Saturday, July 28, 2007

Down came the rain and washed the spider out...

...NOT! We had a terrific rain shower this afternoon. Some distant rumbling thunder, but mostly just a good solid soaking. I took Sophie out on the porch to feel the breeze and listen to it rain, and we spied this beautiful spiderweb near the staircase on the far end. It had a not-so-beautiful creature on it. You can't tell the size of it from this photo, but the view you see in this photo was about 2 feet in diameter. Amazingly, the torrential downpour didn't seem to damage the web or bother Mr. Spider at all.

Blue Saturday

People in New England love their fresh blueberries. Not me, I'm more of a strawberry or apple season person myself. I don't really care for fresh blueberries, but if you bake them into something, like muffins, I'm there! Yesterday, one of EJ's best gal pals came and picked her up to go blueberry picking (followed by swimming at her grandma's pool). EJ had a terrific time!

This morning, we had planned to make blueberry muffins for breakfast. Sophie must have thought they were going to be ready at the crack of dawn, as she awoke at 5:45 AM! K brought her down for a bottle, and then they snuggled in on the couch to snooze a little longer.

EJ loves to bake...

Here, she's adding the secret ingredient, lemon zest! The original recipe calls for lemon zest, but I usually use orange zest. Alas, there were no oranges in the house this morning, so we improvised.

Sophie was starting to wonder if she was going to get any blueberries or if she would have to stick to her boring Cheerios.

But, we did give her Apple Banana Blueberry baby food today!

EJ made a tray of bite-sized (or Sophie-sized) muffins. She pronounced them delicious...

...and so did Sophie. Sophie's going to want EJ to make her breakfast all the time!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Weekend in Maine

Last weekend, we visited our good friends B and D at their vacation home on the coast of Maine. They have a BEAUTIFUL view from their house down to the river, which dumps out into the Atlantic not too far away.

This was Sophie's longest car trip, and let's just say that after an hour, she was ready to stop. She was sure to remind us that even though it was only about 2 hours to our first stop, it was time to eat! After taking care of that, we stopped for a little back to school shopping in Freeport, home to L.L. Bean, before arriving at our destination.

We then did a quick run to Damriscotta. There is a great little bookshop there called the Maine Coast Book Shop where we participated in their Harry Potter celebration. As soon as we got out of the car, EJ donned her HP cape and glasses and readied her wand in case any dementors were lurking (yes, the bookshop had characters...and there was a dementor!). Here's EJ getting her face painted by a witch:

On Saturday, we lounged around a little and visited some pottery shops. That evening, we went to a local seafood restaurant in East Boothbay, where EJ insisted on lobster, even though it wasn't on the kids menu. So, $28 dollars later, she and I split the twin lobster dinner. It was delicious! The dinner entertainment? The seagull who flew down to the counter and gulped down about 4 pats of butter wrapped in foil from a basket!

On Sunday before we left, EJ insisted in getting into the boat just once more. She really wanted another ride (she'd already had two), but that will have to wait for the next trip. Thanks again, B and D for a great weekend!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Our Two Beauties

Yes, those are the dresses that we had tailor-made for the girls in Nanchang. Sophie's is still a tad bit big, but she can wear it a little longer! And these next shots are EJ's dance photos for the year.

Sigh. I feel like the luckiest mom in the world! :)

What will happen in Harry Potter book 7?

EJ and I finished up the Half-Blood Prince a few nights ago. We are now deep in speculation about what will happen in The Deathly Hallows, due out at midnight tonight. Our copy is on pre-order, scheduled to show up at the house sometime on Saturday, but we will be visiting friends this weekend, so we won't be able to start reading it until Sunday.

Is Snape a good guy or a bad guy? We think he's a good guy with some "issues" (as one of my co-workers put it). Here's my question, though. If Snape was really a good guy, why wasn't he ever given the Defense Against the Dark Arts job? Was DD afraid the Voldemort would control him there somehow?

Is Dumbledore really dead? We hope not. We want to believe that Snape, as a spy on the dark side for Dumbledore, made the Unbreakable Curse with Narcissa with Dumbledore's blessing. If he made it without DD's knowledge, we think he told DD about it and they devised an elaborate plan for DD to go underground to help Harry finish finding the remaining horcruxes. This is what we want to believe, anyway.

