worry, it's almost through.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get K's "box o' school" ready to go for tomorrow then I'm off to bed early. Tomorrow's going to be a busy day.

Adoption Story - Part 11

We had heard and read that it took approximately 72 hours for an older child to come to terms with the fact that she was staying with the new family and to open up. The very first evening, she was quiet and withdrawn. The second day, she was calm and complacent, eating Froot Loops and Chips Ahoy from the Nanchang Walmart. We gave her a bath that day, which she wasn’t too sure about and screamed when water came anywhere near her face. K had some Polly dolls and I handed one to L to distract her. She *loved* that thing, refusing to let it go for the next several days. She even slept with it clasped securely in her hand.

Day 3 dawned (morning #2) and we all went down to breakfast. As we sat eating, L started crying, then screaming and thrashing. Mr. at Home took her upstairs where she continued to scream and cry, yelling for “mama!” and “nana!”. She eventually exhausted herself and collapsed into sleep while Mr. at Home collapsed into illness. The group was headed out for a field trip, but we were stuck in the hotel room with a sleeping baby who was emotionally unstable, a sick daddy, and a bored 5-year-old. Thankfully, we had brought our own snacks and there was a shop next door where we bought packaged noodle dinners.

When L woke up, she had reverted back to her impassive demeanor and we spent the rest of the day quietly in the room with one trip up to the play area where we saw some of the other families. The other toddler came in with her family and we sat the girls together. They were so excited to see each other and immediately ganged up against the older children. Anytime one of the big kids came too close, the little girls would yell, slap at them, and buzz their lips in warning.

The other toddler adopted from the same orphanage, AG, was about 6 months older than L. She, however, seemed to react in the exact opposite way from L. Where L was withdrawn and cautious, AG tried hard to please. She was sunny and interactive with a ready laugh. It was so cute to watch as her eyes almost disappeared when she smiled.

The next morning was a repeat of breakfast the day before. We started well, then L broke down into tears and screams. We carried her back upstairs and simply held her as she screamed and cried, trying so hard to get away from us and back to her home. It was so difficult to watch her heart break so completely and to not be able to fix it. I couldn’t explain that things were hard now, but it would be worth it soon. Again, L cried herself to sleep and we were stuck in the hotel room again. Thankfully, the agency rep had offered to take K with the group to a mall so she at least got to get out.

That evening, Mr. at Home had recovered and we went to a restaurant next door for dinner with AG’s family. We dined on chicken and corn with pine nuts, which L ate eagerly from my chopsticks. After she was full, a miracle happened. Until this point, L had to be in constant physical contact with Mr. at Home or I. She didn’t care which one and she hated to be switched between us. She also had made it clear that she didn’t want anything to do with K. Anytime K came near, L would yell and try to hit her. Now, L slid off my lap and walked around the table to where K was sitting. She had her Polly and a small bowl and she started *playing*. She put the doll in the bowl and shook her violently up and down until Polly went flying. She cracked up with laughter as she watched Polly fly through the air and waited as K picked the doll up off the floor and put it back in the bowl for her. They did this over and over as we all stared in amazement. Where had this child come from? The real L was finally here. At exactly the 72 hour mark.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Adoption Story - Part 10

When we received L from the nanny, she was holding a cookie tightly clasped in her fist. That cookie stayed planted there for the rest of the evening as she would nibble tiny bites from time to time. Thankfully, it was gone by the time we changed her into the pajamas we had brought to get her ready for bed. Those pajamas were some that K had worn as a baby and it was such a special moment to see them now on her little sister. Mr. at Home took L on his shoulder and walked her up and down the hallways until she fell asleep.

L slept great the first night and woke in the morning, allowing me to dress her in new clothes and clip her hair back out of her eyes. She refused her bottle, but she ate from the breakfast buffet then even allowed K to hold her hand as we walked out to meet the other families. We were going to the adoption office to finalize the adoption on the Chinese side. It was the oddest experience, really. We had two “interviews” where we were asked if we were happy with our child and what some of our plans were in raising the child. They were very short and most of our time there was spent waiting in a small room lined with benches. But at the end, China recognized us as a family, including our newest daughter, L.

While we waited, we were joined by the nannies who had brought our children to us the day before. When they walked in, our quiet calm L suddenly came to life. The nanny came straight to us and L eagerly reached up to her with a wide smile on her face. She was rescued! The nanny walked with her up and down the hall and we got to ask more questions about L’s past as far as they knew. While we were at the office, L was interactive and played with her toys. As soon as we walked out and L realized that she was still with us and her nanny was nowhere to be found, she retreated back inside her shell. Neither happy nor upset, but her personality was completely buried deep inside of her where no one could hurt her.

Friday, August 22, 2008

This is the absolute last time I move

It has been crazy nuts over here as we iron out the last of the details before closing our our house on Monday. I was on the phone so much today that my battery actually died. And my battery never dies. In the process of calling all the utilities to move up the turn-on date because our closing date moved up, I ran into a problem with the electric company. Because it just wouldn't be buying or selling a house if there wasn't a least a little drama involved. It was one of those situations where everyone was blaming someone else and it could all be fixed if I just agreed to pay money I didn't owe on the dubious assurance that someone would reimburse me.. Grrrr....

Then the paralegal called with the check amount that we need to bring to closing, but it was over $1000 more than the original estimate. Sure! No problem! I've got some loose change here in my pocket that'll cover that! While I waited for the mortgage guy to call me back with an explanation, I sat stewing at a red light half-listening to the radio and cursing a few people in my head. One of those 60-seconds-of-encouragement spots came on and guess what the guy was talking about.


About being content with what we have, whether it's a shack or a mansion. About focusing on the fact that God has met our need.

It was 2x4 theology at it's finest (that's when God smacks you upside the head with the truth exactly when you need it). One 60-second fluffy feel-good message, but it put my problems in perspective. A few minutes later the loan officer called me back and explained that the paralegal had misunderstood the HOA fees and had miscalculated our closing costs so that the number she gave us was far, far too high. Crisis averted and I had just been wasting my energy and ruining my mood by allowing myself to get stressed.

