Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Antara!

Antara's 2 year birthday party was yesterday.  Hard to believe it's been that long already!  We got there on the early side so Kate could have some pool time before all the bigger kids showed up:
After about an hour or so of play and snacks, it was time to cut the cake. I managed to get a couple of shots of Kate and Antara but trying to photograph 2 toddlers is like herding cats.

The cake took a bit of slide in Candice's trunk.  It looked like Dora and her animal pal

whose name I cannot remember...I actually had no idea who Dora or Diego were either until Candice told me...can you tell we don't watch kiddie tv in our house yet?

took a wallop out of Diego...

It got a bit too loud and boisterous for Kate so Len took her outside to have a fruit squeeze but she was pretty much over it.
So we said our goodbyes and headed home. 

PS...thanks Candice for the great party and for the 2 bags of winter clothes and shoes!  They will come in handy now that we have 2 girls to dress in the upcoming cold months!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Counting and ABCs

Getting Kate on any type of film, video or still, is becoming increasingly difficult.  The second video took about 15 tries.  Most of the time she will come up to the camera and say "Kate!!" over and over until I turn it off and then around so she can see herself in the screen, kind of like this:

Kate is singing the ABC song pretty much all the time now.  I didn't get a good version of it for this film though. It normally goes like this:

Kate: ABCBCFB....HIdayK....ummmm....

Lisa: LMNOP....

Kate: QR....

Lisa: S...

Kate: TUB


Kate: YunhD...dow I doe by ABCs

Lisa: Next time won't you sing with me!

With numbers she's a bit better although I think 5 is her favorite number after 1 and 2.  I managed to get a good bit of the numbers on film but you'll have to turn it up to hear her since she's all over the place while saying them. 

Notice her "nest" of pillows and her dog, Bernard--it's one of her favorite places to throw herself.  Spiff and Paul--Bernard is holding up quite well to all the abuse.  We are sure to kiss him every night before bath/bed though so I think he's happy.

New Challenge Day 8 If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

I actually was a teacher, oh so long ago.  My first college degree was in English Education.  I taught high school English, grades 10-11.  I also taught speech and theatre.  And I LOVED it!  My first job was at Luther High School in Orlando and both the students and faculty made it a joy to go to work everyday.  I might actually have stayed in teaching had we not moved 2 years later to Louisiana. 

Louisiana, at the time, was ranked only behind Mississippi as the worst school system in America.  Their slogan was, "We might be bad but at least we ain't Mississippi."  Way to reach for the stars!  I lasted one year and decided that was more than enough. 

Even though I switched careers and got another degree in Interior Design, I still had the opportunity to teach again, this time at the University level.  Kate's YiaYia, Katherine, then the Assistant Dean at GWU, put me in contact with the head of the design department.  I landed a part-time position teaching Intro to Design in the evenings.  It was great as it combined both my love of teaching with my passion for design.  Alas, it only lasted a semester as the person who hired me moved on to another position in California and the department was revamped, sweeping my position out with it. 

I am hoping my teaching background will come in handy as the girls approach school age.  I'm not sure in what way yet but it's been percolating in the back of my head for some time. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

New Challenge Day 7 What is your favorite thing to eat...

for breakfast, lunch and dinner? If you have children, what are their favorites?

Again, I am fickle and like change. I cannot narrow down the vast plethora of possible food choices to just one!  But Kate can and has...

Kate's breakfast is eggs, scrambled with a bit of milk and a dash of butter in the skillet.  Finish off with a pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder and she's a happy camper.  Oh, and milk.

Kate's lunches and dinners vary greatly.  Her current favorite foods now are mac and cheese, broccoli stems (but not the "trees"), carrots, avocado, butternut squash soup, lentil curry and banana.

I usually have an avocado, rice milk and greens powder smoothie for breakfast (which tastes a lot better than it sounds--I do have to fight Kate for this and usually end up sharing a good bit of it with her).  I hate lunch because I cannot eat the same sandwich or salad every day.  I need variety so I usually end up eating leftovers from dinner or making various salad combinations (arugula, pine nuts and cheese one day, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes and cukes the next).  For dinner I love taco night at our house.  When dining out I prefer Indian or Ethiopian or Thai (mostly vegetarian dishes at all of those places).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Challenge Day 6, When was the last time you tried something new?

What was it and what was the result?

Does giving birth count?  I mean, that's new.  Especially since I spent 15 years saying I would never have a kid.  And I think you can see the result of that...Kate is fabulous!

I guess that's the biggest new thing I've done since then.  Unless you count breastfeeding.  Oh yes, that was new. Indeed.

