Dec 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

This is what my crazy husband brought me today at work for my birthday! There are 36 in total, one for each year! You can't even see them all in this picture. I had to put them in a plastic recycle trashcan to get them all in water, lol! Needless to say... he surprised me! After he gave me the roses he took me to a great little Italian restaurant for a yummy lunch and tonight after Owen's gymnastics we are all going out for sushi and my favorite dessert... cheesecake tempura!

Now the only other thing I want for my birthday is for my daughter to behave. For a week now Cackie has gotten U's in conduct at schoool (unsatisfactory). We've tried everything in the book to get her to "use her listening ears" and improve her conduct, but nothing so far has worked. So today I used my birthday to lay a guilt trip on her.... I told her that the only thing I wanted for my birthday was for her to get an E (excellent) in conduct. I'll leave work in a few minutes and will hopefully be met with good news!

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Cackie was well behaved and that Velcro Boy doesn't make another appearance at gymnastics!

Stay tuned...

Dec 12, 2008

Velcro Boy and Silly Girl

Back at the first of November we signed Owen up for gymnastics lessons. He enjoyed watching Cackie at her lessons for months and a couple of times he tried to sneak into class with her, so we figured it was time to get him involved in his own activities.


The only problem was that we wanted to have the kids in separate classes to eliminate fighting and give them each an opportunity for "alone time". Unfortuntately that meant that Owen would have to take lessons on Thursday nights at 5:30 and Cackie would continue her lessons on Tuesdays at 6:30.


Trying to get into a routine we planned things so that I would take the kids to their lessons and Michael would spend time with whichever one didn't have a lesson. This was working well until a few weeks ago when Cackie and I were about to leave the house and Owen attached himself to my leg and started crying. Michael freed me from Owen's grips so we could leave and says that within a few minutes Owen was fine.


Of course, this concerned Cackie and we had a long discussion in the car about Owen crying and how she didn't want him to cry, etc.


This happened a couple more times, but nothing big. Then last week Owen and I were at his lesson, he ran his 2 warmup laps around the track but when it was time to go off with his coach and take his lesson he suddenly became attached to my leg again.He started screaming "I want my Mommy" (this always freaks me out and makes me afraid that someone will think I'm abducting him). I begged and pleaded with him to calm down and go do his gymnastics, his coach even begged and pleaded with him but no luck. We went and got dressed despite the fact that I kept telling him that he was going home to go to bed. We had one brief minute where he wanted to go and join the class, but that was quickly over when he actually had to detach himself from my leg!

We went home and I didn't quite know what to do. I was worried that something was wrong, but he had really enjoyed the lessons before and couldn't figure out what happened. It was certainly becoming apparant that Owen needed some time away from Mommy, though.

So, this week when Cackie went to her lesson on Tuesday we made a big deal about her going to gymnastics and how much fun it was, etc. To help things even more I had Michael take Owen to his lesson last night. My not being there helped a lot! He enjoyed his lesson and was excited to show off his smiley face stamps to Cackie when he came home!


Since Michael & Owen were off at the gym together I took advantage of the opportunity to spend some time with Cackie. I picked her up from school and we headed out to do a little Christmas shopping and then to the dreaded grocery store.

On the way to the store I explained to her that we were looking for presents for other people and at first she didn't like that at all, but it didn't take long for her to understand how nice it was to give presents to other people. She very thoughtfully picked out a present for Owen and was very excited. It's something that she can enjoy as well, but she was adamant that Owen will really like it and she wanted him to have it.

I had a lot of fun out with her and I think she enjoyed it, too. At the grocery store she didn't want to get in the cart and tried to convince me that she's too big to ride in the seat. She's got a good point there, she almost doesn't fit in the seat anymore! But, I made her squeeze in because I didn't need to worry about her wandering off. As we were walking around she kept putting her hands on either side of my face, squeezing my cheeks and saying "OOH Mommy, you're soo CUTE!" It's really funny when she decides to get silly like that! We also had a good round of a game where we call each others names in silly voices back and forth. I'm sure the other shoppers didn't appreciate it, but we had a good time!

Tonight is Parent's Night Out at school, so the kids will have a little pajama party while Michael and I go out and get some shopping done.

Tomorrow will be a busy day for us... We have breakfast with Santa in the cafeteria at St. Jude (this will be Owen's first opportunity to see Santa) and then in the evening we're going with friends to a Christmas Village at a local church. Cackie loved it last year and we're all anxious to see if Owen enjoys it, too. I'm hoping to see more of Silly Girl this weekend and a little less of Velcro Boy!

Dec 8, 2008

I did it!

I did it! I walked 13.1 miles in 3:36!
Saturday was a GREAT day! It was sooo cold, but I got my butt out of bed and we all headed downtown to Autozone park to meet up with friends before the race.
This is Jennifer and I warming up at the ballpark.
The race officically started at 8AM, but it was a wave start, so I didn't actually get started until close to 8:25. Here's one of the groups heading out before me, there were nearly 14,000 people racing!
Here I am at the starting line, you can't tell but I was sooo cold!
I had my cellphone with me and was able to call Michael at different points during the race. He tried to meet up with me at mile 5, but the police had the roads blocked off and it made getting around town very difficult. They were able to meet up with me between miles 6 & 7 and I was soo happy to see them!
They were able to make their way around between miles 8 & 9 to see me again. Here's a great shot Michael got while they were waiting...
When they saw me here Cackie got very excited. She ran up to me and gave me a huge bear hug. Only problem was that my hips were starting to ache and if I stopped I wouldn't have been able to start again. I almost knocked poor Cackie over trying to get her detached from my legs!

The last 4 miles or so went pretty quickly for me. There was lots of traffic on the street and soo many people were out cheering the runners and walkers on. I was starting to hurt in my hips, but I had no doubt that I was going to finish. In fact, the last mile or so I was passing people who just couldn't keep up any longer.

Here I am just crossing the finish line.

Michael said I had this big smile on everytime he saw me.

The best part was getting to hug my kiddos when it was all over!

I finished just after noon and the kids were starving, so Michael took us out to lunch. After that we all took a much needed nap! I was lucky enough to get a massage appointment for that afternoon and that helped my recovery a lot! The rest of Saturday I did absolutely nothing, which is not like me at all. I was just too pooped and achy!

Sunday I was pretty sore, but I tried to keep moving as much as I could. Yesterday I didn't hurt much and today I'm hoping to get back out and do some walking!

The race was a lot of fun and I really hope to be able to do it again next year. It has me motiviated now to get back to exercising and maybe next year I'll be able to get an even better time!

Dec 1, 2008

I've Decided to do Something Crazy!

I've decided to do something crazy!

Some of you may know that back in August I began a training program to run/walk the St. Jude Half Marathon. But, then in September I started to have problems with my left ankle and after an MRI found out that I had a couple of stress fractures and had to quit training. Well, there has been lots going on between then and now and I just haven't had time to get back into training. I figured it was just a silly dream to do a half marathon and it was time for me to get back to reality and focus on all the other things in my life.

But, the thing is that I work at St. Jude. I’m constantly hearing information about the upcoming events and the Marathon/Half Marathon is a pretty big one around here. When I heard the news that the Half Marathon was sold out I felt guilty… just before I got hurt I signed up for the Half Marathon to help give myself a goal and motivation, I even signed up to be a St. Jude Hero because I believe in what we do here at St. Jude. Once you are signed up to be in the race your spot is taken and can’t be given to anyone else even if you don’t show up to race.

So, that race registration has been burning a hole in my brain. I keep thinking I’ve signed up and no one else can take my place. Our old house is right in the middle of the race course, so over the years we’ve tried to go out and about on race day and have seen the participants, some running and a lot of them walking along just to be a part of the race. I keep thinking about those walkers and I’ve told myself, I can do that!

So, this Saturday I will get out of bed early and get out into the cold morning to be at the starting line downtown (anyone who really knows me will know that getting up early and out in the cold will be half the battle). I’ll walk for as long and as far as I can. There are no promises that I’ll finish this race! But, the whole time I’m walking I will be thinking about the reasons why I’m there… because I believe in the mission of St. Jude and want to do something else to help, because I’ve been blessed with two beautiful children who are happy and HEALTHY, because there are children out there who not as lucky as my children and they need the best medical care available, because I never knew my grandmother but she believed in Danny Thomas’ mission and would send money to St. Jude and lastly because I’m blessed to be able bodied and can get out and do my part, even if it’s just a little bit.