I spent the rest of my evening not even thinking about moving or houses. I helped some friends get ready for a garage sale to raise funds for a trip to China to provide an English camp for children, to provide help and money for an orphanage, and to donate money to earthquake relief efforts. Our Bible study class has been donating stuff for months and we've collected enough that our friends' driveway and front yard looks like an enormous flea market. So if you're near the Matthews area of Charlotte tomorrow, please come over to see us and Buy Stuff! And Donate Money! And Send Your Friends! We've got some great stuff there. I should know. I've seen it. Heck, some of it was ours that we just flat didn't want to move.

The craigslist posting is at

Adoption Story - Part 9

Shortly after we settled back into our room as a family of four, Mr. at Home had to go to a conference room downstairs to sign the paperwork to accept temporary custody of L. The CCAA gives adoptive families a “day of congeniality” where you are supposed to decide whether or not you like your baby. Like we were going to say, “You know, we’d really like to test drive a different child”. As I waited in the room with the girls, K had gone to the bathroom, shutting and locking the sliding door behind her. When she was done, the door wouldn’t open.

K was locked in the bathroom. In a strange hotel. In a strange country.

I sat L on the bed, which caused her to start wailing, and jiggled the door, but the lock was stuck fast. I pushed and pulled, talking the whole time to K to keep her calm and to L to try to convince her to stop crying. I finally gave up, picked up L, and called the hotel desk where I spoke to a clerk who didn’t speak much English. Soon a housekeeper showed up and it took several minutes to get her to understand that there was A CHILD LOCKED IN THE BATHROOM. She jiggled and pushed and pulled and got nowhere.

Soon our agency rep walked by, saw our door opened, and peeked in to see what was going on. She went looking for our guides to help translate while the housekeeper worked at the door.

It was definitely a baptism by fire to parenting two children. After all I had one scared 5-year-old locked alone in a bathroom and one scared 1-year-old who had just been abandoned by her nanny with these strange people and all the commotion was scaring her as she clung to me in fear. They both needed me and I couldn’t *fix* any of it for either of them.

The housekeeper finally stopped and called maintenance. A few minutes later a man arrived with a toolbox just as the housekeeper jiggled the door just right and the lock finally fell open. Thank goodness! K came racing out straight to me and I had two little girls clinging to me. The agency rep arrived with the guide and we all laughed in relief that the crisis was finally over.

A few moments Mr. at Home came back and listened in amazement to our story. It was my turn to leave the girls with him as I went and signed the papers and I gladly handed over the parenting mantle. This 2-child stuff was stressful!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Adoption Story - Part 8

On Tuesday morning, we loaded everything back on the buses, made the long drive out to the airport, and boarded the plane for the flight to Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi Province. Emotions mounted as our plane flew over fields and dirt roads on our approach because we knew we were finally going to meet our daughters.

We arrived at the hotel shortly after 2pm and were told to meet in the common room on the 11th floor at 5pm where the orphanage workers would be bringing our children. Mr. at Home, K, and I headed up to our room and I pulled up short at the door. The sight of the hotel-provided crib, stroller, and baby tub brought a sense of reality to this adoption as nothing else had. In a couple of hours, we would have *a baby*. A little girl who would need all this stuff. The face we had memorized from pictures would be real. How in the world had we made it here to this time and this place?

We unpacked everything we would need when we got L - the paperwork, the money, the orphanage donation for the workers as well as blankets for the crib and toys to distract a child whose world was about to turn upside-down. We found the camera and the video camera and made sure they were ready to go.

At 4:40, we decided we couldn’t wait any longer, so we gathered our things and went to the elevators. The doors opened and the elevator was occupied by three Chinese adults holding three babies in identical clothes. It had to be part of the other orphanage contingent and I kept stealing glances at them. When the doors opened, we all headed to the common area, which is already crowded with more adults and babies and anxious families trying to identify *their* babies. The plan was for the orphanage director to call out the Chinese name of each child (we’d been practicing listening for our daughters’ names) and the family was supposed to go forward and claim their child. This worked well for a moment or two, but it quickly dissolved into mass chaos with so many screaming babies and teary parents taking advantage of this opportunity to ask questions of the orphanage workers about their new child’s history and habits.

When we started, the 14 little girls from one orphanage were the only ones there. I was standing near the hallway and saw a new group pushing their way through the crowd. The first one was a woman carrying a toddler. I anxiously scanned the child’s face, but it didn’t look like L’s. Close on her heels came another woman and child and there was no doubt this was her. This was our daughter.

I called to Mr. at Home that I found her and we followed L and her nanny as she found a spot to kneel and put L down beside her. We crowded near them and stared at L as she looked back at us in wonder. She and her orphanage mate were dressed in matching orange corduroy jackets and pants and she was clutching a cookie. A card was clipped to her jacket with her name, our names, and her referral picture so there would be no mistake.

We waited forever watching L, talking to her, until our name was finally called and the nanny could officially hand her over to us. I held her first and she cried for about 30 seconds, then she settled quietly into my arms. A few minutes passed as I marveled that I was actually holding her before I passed her off to Mr. at Home and she began crying again. We quickly asked our questions, finished our obligations there, and escaped with our new daughter back to the quiet and calm of our own room.

I sat holding her on my lap as K and Mr. at Home gathered close. L sat quietly as we all simply looked at each other, gauging this new reality. She didn’t whimper or cry, she just stared at these strange new faces. She was as astonishingly beautiful as her pictures with her big dark eyes and perfectly shaped lips. And she was ours. Our second daughter who would keep us up at night for months. K’s little sister who would one day steal her lip gloss. But for that moment, we just praised God for bringing our family together in such an awesome way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An unexpected bonus

Who knew that the lice shampoo is the absolute best stuff on the planet? After I had shampooed and combed out three heads worth of hair, we all have the most beautiful silky smooth locks I have *ever* seen. I don't know if it's the shampoo or the hour of combing each strand with a tiny rake, but models would kill for our shiny hair right now. I'm surprised we haven't had directors knocking down our door to star in their next hair product commercials.

Of course, to get this gorgeous hair, you have to be suffering from the most gross hair problem on the planet. It just makes my scalp crawl to think about it and I didn't even *have* any. The least RID can do is give you fabulous hair for all the torture they make you go through to get it.

Adoption Story - Part 7

Our flight to Beijing was late. We landed, collected our bags, and panicked just a bit when there didn’t seem to be anyone there looking for us. Our guide had our itinerary and was supposed to be at the baggage claim area. Thankfully, I had her number in my backpack and called her cell phone. “You’re early!” she exclaimed. No, we’re actually late, but they were on the other side of the airport picking up the families at the international gates. We confused them by coming in on the domestic side. A little later, the assistant guide came racing through the crowds apologizing profusely and waited with us for the buses to come around to collect us.

