Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Travel Preparations

I want to start this post by saying we don't have a travel date yet, but once we do...we could leave in a week. Who wouldn't want to leave as soon as possible to get this cute little girl!

It's a good thing we didn't get Lillian's update before now, I have done nothing but look at her photo since I got it. There is this very strange gravitational pull to the computer and I find myself just staring at her photo. I need to print about 10 photos of her and tape them all around the house...maybe I could get some laundry done!

Today, the boys and I went in search of an inexpensive, lightweight suitcase. We finally found one at "Tuesday Mornings" and then headed home for some packing practice.

Earlier this week, I washed and ironed Lily's clothes. It took me 2 hours to iron all the ruffles and bows...2 hours!

I packed all my clothes first. If you know me well, you would be shocked at the small amount of clothes I am taking. I am a chronic over-packer. I can't help myself...but for this trip I am trying to be sensible.

Next, I packed Lillian's clothes. It's so hard to know what to take. I probable packed too much for her, but better to be safe than sorry.

Then I weighted the suitcase. On our flight, we are each allowed one 44 lb checked bag, one carry-on, and one personal bag. As you can see, I was doing pretty good...

...until I remembered I hadn't packed the gifts for the Chinese Officials, our medicine, make-up, shampoos, lotions, diapers, wipes... Ugh!

Bennie was a good helper today! He loves to play with his animals and read.

Since Big Daddy hasn't done any practice packing, Bennie decided to help him out!

We are going to have to have a serious talk with Bennie about his packing!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lillian's Update

The kids and I had just started walking home from school when my phone email from my agency titled "Update". I was so excited! I tried to open the attachment on my phone, but it wasn't compatible...seriously?! I told the kids to start running home so we could look at the photos on the laptop. Jackson was pretty eager, but Benjamin decided he couldn't ride his bike anymore...he always has his own plan. I decide to sweeten the cream for anyone who can get home fast! Amazing how fast a little boy can ride his bike home when ice cream is involved.

We got a couple of photos, new measurements, and some of our questions answered.
She weighs 17 pounds and has two teeth. I was so worried the clothes we bought her would be too big, but I think their going to be just right! She has the cutest little chubby cheeks! I can't decide if she is hanging on for dear life in the photo below or if she can really walk holding on to something. We shall see...
We didn't get answers to all the questions I asked, but hopefully we can visit the orphanage and ask the questions again. In the meantime, I am thrilled to have a few more pictures and new measurements! 

Answers to the update are in red.
  1. Did her birth mother leave a note or any other memento with her? If yes, please describe. No reply
  2. Can she roll over? Yes   Sit up unassisted? Yes   Crawl? Yes   Walk? Yes, while holding on to something with one hand.
  3. Can she pass a toy from one hand to the other?  No reply
  4. Is she imitating speech sounds?  She says "yiya" and when adults are talking she shouts loudly
  5. What was her first word or sound?  None
  6. How many ounces of formula per bottle? 200ml  Bottles per day? 4 
  7. What time does she wake up? 6:30am  Nap?  12:00-2:00pm  Bedtime?  9:00pm
  8. Does she have a special friend or crib mate in the orphanage?  She likes to sleep in her crib near other children.  What is this child's name?  No reply
  9. If she is upset, what soothes her?  Walking around the room and talking to her. She doesn't like strangers and will cry.
  10. Can she wave bye-bye?  No reply
  11. Does she have a nickname?  They call her Huanhuan. (Huan is her Chinese middle name)
  12. Is she close to a particular nanny? Yes  What is this nanny's name?  No reply
  13. Describe her personality. Her hands and feet are quick. She likes to hug her nanny and play games.
  14. What is her favorite toy to play with?  She likes intelligent toys and other children.
  15. What makes her laugh?  No reply

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quick Fix Camera Strap

The instructor for my photography class suggested we take off our camera strap...which was good advice. It was causing me a lot of problems. I didn't like wearing it all the time and if I let it dangle it would swing into the photo. So...I took off the strap and was happy with the decision until our first camping trip.

We were getting ready for a long hike and I wanted to take my camera until I realized I took the strap off and had no way to carry it. I had the strap, but didn't have an extra time to mess with restringing the camera I didn't take my camera.

A couple of days later, Bennie and I went to the zoo. I grabbed my camera bag and headed out the door. As we were getting out of the car at the zoo, I realized I hadn't attached the camera strap at home and Benjamin didn't want to hang out in the car while I messed around with it. Ugh! Another missed photo opportunity. Why can't attaching the strap be fast and easy?

After several Google searches, I pieced together my own quick fix project. I'm sure there are other solutions out there, but this is what worked best for me and I really like it. At B&H, I purchased one package of Adapt-It Connectors. They come in a package of four, but you only need two.

I also discovered some really awesome camera straps while at B&H from "Capturing Couture"...which I couldn't resist! It is so much nicer than the cheesy "Canon" strap that came with the camera and has a soft velvet neck lining. "Capturing Couture" has many different styles to choose from. It was hard to decide which one to get.

Then I went to Michael's and bought some clips from their jewelry department. There were several different clips to choose from. I decided on these because they rotated and would help keep my camera strap from getting twisted. 
After gathering all the supplies, I spent about 10 minutes hooking it all together and around $40. Totally worth it!
If only my other projects were this quick and inexpensive...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This and That

We are on day 16 of our wait for an update. We submitted our request on May 3rd and hoped to have some news within two weeks. After some online chatting this week, I met two families that submitted their update requests on April 21st and they have not heard anything yet. I should have known better than to get my hopes up for a quick update...nothing in international adoption is quick and easy.

