Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Just doing my part...

If you know me, you know I love to shop. As much as I enjoy it, I refuse to pay full price for most things, especially clothing. I proudly claim the title as the Queen of Clearance Rack Shopping. My father-in-law coined a term for my shopping philosophy...he calls it L-nomics (insert my first name where the L is). Now, there aren't many people who have a strategic shopping philosophy, so I've decided to share it with you. If we could just get the whole world to think like this, I think we can lure the country's economy out of any recessionary trends.

Here's my guiding principle when shopping...If there is a $100 dress on the clearance rack for $40, you can buy it and STILL HAVE $60 left over to spend on something else...say, shoes or jewelry to accessorize the dress! Never mind that you never intended to spend $100 on the complete can you NOT if you bought the dress at such a great discount! How can this wonderful economic theory be misused, you might be wondering? Let's examine an inappropriate use of L-nomics. Let's say your husband buys the $25k SUV instead of the $50k Hummer. That DOES NOT, I repeat, DOES NOT mean that he has $25k left over to spend on accessories, or another car, or tools, or...or...or anything for that matter!

Anyway, enough about me and my economic theories. The real purpose of this post is to show you a picture of some adorable matching dresses that I bought for EJ and Sophie last weekend at The Wooden Soldier's tent sale in North Conway, NH. That's right...a BIG OL' SALE with nothing but the most gorgeous boutique clothes you have ever seen for little girls (and big ones too).

This one for Sophie matches EJ's Easter dress from this year. You can see it here.

And I got them all for 60-75% off the original price. My best catch at the tent sale was a few years ago when I got EJ a $225 dress for $29. Here it is:

First Day of Third Grade!

Today was EJ's first day of 3rd grade. She was so excited that she had trouble falling asleep last night and she was awake very early this morning. She put on her backpack and wore it around the house for at least 30 minutes before it was time to go out for the bus. It's a funky new LLBean backpack that matches the lunchbox she already has, so she was anxious to use it. Note that in the 2nd shot, she has clearly posed so you can see the new earrings.

And here are a few photos of Sophie doing some of her new tricks. Here's one of her doing one-armed pushups:

And here she shows you how I do pushups:

Here she is pulling herself up on the couch. First, EJ entices her with one of her dollies:

Then, she goes up to her knees:

And finally to her toes. Yikes, we're in big trouble now!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Three months ago today...

...we first met Sophie LiLei in a conference room at the Gloria Hotel in Nanchang. We had just come back from the grocery store when the guide called us to tell us the babies had arrived a few minutes early!

Here's the first photo of the four of us:

We signed temporary custody paperwork... we could take her back to our hotel room to admire her for a while!

Then, we went to the Jiangxi Center for Adoption Affairs in Nanchang to make it all official. We waited in a VERY HOT AND STUFFY room on the 26th floor (no air conditioning!):

We chatted some more the nannies who took care of Sophie:

And it became official!

It's hard to believe that it's been three months already, and yet it seems as though she has always been a part of our family. We love this little sweetie like you wouldn't believe.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Camp Survival Guide

Well, I - um, I mean, EJ - survived her first-ever week away at camp. She survived it so wonderfully that she has already announced she will be attending for two weeks next summer! While she really enjoyed learning all the new songs at music camp (the concert on Friday was terrific!), she did say that the other kids got to do a lot more activities since two of the three periods each day weren't filled with music camp. She wanted to do some sailing and more swimming. IF she were interested in two weeks next year, she could do the other activities the first week and then still do music camp the second week. We'll see!

Here's a pic of Sophie enjoying the concert. After the concert, the campers had exactly four minutes to say hello to their parents before they were escorted back to their cabins (and the parents were gently corraled off the property. Of course, we were so anxious to give EJ a giant hug, but she ran straight to Sophie, whose face lit up with the biggest smile after not seeing her big sister for a few days.

And here's a pic of Sophie in the camper holding her bottle. She won't tip it up far enough to drink from it herself, but she does like chomping on it. She still isn't crawling but scoots faster than lightning, and is now pulling herself up on the couch! Particularly if EJ is up there to motivate her.