Our adoption travel group was the largest one our agency had ever had. There were 14 families adopting babies from one city and 2 families adopting toddlers from another city. The cities were both in the same province and the paperwork would all be done in the same capital city of that province so we were lumped into one travel group. Our group consisted of 2 guides, 1 agency rep, 16 moms, 14 dads, several grandmas and family friends, and six kids, plus we would be adding 16 more kids soon. Anytime we went anywhere it was a major undertaking.

Our hotel in Beijing was the most opulent place I had ever stayed. It was gorgeous and obviously a popular destination for foreign travelers. There were 2 interesting things about that hotel. First, K convinced me to take her to the hotel pool, which was part of a Bally’s fitness club. It was a *very* different experience from a typical American pool. We had to go through the locker room, which was embarrassing because Chinese woman have NO sense of modesty. We then had to take off our shoes to walk through a small shallow pool of water, put our shoes back on, and wear them right to the edge of the pool. Immediately after we jumped in, a man came racing over with two swim caps gesturing that we had to put them on.


You know, I don’t remember seeing Michael Phelps wear his flipflops on the starting block.

The second thing that was interesting about the hotel is We’d always heard stories that there are listening and video devices in hotel rooms, but we weren’t too worried. The first night, we woke up in the night to see the tiny light above the bed come on briefly then fade out. It happened again that night and again several times the next night. I guess they were just making sure we were still in bed.

Our stay in Beijing was very nice with trips to the required tourist spots - Great Wall, Emperor's Palace, jade store, pearl store. Yep, we did a lot of shopping. At least it was something to keep us busy, engaged, and our minds off the fact that we were just killing time while the other newly-arrived families got over jet lag before we headed to the province "to get your babies, your babies” to quote Cecilia, our guide.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Adoption Story - Part 6

The next day dawned bright and clear. I stood on the balcony of our friends’ house and watched the sun rise over the ocean, completely in awe of the fact that we were IN CHINA. We were halfway around the world from our home. In less than a week, we would be holding L; her pictures that we had been staring out for months would become a reality in a small child standing in front of us. It was overwhelming.

Our friends were the perfect hosts. Like us, they were Americans who had one daughter and adopted a second from China. Unlike us, they had spent most of the following years living and working in China. The first day, we went to a local Muslim noodle shop for lunch and laughed as K learned to use chopsticks. We’d practiced some at home, but now it was crunch time because there weren’t any forks available at the places we ate. In the afternoon, Jennifer and her daughters entertained K while John took Mr. at Home and I to have a look around at the city. Mr. at Home had been there before to visit, but I had not, so I was in awe of everything. The jet lag actually wasn’t too bad even though we were a full 12 hours off from our normal schedule. I was just fine trotting all over the city until John would remind us that, “Hey! It’s 2am back in NC!” Then I would get tired. Thanks, John.

I’m so glad we took the time and extra expense of going to visit our friends before we met up with our adoption travel group. We got to see the “real” China, not just the “cleaned up for tourists” spots that we visited after we joined up with our group. With our friends, we visited a school, a university, some small shops, the post office and a bank, a Buddhist temple, and tiny restaurants that would give a health inspector a heart attack, but the food was delicious!

The highest praise we now give a restaurant is that it's "frog-slapping good". The last night we were there, we walked to a tiny village that still held much of it's small town feel. As in there were goats roaming the streets where people gathered each morning to fill their milk bottles. Our friends took us to a restaurant and I swear we went in through the back door because there wasn't anything outside to indicate it was an eating establishment. As we walked in, there was a woman kneeling on the pavement with a tub of frogs beside her. She would pull out a frog and throw it on the floor as hard as she could. Fresh frog legs, anyone?

On Saturday morning, we packed up our bags and headed back to the airport for the flight to Beijing to meet up with our adoption travel group.

Ugh, ugh, UGH!!

My to-do list for today just got blown out of the water. No packing, cleaning, or taking back the serving platters I borrowed.

Today we made an emergency trip to Target. We are washing hair. And combing hair. And doing mountains of laundry in hot water.

Can you guess why?

Come on, you can probably figure it out.

Here's a hint - K was doing her school when she jumped up shrieking, "A bug just fell out of my hair!"

(The ewwwww factor of this post just went up exponentially, I know.)

Yes, it seems we are being visited by lice. The smallest easiest child has been treated, the older one with the extremely sensitive scalp will be undergoing the torture right after lunch, and I will be following them. Because I can't tell if I have sympathy itching or I have my first ever visitation by those small demons.

Maybe it would just be easier to shave our heads, burn every piece of fabric in the apartment and move *right now*.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How I spend my days these days

As the move date hurtles toward us, my thoughts are increasingly trapped by the logistics of getting 4 people, 1 cat, and all their respective stuff from one home to another. Actually, we found out today that our move date has been moved up from next Friday to next Monday.

This is good news. Otherwise we would have less than 3 days to get everything out of here, into there, and this place spotlessly clean. Technically, it would have been doable, but it would not have been fun. The new date will allow us more wiggle room.

The new date did give me a little more motivation to get more stuff into boxes. Not that we have much more room to *stack* the boxes. Towers of brown cardboard line the walls upstairs and down and threaten to tumble down on us in our sleep.

Oh wait. That already happened.

Let me say that boxes crashing to the floor at 4am will scare you witless. I just hope nothing broke.

So far I've only packed up one library book that I then had to break into a couple of boxes to find. The rest have been able to stay sealed and waiting. I haven't had much time and energy to think of fun and exciting posts that don't mention packing, boxes, or house details. Thank goodness, I started that whole adoption journey series at exactly the right time.

Adoption Story - Part 5

I'm glad to hear that a few of you are enjoying my adoption story, because I'm enjoying putting it all down in one place. Of course, I'm not sure if you're interested in reading all the tiny details, but I want to make sure I get them down. At least in today's installment, we finally make it to China!


There were a few of bright spots to having over a month to plan our trip. K was able to get almost 2 months of school in before we dragged her off to the other side of the planet. We were able to book two free tickets to China using our airline miles - score! And we were able to build in a few days at the beginning of the trip to see our friends who live in China.

