Saturday, January 31, 2009

A long day

I'm exhausted and I have a pounding headache. It's way too long of a day, this Chinese New Year party that our agency has. It started at 11, but we left our house around 9:15, as it's at least an hour and 20 minutes to get there if there's no traffic. And if you get there early, you can go in and shop around at the vendors a little.

Before lunch, we met up with other families from our travel group:

Sophie liked this guy in the lobby:

Sophie has been talking all week about meeting Mei Mei, star of a series of DVDs that teach kids Mandarin! Her 8th DVD will be out in March and we can't wait to get it. This year, we bought some Chinese cartoons from her.

Then, we had lunch (Chinese food, of course!) and the entertainment started. The lion dance and dragon dance are everyone's favorite. Sophie stood on my lap and watched intently, clapping and smiling the whole time. She really got into it this year!

We also did some shopping there, picking up a nice silver fortune cookie (about three inches across) that opens to put little notes in, some nice note cards with Chinese characters on them, a book for Sophie and a bracelet for EJ. We won a prize in the raffle again this year - an 8-pack of tickets to Davis Farmland, which has a nice farm and water play park, as well as a giant corn maze in late summer and fall. So, with 8 tickets, we'll be able to visit twice and do it all! We also won an item in the silent auction - it's a beautiful book published by the CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs) about their International Adoption program.

After we were done at the party, we went to the outlets in Wrentham, since they're just a few miles down the road. I LOVE the Williams Sonoma outlet there! You might remember that last year, I bought a cake pan that made an Easter rabbit. This year, we picked up a pan that makes a standing Santa cake...for only $1.88!!! And then, I bought another cake pan that makes little tea cakes (they call them cakelets) shaped like...vegetables! Yes, don't you think of vegetables when you eat cake? There are little carrots, pea pods, cabbages, and radishes! K just rolled his eyes at me because he knows how completely impractical this purchase was, but it was just too cute to pass up. I also grabbed up a few clearance rack items at Gymboree and Strasburg Children for the girls. We ate dinner at Cracker Barrel and didn't get home until 8:15 PM.

Anyway, some of the photos above were taken by EJ on the new camera she got at Christmas. When I cleaned the photos off, I also found these from Christmas:

EJ on the balcony of the Wang Center when we went to see the Grinch:

Our friends Jose and Brian of San Francisco (formerly of NH), visited over the holidays:

And Pap Pap and Mamaw visited too!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hiding the Clutter

I just couldn't take it any longer...the clutter of the CD, DVD, and VHS collection. It started many years ago as Disney videos on the cheap wooden shelf, and then expanded onto another inexpensive wire shelf. And then it started piling up and spilling over. I decided it was time for a better solution, especially since we keep this collection in the formal living room. Not that it's incredibly formal, but it has a nice chair and a secretary's hutch, a deacon's bench and a baby grand piano in it. So, this look wasn't cutting it any more:

And thus began my quest to find a suitable storage device, preferably one that would hide whatever was inside. I found just a few that I liked, that would be big enough with room for expansion, and that fit my price range. This particular model is from Target, but I promise you that you'll find it on every website that you google for "CD DVD Storage". I have to admit that its better made than I expected it to be. I would have preferred something a bit better built, but unless you want to get into something custom (think four figure$ - not in my budget), this was the best option for me.

The poor UPS guy tried to deliver it yesterday, but the snow- and ice-filled 300-foot driveway kept him away! It came today, so I filled it up:

You'll note that there aren't nearly as many VHS cases in there - we have so many of the Disney animated classics on VHS that they wouldn't fit without cluttering, so they will go onto the wooden shelf in the finished attic. know, with everything else that is in my Everything Else Room up there (K's work desk, our filing cabinet, treadmill, sewing machine, cedar chest, library card catalog, and a queen sized futon).

You'll notice that the doors appear to have a slight separation in them now that they're weighed down with CDs. I might have to consider reshuffling this weekend and putting the CDs in the center section since they're the heaviest part of the collection.