Everything else kind of pales in comparison to those two things but I do love to try new things from food to experiences to meeting new people.  It's hard to really pinpoint because I feel like I try to do new things as often as possible.  Oh sure, there is comfort in ritual (see my previous post on my bedtime routine) but every now and then your life needs a jolt of something new whether it's a new flavor or exploring a new part of town.  It just makes life more interesting, don't you agree?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Couldn't have written this better myself

New Challenge Day 5 What do you prefer to do for your birthday?

and, "If you have children, what do you prefer to do for their birthday?"

I wouldn't say I have a preference for any one thing on my birthday other than for people to notice and acknowledge it (preferably with some grand gesture).  Ok. That's only partly true.

No, it's actually really true.  My mom reads this so I have to tell the truth.

As for Kate's and Lucy's birthdays, I have to say I am seriously bummed out that their birthdays fall smack in the wintertime. That means indoor parties as long as we live in Chicago. And indoor either means my house (kill me now) or someplace else (god help me I will never set foot into another Up-Chucky Cheese, you can quote me). So, what I really prefer for their birthdays is for them to be deferred to the summer so we can have an outdoor party with pinatas and watermelon and games.  And my house will not be subjected to a dozen kids with frosting all over their hands.

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Challenge Day 4, What has most surprised you about parenthood?

Honestly, what has NOT surprised me about parenthood, am I right?  I mean, people warned me.  I had plenty of friends and family traverse this path ahead of me so I should have been prepared.  And yet, somehow, I thought our family, OUR CHILD, would be different.

For example, how much stuff does one kid need?  Apparently a lot, as it turns out.  Toys, books, onesies, dresses, pants, socks, shoes, diapers, night-time diapers, swim diapers, swim suit, baby lotion, baby sunscreen, hats, tights, mittens, jackets, coats, stroller, crib, blankets, loveys, special utensils, plastic plates, bottles, bottle brush, bottle dryer rack, diaper bag, sippy cups, high chair, car seat, crib sheets, crib mattress liners, baby pool, nose sucker thingy, thermometers, teething gel, tiny toothbrush, special toothpaste, butt cream, saline spray, tiny nail clippers, wipes, changing pads, baby shampoo, baby washclothes, tiny comb/brush, pajamas, hairbows...

can you tell I've been working on a packing list for China?

Ok, so the pool is not a necessity but a whole lot of that list is. I didn't even mention the swings, bouncy seats, ride-on toys, and other plastic detritus that comes with having a child.

I also did not believe it would take as long as it does just to leave the house for an outing.  Granted, a walk around the block isn't too bad.  But it still can take 5-15 minutes to get out and into the stroller, longer if it's winter.  MUCH LONGER.  At a minimum, Kate needs to have on a fresh diaper.  And I need the diaper bag which I then must check to be sure it is stocked with at least one diaper, some wipes and a changing pad.  Then there's the sippy cup of water. And my phone, keys, sunglasses, my water. 

If the trip is going to be for longer I have to add in things and probably switch to the larger diaper bag.  Snacks, blanket, extra outfit for Kate (yes, I have needed that on more than one occasion), bib, hat, sunscreen.  So, never planned to be a Sherpa but motherhood turns you into one right quick.

I am always surprised by how hard it is for Kate to go to sleep.  I have never had trouble sleeping, in fact I quite enjoy it.  My bedtime ritual has been the same for as long as I can remember: bath, brush teeth, face and body emollients, cozy into bed with a good book, read for as long as I can keep my eyes open (this varies depending on the book) and off I go.  EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. 

So I thought, I'll do the same for Kate and try to establish good habits so her body can see/feel the cues and follow suit.  After her dinner and a little playtime with Daddy every night, Kate goes into her room with him and has one last drink of milk from her sippy cup while I run a bath.  Then it's teeth brushing, bathtime, lotion, jammies, kisses goodnight to mama (I leave and make our supper at this point), books with daddy, turn off the light, more kisses, and bed.  Without fail. Even as tired as she is, she still may stay awake nattering on about how unjust her life is for up to 30 minutes. 