I have been trying to keep myself busy with end of the school year activities, our weekly trip to the zoo, swim team, and photography practice to help pass the time. Tris and the boys got me a new camera lens for Mother's Day and it's taking me some time to figure it out. I took the photos below with my new lens.

If Benjamin had his way, he would wear pajamas every day. On Monday, I told Benjamin to get dressed and I would take him to the park. He decided he would rather wear his pajamas and play in the backyard. I was in the kitchen making lunch when I heard the screech of the water I grabbed my camera.

He tried to spray me with the hose. He is so ornery! What am I going to do with him?

I convinced him to fill up his water table and play with his fishing pole...

...which didn't last long because the water hose was too tempting. By the time water play was over, everything in our backyard was soaked...but we had fun and that's what counts.

Benjamin and I go to the zoo almost every Thursday. Here are a few pictures from this weeks trip. It was really crowded with school trips so I didn't get a lot of good photos...lots of people walking in front of the camera. Benjamin created this animal parade before we left.

Benjamin was either watching the wild horses or the wild school kids. I'm not sure which was more interesting.

And no zoo trip would be complete without a ride on the carousel. This week...the lion. 

On Friday, Jackson had field day...another great opportunity to try out my new lens. This was his favorite activity of the day. I'm glad I got to see it. The kids had to use a mini parachute to pop a ball up into the air for one person to catch and run it down the field.

Jackson with his classmate and good friend. I'm so glad they were in the same group.

After field day, Benjamin and I spent a few minutes at the playground before heading home.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day Weekend Camping Trip

Our first camping trip of the season was Mother's Day weekend at Cherry Creek Reservoir...30 minutes east of our house. Despite the cool and rainy forecast, we decided to forage ahead with our plans. We have joined an unofficial camping club, spear headed by our neighbor and will camp with them most of the summer.
I brought my good camera, but didn't get it out. I need to get better about leaving it out while camping. There are so many great photo opportunities...and so many opportunities for the camera to get dirty! The photos for this post were taken with my iPhone.
There are lots of nice biking/walking trails at Cherry Creek so we did a little exploring. We are quite the group.
Jackson and the boys played catch over the path as we walked. I can't tell you how many close calls there were with the football and innocent bystanders.
Did you notice the big stick Bennie is carrying in every photo? He liked this stick so much and begged to take it home...I don't think so!
After our long walk, Lucy was completely worn out and cold. She ran right into the camper and found a good place to snuggle up.
Due to the rainy weather and the no burn restrictions, we spent Friday and Saturday night in the camper playing games...Pass the Pigs and Spades. Let me just say I'm terrible at both!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect?

As many of you know, I have been struggling to make sense of my camera. I know what I want the end result to look like, but my camera can't read my mind and I don't know enough to readjust the settings to make it look good. I will admit...I was tempted to go back to the automatic settings.

Several months ago I looked into an online photography class. I really wanted to take the class, but decided to wait until I got back from China when I had more I would have more time when I got back??? A couple of weeks ago, this class presented itself again and I couldn't pass it up. If you are interested in a beginner class, check out Ashley Ann Photography.

What makes me laugh bad my photos from China would have been if I hadn't taken this class. Can you imagine the scene in the orphanage...the director and nannies posing for the same photo over and over and over while I continually readjust the settings??? I'm sure they would have been less than thrilled! Honestly...I would probably have been so overwhelmed with all the pressure to get a good photo, that I would have reverted back to the automatic settings. Between now and our trip, I will be make sure my photo taking becomes seamless.

I have three practice subjects:  Jackson, Bennie, and Lucy. Lucy is the most cooperative..she will do anything for a treat!
Sitting so nicely, despite our neighbor dogs' barking. She really wanted the treat!
I had a treat on the top of the camera. I love her determined look!
Benjamin is less cooperative, but will tolerate some photos if he thinks it's a game. He loves playing football like the big boys!

Running for a touchdown!

I love his smile!
His confused look...when he realizes our game is more about photo practice than playing football.
Our daily bike ride to drop Jackson off at school.
Jackson doesn't mind an occasional photo as long as his friends aren't around. After all, he does have a reputation to uphold. 
I love his smile!
Mother's Day...or Mother's Day weekend as my neighbor girls and I like to call just around the corner. I'm hoping for a new camera lens. Hint! Hint! Nothing fancy. Just a little something to help me improve my photography.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Green Thumb?

I come from a long line of "green thumbs" know, people who have a natural ability to foster plant-life. Great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, and parents on both sides of my family have a green thumb. My thumb is more...lemony.
Green Thumbs on my Mom's side of the family. I'm the one on the front row with the camera.
My Great-Uncle Max (pictured above on the far left) is a retired biology professor at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. He is currently facilitating the campus greenhouse and working with the Kansas Orchid Society. He has a green thumb. I grew up visiting the campus greenhouse every spring and summer. I remember looking at all the beautiful flowers and jumping in all the puddles.
Ruth Warren Abbot Greenhouse
Last spring, my family and I visited the campus greenhouse. It had been many years since I was there. My Uncle Max gave us a tour of the different greenhouses. Jackson was very interested in the plants...wanting to learn the different names. Benjamin was very interested in the puddles...he loves to jump in puddles! I fell in love with the orchids. My Uncle Max has created several hybrid orchids and named them after his parents and siblings. I was lucky enough to get Phalaenopsis Zuma Rascal "Gaillard". This orchid is named after my grandpa.
I have had "Rascal Gaillard" for one year and it seems to like it here in Colorado despite the lack of humidity. It has grown one new leaf and has three new blooms.
Although I have been successful with this orchid, some of the other plants in my house have not been so lucky. I still don't think I have a green thumb, but maybe it's a little more green than I think...maybe lemon-lime?