I did learn one thing about our CD music collection. It's pathetic. Music is just not something that K and I have ever spent serious money on. Many of these CDs were purchased in one of those music clubs where you get 10 CDs for a penny and then buy two more in a year. Honestly, if iTunes would have existed back then, 80% of my collection would be outta here. In fact, I'm thinking that some of these CDs (or the one song on them that I'm really interested in) are getting uploaded into iTunes and then tossed. Seriously, we have everything from the Violent Femmes to Vanessa Williams (where did that come from?!?!). We have some good classic stuff that we don't listen to nearly enough (Eagles, James Taylor) to things that I might have listened to once (Verve Pipe). It's pretty bad. I'd be embarrassed to disclose what some of the titles are (although after disclosing Vanessa Williams, could it get worse?). Oh well, that can be a future project to "streamline" the collection.

There are some CDs that I will never part with, despite the fact that they are in my iTunes collection - my complete Billy Joel collection and my favorite musical soundtracks fall into this category.

EJ and Sophie have quite the collection of children's CDs, and all of the DVDs are kiddy-approved. That's something else that we don't spend money on...we're so busy that we rarely go to the movies unless it's with EJ, and we honestly don't even rent that many. Maybe 4 or 5 each year? So, the DVD collection is all kid movies - five Harry Potters, four American Girls, (soon to be) three High School Musicals, two Eloises, at least a dozen musicals, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

Well, ours isn't happy. Poor Sophie is sick. She woke up yesterday morning with a fever, which we were able to get under control with some ibuprofen. She's also very congested. She didn't take a long nap yesterday and she fell asleep on my shoulder at 7 PM last night. She awoke around 2:15 and snuggled in bed with us, but thanks to her stuffiness, she snored and kept me awake. I finally went back to sleep around 4:30 and then snoozed on and off until about 7 this morning. But she still had a little fever this morning. We went to the dr. before lunch, who basically said to keep an eye on it and let her know if it gets worse. At least her lungs sounded clear to the doc and her ears aren't infected. Hopefully, she'll be better by morning.

I was able to snap a shot of her yesterday wearing a cute Chinese fleece jacket that my friend Hong Mei handed down to Sophie from her daughters. It's a bit big, but we just rolled the sleeves up! She was all set to wear it today...maybe tomorrow.

I did manage to make a triple batch of homemade wontons yesterday, so we had wonton soup for dinner last night. And tonight, we're having mandarin chicken. I need to run EJ to first communion class in a few minutes, so K gets to have Sophie when she wakes from her nap and cook dinner! Lucky guy.

EJ took in red envelopes for her classmates today to tell them a little about Chinese New Year. This year, we filled them with bookmarks, bracelets, chopsticks, stickers, and fortune cookies. Sophie will take paper dragon fans to her class tomorrow to color. Here's the description we sent in with EJ to read to her class. It's pretty much the same as last year's, but a good refresher about the holiday:

In 2007, on E’s 8th birthday, we traveled to China to meet her new sister, Sophie LiLei. While traveling in China, we enjoyed learning about its history, food, and customs.

Today, January 26th, is the start of Chinese New Year in 2009. Chinese New Year, sometimes called Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is as important as the Christmas holiday in the United States. The date for the Chinese New Year celebration changes each year--it begins on the day of a new moon. The celebration lasts 14 days. The last day of the celebration is called the Lantern Festival, which occurs around the time of the full moon.

In China, many people travel to visit their families, usually their parents or grandparents, over this holiday. Respecting one’s elders is a very important aspect of Chinese culture. Usually, family members share a large meal. Fish is often served to symbolize abundance, or having extra, for the coming year. Dumplings are also eaten to symbolize wealth. In the evening, fireworks scare away bad spirits.

Often, people wear new clothing to signify the new year. Red decorations, usually with gold trim, symbolize good luck. Many decorations include a diamond-shaped pattern with the Chinese character for Fu, or luck, in the diamond. These decorations hang around the house and on doors. The Chinese Fu character is usually hung upside down, since the Chinese word for “upside down” sounds the same as another Chinese word that means “arrive”, meaning that anticipate the arrival of luck, happiness, and prosperity.

