Friday, March 21, 2014

A goes to school!

He jumped out of line to greet his dad in the hallway.


Cheesing for the camera during Safe Racer comeptition (like an egg drop, but with cars the students build).

 
 
 
Well ... my FMLA is done and I am back at work. A is attending the pre-school at the school where I work and I couldn't be more grateful for the support of the administrators, teachers, and staff who have welcomed him.  It has been a great experience so far.
-JD
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

California

It's been a whirlwind here and I've been neglecting the blog.  I love reading blogs of other families once they're home because it seems like so many bloggers stop once they've arrived home with their kids.  I hope I can keep up, posting at least occasionally.  I'm typing as we fly home from California, so this might turn out to be rather long.  All the children are happily occupied and the flight attendants are plying them with snacks.

We've had a flurry of medical appointments, some anticipated and some not, for our new son.  Plus our olders were due for physicals and we are going to try for our girl, so there is paperwork to do/update!  

Transition-wise everything has been going well. It's been hard to get into a real routine since we've had so many appointments but we're getting there.  A. is bonding well and has started asserting himself more, so we take that as a good sign that he's feeling more comfortable.  We see some very typical attention seeking behaviors day-to-day and have surely had our share of time-ins.  In some ways, A. is very typically his age and in other ways, more mature and yet in other ways much younger.  (Imagine a two year old discovering a light switch and flicking it off and on for fun, then discovering that it is annoying to everyone else in the room and continuing to flick it just because he knows how irritating it is!  Now imagine a four year old doing this - or similar!)  I'm glad we already had our older boys and have the transition experience of growing our family already.  I think that has made things pretty smooth.  My husband and I know what to expect, how to take care of each other and we have also seen the other, brighter side of a rough transition (child #2) so we have some perspective.   I also should say that my hubby has been on paternity leave which has been amazing!  Without all of his hard work and support, life would be hard.  Thank you, sweetheart! 

This past week, before Mr. I. goes back to work, we visited my brother in California.  It was really a nice trip...I hadn't seen my brother in two years and he and his wife now have three kids!  I was out to California twice right before their twins were born and then also to visit my grandmother as she was dying.  So, after three coast-to-coast trips over two months it took me while to get back!  I am so glad we did it!  The kids had an awesome time together and while it was crazy with four adults and six kids in a three bedroom house, it was a lot of fun.  Leaving was bittersweet.  C., our middle son really bonded with his baby cousin and I., our oldest, loved spending time chasing after his twin cousins.  C. is convinced that he now wants to move to California...but then again, he felt the same way when we left China!  He asked me on more than one occasion why America couldn't be more like China.  He also liked that he got a lot of "junk food" while we traveled in China.  When I questioned him further on this, he told me that he meant eggs and bacon at the breakfast buffets in China,"'cause you know you can't eat that every day- it's like a treat."  Haha!  Then again, he also didn't know about pop-tarts until last week, so we are either doing something right or we are totally depriving him!  Hahaha! 

After the long ride home from China, six hours from home to California and back seemed entirely do-able!  We really limit our kids screen time (Kindle time excepted) so when we travel and let them plug in, they are happy as clams (and so are their fellow travelers).  Our new son, A., did great traveling on this trip.  Luckily he loves trains and airplanes.  His nannies in China had told him that he would get to his new home by train and plane and had talked a lot about it.  We made sure before this trip to California to prepare him well that this trip was "just a visit" and we would "only stay for a few days and then come home".  He would tell us about getting on the plane then car then home so he clearly understood.  

A. is such a high energy kid but also so happy and flexible and game for anything.  He was really excited about the boat ride we took out to the Channel Islands, though he did have a tantrum once we got to the destination (island).  We saw dolphins, sea lions and gray whales and myriad sea birds at close range while we were on the boat.  All the boys were thrilled by this.  

And...here are a few of the lovely photos from our trip, cause I know that's why everyone is really looking at the blog.  :)  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Photos II


More scenery as seen from the train (pardon the wires).  We passed through very few small towns and hamlets.  It was mostly very rural or very urban with very little in between.  

Walking on Shamian Island.  This was such a great place to stay.  Even in a city of 14 million, we were somewhere it was so easy to walk around...we did not feel like we were in such a big city! 



Yes, there is Starbucks in China.  This definitely surprised the school kids.  One girl raised her hand to let everyone know there is a Starbucks around the corner from her house. Another similarity.  :) 

So many brides....or really just photoshoots.  I love how if you look closely you can see her Adidas poking out beneath her dress. I also love the colonial era building in the background.  

Making friends at the park.  The little girl on the left was eager to practice her English which was quite good!  Her grandmother lives in the US.  Middle son and the boy on the right took turns skateboarding all around.  

Oldest son trying to get some reading in...

Morning music.  The kids were really interested to see this picture and learn that older people would go to the park every morning to make music with their friends. 

Walking to the pearl market, busy street scene, notice the Colonel in the bottom right of this picture.  Also the lanterns as Lunar New Year approaches.  This was familiar to the kids as there are a few kids in the class who celebrate Lunar New Year at home and one of the moms had come in to talk about it and the kids had decorated the classroom with lanterns. 

This was an example of a big difference between China and the US.  The kids loved this!

Hanging around Shamian Island.  I can't stress enough what a pleasant place it was to walk around- not much traffic, really nice people, beautiful scenery.  We spent a *lot* of time walking around and at the parks on the island.  

more Shamian Island. 


Taking care of business.  

Juxtaposition of modern and more traditional China.  Holiday Inn in the background, medicine market and apartments in the foreground.  