I spent that last month before travel going over the packing list, getting the paperwork ready, the money gathered, and the orphanage donation finished. I planned to give them a stack of fleece blankets sewn in a patchwork of soft colors. A few days before we left, I was sitting at my sewing machine when I got distracted and ran my finger under the needle. I yelped and yanked my hand back, ripping the needle through my fingernail. Thankfully, it wasn’t bad enough to require a trip to the ER, but it hurt like all get out and it was going to complicate the trip just a little. At least I could honestly say that my blood, sweat, and tears went into making those blankets!

The night before the trip, we finished packing and triple-checking our bags. We’d pack one and climb onto the bathroom scale with it since the weight limits were low and rigidly enforced. As the last thing was check off our to do list, Mr. at Home announced that should just stay up the rest of the night since it was already late and we had to leave for the airport in just a few hours anyway. Sure, okay. I sat at the computer to pass the time playing a mindless computer game and Mr. at Home went to the bedroom, A little later, I went to get something out of the bedroom only to find him stretched out under the covers snoring loudly.

So much for *us* staying up all night.

Before 5am, our friend arrived with his truck and we loaded all the bags and a tired, but excited family up for the airport. As we stepped on the first of 9 planes for that trip, the captain saw K and he invited her up to the cockpit and took her picture sitting in the captain’s seat with his hat on. She was so excited. We found our seats and I slept the whole flight. The first layover was in Chicago where we met other families traveling to adopt their children. The flight to Hong Kong was 15 hours long, Mr. at Home slept a lot of it, K slept part, and me? Well, I didn’t. I sat by the window and spent most of the trip marveling at the view. We flew over the top of the earth and the ice and mountains were AMAZING.

We landed in Hong Kong and in mid-afternoon (the next day) where we couldn’t figure out if we were supposed to clear customs or just go to our connecting gate. We found the desk for our new airline and they were phenomenal. They took our baggage claim tickets and told us to have a seat. 20 minutes later they had found our luggage and rerouted it for us, so all we had to do was board the next flight.

At around 7pm, after 22 hours of travel, we saw the extremely welcome faces of our friends at their city’s airport. We gathered our bags and hopped into the taxis they had already arranged. The drive to their coastal home was a blur of neon and lights and we dropped into bed at a normal local bedtime.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Adoption Story - Part 4

So now we had a child identified and we moved to the next level where we were officially dealing with the China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA). There was still plenty of paperwork to finish for our dossier, the 3” stack of paperwork for our adoption agency that would be condensed to just the small part that would be sent to China. In addition to that, we had to complete an application for Rao Xuanmin to get the CCAA’s approval to adopt her as well as a create a plan to care for her specific special need. It was a happy day when we were notified that the CCAA had given us a pre-approval to adopt Xuanmin.

The homestudy and all of our paperwork was finally finished, approved by every level of government all the way to the Chinese embassy in DC, and was shipped off to China to wait in the queue for the CCAA to review. We received a “log in date” of May 31st and our real, long wait began. All summer we put the adoption thoughts on the back-burner as we got K ready to start Kindergarten, for the Great Homeschooling Debate was raging in our house. After all, we hoped to travel to China just as school was starting and K was coming with us. We decided to compromise on half private/half homeschool that first year, but the summer was rapidly coming to a close and we still hadn’t heard from China on Travel Approval (TA), the piece of paper that would tell us it was time to go.

During the wait, I watched an on-line group called Waiting Children from China. They kept track of time frames and news from the CCAA, so I had a good idea of when we should expect TA. The first of August came and went. Based on timeframes, I knew we should be getting TA any day, but nothing happened. The news from the online group was that every Chinese official authorized to sign TAs was on a tour of North America.


So we continued to wait as August slipped away. We requested an update on Xuanmin, now known as L in our family, since we didn’t have any information beyond the original paperwork that was prepared back at the beginning of the year. It was nice to hear that she was still doing well, but frustrating that we couldn’t go get her yet. I joined another online group for the city her orphanage was located in and was rewarded with a few pictures people had taken at the orphanage and I found L in a few! She had changed so much, but she has very distinctive eyes and mouth that made her easier to identify.

Just after mid-August, the news came that the officials were back at work. Hooray! But the one printer in all of China that printed TAs was broken and it stayed that way for a week.

Again, nice.

The printer was finally fixed and and all of a sudden *everyone* started receiving TAs. People from adoption agencies all over the country were announcing that they had received their TA. Ours arrived on September 1st. Great! Now all we had to do was get an appointment with the US Consulate in Guangzhou for the adoption ceremony to finalize the adoption for the US side and we could leave!

Remember how I said that everyone all over the country seemed to get their TA all at the same time? Yep, about 500 families were all applying for an appointment all at the same time. 16 families from our adoption agency were waiting anxiously for their appointments and a process that should have taken a few days took two weeks. Even after that, we still had over a month to wait to travel.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Adoption Story - Part 3

One of my favorite stories from our adoption journey is telling my family that we had a daughter.

Based on our original timeline, we would receive our child’s file sometime in October and travel around the holidays. When we decided to pursue the Waiting Child adoption, our timeline changed. It would still be a long time before we traveled, but we already had our daughter’s pictures and information and it was only March.

The Tuesday afternoon that we were notified that we were chosen as Rao Xuanmin’s family, I sat down at my computer. I attached the best picture to an email simply titled “Cute pic of your granddaughter” and sent it to my mom at work. I knew the title would make her think it was just a picture of K and I timed it so that it would arrive just after she got her students onto the bus and she had made it back to her room.

When my mom sat down at her computer, she opened the email and screamed so loud that the other teachers in the hall came flying down to her room to see what in the heck had happened. And my mom is not a screamer.

Five minutes after I sent the email, my mom called in shock and joy demanding an explanation. I laughed and told her everything that had happened. I sent her the other pictures and the short description we had of Xaunmin’s personality, which stated she was “quiet and lovely”. My mom sent it to my dad, then printed it out and carried it over to my grandmother’s house where she called her sisters to come and see her new granddaughter. They pronounced her the most beautiful baby in existence with gorgeous eyes and the most perfect bow-shaped mouth.

They were right; she was definitely a beautiful baby.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Tour Stop #3 - Arkansas

After we left Oklahoma, we headed toward home with a stopover in Arkansas and a camping trip with the grandparents. We stayed outside of Hot Springs and spent our first full day touring bath house row, doing some shopping, trying on Grandad's hat, and riding the ducks.