Another tradition in China is cleaning your house from top to bottom in the days before the celebration to sweep away the bad luck. It is also important to have your life “in order”, meaning you should resolve your disagreements and disputes with others.

Our family plans to celebrate Chinese New Year by eating Chinese food for dinner. Maybe we’ll use the pretty porcelain chopsticks we bought while on our trip! We also bought a new Chinese New Year decoration for our house.

This weekend, we will attend a very large party with all the families from our adoption agency. Nearly 2000 people will be there! We attended the party three years ago when we first started waiting for Sophie to join our family. In addition to delicious Chinese food, there will be a lot of musical and dance performances, including a lion and dragon dance to close the party. It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the deafening sounds of the cymbals together with the face of the dragon or lion dancing aggressively can evict bad or evil spirits.

Each Chinese year is associated with one of 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac. Each animal has its own characteristics. This year will be the Year of the Ox. Some of your zodiac signs might be:

· 1997 (Ox): Dependable, calm, patient, hardworking, ambitious and logical, but might also be stubborn or demanding.
· 1998 (Tiger): Unpredictable, powerful, daring, and sincere and generous, but might also be restless, impatient, or selfish.
· 1999 (Rabbit): Gracious, sensitive, kind, and artistic, but might also be moody and lazy.

A very popular tradition for Chinese New Year is to pass out hongbao (hong-bow) or red envelopes to youngsters as a symbol of prosperity. The envelopes often contain money, usually an even amount. E has some envelopes for you today to help celebrate the holiday.

Kung Hei Fat Choi (kung-hay-fat-choy)! Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brrr...when does Spring start?

Every year, I post a photo on Truck Day. You know, that "holiday" here in Boston that means Red Sox Spring training is only a week or two away. This year, the Boston Globe couldn't even wait until Truck Day to run a story. THIS was on today. Good golly...that's like the stores putting out their Christmas decorations in August.

Life is still cruising along here at a slower pace, compliments of weather that's just too cold to go out in. We're already thinking ahead to summer vacations! No big plans last weekend or next. In fact, we might even do a little potty training with Miss Sophie this weekend.

We also have to prepare for Chinese New Year on Monday. EJ has some red envelopes to take into her classmates, complete with some nice little treats. We're sending in fans for Sophie's class to color (I don't think they'll get the red envelope thing just yet - maybe next year). I also plan to make a batch of wontons for wonton soup on Monday.

The following weekend, we'll be at our agency's Chinese New Year party along with about 1500 other people! It's exhausting but a lot of fun and we're looking forward to meeting up with many of our travelmates and some of the folks who write other blogs I follow (listed in the left column). And then, of course, we'll be cheering on the Steelers in the Super Bowl the next day.

EJ planted her face in the driveway today and has a busted lower lip and a swollen upper lip, as well as a nice big scrape on her chin. She decided to hop on her sled for a little while after school and slid down the slope out of the neighbor's yard into our driveway. Except she wasn't sitting or laying down on the sled, she was kneeling. So, when she got to the bottom of the slope and dropped the 18 or so inches off the snow onto the driveway, let's just say she lost her balance. A little ice and some Tylenol are helping now, but it will take a few days to heal up.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Well, we're trapped in the house again. It has been bitterly cold the last few days and now snow. Lots of it. Maybe 8 inches so far. Ugh.

Friday night, K and I went to my company's annual kickoff party and had a good time. Yesterday, we took the girls out for breakfast and ran a few errands, had a nice long afternoon nap. And then I fell asleep on the couch around 10 last night. Poor S went to bed around 8:30 and never seemed "settled". She was coughing quite a bit, which seemed kind of strange since her cold ended at least a few days earlier. Around 11:15, I heard her and went up, and the poor baby got sick. All over me. Nice. This was the second bad Saturday night in a row. Last weekend, we took her to dinner with friends while we were at a sleepover. She was fussy the whole time and cried most of the way home until the last five minutes. We thought she had fallen asleep in the car, but when we got home and went to get her out, we realized she was sitting in a puddle of a dirty diaper. We got her in the house, stripped her down, and gave her her second bath of the day.