We talked about how you could find just about anything in the Chinese markets from the things we might look for in a grocery store in the US- dried goods like noodles, beans, rice, lentils, fruit, dishes etc but also things used in traditional Chinese cooking and medicine.  The differences were really cool to observe and definitely different from any other market I've been to.  I often wished I could speak Chinese on this trip but was really feeling it this day.  I am pretty familiar with medicinal herbs and there were about a million questions I had about what I saw!  

Mushrooms.  Wish I knew what kind. 


That middle bag has snakes in it. :) 

This one was NOT a picture I shared with the kindy kids, but I love it!  I included this for my old friend, Matt, if he's reading this blog....


Starfish 

Ginseng.  There were ginseng roots as big as a toddler.  

This little girl was so sweet.  We practiced English greetings together. 

At the Great Wall. 

Our wonderful guide with middle son.  They got along famously!  

More proposals and photo ops.  You can clearly see that he is having no.fun.at.all.  *sarcasm*

A very typical offering at the outdoor market, this photo is just out of order.  So many types of beans and grains! I love it!  It's totally inspiring.  

Yep, I love street food and ate quite a bit in China.  I know some folks are not a fan of eating street food but I've never had a problem and will continue to eat street food until I do!  It's a great way to experience local culture and eat cheaply! 

There really are no words for the wall until you experience it.  I mean, you can read about it, see photos and documentaries and you know that it is called the GREAT Wall of course, but none of these things can convey how big it is and how much land it covers until you are there in person.  It's breathtaking.  It's an amazing feat of engineering when you realize how rugged the terrain is and how old it is...and also that it's basically a graveyard.  Only the first part of these thoughts were shared with the kindy class. 

Yes, the school mascot visited many sites in China. 

I love this woman's hat.  She requested a pic with our big boys, so I had to get one too. 

Dwarfed by the entrance door to the Forbidden City. It has nine rows and nine columns of brass knobs, just to give you an idea of size. 

Westie strikes again. 

Again, the magnificence of this place can't be conveyed in writing.  Every part of the Forbidden City is so deliberate and planned to have symbolic meaning and it was all built and being lived in sixty years before Columbus sailed for the New World.  How 'bout them apples? 

Sample of roof detail.

These big pots were scattered through the City to hold water in case of fire as the buildings were all wood!  In the winder they would light a fire underneath to keep the water from freezing.  The kids guessed corectly on what the big pots were for!  

Photos

This is a series of photos I put together for my middle son's kindergarten class.  The kids had been asking him a lot of questions about why he wasn't at school and why he went to China, etc.  I went in to talk about our trip and also had a few questions to answer about adoption...


This was our first glimpse of A. as he dashed out the doors of the Civil Affairs office to greet us.  He knew right away that it was us and called us mama and baba right from the start.  Most of the kids knew in a rough sense what adoption means- I asked for definitions first and we talked a little about it.  We kept is *very* basic- A's first parents in China couldn't take care of him so they "made a plan" for him to be taken care of until we could adopt him, now he is a part of our family forever, etc.  We talked about how he might have felt as he ran out the door to meet his new parents. 

Getting to know each other.  For those of you planning to travel and wondering what to wear for the day you meet your child, dressy casual all the way!  Look nice- hubby wore khakis and a button down and I wore the sweater you see in the next picture and dark "dressy-ish" jeans.  We were on the floor a lot of the time so I'm glad we weren't dressed up too much but it was important to us not to look schlumpy either!  

Back at the hotel room. This pic may be a repeat from another blog post.  

Just a sample of some of the cuteness you get when you have a bunch of boys.  Ridiculous.  


We talked about how China and the US are similar.  People working for a living, big cities, farmland, etc. We talked about how many people live in China and how hard that is for us to imagine since we live in a suburb of a medium sized American city.  This picture was an example of how in China, the cities have grown so fast in such a short period of time that things that we (in the US) might think of as old-fashioned or only found in more rural areas are often found in big cities right next to things that are uber-modern.  

One difference the kids like to remember is that it's perfectly okay to ride your motorcycle/moped/scooter/bike on the sidewalk!  Steer clear and stay to the right. :) 

Kids on the back of bikes (not uncommon among many of the other places I've traveled, but novel to our kiddos- also (gasp!) no helmets) and also a pretty good idea of how chaotic it can be to cross at the cross-walk...but don't dare cross anywhere else! 

Signing papers at the notary.  



At the Shaolin temple.  This place was seriously amazing!  My brother studied Kung Fu for many years...maybe he was a teeny bit jealous...

These guys are serious.  Look at the muscles on the statue on the left.  Whew! 



Oldest son (in green) at the entrance to a temple/incense burner.  Check out the detail work just under the eaves of the building.  

Feeding pigeons.  This is a variation on another pic that was posted earlier...A. was having a tantrum and these kind monks gave us some walnuts to crack open and feed to the birds.  After hubby took this picture and wandered off with the rest of our group, A and I stayed to hang out with the monks and feed the birds some more.  In this view, the guys are snacking on some walnuts themselves and throwing the hulls away in the trash.  Right after that they whipped out their cell phones and took some pics of the birds.  LOL.


Entrance.  This is the first building you enter off of a big courtyard to walk up the hill to the temples.  

Birthday! 

Street scene


The first proposal. 

On the bullet train (200MPH) 

Beautiful farmland and mountains. 

More lovely scenery, as viewed from the train.  

Oldest son making new friends.  He was actually a little embarassed that this girl's father insisted on taking their picture together.  Too darn cute!