And tonight, we took EJ to the mall to get her ears pierced. She's been talking about it for a while. She wanted to get them done for her birthday, but we left for China on that day, and we didn't want to have to clean them while we were there. Then, because the starters have to stay in for 4-6 weeks, we didn't want that to bump into the camp schedule either, so we told her that after camp but before school (which starts on Wednesday), she could have them done. She was a trooper...far braver than I was at that age. I sat in the chair so many times with the gun aimed at my earlobes only to yell "Stop!" before they pulled the trigger. K finally took me for my 19th birthday to have them done!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Positive adoption terminology

A lot of the adoption websites that I follow have had interesting posts about challenging questions asked by strangers. There are many questions that are asked simply out of curiosity, and other questions or comments that are just plain rude ("How much did she cost?" or this horrible comment, made to a 3-year-old child by a sales clerk: "I bet your mommy and daddy are still paying for you!"). You gotta wonder what some of these people are thinking.

Many families are happy to be unofficial spokespersons for international adoption, and they view questions and comments as a way to educate others about the process and hopefully help them to dismiss negative stereotypes about adoption. Others, especially those with older children, wish that they could just go out in public without the extra attention of the stares and questions that are almost always directed at them.

I feel as though I'm still in the honeymoon stage of this whole thing, happy to answer questions, but wary about how much I share with complete strangers. I'm not sure if or when or how the transition from one type of parent to the other will happen for me, but I'm glad that I at least have the experience of others to draw upon when the time comes to curb the information flow to those outside my circle of family and friends.

Sometimes I read adoption websites and I wonder if some families aren't just being overly-sensitive, but then I try to imagine what my daughter would think if she were older and someone said these things in her presence. I hope I can respond without letting my emotions take over. For example, for comments about the expense of adoption, maybe people should be reminded that children who are adopted do not have price tags; the adoption process does. Or perhaps I'll simply smile and say "Aren't all children just priceless?" or "Both of my children are priceless, aren't yours?" Of course I've shared some expense-related information with family and friends. The reality is that the information is readily available on the Internet for anyone who is either truly interested in adoption OR just plain nosy.

Some families are upset about being approached at all; others, by how they are approached ("Is she yours?"). And even things that seem pretty benign to me seem to offend some families. "Oh, isn't she adorable?!?" is one that seems innocent enough, but bothers some families. Well, as the mother of two children, one biological, most people say this to babies anyway, so it may have nothing to do with the fact that she is obviously different from me. I just smile and say "Thank you!" or "We think so too!" Some people struggle with how to answer the "Where is she from?" question. Many answer only with their hometown, while others say "We live in , but she was born in China." The most frequently-heard comment so far is "Isn't she just the luckiest little baby to be here with you now?" Honestly, we're the lucky ones, so that's how I reply. It's up to her to decide someday if she feels lucky to have us as a family.

Anyway, I found several postings on positive adoption language. I've merged several lists and deleted things that weren't important to me yet. Here it is. I'm going to try to be aware of these terms when I respond to questions. I'm not sure I'll always be successful, but if I'm going to be an ambassador for the adoption community, I think I need to try.

Birthparent INSTEAD OF Real parent. All parents are real, they just become parents in different ways.

Birth child INSTEAD OF Own child. I need more practice with this one. One question that I've been asked a lot throughout my wait was never anticipated: "Was EJ adopted also?" I've always questioned my answer, which usually comes out of my mouth faster than my brain can think (and those of you who know me know that this happens a lot!). I find myself saying, "Oh, she's our own." And I need to say that she's a birth child or a biological child.

Parent INSTEAD OF Adoptive parent. I've already broken this rule all through this post and had to go back and edit!

Adoption triad INSTEAD OF Adoption triangle. The adoption triad refers to the child, the parents, and the birth parents.

Child placed for adoption INSTEAD OF An unwanted child. Many children are available for adoption for reasons other than they were unwanted.

Was adopted INSTEAD OF Is adopted. Adoption is a process and an event; it is not a label.

International adoption INSTEAD OF Foreign adoption. Apparently "international" is the preferred term. Who knew? I suppose use of the term "foreign" can also be applied to something strange or unknown, so maybe it's not preferred for that reason?