You know...the ducks. Those car things that drive through town then off into the water for a tour of the lake. I thought the girls would love it. Here's a picture of K on the ride.

And here's a picture of L.

She fell asleep before we were 20 feet away from the curb and she stayed that way the entire trip. Ah well, she needed the nap anyway.

The highlights of our time in Hot Springs were the Junior Ranger badge that K earned by completing a book about the national park and the trip to the pirate mini golf course.

Adoption Story - Part 2

In mid-March, we got an email from our adoption coordinator that the agency had received a new Waiting Child list from China with 10 children. As soon as the files were translated, the info would be posted on the website with the application for each child. I called the agency almost every day asking if the files were done. One by one, the information appeared on the website. A list of 5 boys and 5 girls, each with only their birth month and year and a brief paragraph describing their special need. So little information for such a life-changing decision.

Yet, a decision had to made because our agency required that you submit an application for a specific child. I called the agency asking how on earth could I choose? We would be thrilled with any one of them. We prayed and we compared the ages and needs to our home study, hoping to find a child that wouldn’t require an update to the home study to be done. As soon as the applications were posted, I completed the one for the youngest girl on the list and submitted it. Her age and heart condition fit perfectly under the wording of our home study and we had a sense of peace about her.

Late Friday evening, the agency emailed us her complete file, including pictures. We stared into her beautiful face and prayed that we would become her family, because there were still several obstacles standing in the way. The very first thing we were required to do was to consult a pediatrician about her medical file. You remember that it was late Friday evening? The agency needed an answer right away as to whether we wanted to pursue this little girl and we weren’t allowed to answer yes until we had the sign-off from the doctor.

On Saturday morning, I called a friend who had a friend who was a pediatrician. I got his number and called him at home. I introduced myself, explained our situation, and he willingly invited us to his home that afternoon to go over the file. Can you imagine a doctor doing that? He was gracious and kind and explained the cryptic medical terms. He told us that the little girl would need to see a pediatric cardiologist as soon as she came home and that she might require surgery to close the hole in her heart or she might not. From what he could tell from the limited info China provided, it didn’t seem to be affecting her in any way and it was really a very common and repairable birth defect. We thanked him profusely, pledged our undying loyalty, and sent an email to our agency saying yes, we wanted to adopt little Rao Xuanmin.

We spent Sunday cautiously optimistic, but Monday morning’s call to the adoption agency almost killed our hopes. Another family had also applied to adopt Rao Xuanmin and the agency representatives would meet Tuesday morning to make a final decision. I almost cried as I explained to K that the little girl in the pictures might not be her little sister. The normally calm K exploded, raging that the other family was evil and they hated us and were just stealing our baby to spite us. Woah! I took a while to get her calmed down and take a more rational viewpoint, but I’m not sure I ever really convinced her.

That evening passed slowly and Tuesday morning crept by at a snail’s pace. I waited anxiously for the phone to ring, for the agency to call with an answer. At lunchtime, the call came and our coordinator told us that we were indeed going to recommended as Rao Xuanmin’s family! Oh, happy day!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer Tour Stop #2 Part #2 - China Camp

It was our first year to attend our adoption agency's China Camp and I agreed to help teach as long as I could teach with Mrs. MMM. We didn't have much time together to plan and I was worried since I had no idea what to expect. However, I soon found out that China Camp is a fun thing when you're paired with the best possible teacher who compliments your personality exactly.

K and HMMM were in the same class and L and AGMMM were in the same class. K and H were in a hula hoop competition the first day of camp and tied for first place. Not bad since K had just learned how to hula hoop the week before.

L and AG ran around together and it was so cute to peek into their class and watch them play. Yes, the picture is blurry, but they wouldn't slow down! Isn't it sweet that they're holding hands?

Mrs. MMM and I taught the rising 1st-graders. We had a fairly large group of very sweet little girls and it was so neat to watch their different personalities. I handled the crafts, the vocabulary, and the quiet orderly parts while Mrs. MMM taught them to sing Happy Birthday, organized the Olympic games, and kept them moving and directing their energy in positive channels. We were the perfect team.

I kept my camera with me and took a ton of great pictures of all the girls, but I won't post them all. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Adoption Story - Part 1

Since I was asked about our adoption story, I thought I'd write it all out and post it. Of course, it will have to be in parts as even the condensed version is long!

So here is part 1.

Way back when we were a young, recently married couple, Mr. at Home and I were driving around one day and heard an adoption commercial on the radio. It prompted a little discussion about how we both had always thought it would be a neat thing to adopt a child from China. One day. Far in the future. Maybe. At the time, we weren’t really in the “family planning” mode so it was just a passing conversation.

Fast forward a few years and we now had a house and a tiny baby sleeping in her quiet nursery. It had taken us awhile to have her, but K was now here and taking over our hearts. As Mr. at Home looked down at his new daughter, he declared that he was happy, satisfied, and had no desire for any more children. This did not go over well with me as I reminded him that before we were ever married, we had agreed to *2* children. He stuck to his decision on no more and I set aside that dream, but then brought up the idea of adoption. Mr. at Home didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no, either, so I kept mentioning it until I think he accepted it as inevitable.

I contacted a local adoption agency, who sent me to Dillon International out of Oklahoma. The very first step was to...wait until we were both closer to 30. We couldn’t start any of our paperwork until we were within four months of our 30th birthdays, so we sat around twiddling our thumbs for a few months. Once September hit, we signed up for a seminar on international adoption where they presented the programs of all the countries they worked with. We dutifully listened, read over all the paperwork, and it simply confirmed our desire to adopt from China. It seemed to be the least expensive, shortest wait, most stable, and I liked that we would get to travel within a month or two of getting our child’s information. Yeah, that last one didn’t work out exactly like we thought.

We submitted the first part of our paperwork. Then more paperwork. Then we had to gather all of personal and financial records from all over the country because we had to have official copies of everything. We went to the doctor and had physicals and TB tests. Even little K, who had just turned 3, had to have the TB test. For every shot, poke, and prod, K took it all in stride knowing that it would all lead to the brother or sister she so desperately wanted.

In early 2004, Mr. at Home made the decision to pursue a job in a new field and another state. He landed the job and we got ready to move halfway across the country. I called our adoption agency who told us to stop right where we were with the paperwork and pick it back up after we moved. We would have to redo part of what we had already submitted and everything else would have to be done according to NC laws.