If you believe in me and want to support me in my dream of becoming a St. Jude Hero, please log onto my website www.stjudeheroes.org/users/dwalls and consider making a donation. If you can’t make a donation, please let me know I have your support… leave a comment here, each one will help motivate me on Saturday!

Nov 20, 2008

One Year Ago Today...

One year ago today around 3:30 pm, my life was changed forever. I was at work and had just finished cleaning up one of the cubicles to get ready for a new co-worker in my department. I had sat down at my desk and my cellphone rang. It took me a second before it registered that the area code was from Colorado and my heart skipped a beat when I answered and realized that it was Pam from the waiting child department on the other end.

I don't remember much about the conversation, but I remember her telling me that she had a sweet little boy who needed a Mommy & Daddy. She emailed me his pictures, but warned me that they were not the best she had ever seen.

I was in shock and didn't quite know what to do. I opened the email to find this picture...
I called Michael after that, he was home with Cackie who was sick that day. I was crying, of course, and he immediately wondered what was wrong. I told him that I had a picture of his son and I could tell that it took at second for the news to register with him. I was glad I wasn't the only one in shock over this!
I went home shortly after that and we had many discussions. We took a few days to think about this little boy and how he would change our lives. It took us a little longer than we would have liked, but all this happened just 2 days before Thanksgiving. I remember when we finally heard from our pediatrician, we were out eating dinner and we were soo glad to hear that she said we needed to bring this little boy home. We had already come to that decision, but just needed that last bit of confirmation before we jumped in. After we got home from dinner and had put Cackie to bed I called CCAI and left a voicemail for Pam, I just couldn't wait till the next morning to call!
Today that sweet little boy is my Owen and I can't imagine what our lives would be without him!

P.S. On that day, one year ago, after I called Michael and shared my shock with him, I went back into the cubicle that I was cleaning out just to check and make sure I had put everythinig away. Sitting right in the middle of the desk was a little red string off of an interoffice envelope. I knew deep in my heart that the red thread was at work.

Nov 14, 2008

ARRRGH!

Anyone remember the movie "The Money Pit"?
I'm beginning to think we're starring in the sequel that is being filmed by candid camera!

First, the previous owners left us with a horribly green pool. Actually, it was a beautiful green color, just not something you would ever want to swim in. We were soo frustrated with trying to get the sellers out of our house and get moved in that we just let it go. Finally, two weeks ago we were able to get some pool guys to come out and winterize the pool, at a cost that was much greater due to the fact that it had been neglected by the previous owners.

Then, there's been the issue our guest house. The previous owner's had a renter there and had told us before closing that he had moved out.... not true! He finally moved out the same weekend we moved in, but now we've been left with his disgusting mess and the previous owners never came forward to give us the cleaning deposit that they collected from him.

We also have electrical issues in the family room that was added on to the original house. Let's just say that the electrical wiring is sooo not to code (this is where having an engineer for a husband is a GREAT thing!). We found one electrical outlet behind the dishwasher in the wetbar that was SPARKING!!!!! YIKES!

Now, our latest issue is a leak.... it's in a lovely spot, just off the kitchen in the breakfast room. I came home the other day during a rain storm to find the ceiling leaking. It has continued to leak steadily, but it's not raining any longer. Michael has been working on drawing up the layout of the house and it looks like the issue is not the roof (a good thing?), but that it's the toilet in the master bath. We are very unhappy with the master bath and bought the house knowing that we would be changing it up and expanding it, but we weren't quite prepared to do it right now.

Oh, in addition to the leak appearing the other day. It kinda looks like this is not the first time it has happened. It also appears that there may be termite damage in the ceiling of the breakfast room (hmmm, termites like moisture).

So, right now the ceiling is falling in my breakfast room and there's an awful wet, musty stench throughout the whole house. I'm just praying that it's not termites and that we can get it fixed and cleaned up soon (and that we can stay sane in the process!). Fingers Crossed!

Nov 6, 2008

6 Months!

Six months ago yesterday was Owen's gotcha day!
In six months he has gone from this shy, careful little boy who was scared of just about everything...
Photobucket

To this little ham who loves to see his pictures on the camera, is still kinda scared of animals but is very curious about them, thinks his big sister holds the moon and stars and loves to jump, run and play!

Wow! What an amazing 6 months it has been! A lot has changed in his life, but he takes it all in stride and brings smiles to everyone's faces. We love you Owee!

So, as a celebration of his 6 months home we are starting him in gymnastics lessons tonight. He's always wanting to take classes with Cackie, but we were a little worried that a class together would be hard on them and the coach. Hopefully he'll enjoy tonight and will want to do more. Cackie won't be there with us tonight which I hope will give him a chance to open up and enjoy his own thing.

Nov 4, 2008

Cackie & Owen Tearing Up the Polls

Well, the polling booth at least! Yesterday Michael went to pick the kids up from school and came home with this great story...

The teachers were planning a voting activity for today and had fashioned a voting booth out of a large cardboard box. Well, when Michael picked the kids up they got a little out of hand (who, my kids?) and were fighting over a spot in the voting booth. In the process of fighting they knocked down the booth and tried to tear it up. If I remember correctly, when Michael was telling me about it he lovingly referred to Cackie & Owen as "numbnuts".

Today I'm happy to report that the polling booth was intact and that the kids had overwhelmingly voted for mint over strawberry... um, I mean Obama over McCain.

Never a dull moment here!

Oct 31, 2008

Oct 27, 2008

Thank You Good Samaritan!

I have a bad habit that has got to stop! My bad habit it that I will use my credit or debit card for something and instead of putting it back in my wallet, I will put it in my pocket and move it to my wallet later. I do this a lot at work when I go to the cafeteria for lunch. I'll take out my debit card and forget to put it back in my purse. Often I'll forget to take it out of my pocket and the next day I'll go to get lunch only to realize that I have no debit card.
Well, my habit gets even worse... Last week I filled up my car with gas and instead of putting my American Express card back in my purse, I put it in the pocket of the jacket that I was wearing. You can guess what happened next... the card fell out of my jacket pocket and I never knew it. I actually discovered it when I was trying to buy something online, I have the card number memorized and when I went to complete my transaction it came up as rejected with some note about a lost card. I went searching for my card and couldn't find it. That night I called American Express and sure enough I had lost the card and some nice person had called it in to AmEx. They cancelled my card and are sending a new one. I got sooo lucky! No fraudlent charges and all the mess that goes along with that, I just have to wait for my new card to arrive.
So, THANK YOU whoever you are that took the honest approach and called in my lost card! I SOOOO APPRECIATE YOUR HONESTY!!!!

Oct 24, 2008

May 14 Pictures

Yes, I'm really catching up on pictures! Here's a slideshow of May 14, our last full day in China. At the end there is a picture of us on the plane on our way home. Then there is a picture of Chris Douglas Roberts, Michael got to meet him in Chicago when he got stranded there trying to get our painting back. The last picture is the balloons that our friends brought when they met us at the airport. The kids lost control of them at the airport and they were there on the ceiling when Michael finally arrived home.

May 13th photos

I'm catching up on photos from our China trip. Here is a slideshow from May 13. This was the day that we had the red couch photos and then went out to dinner at the Thai Restaurant.


Oct 23, 2008

It's a Gloomy Day

Here in Memphis it's rainy and gloomy. I needed something to help cheer me up, so I thought I would share some old pictures. These are from May 12th when we were in Guangzhou. Enjoy!

Oct 21, 2008

9-1-1


You may have missed it, but two weeks ago it was Fire Prevention Week. It presents the perfect opportunity to teach preschoolers about fire prevention and how to handle a fire emergency. You know... stop, drop and roll... and how to dial 9-1-1.

Well, Cackie apparently learned her lessons at school well since she dialed 9-1-1 at least 4 times this morning while she and Owen were downstairs watching TV and Michael & I were upstairs getting ready!

I got downstairs to find the phone on speaker and when pressed Cackie admitted that she had played with it. I hung up the phone and it immediately started ringing I picked it up and Michael also picked it up from upstairs. On the line was a Memphis Police dispatcher asking if everything was OK because 9-1-1 had been dialed. I reassured them that our 4 year-old had learned how to dial 9-1-1 at school and tried to practice on our house phone. When we hung up the phone immediately rang again. It was another dispatcher telling us that the police were on their way since someone had dialed 9-1-1 at least 4 times from our number. Within seconds Cackie was in the corner!