Chinese or Asian INSTEAD OF Oriental. For use when referring to the child's race.

I'm sure I'll have a lot more commentary on this in the future as I make my way through the questions and comments and situations that people present. I was approached by an older woman while camping this weekend who had a very sensible approach for how she launched into the adoption topic with me. She stopped by our table at breakfast and introduced herself to Sophie and EJ by commenting on their cuteness (of course!), and then proceeded to tell me that her granddaughter joined their family a year ago from China. It was a nice way for her to let me know that she had a close connection to the adoption experience, and it left the door open if I chose to expand on the conversation, which I did by saying that Sophie had been a part of our family for nearly three months now.

Chinese adoptees return to China

This sounds like a pretty cool program. Perhaps Sophie can take part long as we get to go back to visit too! I miss my guide, Rose, and all the friendly people, and interesting history and architecture, and those delicious dumplings and pork with garlic shoots, mmmm..... I think I'm going to have to visit Chinatown again soon. That's as close as I'm going to get for a while.

Real letters from camp

One of the things I packed for EJ at camp was a stack of pre-addressed envelopes to us and to some of her friends. Two letters arrived from her today. The first one said: "Dear Mom, I'm having a great time at camp but it's freezing in our cabin. Love, EJ" The other reported (to Grandma and Grandpap?) that "I'm at camp and I LOVE it [29 exclamation points removed]. I have Period 1: Music Camp, Period 2: Creative arts, Period 3: Music Camp. Love ya lots, EJ". Guess that's a good sign.

Gotta love Google

So, I'm sitting here tonight, home alone, watching the Red Sox play the Devil Rays. Dice-K was pitching brilliantly - one hit through the first five innings - and then gave up a 2-run homer in the 6th.

Anyway, I've noticed over the last few years that whenever the Sox are in Tampa Bay, there is a VERY LOUD heckler in the crowd. This guy is obnoxious. He yells at everyone. And I know he's been doing it for at least three seasons, as I remember them showing him in the crowd one night wearing his Johnny Damon-as-Jesus beard.

Wonder who he is? Does he just hate the Red Sox, or is he an equal opportunity offender? Well, one quick search on Google gave me this article, answering everything I've always wanted to know about The Heckler.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp)

This past weekend was a camping weekend for us. We have a small camper that, until this weekend, has received ZERO hours of use this year, since we spent most of our vacation time doing the China thing! But, we towed it out, scrubbed it out, and headed for the hills on Saturday morning.

Have you ever seen the Robin Williams movie, RV? That's how the weekend began. K left the house an hour before us gals, with camper in tow. We arrived there an hour or so later (mostly because EJ, much like myself, can't seem to be in a car for more than 45 minutes without needing a rest stop). Two vehicles were necessary since K and Sophie are staying at the campground all week, and I am back home working!

Anyway, as the girls and I pulled into the campsite, we teased K about our perfect timing - all the work was done! K, acting alone, had backed the camper in expertly for easy access to sewer, water, and electric, receiving kudos from neighboring campers. This is a very important skill to have, as it is probably the cause of divorce among many camping couples ("no, turn it this way...", "just a little more to the RIGHT, RIGHT, RIGHT", you get the idea...).

So the worst of the setup was over. The only thing left to do was to shuffle around a few things and make up the beds. Before I dug into that, K took a little stroll and I settled in a chair outside the camper to give Sophie her bottle. About five minutes later, I heard water running. I figured the folks on the next campsite were using an external hose to wash something. A few minutes later, just as K was returning, I noticed that the camper was leaking water. A lot of water. We ran inside to find the entire floor covered with an inch or so of water! I ran to turn off the water at the hookup.

Thankfully, we had a broom and we were able to push most of it out the door and use some old towels to mop up the rest. K thought the problem had something to do with the hot water heater, since he had turned it on just before his stroll. So, we turned the water back on slowly, looked around and didn't see anything. I turned up the volume and we heard water gushing immediately, so I ran to turn it off. Upon investigating the location of the gushing sounds (under a seat in the dining area, where the water comes into the camper), we discovered that the entire canister on the water filter had snapped off, so water was just gushing around in there. Fun. I assumed my motherly role and got the girls out of there while K re-routed the water to avoid the filter. Needless to say, it was an exhausting start to the weekend.