Even with all of that, the thing which has most surprised me (and I sure it has surprised a lot of people who have known me for a long time) is just how much I am enjoying this.  Motherhood.  It is amazing.  And hard.  And exhausting.  But wonderful and worth every tired bone in my body. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Care Package #3 for Lucy

We just sent what we hope is our last care package to Lucy's orphanage.  This package included 5 sets of baby clothes as a donation to the orphanage, a package of candies for the nannies, a baby book in both English and Mandarin of animals and a letter to both Lucy and to her caregivers translated into Mandarin.
If I'm doing the math correctly, our window for travel may be a bit shorter than I originally guessed.  Here's the math on both the short and long time-frame scenarios:

Receive Article 5:
short=2 weeks=Aug. 9
long=2.5 weeks=Aug. 12

Travel Approval:
short=2 weeks=Aug. 23-26
long=4 weeks=Sept 6-9

Make travel arrangements and go:
short=7 days=Aug 30 as the earliest time we would leave
long=14 days=Sept 23 as the latest we would leave

Holy Cow.....am I doing the math right???  I thought it would be mid-Sept to mid-Oct before we would travel!!  O....M.....G.  Guess I should stop blogging and work on our packing list.

Friday, July 22, 2011

More paperwork shuffling

Got this email from CCAI (our adoption agency) today.

Hello Lisa,

Thanks so much for your email and for sending us a copy of your NVC letter. This is great news! I have already forwarded this letter onto our reps in Guangzhou so they can deliver your documents to the Consulate on Tuesday (they can only deliver Tuesday-Friday). The Consulate will then take about 2 weeks to issue Article 5 and then the travel approval is issued about 2-4 weeks after that. We will notify you as soon as the Article 5 is picked up from the Consulate and mailed to Beijing.

Thanks so much and have a nice weekend,
Sheri Kabeya
Travel Department

NVC Letter Received!!

It came in our email this morning:

Dear Sir/Madam:

The National Visa Center (NVC) is sending a copy of the approval letter
via this email.

Petitioner's Name: XXXXXXXXXXXX
Principal Applicant's Name: XU,XIANG LING
Preference Category:IH3
Your Priority Date: 29Jun2011
Foreign State Chargeability: CHINA - MAINLAND

National Visa Center
Written Inquiry Unit
Serco Inc., Support Contractor

And here's the official letter:

Bureau of Consular Affairs July 21, 2011

Dear Petitioner:

The State Department's National Visa Center has recently received your approval Form I-800, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. This letter is to inform you that your petition has been forwarded to the appropriate visa-issuing post where the adoption interview will take place.

Our records indicate that you filed the I-800 petition for:

Name of Beneficiary/Child: XU, XIANG LING

This case has been forwarded to:

Please forward any inquiries regarding your I-800 to the assigned US Embassy/Consulate General mentioned above.
Bureau of Consular Affairs

Now we wait approximately 2-2 1/2 weeks for the US Consulate to issue our Article 5. The Article 5 is a preliminary approval of our immigration file by the US Consulate and is required by the CCAA (the government adoption unit in China) in order to issue the travel approval.

New Challenge, Day 3 What are your guilty pleasures?

My biggest guilty pleasures are having a nanny twice a week for several hours and a cleaning lady every other week.  The frugal, do-it-all person in me is constantly telling me

Your mother, Len's mother, hell, most mothers, did not have nannies or cleaning ladies. Why can't you do it all yourself? Why do you need help? You organized and juggled so many different projects and clients in your career and you can't handle one kid and some chores?!

And this is a really big issue for me. I still have trouble reconciling it. A big plus on my side is that I have Len cheering me on, encouraging me to let that go.

And then I remember that we are able to have our weekends free to play or travel or just be without worrying about vacuuming, dusting, changing the beds, cleaning the toilets, etc.

I also note that every single time Tricha comes over, Kate lights up and breathily whispers, "TT!" as she charges for the door. It is so good for Kate to have someone other than the two of us to play with her, teach her and meet her needs. She is learning trust and social skills that can only help her as she grows up.

So I let it go and try to do something restorative for me during those times TT is with her so I can come back refreshed and ready to tackle a few more no-nap days.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

OMG...she has fashion opinions!

So, this morning I reached into Kate's closet as I do most mornings except that this time, when I pulled out an outfit, I heard, "No".  Seriously?  I looked at her, showed her the outfit in question and asked, "do you want to wear this today?" and she again said, "No".  Still holding the offensive outfit, I reached in for another one and showed it to her.  I knew this could take all morning so I offered her the choice:

this one? (indicating the already twice-rejected clothes) or this one? (showing her the other outfit).  She thought for half a second and pointed to the second outfit. 

And so it is. 

Oh, and next she asked for shoes and a hairbow.  And then eggs and milk.  Demanding little wench.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Challenge, Day 2 Describe your high school self. What extracurricular activities, if any, did you participate in during high school?

I loved high school!  I totally would NOT want to do it over but I thoroughly enjoyed it while I was living it.