I had already decided that she was going to have to tell the police officers what she had done when the phone rang again. The police were verifying that everything was OK and that we did not need officers dispatched to our house. Michael apologized profusely and that must have done the trick since we never saw signs of the good boys in blue.

Needless to say, I'm now glad to be at work! Michael hopefully brought her little mishap to the attention of her teachers, we sure can use their help in reinforcing that she made a VERY BAD choice!

More later about our weekend and Cackie & Owen's mishaps with the lotion bottle at my parents house....

Oct 16, 2008

Boots are in style this season, right?

I sure hope they are in style since I'm sporting this nifty one...

I know it's no excuse, but this is one reason why I haven't updated lately. I've been running so hard I broke my foot!
No, not really. Actually this is what exercise will do for you! Back in July I started a women's running program. After a few weeks I lost a little momentum and then picked it up again just before the program was over. So, when I found out that our gym was starting a program to train for the half marathon I jumped at the opportunity. I was doing great, feeling good and was motivated when my ankle started to hurt. I took a few days off and it didn't get any better so I made an appointment with an orthopedic doc. He took some xrays and found nothing, so I was scheduled for an MRI. The MRI showed that I have a number of horizontal stress fractures in my foot and ankle. Yuck! I went for about a week after that just wearing a brace on my foot and it started to hurt more and more so I called and asked for a boot. It's soo fashionable, dont'cha think? Tomorrow I go for a bone density test and hopefully that will provide some answers as to what's going on.
In addition to my foot woes the kids are keeping us ever busy, we've moved to our new house and I'm halfway through the fall semester in my MBA Finance class. Just a few things keeping me away from the computer!
The move went OK. It wasn't the smoothest, but once we got through with dealing with the sellers it has been a lot better. There are a lot of things around the house that need fixing or updating and I keep telling Michael that this house needs him. It will take some time and a lot of hard work, but I have no doubts that it will be absolutely beautiful when we are finished.
This weekend we are headed to Knoxville for the Tennessee vs. Mississippi State game. My Uncle Donald is coming down to visit and it will be the first time Owen will get to meet him. We're looking forward to getting away and might not know what to do with a little free time on our hands.
That's it for now. I'm soo tired I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open! I stayed up too late last night watching the Phillies win the NLCS and was soo excited that they're going to the World Series that I had trouble falling asleep. Go Phillies!

Sep 10, 2008

All better!

I know it's been a long time since I've posted here. We've been staying busy with lots going on and I just haven't had much time to spend on the computer. I'm going to try to do better to keep this updated.

I'm soo happy to share that right now I'm sitting on the couch while Owen lays next to me watching his favorite Little Einsteins. We've been home about half an hour from having his ear tubes put in, adenoids removed and his circumcision done. He's doing wonderfully right now, even if he does look a little pitiful and groggy. He's already told Michael & I both that he loves us and gave Michael a big kiss. I'm very excited to see the changes that the ear tubes and adenoids bring.

So, to back up a little... we followed up with the ENT a few weeks ago and even after 2 months of medication therapy it was obvious that Owen had a lot of fluid in his ears. The doctor told us that he would definitely need tubes and his adenoids removed. We had to wait a few weeks for our appointment with the pediatric urologist, but then it all came together quickly. The two doctors were able to work out their schedules so that they could take care of everything during the same surgery. This was a relief to us since he would only need to be put under anesthesia once.

When the ENT doc was finished he told Michael & I that there was quite a bit of fluid in Owen's ears and he probably had about a 25 decible hearing loss. He's sure the tubes will help a lot and expects that Owen's speech and pronunciation will take off! The urologist said everything went just fine and the only restriction is that Owen needs to keep off of bikes & tricycles for a couple of weeks.

So, now that is behind us and we are very happy!

We've been up to all kinds of other things around here. Two weeks ago we were on vacation at Dauphin Island, AL. We ended up leaving home a couple days late because tropical storm Fay was coming through and there was a little bit of storm surge that we were worried about. The rental agency was able to change our reseravations, so leaving a few days late wasn't a big deal. But then we had to leave a day early because there was a mandatory evacuation because hurricane Gustav was headed that way.

In between the two storms we had a great week at the beach. The kids absolutely LOVED it and wanted to spend all their time swimming and playing in the water. We got to see all kinds of sealife (hermit crabs, sting rays, blue crabs, fish, dolphins) both on the beach and at the SeaLab on the island. We also got to spend some time with my Uncle Bruce and the kids had fun, even though his dog Bruno scared Owen.

The week that we went to the beach, I also started back working on my MBA. I'm taking a finance class this semester and I'm already behind, no surprise there! It will be tough to keep up, but I always enjoyed finance, so that will help me to get through.

We're also in the process of packing and working on all the stuff needed so that we can move. Right now we are scheduled to close on Monday morning. We don't have all the paperwork, etc ready yet, so who knows if Monday will be the day or not. In the meantime we'll keep packing. The house is an absolute wreck because of the packing, at least when we move we'll have a little more room with all the boxes around.

I guess the last bit of big news around here is that Cackie has been moved up at school and is now in the big kid preschool class. It was time for the kids to finally be separated and it's turning out to be great for both of them. I've attended preschool parent meetings for both of their classes and there is a lot of excitement in both of them. Cackie is going to start having "homework" each week and in a few weeks her class will be taking a field trip to the fair!

OK, Owen is starting to stir a bit and needs some mommy loving. I have a ton of pictures from this summer that need to be added, it may take a while with all that we've got going on, but I will try really hard to do that.
Till later....

Aug 6, 2008

Moving on Up....

So, it's official... we're moving! We came to the final agreement with the sellers this weekend so that means it's time to start packing. Ugh!

This whole thing is really a huge surprise to us. We got back from China and started talking about our plans to add on to our house, because it was very obvious that we needed more room. But, since our lives have been so busy with work this summer we never got any further than just talking about our plans.
Then just before Cackie's birthday, Michael told me about a house in our neighborhood that was just put up for sale and that it had always intrigued him and he wanted to see it. So, we called our realtor and she took us by to check it out. It turned out to be a great house with a lot of potential, but it's potential could only be reached through lots of time, hard work and MONEY! It was really just too much for us to even consider and it didn't meet all of our needs so we knew it wasn't meant to be.
But, it did get us thinking about what a good market it is to buy in right now and we looked at some listings online to see if there was anything that interested us. We identified a couple and had emailed our realtor about them, but just hadn't been able to set up a time to get together to see them.
I was also looking at the ads in the Sunday paper and came across an open house that sounded interesting (it was like 105 degrees that day, so the pool sounded wonderful). I had to go into work that morning for a little while, but then after I got home and the kids woke up from their naps we decided to go ahead and check out the open house. We walked in and within a couple of minutes I was totally in love! By the time we left there Michael & I both knew that we wanted to buy the house. In fact, I remember us walking down the front sidewalk to leave and he said... let's buy it!
That was Sunday and by Tuesday night we had a contract to buy it! On the 8th we had our home inspection and some things were identified that needed to be taken care of, so we came to an agreement with the sellers and we're set to close on the house on September 15th!
We're all really excited, but know that we have a TON of stuff to do before now and then. We leave on Saturday for our vacation at Dauphin Island, so that's a whole week lost packing. We need the time away, though and the kids need some Mommy & Daddy time.
For now we are going to keep our current house and try to rent it out. We've had someone express interest in it and hopefully that will come to fruition.

So, that's about all the news on our new house. Well, except for the fact that it was featured in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago! How cool is that??!!!


Go here to check it out... New York Times Great Homes and Destinations

We can't wait to move in and make it our own!

Aug 1, 2008

Been Working Too Much!

Visual Poetry - ImageChef.com

Yes, I've been gone for a LONG time because I've been working too much! Michael has been working too much as well, so we've been a pretty grouchy bunch around our house.
I'm finally getting some relief from my work, YAY! Michael should be getting some relief real soon.
Even though we've been working a lot we've still had a lot of stuff going on around our house. We celebrated 2 months with Owen, the 4th of July, Cackie's 4th birthday, our 9th wedding anniversary, the kids and I took a weekend to visit LaoLao & LaoYe, we're buying a new house & moving and we're about to celebrate 3 months with Owen!