We took over six months to sell the house, move, and get settled into our new home. We finally restarted the paperwork process and then the hurry-up-and-wait part set in. K and I drove from county to county getting documents notarized and the notary notarized. We cleaned house and bared our souls for the social worker doing the home study. We raced to get a piece of paper signed and returned only to have to wait while it sat on someone’s desk before we could race and complete the next step. In the middle of this, things changed just a little.

We went home to Texas to spend Christmas with my family at the end of 2004. While there, I received an email from the adoption agency looking for a family for a little Chinese girl with an ear deformity and we responded that we were interested. By that time, another family had already been chosen, but we discovered that many of the so called “special needs” children in the Waiting Child program had very minor and/or correctable issues. We asked the agency to notify us whenever they received a new list of waiting children. After all, why should we be afraid of adopting a child who was less than “perfect” in the eyes of the Chinese government? What was to prevent a child that we gave birth to from having these exact needs? Our perspective had changed and our focus shifted.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Tour Stop #2

It occurred to me that I got distracted and never posted anything more about our summer tour. And the last thing I would want is to leave all two of my readers hanging and wondering. Besides, Stop #2 was pretty exciting.

We left Texas and headed to Oklahoma where we were going to spend several days staying with the family who adopted L's best friend from the orphanage (the MMMs) and attending China Camp with our adoption agency. We didn't know the other family that well, but we knew enough to know that we liked them. And we were right!

We pulled into the MMMs driveway and immediately tossed the kids in the pool in the backyard. Now, I knew they had some animals, but I wasn't really prepared for some up close and personal swimtime in the barnyard. And trust me, the llamas got up close and personal. The kids loved the llamas, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, and dogs. Ok, maybe not the dogs.

We immediately decided that we loved the MMMs. Our older daughters share the same birthday a year apart, their oldest son patiently taught K chess and played with her all week, and our younger girls fell right in with each other and spent their time ganging up on the dads or vanishing to the bedroom to play. Mr. at Home and I had such a fabulous time hanging out with Mr. and Mrs. MMM that I wish we lived next door.

I don't think the little girls remember their relationship from the orphanage. AG might since she is a bit older, but L just knows that AG looks like her, is from China, and is lots of fun. I love that we can keep them together and I know that common background will be more important to them as they get older. For now, they were just so incredibly cute as they hung out together.

Week 1 of school

We have officially finished 5 days of school. Ok, we'll be "finished" when K finishes her "homework". She argued that "homework" should be done separate from school time, so we agreed that 4pm would be okay to do the few minutes of arithmetic and reading "homework" she has to do.

So far I am so extremely, amazingly, whole-heartedly glad that we went back to the video program. Third grade has been soooooooo much easier than the previous grades. There's less hands-on kind of prep that I have to do. Like the 150 straws that we used for *1* lesson last year. K tears out her own pages or does them in the book, she gets her own books and paper, and follows the directions by herself. All I've had to do is check her work and find, grade, and record her tests. Easy stuff.

And she's learning! All about declarative vs. interrogative, adding money, and the nervous system and parts of the eye. The best part is that K *loves* the independence and greater responsibility of being a third grader. She's been asking me lately what other chores she can do now that she's older. That's the part I'm loving. K's excited about the fact that she gets to take herself to and from Sunday School this year and the tables and chairs in her new classroom are BIGGER! Her feet don't even touch the floor!

Lest you think it's all sunshine and roses, we are having an issue today with some addition with big numbers where she can't figure out what she did wrong and the child can't copy an answer from her book to her paper with the correct spelling to save her life. She gets grumpy when I try to correct her, but overall, third grade is going swimmingly.

5 days down and 165 to go!

I think the weather is confused

Today is August 13th.

The middle of August. The dog days of summer, when we're sweating and short-tempered and wishing desperately for a breeze. All except for this year. Today it is 68. Let me repeat that.

68 degrees.

It's almost lunchtime and it's 68. The high is forecast to be 75. I LOVE this weather! It is overcast, humid, sprinkly, and my hair is currently hearing debate on whether to obey and go straight or rebel into wild curls, but it's nice and COOL outside. Cool to the point of pants and jackets! Can it get any better?

In other good news, my brother is headed back to the States!! He started injections tomorrow into his spinal cord (yee-owch!) and will be on a plane back to his base in CA in a couple of weeks. Very, very good news.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Update from Kuwait

If you remember, my little brother is in the army, stationed in Iraq for the second time, was injured a couple of months ago, and is currently in Kuwait working on recovering from his injuries. They've tried rest, then physical therapy, and finally got around to giving him an MRI today. It showed 3 herniated discs with some complications that the doctor is supposed to explain tomorrow morning. I am shamelessly asking for prayers for a favorable outcome from all this. A free ticket back to the states would be great.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

K is growing up

Tomorrow is K's first real slumber party. Her friend is turning 8 and is having An American Girl themed party. They're having pizza, watching on of the American Girl movies, and making sleeping bags for their dolls.

Guess how many American Girl dolls K has.

That's right! Zero.

K hasn't had *any* interest in dolls in ages, not even the popular American Girls. I even volunteered to take the girls to the grand opening of the American Girl store in Dallas. Can you imagine how cool that would have been?

K said no.

Today at lunch we were discussing the party and Mr. at Home, in an astonishing flash of understanding into the pre-adolescent girl mind, asked if K would be out of place at the party since she doesn't have a doll and everyone else would be bringing one. Since K seemed very interested in having a doll, I offered to buy her an 18" doll from Target. It's not an official American Girl, but it is a very cool alternative.

So I took her to Target and we found "Hailey" that comes with pajamas and other sleepover essentials. K is very excited and came right home and started playing.

On the way home, K did express the concern that the other girls would know she wasn't an "official" American Girl doll. Ah, the pressure to fit in starts so young. So we have a deal. If K actually plays with and enjoys this doll, we will make a special trip to the American Girl doll store and she can get a real doll. Maybe we'll go near Christmas and do the whole experience for both girls.

For now, K will just have to rely on the fact that the other girls will think her doll's satin pajamas are cool.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Our Olympic Party

Tonight is the television replay of the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremonies. It actually happened at 08:08:08 this morning, which was the evening of o8-08-08 in China. I have heard the ceremony, particularly the fireworks, were phenomenal.