I think these pictures adequately sum up how most people remember me.  Certainly no shrinking violet...here I am celebrating my 15th birthday with a few friends.
This was either junior prom (and if so, I'm not sure where all our dates are...) or the awards ceremony for band. Still, not too shy as the loud emerald dress and ridiculous pose testify.
One of my many "interesting" outfits.
One of thousands of band pictures in my files, this one shows the two people I held most dear throughout high school; my best friend Joy and my boyfriend Tim. Yes, this is the one I referred to in my first love post.
This would be a winter outfit in FL--note the tights AND legwarmers.
Joy and I clowning around followed by many wardrobe changes indicating my style choices for that year.
Three guesses as to which decade I was in high school...and no, these were not costumes as part of "dress up for school day"...well, that last one is a dress-up-in-old-time-clothes theme but the rest, well, these were my everyday outfits.  EVERY DAY.  Do you have any idea how long it took me to get ready for school each morning??

I was quite the loud, extroverted, very social girl in school (in case that wasn't clear by the visuals).  School was, unfortunately, not about academics for me.  The social game was it. I was involved in quite a few activities, none of which involved sports (sadly, at the time, unless you played tennis, most female sports activities dubbed you with the lesbian label which meant death to your dating life) or major academic accolades like Beta Club (which I could have achieved had I actually applied myself to studies instead of applying makeup after every class change).  Not that I wasn't smart enough (I was in all of the college-prep courses and my grades were good), I just never really cared until my senior year when I finally rose above the pile to the Principal's List with straight As.

I played the alto saxophone in the marching, jazz and symphonic bands.  In my junior and senior year I was on the flag corps for the marching band so I only played sax in the Spring session.  Band in our school was not the geeky thing it is in most schools.  The band kind of ruled the social arena. (Case in point: most cheerleaders were also in the band).

I was the editor of our high school yearbook (OH, the power to choose which pictures made it in!) which I really enjoyed. But what I really looked forward to each morning was serving as one of the three daily anchors on our closed-circuit morning news.  Granted, it was really no more exciting than announcing the lunch menu (Manager's Special), the pledge ("Please stand for a moment of silent meditation and the pledge") or which classes had been cancelled for the afternoon pep rally (yay-no math today!), but it was another avenue for me to do what I did best: show off.  And hoo boy, I did love to do that.  Or did the striped eyeshadow conceal that bit of my personality?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another step in the process accomplished!

Our paper copy of our Provisional Approval arrived yesterday and was sent today by our agency to Guangzhou along with a bunch of other paperwork we had already filled out.  Here's the new timeline:

1 week from Provisional Approval to NVC letter
3-4 weeks from NVC letter to Article 5
2-3 weeks for Travel Approval
7-14 days to actual liftoff for China!

So that puts us squarely in September for TA!  Goosebumps!  And lots to do before then like obtaining visas for the three of us and my mom, buying the necessary gifts for Chinese officials, wiring the orphanage fee, getting a medical supply kit together, packing list, etc. etc.  Hoo boy.

New Challenge, Day 1 Provide a Picture of the space where you normally blog

I would say that most of the time I blog from our living room.
This giant desk was originally bought for our home office back in DC where it fit perfectly and was not the eyesore that it has become.  Now, with no spare room for an office, this behemoth sits off to one side of our enormous living area.  I have designed and redesigned this area too many times to count but with the majority of our funds going towards the adoption and related baby items, this project seems to be remaindered to the back burner.  So, I sit in my Herman Miller chair and pound out blog posts and try not to think too hard about the fact that, as a designer, my space is not speaking with any convincing authority on that subject.

On a side note: I'm loving the suggestions (both in the comments section and to my email) for additional questions for me to answer!  I may have to do more than 30 days...

Monday, July 18, 2011

If I still lived in DC, I would be participating in this...

And I hope that some of you might be able to.  Check out this link to the "Both Ends Burning Campaign".

You can also read more about it via Lori's blog.  I don't normally get involved in too many political issues (at least publicly on this blog) but this one hits very close to home.  See the sidebar for how long it has taken us to adopt ONE child for why.

Are you ready for more information about me?

