Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Boys Leave Us, and The Girls Arrive!

Huang, Bob, Dora, Mary, and Edward
Edward and Mary

This has truly been such a positive experience for our family in so many ways. It is hard to put it into words. I hope that all of my friends are able to do this someday. It has been hard physically on me...my back is killing me as I write this...the extra cooking, cleaning, laundry, driving around, entertaining, BUT it has been sooooooooooo worth it.

First off, Garrett's 4th birthay was yesterday. We celebrated with a "Wiggles" party. LOTS of people, LOTS of kids...LOTS of fun. And the weather was great too. Thank you, God! Garrett had a total blast with everyone, and once again, he sat up so proudly when it was time for singing the "Happy Birthday" song. He sang right along with everyone. Wish all of you could have seen the excitement on his face. He loves being the center of attention, and he knew that yesterday was ALL about him. SOOOOOO cute! I will post pics so you can catch a glimpse. Another thing I love about Garrett is that when he opens presents, he really understands how to thank people for them. My friend, Lauren, says that he is very gracious, and he just is. It is heartfelt and you can tell. Not many children are like that. He just "gets it". Van says this goes back all the way to China when he bought him his first pair of new shoes. Van had told me that you would have thought that Garrett had won the lottery because he loved his shoes so much. Anyway, it is really sweet to watch him look at the person and thank them. He does it better than anyone I know. I am proud of my boy. I didn't teach him that either other than the "say thank you" reminders that most parents give. Like I said, he just loves people, and he is grateful for his friends, and it shows. It is something that I hope will rub off on me a little bit. He is way better than I am at not taking anything or anyone for granted. He knows how to love.

Bob and Huang left us early this morning. Such nice boys! It hit Garrett harder than anyone. I have never seen Garrett react like that, and I truly did not expect it. He kept saying, "Mama, plane. Mama China. I go. Boys! Where? I miss boys." and when I tried to explain it...it is hard to say good-bye to our friends and they were just here visiting and had to go back home to their mama and daddy and we will keep in touch with them...he had a very sad, tearful cry. I didn't like having to say good-bye either. They stood at the door and thanked me for my care and concern for them. They told me to come to China and I would be welcomed. It was very sweet. Bob really looked kind of heartbroken to leave. It was kind of sad. We had a great time with them! Anyhoo...enough said. We will miss them a lot.

Now, our girls arrived night before last. My family will get a total kick out of this. Their American names are Mary (my first name) and.....drum roll please..........................................................................................
EDWARD!!!! How is that for a little divine intervention? No joke! She named herself EDWARD! My daddy's name was Edward, and he passed away in 2003. She really likes the "Edward" character in the Twilight movies. That was why she gave herself that name. I still think somebody upstairs is pulling the strings. HA! They are very sweet girls, both 13, though they seem very much older than that, very mature for their age, and they both speak a fair amount of English. Not as much as Bob, but we are able to communicate. And unlike the boys, the girls are very neat and tidy which is FABULOUS! The boys that just left...NOT so much. BUT that is ok because I knew they wouldn't be because they're boys. Anyway, we are getting to know them, and are having a great second round of company. They are teaching Gracie and Garrett some basic Chinese, playing games with them, singing, watching movies etc. It has been awesome. They were here for the birthday party, we took them to school, and then after school, we went to Costco to shop, and then Panda Express for dinner. Great times. And I didn't have to cook. Even better!

More later...Enjoy the pictures.