Tonight at 7:30 EDT, the TV show will start and we're having a party. Ok, so it's just a family party, but a party none the less.

I've made Indoor S'mores from the recipe on back of the Golden Grahams box. I've also made sugar cookie dough that we will cut in the shape of rings, then paint them with powdered sugar icing, and arrange in the Olympic rings symbol. Add some pizza rolls and some root beer and you've got a feast.

We'll all put on our pajamas and make a pile of pillows and blankets on the floor in front of the TV so we can watch in comfort. Hopefully, the girls will just drift off to sleep at some point instead of fighting tooth and nail to stay awake. Because the fighting just makes everyone grumpy. I've promised that they can stay awake for the whole thing if they make it, but they have to take a nice, long nap this afternoon.

Between the nap and the start of the show, we'll make those cookies and I have a couple of Olympic coloring sheets for them. Because I'm all prepared like that.

Ok, not really, I just found them on the internet and printed them off.

But at least I *look* prepared.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My 25 things

Since I am buried under packing boxes, cleaning, and homeschooling, I decided to play along with my friends little list. Under the circumstances, it might be easier to come up with 25 tidbits than write a whole coherent post. So here's 25 things you might not know about me.

1. I'm slow. No, really. I tend to be methodical and perfectionist about everything I do, which generally just translates to slow. I also have a supernatural ability to run in slow motion, which I hear is fascinating to watch. That's probably why you won't catch me running anywhere anytime soon.

2. I'm allergic to everything. Everything outside, a lot of foods, my own joint tissue. I'm not usually a hypochondriac, but my body is. Curiously, though, I am not allergic to poison ivy and mosquitoes don't like me. There is some balm in Gilead.

3. I am addicted to reading.

4. I have a collection of books that I read over and over. They're like old friends that never change and yet I always see something new in them each time I read them.

5. I love to sing.

6. I love to camp. I don't love all the work involved, but I love the outdoors and creating those family memories.

7. I took a woodworking class in junior high in spite of the fact that girls were not allowed to take woodworking. It was my first and only stand for womens' rights and you're darn tootin, I was the best carpenter in the class.

8.I don't really watch TV. Every so often, I'll watch an episode of Without a Trace or MASH with Mr. at Home or I'll catch Kim Possible's latest exploits with the girls, but I prefer to sit and waste my time in front of my computer.

9. My current ringtone is the Kim Possible theme song.

10.I cannot stand coffee. Love the smell, hate the taste.

11. I've discovered that it's much easier to clean house when you've got a significant portion of your stuff packed away into boxes.

12. In Texas, schools are classified by size as 1A to 5A. I attended a school of every size during my 13 years of public school.

13. My 1st and 2nd grade classes were a "split class". In 1st-grade, my half of the class faced one chalkboard and the 3rd-grade half of the class faced the other chalkboard. For 2nd-grade, I switched to the other side of the classroom and a new set of first graders took over the little desks. It was a small school and an excellent teacher.

14. I don't give blood because I pass out every time.

15. I played percussion in 6th-grade and high school. I even marched snare drum my last 2 years.

16. I was drum captain my senior year of high school. I was also Science Club President and Computer Science Club Vice-President. Yes, I was an over-achiever and a control freak. Oh, wait, that hasn't changed much.

17. Even though we homeschool and are expected to be involved in all kinds of classes and activities. I prefer to keep our schedule pretty open. That way I avoid a lot of stress and when something cool comes up, we can do it. So if you need someone to join you for a last-minute field trip, I'm your woman.

18. I love to paint walls and I'm not afraid to try bold colors, faux finish techniques, or even murals and they've always turned out beautifully. At first, this tendency scared the pants off Mr. at Home, but he eventually got used to it.

19. I have a weakness for organizational tools. Many years ago I got a job where they paid for a Franklin Covey planner and the yearly refills. From then I've been addicted. I don't carry the big planner anymore, but I have to have my smaller version with me at all times.

20. I can't stand the sound of someone chewing.

21. I am planning to let my kids stay up tonight and watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. After all, it is in China. Stay tuned for a post on all our preparations.

22. I love crafts. But you probably already knew that.

23. I make my kids make their own breakfast.

24. I do not like to be touched. No hugs, no tickling, no hanging on my legs. Even as a baby, I liked to sit in my little seat and watch, but I would scream anytime someone would pick me up.

25. I hate indecision. Just pick a day, a time, a place and move on.

A fabulous article from an unlikely source

Mr. at Home is not exactly a fan of CNN and is often puzzled as to why I read their site. It does have a very liberal slant, but today there is something there you don't want to miss.

Go read it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I don't think I can handle the excitement

This morning we saw the UPS truck in our neighborhood as we pulled out to go swimming with friends. I knew that UPS truck likely held something fun for our family, but we went on to the pool. Then we went to Target. Then we went to the post office. Then we *finally* went back to the office and collected 1 large envelope and 2 boxes - yippee! It had finally arrived!

What was that wonderful thing? The thing that caused so much excitement?

It was our third grade curriculum.

We raced home, got showers, and K insisted on getting started immediately. At this moment, she is parked in front of the TV watching her class on DVD. She sitting at a TV tray with a small table next to her that is holding her supplies and books. Yes, we do go all high-class like that for school. Heck, when you spend that much on the curriculum, you're lucky to have enough left for notebook paper, much less a "desk".

So it looks like we're officially back to school. Now to teach L that even if it looks like K's just watching TV, she's really very busy and L's not allowed to interrupt. That seems to be a tough concept for L's tender years.

New friends are funner in the pool

There's a family with a daughter from China that we see all over town. We run into them at parks, Bible study, stores, restaurants, even once in a hotel. I've spoken to the mom and the big sister a few times and finally just invited them over this week so we could get to know each other better. They live just a hop, skip, and a jump away, so it only makes sense.

I left a comment on the big sis' blog last week asking them to come over, then we ran into them at lunch Sunday. It was funny because little AC, their youngest, ran over to us, cornered K and announced her name. As K tried to escape, AC followed until K backed up into me, "Moooomm, there's a little girl following me...." At that point I spied AC, found the family, and we made plans to swim at our pool.

So today I got to meet Pam and her little girl and we watched all the girls play while we told our adoption stories and just had a fabulous time getting to know each other. Pam and I really have a lot in common, besides just going to all the same places!

K was smitten with the persistent little AC and even shared her beloved goggles.