Ok, so, in order to continue with the blogging on a regular basis I am continuing the blog challenge of posting (nearly) every day.  This series of questions I will admit, I have stolen from another friend's blog.  I am going to have to come up with different questions for Days 11 & 30 though since...well...you'll see:

Day 1 – Provide a picture of the space where you normally blog
Day 2 -Describe your high school self. What extracurricular activities, if any, did you participate in during high school?
Day 3 -What are your guilty pleasures?
Day 4 – (for parents) What has most surprised you about parenthood? (for parents-to-be) What has most surprised you about ttc?
Day 5 -What do you prefer to do on your birthday? If you have children, what do you prefer to do for their birthday?
Day 6 – When was the last time you tried something new? What was it and what was the result?
Day 7 – What’s your favorite thing to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? If you have children, what are their favorites?
Day 8 – If you had to teach something, what would you teach? (If you DO teach, when did you discover your love for teaching/the subject?)
Day 9 – What is the most important lesson you learned from your own mother (or other primary caretaker)?
Day 10 – Share your favorite recipe (or two)
Day 11 – In what ways does being a lesbian/2-mom family impact your experience of parenting?
Day 12 – Tell us about the first time you got drunk (as far as you can remember…)
Day 13 – Tell us about the best job you ever had, and the worst
Day 14 – How do you typically dress? How do you (or would you) like to dress your kid(s)?
Day 15 – What was your college experience like? Were you involved in any clubs, groups, etc?
Day 16 – How many friends do you have in real life that you talk to regularly? How many friends do you have that you feel are ‘true blue’ and how long have you known them?
Day 17 – (for parents) What is your favorite thing about parenthood? Your least favorite? (for parents-to-be) What are you most looking forward to about parenthood?
Day 18 – How do you feel about astrology? What’s your sign, baby, and do you think it matches your personality?
Day 19 – How do you (and your partner if applicable) feel about PDA?
Day 20 – What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? Did you repay the kindness?
Day 21. What child(ren)’s names do you like that your partner hates and thus you could never use?
Day 22 – What is your most beloved childhood memory? What memories are you trying to create (or will you try to create) for your child(ren)?
Day 23 – What are your favorite activities to do with your kid(s)?
Day 24 – What are your favorite activities to do without your kid(s)? (keep it clean!)
Day 25 – What did you want to be when you grew up? Why and/or how did that change over time?
Day 26 – What is/are the best piece(s) of parenting advice you’ve gotten or can give others?
Day 27 – Which movies or tv shows do you think are the most accurate portrayals of parenthood?
Day 28 – What size family do you come from, what size family do you want, and why?
Day 29 – What do you think about giving kids an allowance, and what chores do you or would you expect your child(ren) to help out with?
Day 30 – What is/are the most memorable questions or reactions you’ve gotten in regards to being a two-mom family?

Any suggestions for questions you would like to see answered here?  Leave your suggestions in the comments section--would love some input on this one! In the meantime, here are a few more picture from our vacation that Meme took:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Florida Trip in Pictures

As previously mentioned, we took our annual FL trip last week.  We started out in Crescent Beach with many of our friends from my old home town also in attendance.  My mom joined us for half of the week which delighted Kate...she spent a good deal of the time shouting for Nana and woke up every day anxious to see if she was still in the condo after the long night of sleep.

We spent Sunday morning on the intercoastal.  The water was nice and cool and provided a lot of room for Kate to float around without being buffeted by the waves of the ocean.
The rest of our days were spent on the beach and in the pool...

John and Patty
 Karlie and Kate

Kellen and Jackson surveying their fish
Nana and Kate
Kelly and Lucy

Everybody signing "MORE!" to Kate
 Kellen, Lexi, Karlie and Kate
 Len, John and Tony have a guy moment
 The guy's moment is over as Kelly, Kellen, Kate join in and Greg chats with Kate
Alas, the beach trip ended so we packed up and headed inland to visit with my dad and Gloria. Kate remembered them from all the pictures we have and immediately started calling for Papa and Meme whenever they were out of sight in their house!

We went over to Sherry (Gloria's daughter) and Dale's house for supper and a swim on Sunday.  The girls had fun on the rocking alligator.
After summer it was time for the pool.  Drake showed off his new swimming skills.
 Kate was focused on the ball
 And Lainey was showing off her new jumping skills--she is fearless!
After swimming it was time for a bath.  We threw all the cousins in the tub together and Lainey was nice enough to share a pair of her too-small jammies so we could put Kate to bed once we got back to Meme and Papa's.
Kate went for a ride on Papa's scooter and quickly learned how to use the horn.
 There was lots of playing with Meme on the sofa.
 And loving on Dad'n.
We visited BJ, her daughter Deb, her husband Peach and their daughter Autumn on Monday morning.
We headed home on Tuesday.  Kate is decidedly NOT a good seatmate when flying. She spent the entire 2+ hours walking from my lap to Len's when she wasn't clammoring to walk down the aisle.  Not fun. But we made it home, had some supper and Kate collapsed into bed at 6:30pm. We followed shortly.

We already have our reservations for next year and this time we'll have Lucy with us!


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