I'm hoping to get some time this weekend to share more about what we've been up to and on our big upcoming plans. I've also got quite a few pictures that I'm hoping to get posted to share.
One thing that is for sure around here... we're staying busy!

Jun 24, 2008

Rebuttal

A rebuttal to the idiot at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

http://www.popehat.com/2008/06/23/mike-seate-of-the-pittsburgh-tribune-review-doesnt-approve-of-your-familys-skin-color/

This makes me MAD!

I first read this article on Saturday night and it just made me soo mad! This guy is a total idiot (I wanted to use another word here, but decided against it).

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/columnists/seate/s_573477.html

Jun 20, 2008

Booked!

For one week, later this summer this beautiful house will be our home! That's right... we're headed to the beach! I can't wait! We haven't been to the beach in years and neither Cackie or Owen has ever been, so it should be an awesome week.
It's also motivation to keep watching what I eat, maybe I'll be able to treat myself to a new swimsuit!

Progress

Open... a simple little word, but music to my ears yesterday.

I was loading the kids in the car after picking them up from school and while I was buckling Cackie in Owen hands me his little bag of Teddy Grahams and says "open".
I was soo excited! I ran around to his side of the car, opened his Teddy Grahams and gave him a big kiss! I think I'll remember this like I remember Cackie taking her first steps.

Later, after we were home Owen came running from the kitchen saying "water". He wanted a drink of water and told me instead of grabbing my hand and dragging me into the kitchen. Yay!

The best part of the day was when he copied me and said "night night, love you" as I was tucking him into bed. Small steps, but we're getting there!

Jun 18, 2008

I was outnumbered...

and I survived... SORT OF!

Last night was a first for us. It was the first time Michael had to go out of town since Owen has joined our family. It was the first time for me to be the sole caregiver for more than a couple of hours.

Things went pretty well, thankfully! Of course Michael's trip coincided with a busy important day for me at work where everything came down to the last minute and it was also the day that I had to take Katie to the vet for her monthly shot, oh and then it was also the night of Cackie's gymnastics lesson, no biggie! I'm happy to report that the work got done, Katie got picked up from the vet and taken home and we all got to gymnastics early. After gymnastics I treated the kids to McDonald's and they even got to bed before 9 pm! Whoo hoo for me!

When Michael is not home I never sleep well, but was surprised that I slept until I was awakened to screaming at 4 am. I rushed down the stairs to figure out WHO was screaming and wouldn't you know it, once I turned on the hall light they stopped screaming! I checked on both kids... Cackie appeared to be sleeping and Owen was readjusting himself, but seemed fine and didn't respond when I spoke to him so I figured it was just a dream. I kissed them both, left the room and headed back upstairs. Just as I was about to climb back in bed the screaming started again! I still couldn't figure out which one of them it was, so I raced back downstairs, turned on the hall light and they stopped!

This time Cackie had her eyes slightly open and looked at me. I asked her if she was the one screaming and she just looked at me and said "Good Night". Owen was out, so I knew it wasn't him. I headed back upstairs, the whole time praying that whatever the problem was had passed.

I never heard from them again the rest of the night, and I would have known since I only got little cat naps until I had to get up at 6:15. I need 7 to 8 hours a night, so it's killing me now that I didn't get it. I'm soo glad Michael will be back tonight!

This morning went much better than expected, we were all out of the house by 7:30 without any major tears or arguments! How I did that I'll never know! Maybe I should play tonight's Powerball, it may just be my lucky day!

Jun 16, 2008

Watch This!

This is a new documentary that will show on PBS tomorrow. Looks very interesting!

Jun 13, 2008

I'm back!

No, we haven’t fallen off the face of the earth… we’ve just been very very busy trying to adapt to our new lifestyle. I’ve been meaning to sit and update the blog for days, but just haven’t found the time. Rather than try to write out a super long story about everything, I’ll give an overview of what we’ve been up to…
• We had a great Memorial Day weekend, very busy but a lot of fun. Friday night we took the kids to a baseball game. We sat on blankets on the bluff and had a really great time just playing and hanging out. That Saturday we worked on stuff around the house, trying to return things to normal and just stayed home. It was nice to have one day to not have to run out and be anywhere by a certain time. That Sunday we went to church and then went out to our favorite catfish restaurant for lunch, yummy! Late that afternoon we met friends at our favorite brewpub for a quick bite before we all headed over to the members party at the zoo. We love the zoo members parties because it gives us the chance to do the zoo at night. They also let the kids “swim” in the big fountain at the entrance and it’s usually packed full of kids having a great time getting wet. We ended up spending most of the evening at the fountain letting the kids enjoy the water. Cackie was actually more hesitant than Owen about getting in, what a change from three weeks before! After the zoo we headed for ice cream, always a favorite of everyone in our group. On Monday we picked up some BBQ and went to spend the day with Michael’s Mom & Stepdad. The kids were a little tired since we were there during nap time, but they had a great time showing off for everyone!

• The first week home Owen & I spent most of our days running errands and trying to get things accomplished around the house. It seemed like we were out every day with one thing or another. On one of our trips I bought a pool for the kids and they’ve really enjoyed spending time in it in the afternoons.

• Our second week home I ended up working from home, trying to stay caught up on my deadlines. Our busy time of year is approaching fast and the last thing I needed was to fall behind on my work. I also had quite a few appointments that week… follow up with my ENT surgeon (my nose looks great and he doesn’t need to see me for another 9 months!), dental cleaning and my first visit to the orthodontist (more on that later). Owen went with me to these appointments and was really well behaved. I was worried that he would freak out with my dental cleaning or my ENT appointment, but he really didn’t seem to mind at all.

• On Friday, May 30 we celebrated Cackie’s 3rd Gotcha Day! To celebrate I picked her up from school just before lunch and all had lunch at McDonald’s instead. After lunch we headed over to the zoo to spend the day with Tamela & Gili. It was a good day, the only downsides being that it was HOT and Cackie didn’t have her “listening ears” on. (Owen’s lucky because right now it’s hard to tell if he has his listening ears on or not, lol!) After the zoo we headed home to cool off in the pool and then when Michael got home we all went out to the Italian Festival. Afterward I asked Cackie if she had a good Gotcha Day and she gave me a definite YES!

• Monday, June 2 was the day that I was most anxious about… it was Owen’s appointment with the cleft lip/palate team and it went really well! They were impressed with how well his lip repair looked and after investigating his palate they believe that only his soft palate was cleft, not his hard palate. That may be the reason why the repair was done when so many others were not. The team of doctor’s was wonderful, we were very impressed, and they said that they will not need to see him until next year when we can see how much he has grown and evaluate his needs at that time. I did speak with the speech therapist at length and will be contacting him to get Owen evaluated once he is fully speaking English on a regular basis. The team did recommend that we get him fully evaluated by an ENT specialist to rule out any hearing issues and we have an appointment for that later this month. They also recommended that we get Owen into a pediatric dentist to get his teeth cleaned, which we will do ASAP.

• So once Owen was cleared by the cleft team we didn’t hesitate at all getting him started in school. He started on Tuesday, June 3 for half a day and then went full days on Wednesday, Thursday & Friday. I think he was soo happy to get back into a school routine, he loves it! It’s like he’s always been there, he fits in and gets along with the other kids so well. The teachers even told me that he had soo much fun on splash day that he cried for 15 minutes after they made him come inside. Now, after 2 full weeks there I know he’s having a blast… he has all the bumps, bruises and scrapes to prove it!

• My last week at home was a busy one. I did a little more catch up work and once Owen and Cackie were both in school I spent a whole day shopping for groceries and things we needed around the house. My greatest accomplishment was getting everything totally moved between Cackie’s old bedroom and the new bedroom for the kids. They have a ton of toys and enough stuffed animals to sink a ship! It’s soo nice now to have all their clothes and toys organized and easy to find. And, judging from how much they get out their toys and play with them, I think they really like playing in their new room.