Anyway, she seems much better today and we were hoping to make it to church since we were snowed in last Sunday morning. No luck. The snow was already coming down fast and furious at 7AM. So, we got up and got moving. We baked brownies and stuffed and roasted a chicken for lunch. We plan to just eat munchies while watching football this afternoon. We're hoping for an all-PA Super Bowl, but it would really be much easier for the Steelers if the Eagles would lose today.

K is now baking bread and then I'm going to try to pre-prep some dinners for this week. Sophie is taking a good long nap. I need to do some paperwork and filing. Gosh, I'm ready for summer already. I think we're going to pass on our usual few days in the White Mountains for February school vacation week and wait until maybe early April to go up for a weekend. And what to do for April vacation week? Not sure yet, but warmth sounds nice. Of course, after below-zero temps the last few mornings, anything over 20 is starting to sound "warm".

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Catching up

It's been a while, but we've been a bit busy around here. There's always the post-holiday cleanup a.k.a. finding a place to store all the toys - which usually involves weeding through other older toys, and putting away the decorations.

Last week, everyone went back to school. It feels good to have the kids back in their routines since they were so disrupted by the ice storm and then the holidays. And K and I went back to work, me in my new office digs! My company moved to a wonderful new facility that is simply stunning, so that's been very exciting. There's a great new cafeteria, a gym, and a super game room, complete with four flat-panel TVs, video games, a pool table, ping-pong, and two Wiis! This coming Friday night, we're having our annual kickoff party, so K and I will attend while the fabulous Miss S babysits! This is my sixth annual party with the company - all of which have been scheduled to coincide with either a blizzard (the '04 party at The Hard Rock Cafe in Boston) or single-digit temperatures (every other year). This year will be no different with highs on Friday's forecast at 10 degrees and the low at -5. Brrr...

All the after-school activities have started up again - First Communion, dance, piano, etc. EJ had two birthday parties last weekend, an ice skating party followed by a sleepover. We went to dinner with some friends and then ended up picking EJ up early from her sleepover - she was too tired from the skating and really needed her sleep! EJ had a blast at the ice arena and really did a pretty good job - this was only her second time.

Miss Sophie continues to amaze us all with her chattiness and silliness. She was imitating EJ's dance moves last night in the kitchen and I just couldn't stop laughing. Formal potty-training will begin very soon, but she goes to the potty at every diaper change and is successful for most of them. We've been talking about how excited she will be when can wear big girl panties! K trained EJ when she was 2 years and 5 months using the Potty Training in a Day book (can't remember the official title, but you can find it on Amazon). Sophie will be that old in a few weeks and we think she's even more ready than EJ was, so wish us luck!

Oh well, off to bed. It was busy this evening too...EJ has two tests and a book report due tomorrow, so we were reviewing everything tonight. She read the junior version of Moby Dick and wrote her report as a newspaper article.

Monday, January 5, 2009

On the twelfth day of Christmas...

...the final picture:

We hope your holiday season was wonderful! Now we are faced with diets (I need to lower my cholesterol about 30-50 points in the next 4 months or so), new resolutions to keep, and yes, even the possibility of ANOTHER ICE STORM tomorrow night! BRING IT ON!!! We are ready for it now...not that I ever want to go 10 days without power again, but just in case...

I don't really do much in the way of "limitation" resolutions because I don't ever stick to them. Instead of NOT doing something, try a resolution to do something different. A few years ago, I resolved to go back and read the "classics" - you know, your high school reading list. As I read each book, I purchased it in hardcopy thinking I would have a wonderful library by the time EJ hit middle school. Sadly, I've not read much of what I intended - maybe a dozen or so titles. Perhaps I'll try to find more time to read this year. Or at least reading something other than good children's literature. Or something other than the book I'm wrapping up now (Artie Lange's Too Fat to Fish).