Yesterday, we checked EJ into camp. Sleepaway camp, for the first time ever! We've been going to this campground for 10 years, and ever since she was born and we bought the trailer, we told her that when she was old enough she could go on her own. She's always seemed excited about it, and it helped that another girl that she met there a few years ago was also interested in going this year, so we arranged for them to be in the same cabin. This is the girl who has only slept away from home about three times in her whole life without us. And let me also say that I don't think I would just hand her over at any other camp, but we know this place, we know the program, EJe knows most of the staff, and EJ is very familiar with the facility. So, we felt pretty comfortable.

No sad goodbyes when we checked her in. In fact, she grabbed us both by the hand and dragged us out the cabin door shouting "Okay, you can LEAVE already!" She and her bunkmate were getting ready to go for a dip in the lake before dinner. There are about 250 kids there this week, and about 1/3 of them, including EJ and her friend, will be participating in music camp. They will be giving a concert on Friday evening, when we'll get to see her! She checks out on Saturday morning.

Here's EJ with her friend, EB:

Putting some supplies in the cabinets built into the walls:

She got the top bunk!

Outside Girls Cabin Uno:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

EJ's new favorite TV shows

EJ just finished watching one of her new favorite TV shows, Dirty Jobs, on the Discovery Channel. The host of the show travels the world doing jobs that are difficult, dirty, and/or dangerous. Tonight's episode was a repeat, featuring host Mike climbing up the Mackinaw bridge in Michigan to change the lights. He was 200-300 feet above the water. EJ thought this was a wicked cool job and said how much fun it would be to ride back down it like a roller coaster. Me? I was panicking just watching the show...I don't do heights if I can see what's underneath me (think ferris wheels, water under bridges with grates in the road). No way, no how. My blood pressure probably went up about 30 points just watching this episode.

EJ's other new favorite show is Hannah Montana. She hasn't really seemed too interested in it until now. Back in May, before we traveled to China, I downloaded six episodes on the iPod for her to watch on the flight. Instead, she watched a one hour episode of America's Funniest Videos featuring animals over and over and over again.

On our car trip to PA last week, I offered up the iPod several times, but she was too busy reading and building a list of all the license plates we saw (30 different states!). On the way home, she finally decided to watch the episodes that I had downloaded three months ago. All I can say is that I've created a monster. She watched these six episodes at least twice (and perhaps thrice!) on the journey and then immediately came home and turned on Disney Channel and watched a few more episodes. And then proceeded to tell us all about them. Every. Single. Detail. Now that we're back to reality (and somewhat of a schedule), she has remembered to pick her one favorite show to watch each day.

And speaking of the Disney Channel,, I mean so excited for tomorrow night's premier of High School Musical 2. I mean, how can you NOT be?!?!?! We ran out to buy the soundtrack on Tuesday when it was released. She is going to a friend's birthday sleepover tomorrow night to watch it. I'm kinda bummin' because I'll have to watch it by myself!!! She is all ready to go - and she even has a new HSM nightshirt to wear to the party. Her cousin H in PA is having her birthday party three weeks early to have a HSM sleepover tomorrow night too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More vacation photos

Okay - I'm finally getting around to showing the rest of my vacation photos. We started the week at my brother's and sister-in-law's place in southeastern PA. EJ and her cutie-pie cousin H had fun playing dress-up in all of H's costumes.

I had told H that I was going to bring her back something pretty from China. I found these matching silk dresses, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a portrait of the girls:

Next, we went to my dad's place in southwestern PA. Instead of trying to drive Sophie all over PA seeing everyone, we asked some friends and family to join us for pizza one afternoon. Here's a pic of me with one of my best friends from high school, S.P.

And here's K with one of his friends, A.K. She and her husband have been climbing some of the best mountains in the world...we think they need to add Mt. Washington in NH to their list!