But if you think about the conditions around DD's death (the curse on Harry was broken as soon as Snape killed DD, the loyal phoenix Fawkes sang a song of lament and left the castle, McGonagall assumed the headmaster's office which is charmed to only allow in the rightful headmaster, DD's portrait is now on the wall in the office, etc.), we suppose it's possible that he really is gone...we just hope a wizard with his power had the ability to make these things happen. EJ thinks that perhaps, somewhere in his past, maybe DD had to kill someone and he has a horcrux with another part of his soul in it.

How will the story end? Good will triumph over evil and Voldemort will die. We just hope that Harry doesn't have to sacrific himself in the process. I firmly believe that Harry is one of the six horcruxes. I think the scar on his head is result of being made one. I think when Voldemort killed Harry's parents, Harry was made a horcrux at that time, but I'm not sure whether Voldemort intended to or not. This might explain Harry's ability to speak Parseltongue.
I have no idea what the other two horcruxes might be (we know about the diary and the ring, both destroyed, and the locket, whose location is unknown). I still think the Gryffindor sword will have a role to play in all of this. If Harry has to make a sacrifice, perhaps he will lose his ability to perform magic, which would effectively eliminate any effort to write another book in the future, but not kill the main character (so that he can continue the obscene marketing campaign, of course)!

Who will die? I think Snape is a goner either way, especially if he's on the good side. He'll sacrifice himself for the better good. I don't know about Draco or Lucius. I'd like to Draco come to the good side, but I'm not sure it will happen. Bellatrix? I hope Neville gets his revenge on her. Members of the Order? I think Tonks, Lupin, and Hagrid won't all be around by the end of the book. As for the Weasley family, I think that there are interesting options there. I don't think it will be Molly or Arthur losing their lives. Maybe Ginny, as Harry's love interest? Fred or George, finally being "responsible" and fighting a good fight? Bill? Nah...the storyline of him as a garish werewolf married to the stunning Fleur is too good to end. Percy? Nah...he needs to realize that the Ministry of Magic wasn't right.

What will happen to Hogwarts? I'm not sure if it will be open this year. Who would teach Defense Against the Dark Arts? Will Slughorn still teach Potions? If McGonagall is headmistress, who would teach Transfiguration? I can't imagine the school not being open...I hope it is.

Who is R.A.B., who has the real locket? I think it's a member of the Black family. I looked in Book 5, and the Black family tapestry had a name on it...I think it was Regulus or Regimus? That's the only think I can think of!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sophie loves books!

You might remember an earlier post about how much EJ has always enjoyed reading. Well, it appears that her little sister will be following in her footsteps. She absolutely LOVES looking at books. Yesterday, while I was cooking dinner, I pulled the Exersaucer into the kitchen and propped a few books up for her to look at. You'll see Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, as well as a picture book that has a bunch of photos of babies with all sorts of different expressions (happy, sad, angry, confused, etc.).

Sophie loves to stare at the photos in this book. On one page, there is a picture of two kissing babies. If you say "Give the baby a kiss," she leans over and slobbers up the page...too cute!

Amusing Fun

These weekend, we visited a local amusement park. EJ had a great time. She is just over the max for the little kid rides, but was able to get onto the ones she really liked. But now that she's over 48 inches for the big rides, she enjoyed a LOT of them too. Here she is with K after the big hill on the log flume:

Sophie was not about to miss out on the fun, and she enjoyed her first trip on the carousel:

Here is a shot of K and EJ heading up the big hill on a giant one-hill water coaster. They're in the middle of the boat:

And here they are coming down the chute. I was standing just outside the splash zone! You can see K's white shirt in the middle of the boat, but EJ must be hiding her head!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

EJ's new hairdo and Sophie's new tricks

EJ has been growing out her bangs since about late October. They've been driving me crazy! But, they're finally long enough to tuck behind her ears and out of her eyes, so you can see her smiling face now! She told Miss Sara that she wanted to cut the back to be as short as the bangs, but Miss Sara told her that would be just a bit too short. This is the result - I love it, I think she looks great with this cut!

Sophie doesn't have a new 'do yet, but she does have a lot of new tricks. She can sit pretty well on her own now:

And, she's doing the low crawl. She hasn't quite figured out that using her knees in addition to the elbows would help a lot.