• The Friday before I went back to work I had an appointment with the orthodontist to get my braces put on. I’ve needed to do this for over 2 years and had kept putting it off. I have TMJ problems and wear a mouthpiece at night to keep me from grinding my teeth down to stumps, but unfortunately I lost my little case with my mouthpiece in it somewhere between Memphis and Beijing. The whole time in China without my mouthpiece caused my jaw to become increasingly sorer, so I decided to dive right in and get the braces put on. The first few days were really no fun and I kept wondering why I had done this to myself. But, by the 4th or 5th day I wasn’t hurting quite so bad. Now the biggest annoyance is having to constantly clean out food from the braces, yuck! I also can’t eat popcorn! I LOVE popcorn and don’t know how I’m going to make it for 18 – 24 moths without it.

• In addition to getting my braces put on, that same day I took the plunge and got my hair cut. I went all out, or maybe I should say “all off”. It’s already way too hot and I was tired of having hair in my face, so I went ahead and got my hair cut real short, very similar to how I wore it a lot in High School. I feel soo much better now and LOVE that it is so much faster getting ready in the morning!

• Today is the end of my first week back to work and I can honestly say that I’m glad to be back. I really love the group that I’m working with and they make work fun, I missed them while I was gone. Owen has now been at school with Cackie for 2 weeks and has had accident reports each of the last two days. Apparently he is a bit of a klutz and keeps running his head into the cabinets or cubbies (just like I did as a kid… hey genetics ain’t everything!). Cackie is having a more difficult time adjusting to everything than Owen is. She‘s not really able to fully express herself yet, either so that makes for a lot of whining and fussing around our house. It will take some time, but I know it will get better.

That’s about everything we’ve been up to. Tonight were going to try to spend some time with the kids and go out to dinner. Tomorrow while the kids are napping I’m going with a friend to see “Sex and the City” (yay!) and then those same friends are going to come over for dinner and the kids will play. Sunday is Michael’s day… he gets to decide what we’ll do.
I’m hoping that I’ll be able to stay more up to date now. I’ve got some pictures to update and I still have some from our trip that I’ve never posted. I’ll work on that this weekend. Till then…

May 21, 2008

We're Home!

OK, we've been home almost a week. Things have been soo crazy around here that I just haven't had time to sit down at the computer and post.
I started writing out the story of our trip home (it didn't exactly go as planned), just need to find a little time to sit down and finish it up.

I've been spending time trying to get things in order around here. The house is an absolute MESS! We never organized the kids room with their clothes & toys before we left, so that just adds to the disorganization. Thankfully I've got the major laundry out of the way, of course it probably needs to be done again.

Both kids have already been to the doctor... Cackie got to visit the Saturday clinic because we discovered some nice spots all over the back of her throat. We got her tested and it's just a virus, no strep. Owen had his first checkup yesterday and passed with flying colors. He has a little bit of an ear infection in his left ear but that should be cleared up after a couple days of meds.

Like good Memphians we've already introduced Owen to BBQ! On Sunday since we couldn't go to church because of Cackie's throat we went to the zoo and then had BBQ after. That was a busy day and both kids were in desperate need of a nap when we got home (mom, too!).

I think we're pretty much back on Memphis time. It didn't take too long, really. I think we would have been back on normal time sooner if it hadn't been for Cackie's cold and the fact that Michael & I were feeling a little yucky, too. I think getting home in the early evening and getting to bed shortly thereafter really helped with our adjustment.

OK, gotta get the day started. Lots to do... hopefully I can find some time in the next few days to finish my story of our trip home and post any pictures I missed. I've got hundreds of emails to catch up on, so I'm working on that, too.

May 14, 2008

Headed Home!

We have a very bittersweet feeling right now... we can't wait to be home, but we hate to leave China that has such a emotional bond with us. It's tough taking a child from their home country. I just hope that we can continue to teach Cackie & Owen to love their birth country.

We are packing our final items and will head out very early in the morning, so this will be our last update from China. I never got a chance to post the pictures, I'll do that once we get settled in Memphis.

We can't wait to see and hug everyone! We are soo anxious to get home, sleep on softer beds and get into a routine.

See everyone in Memphis!

Love,
Deanna, Michael, Cackie, Owen & Caryn

May 12, 2008

We're Safe!

Wow, we've gotten a number of messages about the earthquake and I can say that we are totally and completely safe!

We actually didn't even know about the earthquake until around 10pm last night when Caryn was checking messages and had an email about it. When it actually happened we were all napping and never knew a thing. Most of the places in China that felt it were much farther north of us and we're only on the 9th floor of a 20+ floor building located on an island, so any chance for us to feel anything would be minimal. We were surprised that we didn't hear anything about it when we went out last night. We took a Pearl River cruise and there were a couple small TVs onboard, but no one ever said anything about it.

We're glad that we are safe and from a quick check of some websites it sounds as if the orphanages in those areas are OK. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people in Sichuan province and all the aid workers who are doing all they can to help.

Yesterday we had our first official business to do here in Guangzhou. Michael & I took Owen to get his photo taken for his US visa and then we went on to have his medical exam done. It all went well, but Owen seemed to be concerned with all the cries of the children who were there waiting with us. Owen's official statics are 14kg and 96.5cm (30.86 lbs and 38 inches).

After that we did some shopping and walking and then headed back to the hotel for a nap. We woke them up from nap a little early so that we could have some swimming time. The weather was a lot warmer and that helped because the water was still pretty cool. Owen once again screamed his head off when we got in, but we wouldn't give up on him and kept working with him. By the time we were done he was holding onto my shoulders and kicking his legs behind him or hanging onto the side of the pool and kicking behind him. We are soo proud of his progress!

We didn't have much time at the pool becuase we had to eat something quick and be ready to meet Kris, Jim, Austin, Owen and Jocelyn to do the Pearl River tour. It was soo cool! We're really glad we decided to take it. The whole waterfront was lit up and all the buildings were brightly decorated. The kids really enjoyed running around on the boat deck and seeing all the bright lights.

Once we were done with that it was time to get to bed. We thought we might actually get the kids in bed early, but of course that didn't happen. Oh well!

This morning was our consulate appointment, we didn't actually go but Jocelyn went for us to file our paperwork. Michael stayed in the room in case there were any questions and Caryn, Cackie, Owen & I went out and did a TON of shopping. After a while Michael caught up with us and we headed to the Starbucks oasis.

Right now the kids are napping and we'll be waking them shortly for our red couch photo. We all have new duds to wear and I'm hoping for good pictures.
I'll come back later and post photos. Gotta go exchange some money... pearl market shopping this afternoon!

May 11, 2008

May 11th Photos

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May 10th Photos

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May 9th photos

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Happy Mother's Day from Guangzhou

Sorry that it's been a few days since I updated. We've been busy and travelling and there just hasn't been time to get on the computer.

For our last day in Tianjin Helen brought us Owen's passport! Yay! That was the last thing that we needed before we could leave Tianjin! Most of the morning we just spent in our room playing and starting to get our bags packed. For lunch Helen took us to a hotpot restaurant. It was soo good! We had never tried hotpot before, but we definitely want to do it again, Yummy!
On the way back to the hotel after our lunch we stopped in at a cross stitch shop and I got 3 great kits to make. Two of them are emperor and empress designs that I can give the kids when they get married and one is a beautiful flower design for me to hang in the house. Once I get done knitting Owen's blanket I hope to get started on that one.

After our nice long nap we met Helen and took a taxi to the Tianjin Cultural Street. It was full of little shops that sold all sorts of trinkets, most of them were little souvenirs but some were traditional crafts or foods native to Tianjin. We bought a couple of little things and Helen treated us to some candy and a twisted baked snack that is a local favorite. It sort of reminded me of a chinese pretzel with sesame seeds, very yummy! After wandering around there and playing in a park area a bit we decided to walk back to our hotel. It wasn't very far, but it was rush hour so that was a little nerve wracking. From there we went to dinner at a dumpling restaurant because eating dumplings is a lucky way to begin a new journey (this is why it is tradition to eat dumplings at Chinese New Year).

There are many things that I love and try to understand about the Chinese culture, but one that I will never get used to is the squatty potty. In my opinion they are just GROSS! Why women put up with this is beyond me! It doesn't help that Cackie has a potty fetish either! At the dumpling restaurant Cackie of course had to use the bathroom and it was the nastiest, dirtiest squatty potty that I had ever seen. It is not easy trying to teach Cackie to use it and the end result was wet pants and a sick mommy, yuck! Good thing I had enjoyed some dinner up to that point, cause there was no more enjoying after that!