The following day is when we went to Ohiopyle. We stopped at K's cousin's house nearby:

We spent some time with my maternal grandmother (and the girls' only great-grandparent). Sophie enjoyed meeting her for the first time and was fascinated by her "wheels".

My grandmother lives with her brother, my great-uncle. He always has a huge garden. He and EJ went out and picked two buckets of peppers and tomatoes!

My great-uncle has rabbit traps (not harmful traps, just cages) near the garden. EJ and Sophie and I took my uncle and grandmother out to lunch that day, and EJ decided to keep all the lettuce and parsley from the plates to put in the rabbit traps. When we went back two days later, here's what she found in her trap:

That's right, she caught an opposum! The poor little guy was terrified and took off running when he was set free. I was just glad that there weren't any tears about not bringing him home with us. Although EJ did ask for rope to take him for a walk!

My brother traveled from eastern to western PA to his in-laws and stopped in at my dad's one afternoon. We decided to take a group photo. My brother took one where we were all making goofy faces...that one is probably better than this one! And yes, we all planned to wear green for the photo. Two weeks ago, my father's whole side of the family met in NC for my Aunt K's 70th birthday bash. My brother and I were the only ones out of 10 grandkids who weren't there. While in NC, each of my dad's siblings' families wore different color shirts in a large group photo, so we thought if we took our in green (my dad's assigned color), my brother could photoshop us into the pic.

My dad taught Sophie to "bonk" heads. He stares at her and then slowly leans in. She leans her head in to meet him and when their foreheads touch, he says "bonk". She thought it was very funny and is now doing it to us a part of her repertoire of tricks.

And finally, on the way home through eastern PA again, we stopped at K's cousin's house, where his Aunt G from Florida was visiting.

Made in China

There has been a lot of media attention in recent weeks about the quality control problems of items made in China. Last night, K and I were talking about how the media, in its never-tainted presentation of content (insert sarcastic cough here), seems to focus on China being the source of the problem. Not that the Chinese manufacturers don't have any responsibility, but why aren't we focused on why the American manufacturers like Mattel aren't spot-checking the products for safety? Or perhaps Mattel needs to look at how they provide product specifications (including safety standards). I'm not sure where the ultimate source of the problem is, but I do believe Mattel has the ultimate responsibility to make sure the products they sell are safe REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY ARE MANUFACTURED.

Anyway, one of my bloggy acquaintances wrote a great post on this, and you can click here to read it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back from vacation!

Whew...we're back! It was a lot of driving with an 11-month old, but we made it. Sophie did great. No problems sleeping in strange places or seeing lots of unfamiliar faces. As for EJ, we are anxious to get her back on a schedule...well, somewhat, before she goes to camp next week.

I have a lot of pictures to upload, but here are a few to keep you happy. We visited Ohiopyle State Park in southwestern PA. K and I spent a lot of time hanging out there when we were dating. We told EJ about all the rocks you could climb to get out in the middle of the river. This is a very popular spot for whitewater rafting in PA. EJ said she would love to try it some day. Of course, the water was a bit chilly - only 59 degrees!

Here is everyone (except me, the photographer!) on one of the viewing areas for the falls. That's Pap-Pap and Mamaw S on the right.

EJ liked climbing on all the rocks out in the river.

Here's my dad with Sophie. You can see the falls in the distance on the left:

And here's Sophie, getting her inaugural dip in the Yough River!

Monday, August 6, 2007

On vacation this week

Hi all...I haven't completely forgotten about blogging, but we're on vacation this week visiting friends and family in southwestern PA. I'll try to upload some pics in the next day or so. Sophie did great on the car ride, but a 4 hour trip across PA from my brother's near Philly to my dad's about 70 miles east of Pittsburgh took more like 5.5 hours. We stopped three times! Sophie has so far enjoyed meeting a few friends and extended family members at a little gathering at a favorite pizza shop, Great Grandma was just thrilled to finally meet her and was fascinated and in awe of every little thing she can do. She especially thought how she shrugs her shoulders was funny.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Oh no! I'm stuck!

Sophie just scooted herself into the bottom of the Exersaucer to retrieve a toy and then couldn't figure out how to get out!!!