She knows a few other tricks too. When we returned from China, she would randomly shake her head yes or no. She doesn't seem as interested in the yes one anymore, but if she hears you ask a question (by the inflection in your voice), she starts shaking her head no. It's really funny, especially if you phrase the question to get the desired effect, like "Sophie, do you like Daddy's singing?" And, of course, she smiles while she's doing it.
Another new one is that she mimics you if you shrug your shoulders. But she tilts her head to one side and smiles shyly, so she just looks adorable. We all can't help but laugh when she does it.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Busy Weekend

For a weekend that had almost no formally-planned things on the agenda, it's been a whirlwind of activity around here.

I took the girls to have portraits taken. I've decided that the annual portrait budget will probably triple - photos of one, photos of the other, and photos of them together. Yikes. EJ did some shots in her dance recital costumes. Wait until you see the ballet ones - beautiful!

Next, we took some of Sophie in her gold dress and hat from China. She did okay for a first time portrait sitting; she definitely wondered what the heck was going on. Why was everyone trying so hard to make her smile? She just sat there as curious as ever. It didn't help that the studio was training new photographers and there were three people in the room (in addition to the three of us). Finally, EJ put on her gold gown and we took some shots of them together. Sophie got a little pouty and teary-eyed toward the end, but we were able to get a few good shots in. The pics won't be ready until next week, and I'll be sure to post some here.

On Saturday morning, I went to the office of our adoption agency, China Adoption With Love (CAWLI), to train to be a PTAG leader. PTAG is the Parent Travel Advisory Group, a group of parents who help prepare other adopting families for travel. It is just one small way I can give back to the agency who did so much for us.

Since our wait was so long, we actually attended two PTAG sessions while we were waiting! Sitting through it a third time was a good refresher for all the content, and WOW...I really thought about it all so differently now that I'm "on the other side"! The things I panicked about before travel (gifts for the nannies, in-country travel) ended up being nothing to worry about. Saturday's PTAG leader was a mom from my travel group who adopted her second daughter from China. It was nice to see her and her husband and kids after a few weeks!

Saturday evening, we went to a local pizza shop to grab sandwiches for dinner. While we were waiting for our food, we gave Sophie her dinner - apricots and mixed fruit. It was so good that she decided to shove her toes in her mouth after each mouthful. Nice.

Sunday morning, EJ and I ventured out to the beach for a few hours. We ALWAYS go early in the morning to make sure we get a parking spot, and then we leave shortly after noon to avoid the afternoon sun (we pale-skinned people worry about this stuff).

We got there around 9:15. EJ wanted to head down to the southern tip of the beach to dig for crabs, and while walking there, we ran into some of our best friends, the D family, and suddenly we had three boys to help us dig for crabs. They found quite a few, including a baby one that they named Bobby Joe?!? EJ wanted to bring them home as pets, but I convinced her that we couldn't make the right kind of salt water to keep them in. The weather wasn't nearly as hot as it was supposed to be (78 instead of 90!), but it was still a nice day to hang out. On the way home, we had (shhhh...) ice cream for lunch!

Sunday afternoon, our social worker stopped by for a welcome home visit and to meet Sophie. She will have to write two reports over the next year to submit to China, updating them on Sophie's health and well-being.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July!!!

From one of America's newest citizens...

...and her big sister:

Monday, July 2, 2007

My favorite vegetable (by Sophie)

Carrots rock!!!!

Don't listen to my sister, EJ. She's a brussel sprouts and asparagus girl.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A visit to Chinatown!

Despite the fact that my eyes are so red that K said people probably think I have a nasty hangover, we decided to take a trip to Chinatown today for the Spring festival. Yeah, um, I know it's summer now, but the Spring Festival was supposed to be on May 20th, right before we left for China. It was rained out. Today was the rain date.

We had a really great time. Other than one business dinner there about 10 years ago, we always seem to have destinations in Boston just on the edge of Chinatown, usually near South Station or the Theater District or the Ladder District. So, we decided it was time to venture there for some good food and to see where we can buy jade and silk dresses locally, 'cause, you know, I didn't shop enough in China!

Interesting, but one of the most popular things for sale today were baby turtles. They were small, maybe two inches in diameter at most. They were usually sold in pairs in a small plastic aquarium for between $13 and $16. EJ wanted to get a pair in the worst way. She would love to have a pet, but she was devastated last summer when her tryops fish died (even though we had prepped her they only live between 30 and 90 days after hatching when she bought the kit) that we don't know how she'd handle it. We satisfied her by saying we would come home and research them on the Internet to see if they would be good pets.