After that we headed back to the hotel to finish packing and for the second night in a row the "hotel police" called to tell us to close our door (our rooms were not connecting, so we had to flip the latch to keep the doors open slightly to go between the two rooms). When that started we were REALLY starting to get ready to get out of Tianjin!

So, on Saturday we woke up early to get ready, pack the last minute items and have breakfast. We were ready a little early, but were anxious to get to Guangzhou so that was probably why. We headed to the airport and got there too early to check in. After waiting a little bit we got in line just a few minutes before the check in counter opened. Good thing we were there early... we had a number of luggage issues because they have changed their carry-on policies recently and ended up needing to check some bags that we had not intended to check. Then, they had Cackie's last name spelled "Wills" which was going to cause problems going through security and it took a while to wait for that issue to be fixed.

Once we got all the tickets straighted out we entered the security mess. They kept scanning our bags, making us take out certain items and insisted that we had lighters in our backpack (they were matchbox cars!). It wasn't as crazy as the train station (thank God!), but it was still crazy! Owen is very attached to his backpack and we couldn't get it off him to go through security without a whole lot of screaming so that didn't help matters.

We made it through security just in time to board the plane and get situated. There was a little delay leaving the gate and we finally left around 1:00. I was sitting between Cackie & Owen and Caryn & Michael were in the row behind us on the other side of the isle. Thankfully just before takeoff Owen crashed and Cackie was just a few minutes behind him. They both missed the meal service, but I think they really needed the nap more. Owen woke up about an hour later and Cackie was about 45 minutes behind him. We didn't arrive in Guangzhou until 3:30, so there was still quite a bit of time to keep the two of them occupied. Owen became facinated with the safety instruction card and Cackie liked the airsickness bag (we're so glad we didn't need either of them!).

When we arrived we gathered our multitude of luggage pretty easily and found our guide Jocelyn waiting for us. We loaded everything up into the waiting van and headed to the wonderful White Swan hotel. On the way Jocelyn went over our entire schedule with us and uttered some of the best words we'd heard in days... Papa Johns! (any guesses on what we had for dinner?) The ride was about 40 minutes, but the time passed pretty quick.

We were soo happy to arrive at the comfortable White Swan. Jocelyn was able to arrange connecting rooms for us and they are a lot larger and more comfortable than the room we had on our last trip. We immediately gathered all our dirty laundry and headed out to drop it off. On the way we stopped by the indoor waterfall and pond and ran into our friends from Beijing... Kris, Jim, Austin & Owen! We were soo excited to see them and catch up with them. They could totally relate to our train station frustration which made us all feel better. We were soo excited to see them we almost forgot about our laundry.

We finally gathered everyone together and headed to take our laundry and get a few things from the 7 Eleven. When we got back to our room we called Papa John's and ordered pizza and cheese sticks for dinner. It arrived via bicycle messenger and Michael went to the lobby to pick it up. When he came back to the room he was laughing hysterically because he had a bit of a language mix up when ordering the cheese sticks... they had asked him how many pieces he wanted and they told him there were 8 pieces, so he ordered 8 pieces of cheese sticks. As it turned out he actually ordered 8 orders of cheese sticks! Needless to say we got our fill of Papa John's! The kids ate at least two orders of cheese sticks each! Owen loved it!

With our bellies filled we fell asleep easily!

Today we woke up a little late and after getting ready went to enjoy the wonderful breakfast buffet. We really enjoyed it and the kids were pleased with the variety. After breakfast Caryn, Owen & I met Jocelyn and took a taxi to the local arts & crafts center. We did some good shopping, especially for items we wish we had bought last time and were back to the hotel just a little over an hour later. Owen was soo sweet the whole time, he rally wanted to be held and Jocelyn was nice enough to keep him busy while we were busy shopping.

After we got back to the hotel we gathered up Michael & Cackie and went out to explore the island a little. We stopped at Starbucks to get a little comfort fix and the kids enjoyed some hot chocolate. By then it was time to head back for a nap. It didn't take too long for the kids to fall asleep and we enjoyed the opportunity to do a little work in the other room.

When they woke up we got ready and headed down to the pool. Cackie of course dove right in and really enjoyed the little kiddie pool. Owen was very scared and timid at first, but we worked with him and after a short time he was splashing everyone and even walking by himself across the kiddie pool. It was fairly cool and overcast today and it didn't take long for both kids to have blue lips and start shivering. When we got out we enjoyed playing with some bubbles and we found out that Owen can blow! That's a good sign for a cleft kiddo and it was good practice for him to blow the bubbles.

After we were done at the pool we got dressed and headed back out to take the kids to the outdoor play area on the island. They both loved it, especially the slide. All that playing and we started to get really hungry so we headed back to the hotel to clean up a little and pick up our clean laundry. I had wanted to go to the great Thai restaurant here, but they were full so we ended up eating dinner at Lucy's. Owen cleaned his plate... the grilled ham and cheese was a huge hit. We had made a number of friends in the time that we've been here and they all seemed to show up at Lucy's just after we did.

We then decided to head back to the hotel and made a side trip to the playroom downstairs. The kids had a lot of fun, Cackie was wild and crazy and Owen was more reserved and paid attention to details. I think they are going to be a good fit for each other. When we had finally worn them out we headed back to the room to get ready for bed. They are now both sleeping in the other room like little angels. What a happy Mother's Day this has been!

I'll work on posting links to our photo albums. It's taking a little longer than I had hoped. Stay posted for those! We've loved hearing from everyone and send everyone our love!

May 8, 2008

Thurday in Tianjin

Wow, I can't believe that it was last week that we were at the Temple of Heaven! What a week it's been!

Today we woke up and got started late. It was nice to be a little relaxed. Cackie took a shower with me and then Michael was able to get Owen into the tub with him. It started out as a fight, but by the end of the bath he was laughing and smiling. Yay! Maybe that's another small victory.

We went down and had a really nice breakfast and Owen ate a reasonable amount. I think he's starting to realize that there will be plenty for him and he doesn't need to stuff himself.

After breakfast we pulled out the double stroller and went out for a walk. We walked to a little park that is attached to a hospital down the street and did some exploring and then we went down to the river that is nearby. They have a very nice river walk area with a HUGE ferris wheel on a bridge over the river. We had a good time just walking along and looking at the different people.

This afternoon has been lazy for us, first we had a nice long nap and then we've been hanging out playing and watching TV. Now we're trying to figure out what to do for dinner.

Just one more full day in Tianjin. On Saturday we head to Guangzhou where hopefully we won't draw as many crowds. It will be nice to be in a familiar place and see some friends.

Thank you for all the comments and messages! We love hearing from everyone and feeling connected to back home. Just one more week and we'll be back!

Another Day in Tianjin

I feel like all we ever do around here is eat! I guess it just seems that way because we're not used to being so lazy and relaxed.
Yesterday we got up early to eat breakfast so that we would be ready for lunch at 12:15 when we were to meet Robert.
Helen was not able to go to lunch with us, but thankfully Robert can read and speak chinese. Otherwise we would have been lost! We had a wonderful lunch with Robert and got the opportunity to learn some about the orphanage and how things work there for the children. He couldn't tell us anything about Owen's foster family, but did say that he's one of the first in his "kindergarten" class to be adopted and he figured that some of the other children would be adopted soon. It was really a good time and we are soo thankful for having Robert to share information with us and be there to help the children.

After lunch it was naptime and we all were able to get some good rest. I'm really getting used to these 2 hour naps in the afternoon! After nap we went swimming! Owen was really scared at first. We all went to sit on the edge of the pool, but he stood off in the distance near the lounge chairs. I coaxed him into my lap and we used his dumptruck to bring water over to dribble on him. I inched slowly closer to the pool and by the time we left he was sitting with me on the edge with his feet in the water. A smalll victory maybe?

After swimming we went out pick up the cameras that we had sent in care packages to Owen. Only 2 of the 3 cameras processed, but there are some great pictures in them. There are a couple pictures with Owen's foster mom, his teacher and maybe his foster dad. There are also a couple pictures with 2 little girls that I will share with the Tianjin group after we get home.