HUGS, Madeline

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Huang and Bob

Our exchange students have arrived. We are having the BEST time with Bob and Huang. They are from Chongqing, China in the Szechian region. Both are 16 years old, and I have really developed a huge fondness for them in just one week. I really don't want to see them leave to go back to China. I feel like I have two more children. BIG children, but children nonetheless. I really like them. They're pretty funny. We laugh a lot. And they can cook! Man, they REALLY cook! They totally put me to shame. IRON CHEF! Chongqing hotpot and super side dishes. No joke. It was GREAT! And they prepared the whole meal just for us. It took them close to two hours to just prepare it for cooking. Our friends, Dolores and Grace, also came over with their exchange student, Dora. She is from the same area in China as the boys. Very sweet girl. Beautiful too. She helped them.
We have had some great times so far.
Touring DC at night. The Washington Monument. The Jefferson Memorial. Walking the city. Sweating. Taking them to school and home again. Hanging out at home. Restaurants. Watching Bob and Huang try to eat the "Blazin" hot wings at Buffalo Wild Wings. Laughing. Movies. Wii. Walks. Sweating. Touring DC on Saturday all day. The White House. The Capitol. The WW2 Memorial. The Women of the Military Memorial. The Korean War Memorial. The WW1 Memorial Wall. The Museum of Natural History. Shopping at Fair Oaks. Shopping everywhere. Talking about everything China. Learning. Absorbing. French Fries. Burgers. Pizza. Computer time. Learning Chinese. Learning about their culture. I have loved every second of it! And Gracie is just a sponge. She really likes the boys. They are so kind to the children. Huang will pick Gracie up and put her on his shoulders. He will hold her hand. He is very sweet. Bob is too. They are very cheerful, good boys. Bob communicates very well. Huang is learning the language. They have been very good here together. They balance each other out.
Some of my favorite moments so far…
1. Finding out the boys are going to cook a meal for us. YEA!!! Then, Bob tells me in the car one morning that we do not have all of the ingredients. Ox stomach. Chicken hearts. No can do. Had to talk to the boys about that. Just cannot eat the internal organs of animals. I totally respect them. I do not want to insult them at all. BUT…I cannot do it. They were very understanding and used just plain chicken, and beef in the meal. It was awesome! Probably one of the very best Chinese meals we have ever eaten. Bob told me that his mom told him later in life that his favorite thing to eat as a child was pig brains. Hmmmmmm.
2. The boys went on a bike ride and got caught in the rain on their way home from MANASSAS. We thought they were riding around our neighborhood. NO. They were all the way in Manassas!!! Had to have another talk with them.
3. The boys are used to eating VERY hot and spicy foods in China. We enjoyed watching them try to eat the Blazin Hot wings at Buffalo Wild Wings…If you can eat 12 wings in 6 minutes with no drinks and no napkins and no ranch or blue cheese dressing, you get your picture on a wall and a t-shirt for your efforts. They ate some of them….five of them…Sweating, lots of water, and lots of laughter later…They passed on eating all 12 wings. Even the staff leader/waiter said he wouldn’t do it. It is just painful. You don’t even taste the chicken etc. But they ate five of them. Brave boys!
4. Seeing Gracie and Garrett light up around them. Hearing the kids try to speak Chinese. Listening to Gracie’s questions. Asking lots of questions ourselves. And listening to their answers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Our New Friends, Huang and Bob

Chongqing hotpot and side dishes with LOTS of chili peppers
Awesome meal, boys!!! It was so good!!!
Huang, the Iron Chef!
B-O-B handling the veggies called BaiTai or something like that.
Can you believe the chili peppers in this pot? This was before all of the meat and veggies were added to the pot.
Bob, Dora, and Huang learned how to cook from their grandparents. In China, their parents work and their grandparents help raise them and care for them in the same home. Historically, the reason that they eat such hot and spicey food is because it would be so cold during the winters that they would cook foods that would warm their insides. It must have been REALLY cold.
Gracie really likes Huang. He is very sweet to her. So is Bob. They are great boys and are very friendly.
D.C. at night. Beautiful!
Is that a UFO or a giant orb in the picture? Do you know that two days after Huang and Bob left Chongqing, China to come here that a UFO was seen by many many people hovering over a park in their city in China? It made the front page of AOL news stories several days ago.
The guys had a great time in DC.

My children...all four of them!

The guys are relaxing on the sofa together.

Siblings who snuggle together...

These two kids totally love each other, and it makes my heart so happy!
Awwwww.....so sweet!!!
Garrett snuggles with Gracie on the sofa.
He will very often just go plop on top of her when she least expects it.
She doesn't seem to mind.
My babies! I love them both!!!

More Bribery Pictures...Poor Garrett!

" I am just role playing. This is not a problem. I am an actor. It is just dress up. I promise, Daddy!"
Little Miss Gracie...Darling. Love her.

AUBURN!!! War Eagle!!!!

She is a natural! You should hear the cheers!
We're number one!!! Go Auburn!!!

I know I am in a dress.
It's to prove a point....

I am MUCH cuter than that kid on tv.


These are the most beautifully designed tee shirts created by a travel buddy friend named Stefanie and her crew at Wild Olive Tees. Stefanie brought home Isabelle, her daughter, from China during the same time we brought home Gracie. We were in the same DTC yahoo group online together. AND she was also on the trip with Van when he went to China to get our Garrett. She was traveling at that time with her sister to China to share in the joy of bringing her nephew home. GREAT girl!!! Now, get your verse on, girls! LOVE THESE!!! Purchase for a friend or neighbor and while you're at it, help some babies in China! See the button on the right sidebar to shop, shop, shop!!! I am telling you that you will LOVE these shirts!!! GO NOW!!! GO! GO!! GO!!! JUST GO!!!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!!! Back to Blogging!

Well, here I am again. Blogging. Haven't been blogging lately. Just haven't had the time or energy. But I am back. And hopefully, someone will read this because I am taking the time to actually pursue it again.
Bloggy Friends!!! Please notice that the sidebar with links to websites is getting smaller. For some odd reason, I cannot access your websites anymore. If your website does not appear here, please email me to let me know how to get back to your blogs...Stephanie, Epin, Kelly Dyer...etc etc. Email me!