Well, guess what we found out?! The sale of baby turtles with shells less than four inches has been prohibited since the 70s! It mentioned that due to frequent handling by kids and then kids touching their mouths, they can actually make kids quite sick! It did say that baby turtles have been trendy for pets in some Chinatown areas and that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of education about this prohibition. So, I guess we'll have to keep thinking about a good pet. But Eloise (of the children's book fame) has a pet turtle, and it seemed like a good idea for a brief moment. Now, EJ is thinking we just need to get a bigger one.

We had lunch at a really good restaurant, Vinh Sun. We really enjoyed the dumplings in China, so we decided to have some steamed Peking dumplings as an appetizer today. They were yummy. Forget the entree, I could have just eaten a whole plate of these. Guess who else loved them? Sophie! I would break off a little piece of the noodle and she would gum it up and swallow and start pounding the table for more. And the pork filling? Even more excited for that! We haven't found anything that she won't eat yet...

I am happy to report that our chopstick skills are still up to snuff, and EJ ate her whole meal with them - she is quite proficient after two weeks in China! Of course, she was curious about the lobsters and fish in the tanks in the window of the store, and while we were eating, they rolled a cart with a whole roasted pig and some roasted chickens on it out to the window. She said "WHAT was THAT???" "Pork!" we replied. HA! No need for additional information.

EJ's best question of the day was on the way there: "Mom, can we drink the water in Chinatown?" But of course, it's Boston water! And her best comment, uttered upon entering the bathroom at the restaurant: "Oh good. No squatty potty!" I was successful in my quest not to have to use these hole-in-the-floor toilets in China, but I think EJ found them a challenge and used them successfully several times.

Speaking of the lack of clean water in China, check out This organization is putting water filtration systems in orphanages in China. They recently made a trip to the Jiangxi province, where Sophie is from. If you look at these pictures of that trip (click on China 2007), there is a man in these photos (he's in photo 171 and several others) who we met at our hotel in Nanchang. Another mother and I were getting breakfast, and he stopped to ask about her baby and where she was from and he told us that he had visited several orphanages in that province already. A very nice guy doing terrific work for a very basic need that we all take for granted. The lack of safe drinking water was probably the single biggest inconvenience we experienced on the trip - you never knew if your plates or silverware were sanitary and we had to use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, Sophie's bottles, and sterilizing bottles and utensils in our room.

On our way back through the Boston Common to the car, EJ got to pet the horses of the mounted patrol:

Pretty in Pink

No, this blog entry isn't about EJ or Sophie's preferred wardrobe choice. It's about my eyes. I've been avoiding my blogging duties this week, as I've been sick with a miserable cold. It started Tuesday with swollen glands that really hurt when I swallowed and escalated to the point where, by Thursday, I was carrying around a box of tissues to all of my meetings at work. I was out sick on Friday.

But yesterday morning, other than the constant nose-blowing, I felt much better. So much so that we decided to take Sophie swimming at the local YMCA. We thought she might like it, as she just loves to splash in her little bathtub, and we were right. The girl never stopped laughing, splashing, and kicking the whole time!

She took a really good nap after that, and so did I.

Then, after dinner we were off to the local town green for the annual Independence Day party and, games, music. Lots of fun. We dressed Sophie up in lots of red, white, and blue, since she is probably one of our town's newest citizens.

K and EJ stayed for the fireworks while Sophie and I made our way home to try to get to bed at a decent time. She has learned a new trick with her bottle...she fills her mouth with formula, but doesn't swallow - choosing to let it ooze at the corners of her mouth instead. Not a good trick. So, I took the bottle away from her after only 2 ounces. She made it until 5:30 this morning before she wanted another one. And she did go back to sleep until 8:30 this morning.

Before bed last night, K said that my left eye looked red. All week, my eyes have been very dry and scratchy by evening. Well, the few times I woke up last night, I had to pry them open. Both are pink this morning. Guess I'll be calling the optometrist this morning to see if he can prescribe something based on my symptoms or if he'll need to see me tomorrow before he can do that. I have lots of eye infections in the past and this one feels the same. Yikes. Other than the pink and watery eyes though, I still okay...just blowing my nose a lot.