After that we did some walking around to see if we could find somewhere to eat. We had asked Helen about a "western" restaurant and she suggested McDonald's, not exactly what we had in mind. So, we did some walking to see if we could find a good place to eat. We came across a "western" restaurant and decided to give it a try. It wasn't exactly what we consider western... we had some sort of italian cod, chicken curry, beef & pepper stew and spaghetti with meat sauce. Thinking about it now, it's the craziest meal we've ever eaten! At least it wasn't too bad and Owen was introduced to spaghetti (sort of). The kids were being good (well as good as they could be) so we went to McDonald's to treat them to ice cream. The McDonald's was like walking into a sauna, it was easily 85 degrees in there, so the ice cream was VERY welcome!

We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for bed. It was nearly 10 pm at this point and we were all beat. We had a quick screaming session with Owen when we had to take something away from him, but then it wasn't too long before we were out for the night.

Sweet dreams from Tianjin!



May 6, 2008

All About Owen

Well, today is day 3 of life with Owen. I haven't had a lot of chance to write things down, but we only have one thing planned for today (lunch with Robert), so this gives me a chance to write down some things about Owen.

He LOVES his backpack! He's very attached to it and if we try to take it from him he can get quite upset. He carries a couple matchbox cars, a magnadoodle pad and his camera in it. He has worn out the batteries in the camera, mostly just playing with it, but sometimes intending to take pictures. I need to charge the batteries when we get a chance.

He can be quite insecure. We think that he's worried that things will be taken away from them and he'lll never see them again, so once something is given to him it takes a lot to get it back.

Occasionally he will show frustration with Cackie. She is having pretty rough time with all this. If Baba or I show too much attention to him she has to jump in and try to get us to pay attention to her. Sometimes when she does this Owen can get testy and will try to push her away.

He does not like cats or dogs. We recieved a letter from his foster family that said this, but we saw it in action last night when we went out for a walk. A cat jumped down from a brick wall and ran under a car about 30 feet away and he started to pull back and wouldn't walk forward. Then, later we were walking past a shop that had a dog sitting out front and she screamed and pulled away. (this is going to make life at home VERY difficult!)

He knows who MaMa and BaBa are and can point to us both in person and in pictures.

He's pretty tiny. He is tall and has a big belly, but his arms & legs are very skinny. On Monday we changed him into some shorts that I had from Walmart that said 24 mos, but they almost fell off of him. We had some other shorts that were 3T with elastic waist and they fit him a lot better. Unfortunately he had two messes and we had to make a trip to Walmart to get some extra drawstring shorts for him. So, we may need to do some shopping when we get home.

He has the cutest little dimples!

He is not fond of the bathtub. Monday night we tried to give him a bath and it ended up in a screaming match. Last night tried again, but he had his backpack on and wouldn't give it up.

He is a very neat little boy. If he takes something out he puts it away when he's done. If I open a drawer to put something away he does not like it if I leave the drawer open, he immediately comes behind me to close it. He also tries to close the doors at the hotel entrance whenever we go in or out.

He LOVES to eat! The only things so far that we could not get him to eat are soup and some broccoli at breakfast this morning. So far he has eaten corn, spare ribs, shrimp, asparagus, spinach, lamb, chicken, pork, eggplant, rice, noodles, eggs, watermelon, potatoes, carrots, snow peas, apples, bacon, sausage, steamed bread... pretty much everything we give him. He eats so much at one time that his belly is rock hard by the time we leave the table.

He is extremlely careful when walking around, especially on stairs. He probably hasn't had much exercise and his muscle tone is low, but that shouldn't take long to correct.

He likes cars, crayons, coloring and playdoh. But he really doesn't like things that make too much noise and this morning he freaked out when I brought out some light up balls that have tentacles like an octopus. He seemed to like the light part, but once all the tentacles came out he started screaming.

He has a VERY loud scream! This morning we went to wake Cackie up and something in the dark room scared him and the scream was ear piercing! A few minutes later someone from the hotel came walking around the floor and we had to wonder if it was because of his screaming.

He is a very sweet and loving little boy! He will walk up to us and and hold up his arms wanting us to hold him. He's even started giving us the cutest little kisses.
Yesterday we had to wake him up suddenly from his nap to go and take care of some paperwork. We thought we were going to do that today, but things changed and we had to move quickly. He was such a good boy, didn't cry, scream or anything. He just went with the flow and wanted to explore everything he could.

All our paperwork is now done. He's officially ours, we're just waiting in Tiajin for his passport to be issued. We should get that on Friday and then on Saturday we will head to Guangzhou to get his US Visa.

Here are our pictures from yesterday. The camera battery died, so we didn't get too many.

We have Owen!

We've been together for over 24 hours now and things are going really well!
We've been soo busy going here and there or trying to get kiddos to nap, etc so it's been hard to sit down at the computer and get this posted.

We went to the orphanage at 11 am yesterday and Helen brought us two bags full of stuff for Owen. One was full of all kinds of snacks and treats that he likes and the other had one of the boxes that we had sent to him with some of the clothes and toys that we had sent. The photo books that I had sent him were also in the box and some of the pages looked really worn, at least one of the pictures was even missing, so I think he was able to look at the books a lot. We were also excited because the Tiger doll that we had sent was dirty and looked played with.

We were shuffled from one room to another and then we were finally taken upstairs so that the orphanage director could speak to us. A few minutes later they brought in Owen and another little girl that was being adopted as well. I went to him and he just leaned on me. I know it was overwhelming for me, so it must have been for him. We pulled out one of the photo books and he pointed to his picture and said "HangHang", then when I asked him to point to MaMa and BaBa he pointed to our pictures.

We were only in that room a few minutes longer and then we were all shuffled out to leave. He started to cry a little while we were in the room, but one of the nannies came over to talk to him and that seemed to make it all better. When we got into the car I sat in the very back with him and he started to say a few things, but Helen really couldn't understand what he was saying. Helen did ask him if he was hungry and he said yes. It was past his normal lunch time, so we headed back to the hotel to drop some things off and then we went down the street to a restaurant for lunch.

We had told Helen that Cackie liked corn, so she ordered a corn dish for us that was VERY good and HangHang LOVED it! He easily ate 3 or 4 whole bowls of it, plus lamb spare ribs (right off the bone!), some sort of fried chicken, rice and steamed bread. The only thing that he had no interest at all in was the soup. Every time we tried to give him soup he would shake his head really hard! We couldn't believe how much of everything else he was eating! Now, looking back on it, I think he was afraid that we would take something away and that he had better eat while it was there.

We were able to get him to giggle and smile during lunch and we had a really good time. At one point Helen was able to get him to laugh with his mouth open and we were given an AWESOME surprise... his palate surgery has already been done! We had no clue about this at all!

After lunch we headed back to the hotel to try to lay down for a nap. We had to close all the blinds, turn off all the lights and Michael, Cackie, HangHang and I all laid down on the bed together for a nap. Good thing we were able to get a king size bed! We napped for not quite 2 hours and then we had to go out to meet Helen.

Before the nap we tried to let him take off his long sleeve shirt and sandals, but he would have nothing to do with it. After nap he allowed us to go ahead and change him into a tshirt, shorts & the sandals that I brought. I was soo glad we were able to do that, poor guy was getting really hot.

So, we met Helen and we all headed down to the McDonald's to use their play area. The play area wasn't much, but it was just enough for Cackie to run and have some fun and HangHang did some loosening up and playing. Helen treated us all to ice cream sundaes and it was soo cute to watch him eat it. He wouldn't let it out of his sight. Then Helen gave him a french fry and he loved it too! Nothing like creating a monster early, huh?

We played at McDonald's for quite a while, it was soo hot in there I thought I was going to melt. When we were done we stopped to buy a couple of drinks and we put HangHang's orange juice in a soft spout sippy cup for him. He LOVED that cup and wouldn't give it up. It seemed as if he was using it as a pacifier, but that was OK. He was riding on Michael's shoulders and loved it!

We got back to the hotel and none of us were really hungry (HangHang's belly was still tight!), so we just played a while. Then, Michael & I tried to give him a bath, but he definately did not like that! He watched Cackie take a bath after him and that seemed to help ease his fears. We'll try again later!

After bath we got the kids ready for bed and tucked into the big bed together. We tried sitting in the room with the lights out, but the two of them were getting into mischeif and wouldn't be quite. We finally got them to calm down, but they still laid there awake. Michael & I went out in the hall with the door propped open slightly and they seemed to calm down a bit more. We sat out in the hall until just after 10 and then got into bed with the kids. HangHang was still awake, but fell asleep fast once we were there with him.