Happy 4th of July everyone! I miss being with my family in Birmingham on the 4th. The OLS 4th of July festival. The BBQ. Daddy's chicken. Mama's potato salad. Mama's cole slaw. ( Ok, who has those recipes? I need them. Email me.) The cake walk. Seeing old friends. The fireworks seen from the house at the top of the driveway on Ridge Rd. Mama's homemade ice cream. Times sure have changed. Someone else lives in that house now, and it doesn't even remotely resemble the one I lived in so long ago. If I had the money, I would buy that house. Just because. I would renovate it, and it would look just like it did back when we lived in it. Ok, maybe there would be a few changes, but the front of the house would look the same. It would be our 4th of July house.

The kids are growing. No news there. It is funny to me that parents say to other people, "The kids are growing up." Isn't that what they are supposed to do? They grow. Everyday. All day long. So I won't bore you with too much of it.
Gracie starts kindergarten this fall. Cannot even believe it. She is so ready for it. I, on the other hand, wish I could have more time to get used to the idea. The whole thing gives me the hives just thinking about it. September will be here before we know it, and the thought of putting her on that bus the first day makes me cry. She will have all of her neighborhood friends to help her get through it, and I will have all of my neighborhood friends for the long cry afterwards at the bus stop. They are going to have to hold me back from following the bus to school and sitting all day in the parking lot. SO HARD! ALREADY! She went to the school's kindergarten screening, and the teacher who tested her said she is sooooooo ready, and that her writing already looks fabulous. I know she will do well. I don't know that I will do well. What happened to half day kindergarten? I would be FINE if it was just a half day. No problem. BUT she will be there all day!!! Monday through Friday. ALL DAY! Gracie has a beautiful voice and dances so well. She loves to make up songs and gives us concerts. She really is talented. We need to put her in voice and dance lessons. She is so funny. Loves knock knock jokes. Reading. Writing. Playing school. Playing dolls. And she is as active as any little boy on the block. Baseball lover. Can hit a ball really well! We went to two National's baseball games in DC recently. LOVED those. Hoola Hoops like crazy...two and three hoola hoops at one time. Bossy! Must be the age. Stubborn. Perfectionist. Loving. Always wants to be on our laps. So sweet and cuddly. Loves to tell stories. Plays I-Spy. Wants her "me" time away from Garrett. Puts signs on her door saying she wants to be alone. No one allowed. LOL. Loves her friends. Wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. So smart. I think she will be a doctor someday. Gracie has lost her two bottom front teeth (new ones have already grown back in), and another one is gone now too. Her two front teeth are loose, and the doc says she will lose those soon. She wants to go back to China NOW. Sadly, she is going through some things concerning her adoption. It is hard for her. You know, I think about how much we all take for granted knowing all of the answers to our puzzle about our family. I have even done a lot of genealogy work and know more than most people would about my own. Well, Gracie has many pieces to that puzzle that are missing. Can you take a moment and think about what that would be like? Not knowing. Wanting to know. Asking. Wanting answers. Not getting answers. And being thousands of miles away from anyone really able to answer anything. And she feels it (and she feels it more so than she understands it)! She is very much aware of it. So intuitive. So wise for her years. So perceptive. So sensitive. Separation is hard for her. She clings to me. She just doesn't comprehend that we cannot get into the car or on a plane now to go get those answers. I wish I had a million bucks. One of the first things I would do would be to take Gracie to China now so that she could see her orphanage and see her nannies and ask those questions. Sadly, we cannot do that right now. Pray for her. Pray for us so that we will know how to help her get her through it. She cries about it very often. She is happy 99.9% of the time though. It is hardest for her at night because she tells me that is when she thinks about it all...which to me, perfectly explains her sleep issues...fighting sleep, needing to be near us/sleep with us, waking up, fighting in her sleep. It is very complicated. And honestly, I knew she would have some of these issues as an adopted child, but I never dreamed that she would be grieving so hard at the age of five. Too much. Too soon. But we are dealing with it. And we are doing what we know is best for her. Just LOVE our girl! She is such a blessing to us. How could I love any little girl any more than I do Gracie? Cannot even fathom it. She is a constant bright light. What a beautiful light she shines!!!