As for the cholesterol-lowering thing, I did a lot of reading over the holidays to look for super foods to eat in this category. Grapefruit are on the list, despite the fact that you can't eat grapefruit with most cholesterol statins (I'm not taking those...yet). And beans. Lots of beans. In fact, one healthy cookbook that I have said you can lower your cholesterol by about 60 points in 3 months if you eat a cup and a half of beans every day. I don't think so. And of course, oats are good too, but I only like them in cereal (not hot oatmeal) or oatmeal cookies, which probably don't count. I suppose it would help if I moved a bit more too. I did get a nice pedometer from Santa that I should start using.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

On the eleventh day of Christmas...

And this is my favorite pic of EJ...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

On the tenth day of Christmas...

...this is my favorite of Sophie's individual poses this year. I just love the smile on her face.

She's not smiling too much today, though. She has a nasty cold. So nasty that it's even keeping her from taking a good nap today. But the ever-popular Miss Sam is coming to babysit later while K and I go to Portsmouth to try out a restaurant and walk around a bit.

We've started taking down the Christmas decs today. We're about halfway there. The others and tree can wait until tomorrow.

K and E are at the police station for a little visit this afternoon. Not a planned one, though. Someone got hold of our visa account number in early December and used it NOT to buy things for themselves, but to sign K up for AARP and send him a lousy custom T-shirt and a few other silly things. What's weird is that this card had been compromised back in the fall by one of the retailers we use and we've only had the card for 2.5 months. It was literally used for four transactions since then, and it's been nabbed. To clean this one up, we had to get new cards and file a police report so that we can prove to the retailers that we didn't order the stuff (and heck, we aren't ready for AARP just yet!). Ugh. But EJ is fascinated with the idea of visiting the local police station, so she joined in.

Friday, January 2, 2009

On the ninth day of Christmas...

...we have a few more of EJ's photos. I wish I would have had Sophie's done on the black background, as I like it better than the ones with the fireplace.

K and EJ are at the movies today - "The Tale of Desperaux", which EJ is really looking forward to since she read the book about two years ago (thanks to the recommendation from our children's librarian!). Sophie is napping. She woke up yesterday with a really bad cold and it's still making her miserable. Her poor little nose won't stop running!

On other Sophie matters, she loves some new puzzles from Santa. It's a box with 16 puzzle pieces, making four 4-piece puzzles of Eric Carle (the author/illustrator) bug characters - the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Very Grouchy Ladybug, Very Busy Spider, and Honeybee. I was amazed at how quickly she can do these since they are standard (but large) puzzle piece shapes, and there is no "tray" to help hold the pieces. The first time we opened it was last night, and she immediately was able to figure out which four pieces went together to make each picture. There's just one funny catch - she refuses to put together the ladybug puzzle. She does all the others and then says "Mommy do it". Just before her nap, we did them again and she pointed to the ladybug pieces and said "I don't like", but I don't know why...we've never even read the Very Grouchy Ladybug, but maybe they have it at daycare?

Finally, we believe Sophie is simply going to potty train herself. Every time we change her diaper, she says she'll go to the potty and she does - sometimes three times a day! But that doesn't keep her from using her diaper too. The funniest thing is that we make a REALLY big deal out of going to the potty...when she's done we all hug her and kiss her and tell her how proud we are and she gets a sticker. Then, K tells her to do the potty dance and she wiggles around and says "Oh yeah, uh huh..." We need to get to work on this quickly. A world without diapers sounds lovely right now.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

On the eighth day of Christmas...

...more photos of Sophie during the photo shoot! She's really warmed up to the picture-taking at this point. Of course, she has a camera pointed at her often enough!

We had a nice New Year's Eve. Our friends from Rhode Island are visiting, and we had a nice lunch out (Chinese food), and then stayed in this evening to make homemade pizzas and eat a bunch of other appetizers. As if that wasn't enough, K is making blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast. I think we'll start on those resolutions on Monday! It's bitterly cold her today (about zero) with a fierce wind. We usually go into Boston to walk around on New Year's Day, but not this year! Brrr....