L was rather more interested in AC's cool toys, but she (mostly) played nice. She spent most of her time without her floaties in the shallow end, so you know she enjoyed having a playmate!

Isn't AC a doll? She's so pretty! The cool thing is she's getting a sister sometime this fall who's coming from L's hometown!

I'm so glad we've found a new playmate even if we are moving a little further away at the end of the month. At least we'll still see them every week at Bible study this fall!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Thanks for the advice on the hair dilemma

I bit the bullet and went back to the hair salon this afternoon. When I called, they were so matter-of-fact and didn't ask for any explanation. I got a stylist who has been there 13 years rather than 13 minutes and she got it fixed right up. I even managed to explain the problem areas without acting like I was accusing the other stylist of doing a bad job. We decided it had just been left too long and thick at the neckline and the new stylist got to use a new razor technique she had learned in a training class to thin everything else out. I got a good haircut and a new stylist who *didn't* mention the word "faux-hawk" right after saying she had a new short style in mind for my next haircut - eeeek!!

In other news, we did a little more packing today, got the loan packet in the mail, and received official word that our contract has been accepted by the builder. A few more steps closer.

Do I or Don't I?

On Friday I went to my favorite hair salon, the one that always gives great cuts. A few months ago, my stylist moved so I switched to another one. A newbie. With bad hair. Which ought to have caused me to run in the opposite direction, but no, I bravely sat down and let her proceed.

And proceed she did. She spent a ton of time on the cut, clipping and texturizing and I ended up with a cute razored bob look. There was one problem, though. The left side looked a little thicker and longer to me, but I figured it was her attempt at a little asymmetry and decided to see if she fixed it the next time.

Well, I went back Saturday (she had finally had someone fix her own hair) and she whipped through my haircut in record time, failing to thin and texturize so the bob looks less "razored" and more "mushroom". This is *not* a flattering look on me. I noticed it in the shop, but I hoped it was just the way she styled it. I got home, washed it, and nope, it really is cut like that.

And then Saturday night, I noticed the neckline. At first fix, it looks fine. 10 minutes later, it has bunched into 6 various lengths that differ by as much as *an inch*. It looks like a child hacked it off.

My dilemma is do I call the shop and demand another stylist to fix my hair? I could trim the neckline myself and avoid that whole uncomfortable display, but I paid good money for the haircut and I want it done right. I, however, hate confrontations and I'd probably have to face the original butcher and get her in trouble with management, etc. etc. It's that whole Southern belle thing coming out in me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Today's craft: Soap Buddies

A long time ago, I saw a craft in a magazine that I thought was awfully cute, but I never got around to making it. After all, it seemed kinda involved.

Well, I finally bit the bullet and discovered something - it's easy! And pretty quick to do! And it will even save you money! You can't beat that.

You will need:

1 washcloth
1 bar of soap
embroidery thread
embroidery hoop, if you have one around (get it? aROUND? I crack myself up)

Center the washcloth in the embroidery hoop and stitch a smallish design, like an initial. Aww, suck it up, you can do that. The bad thing about terry cloth is you'll need to go over your stitches once or twice to make them stand out enough to see the design. The good thing about terry cloth is it's very forgiving so you don't have to be real careful with your stitches.

Remove the hoop and lay the washcloth in front of you so the design is face up. Fold the top down and the bottom up so that the washcloth is folded in thirds.

Lay the bar of soap in the middle and mark the washcloth about 1 inch from each end of the soap. Stitch a seam on the mark through all three layers on both ends of the wash cloth.

Trim the ends to about 1 inch past the seam.

Flip one side right side out and insert a bar of soap. Flip the other side right side out.

The soap will be safely tucked inside so your kid can use it in the bath until the soap is used up, then you simply replace the soap. Your kids can't dump an entire bottle of body wash into the tub again (not that I've had any experience with that or anything) and bar soap is cheaper anyway.

House Pictures!!

We made our way out to the new dance studio this morning. The lady I spoke to on the phone first was so incredibly nice and the studio sounded very similar to our last one, but she had me sold when she was giving me directions to their studio and she said, "Then you go past SuperTarget..."

SuperTarget!!! No way! We're going to live near a SuperTarget!

We went to the studio, then took the road to our new home. It's a back road and the scenery is beautiful. We even go over a tiny arm of the local lake.

I did manage to remember my camera so I could take some pictures of the new place along with my two willing assistants who insisted on being models.

Here's the front. Notice all the trees in the background.
When you open the front door, this is what you see.

That front room is the living room and the space behind the fireplace is the dining area. The hardwood floors are covered in cardboard and the carpet still hasn't been installed, but you'll probably still see the 4-year-old running around like a maniac when you come to visit.

If you go behind the staircase and to the right, you'll see the kitchen.

The stove and microwave will go behind L, the breakfast area is to your left and the laundry room is to your right.

Let's head up the stairs now.

The girls have noted that there's a vent right beside the stairs that feels really good on a hot day.

To the left at the top of the stairs is K's room. She picked it because it has *2* windows. I love that both the girls' rooms have big windows that face the woods in back.

To the right at the top of the stairs is L's room. It is an exact mirror image of K's room with the exception of one small window. Both rooms have these huge, wide closets.

If you take a sharp right at the top of the stairs, you'll find the bathroom and the loft where Mr. at Home will have his work from home office.

This concludes our photographic tour. I hope you enjoyed your time here. Please exit through the front door is at the bottom of the stairs and feel free to drop in again in about a month when construction is finished. By then maybe I'll know what color the carpet is going to be!

The trouble with tutus and tap shoes

This weekend is tax-free weekend - yippee!!

We're saving all our money for the move - whine!!

I had completely forgotten about such a thing as tax-free weekend, but Mr. at Home warned me this morning that I shouldn't buy anything we didn't really, really need. Thankfully, I couldn't think of anything we really, really need.

Except maybe some new dance shoes. Which then brought about the decree of Mr. at Home that we are going to need to find a new dance studio closer to our new home.

Have I mentioned how much I love L's dance studio? The people are nice, charity-minded folks that don't care if your 4-year-old wears a huge sparkly tutu to class and they have a very professionally run recital. But it will be about 15 miles away and that's a long drive, especially with gas prices what they are.

There's a closer option that I need to go check out today since they require a specific class uniform and different shoes. Thankfully, I think those things are tax-free (and hopefully on sale) this weekend. I just hope their office is open today.