Garrett starts preschool too. Three days a week. He needs it. That does not seem so difficult for me to deal with. He goes for three hours on those days. Then he will be home with me. And we have two years of preschool to look forward to. Developmentally, he really is more like a three year old right now. He's a babe! BUT Garrett is HUGE. He is as big as Gracie (one inch shorter, about 6 or 7 pounds heavier). When I took him with me to the school to register Gracie for kindergarten, the school nurse thought I was registering him. HA! She says there are first graders that are much smaller than he is. Imagine what he will look like in two years when he does start kindergarten! He is talking a lot. Singing a lot. And Garrett is just the cutest kid ever! I know. Every parent thinks so. But he's my boy!!! So loving. So affectionate. Gives the best hugs in the world just like his big sis. So funny. So active. Falls a lot. Lots of skinned knees and elbows. RUNS everywhere. Loud. Dumps things. Bothers Gracie. LOVES Gracie. Potty training. Still. Not there yet, but trying. Sleeping better. Cutest smile ever. BIG. Did I say BIG and HEAVY? Loves the Wiggles. He will be four on July 26th. But he is just a baby still! We are having a Wiggles party for him, and we will be going to the Wiggles "Wiggly Circus" concert in August to see them live in Richmond!!! We still hear from Garrett's foster parents in China. They love him and miss him. His foster brother writes us via email for his parents. I cannot get over the feelings/thoughts I have that this family might be somehow biologically related to Garrett. Just a gut feeling. I may be wrong. BUT...not so sure I am wrong. Their feelings are just so strong for Garrett. They truly, genuinely love him. But then again...Who wouldn't? He is the sweetest kid in the world. He and Gracie. Funny how God works, huh? We have the two most perfect children on the planet... IMHO, that is.

We recently had Gracie and Garrett's hearing tested. Garrett seems to have normal hearing which is what we expected. What we were not expecting was to hear that Gracie has a slight hearing loss. I almost passed on even having Gracie's hearing checked. They are retesting her in six months, but are pretty sure that she will test the same. They think the loss is due to an infection her birthmother might have had while pregnant with her. The plan for this is to make sure she sits up front at school, and to let her teachers know. The lady that tested her said that we will need to have her hearing checked yearly to make sure that the hearing loss doesn't get any worse. And it could. Pray that it doesn't.

We are enjoying the summer even though it has been extremely hot here. The kids love going to the pool, and we are finally seeing Gracie's fear of the water leave her. Garrett has absolutely no fear whatsoever. He is already putting his face in the water. This has made Gracie more willing to try the water because she is highly competitive. We are going to the library a lot, reading a lot, playing outside in the mornings and evenings, crafting, playing school (Gracie's favorite activity), putting on special performances with singing and dancing, watching The Wiggles...We LOVE the Wiggles!!!...cooking together, running through the sprinklers, eating LOTS of popsicles and freeze pops, playing games, and having lots of playdates with friends.

***** Below change: We will now have four Chinese exchange students between July 13th and August 7th! We will have two boys for session A and two girls for session B!!!! Even more excited now!
Our biggest news lately is that we are going to have two Chinese foreign exchange students coming to stay with us in July and August. The first one is a 16 year old boy from Chongqing, China. He supposedly speaks a fair amount of English. We are so excited about his arrival soon. He will be with us for two weeks. Immediately afterwards, we will be having a girl from China stay with is, but we do not know anything about her yet. She will also stay for two weeks. Both students will be going to an English Language camp during the weekdays for most of the day, but they will have evenings and weekends free. It is going to be quite a great cultural learning experience for all of us. I am hoping that Garrett and Gracie can learn to speak some conversational Chinese, and learn to write some Chinese as well. And I am hoping that one of the students will teach me how to cook some steamed meat dumplings. The boy is from an area in China where they eat very spicy foods in hot pots. Let's just hope he likes chicken nuggets and burgers and fries. LOL. Just kidding. I am no gourmet cook. Really. I will have rice and noodles on hand in case they cannot stomach what I prepare. This will be their first time in the United States too. And they are so lucky that they get ME to be the one who will be cooking for them. NOT. Three meals a day! SO SAD! I need Paula Dean. Right now. Can she come live with us too? I bet she could cook up some really good southern type Chinese food for all of us with a lot of butter. Mmmmmmmm. Another idea...I need Scotty Bourgeois (my nephew chef)! Where are you Scotty? Come visit us and bring Katie and Beth. Then, you can cook! You're good at it!!! You do this for a living! I need you. At least research some really easy Chinese recipes for me. Think Szechuan!!! Hot pot!

So be alert! I will be blogging about our experience with Hu HanBo. My kids go around saying, "Who? HanBo!" (Get it...Hu HanBo). That is his name. So be sure to start reading this blog each day starting on the 13th. Hopefully, we will all learn a lot from Hu HanBo.

Today for the 4th, we have eaten from "Red Hot and Blue" which is the closest thing we have here to good old southern BBQ. The feast so far has been on cowboy caviar and chips, ribs, brisket, potato salad, Connie's cold bean salad (yum), my cold corn pasta salad (yum), and banana pudding. I made brownies and a cake, and we have that for dessert later. Tonight, we will go to see the incredible fireworks display. Happy 4th of July, everyone! God Bless America! Miss all of you!