I've attached two slide shows with all the pictures from the day



May 4, 2008

May 2 Pictures

Photobucket Album
the old train station in Beijing

May 2 photos

Here's a link to our photobucket album of pictures from May 2

http://s204.photobucket.com/albums/bb142/dcwa123/china%200502/

Almost up to date

Well, we haven't had much opportunity to get online and then last night when we tried the internet connection in our room was not working. Michael has headed to the front desk to see if we can get it fixed, but meanwhile I'm in Caryn & Cackie's room where the connection is working.
I've posted what I've written about the last few days, but I'm still behind on pictures. Our camera takes such high resolution pics that it can take a lot of time to upload them. I'm working on it now and will post photos as soon as I can.

Right now it's 9:15 am on Monday and we are to meet Helen in the lobby at 11:00 am to head to the orphanage. I think it's pretty close by, so we should probably have Owen with us not too long after 11. Michael and I are both pretty nervous this morning and Cackie is being VERY talkative, so I suspect she is starting to realize that things are about to change.

I'm off to work on pictures and will send an update later as soon as I can.

May 4

Today was the most stressful day by far! I’m glad it is behind us and I’m praying that the rest of the trip is not nearly as stressful.
We got up at 6 am just like the last 2 days, but instead of eating breakfast at the hotel for $20 a piece we went to McDonald’s and we all ate for less than $10! We could just kick ourselves for spending so much those other days, oh well! Last trip we never ate at an American restaurant and we had really wanted to avoid it this time, but it just didn’t make sense to us to not go.
Across the street from McDonald’s was a bank and we got quite a shock when we saw the armored car “brigade” that was lined up out front. It was almost scary! Now that is some bank security!
After breakfast we headed back to the hotel to do our final packing and were ready early when Helen arrived at the hotel to get us. We had a LOT more luggage than Helen had planned on and we had trouble getting it all packed into the van. We headed to the train station and of course got caught in a traffic jam. Helen jumped out of the van to find some guys to help us haul all our luggage because as we found out later the train stations in China are not traveler friendly.
We got out everything out of the van and as we started heading toward the train station I asked Cackie to give me her hand so that I wouldn’t lose her. She has had more than her share of stubborn moments and decided to have one right there on the street. When she refused to give me her hand I grabbed it out of pure fear that she would get too close to the street and she started to throw an absolute fit! She was screaming and the whole moment became 100 times more stressful that it already was. While trying to contain Cackie in her fit, we were trying to keep up with Helen and the two dudes who had taken off with our luggage. Then as we entered the train station we had to put all our luggage through a luggage scanner, but everything was moving at 5 times the pace of what we went through at the airport. After hoping that we had gathered everything up we had to go up an escalator with everything, all the while Cackie is drawing attention to herself because she is screaming and Michael & I were starting to get very nervous that someone was going to accuse us of kidnapping her. At that point I was about to lose it and we put her in the stroller to help contain her. She was not happy about that, but we were now in a HUGE crowd of people and we were doing everything we could to keep it together.
As we headed toward the gate I can now understand why there were cases of people being trampled in the train stations earlier this year around Chinese New Year. I can now truly say that I know what cattle feel like when they are being herded! It is hard enough keeping up with 4 other people in a crowded place, but when you add in all the luggage it is crazy! Once we got into the gate for our train, then we had to rush down a huge flight of steps and race to the opposite end of the train to get to our car. We jumped on the train just as they were ringing the bell to let us know that the train was about to leave! We had to cram the stroller in a tight space and pray that the rest of the luggage had made it on the train.
The trip to Tianjin was just a little over an hour and the train was very smooth. We totally needed that after what it took to get on there! But, the fun wasn’t over yet… we still had to arrive and get off the train. Knowing that it was going to be difficult to get everything off we planned to split up and Michael & I would get part of our stuff and Caryn & Helen would get the rest. We were able to get everything off and Helen found two more guys who could help us to haul everything. This time we first had to go up about 3 flights of steps, turn a corner and then down 3 flights of stairs, not easy with all the stuff we had. Then, as we were trying to exit the train station amongst mass chaos a woman at the gate tried to stop me as we were going through. I pretty much looked at her like a crazed woman pointed toward Helen and pushed through the gate. I know she thought I was a lunatic pushing a double stroller with only one child and loaded down with 3 or 4 bags. Maybe tomorrow I can laugh at that thought!
Trying to get to the car wasn’t much easier. We were mobbed by people running toward us waving their keys trying to get us to hire them and other people who wanted to help us carry our bags, etc. We finally made it to the Buick minivan and we literally almost didn’t get everything into it. After about 20 minutes we arrived at the good ole Holiday Inn (how ironic is that for a family from Memphis?) and got checked into the hotel. We pretty much dropped off our stuff in the room and then met Helen back in the lobby to go out for lunch. The lunch was at a local restaurant and we really enjoyed the lamb, shrimp and eggplant that Helen ordered. Cackie had to go to the bathroom while at the restaurant and Caryn took her to the rest room to find a squatty potty waiting, yay!
After lunch we headed back to the hotel to unpack and relax. We met Helen again at 7pm, intending to go to dinner. We also needed to take some laundry to be done. So, we headed off to the cleaners and halfway there Helen tells us that the laundry in China does not do socks or underwear. We never had that problem on our last trip, so it was a bit of a surprise to me. Then she tells us that we have soo many clothes that we probably won’t get them back for 2 days. I only had one day of clothes left, so that started to get me a bit irritated. We had really good experiences with the laundry on our last trip, and I hadn’t really prepared for this. So, after that we decided that none of us were really very hungry and we just went to the store to pick up a few things and then head back to the room.
We sorted out the dirty laundry and washed it all in the tub. Cackie had a good time, but it was a little annoying to have to go through the process. So, now we’re munching on snacks and we’ll be heading to bed soon. We leave the hotel at 11am to go to the orphanage and we get Owen! I’m glad today is behind us and I’m saying my prayers that tomorrow is a much much better day.

May 3

Still getting caught up… So, what does someone who has developed a fear of heights do while in China? They climb the Great Wall in a thunder & lightening storm, of course!
On Saturday we met Helen at 8:30am and headed to pick up Kris, Jim & Austin at their hotel. It was very cloudy and much cooler than it had been on Friday. We were headed outside the city to visit the Great Wall and traffic was pretty congested. On the way there it started to rain and we were getting worried. But, first we stopped at a jade factory for a quick tour to learn some about jade and, of course, to do some shopping.
We loved all the jade at the factory and got a few very nice things to have as reminders of this wonderful trip. Just about the time we were leaving the jade factory it started to rain really hard and there was even some thunder and lightning, but Helen checked and was told that it was not raining at the Great Wall. So, we headed on. As we were driving it was like all of a sudden the scenery changed from city to country side and then to very tall mountains. The mountains were VERY steep and it was all soo beautiful.
We started to catch glimpses of the Great Wall and we all started to get excited. Of course, it had started raining by that point and pretty hard, but we were all soo excited that we didn’t think it would matter. The temperature had dropped a lot by that point and truthfully, we were not prepared for that. If it had just been cool it wouldn’t have been so bad, but the rain on top of it made it quite uncomfortable. We put Cackie in the backpack carrier on Michael’s back and each of us had umbrellas. Helen told us that she would give us 2 hours to climb up to the highest tower and back.
So, we started off… getting to the first landing wasn’t too bad. It was a little tough on Michael with the extra 40 pounds on his back, but we stopped at the first landing and took some pictures. From there it was pretty much straight up and none of the steps were the same height. We got about 1/3 of the way up the next section and Cackie started to complain that she was getting cold. She basically had long shorts on, so I could totally understand. Both Michael & I were getting soaked and it really was getting tough for me to breathe with this cold I have. Then some lightning flashed, thunder rumbled and we looked at each other and said “forget this”. By this point Caryn had gone on ahead of us and we were able to catch her attention to let her know we were headed down. The funny thing is that fighting the mass of people was just as hard going down as it was going up. When we finally got to the bottom we found the little snack stand and were able to get under some shelter. I went into the souvenir shop and got two really cheesy “I climbed the Great Wall” sweatshirts for Cackie & I because we were soaked and cold and found some hot tea to help warm us up. A few minutes later Kris joined up with us and we all found Helen in the van. We were soo happy to be in that cramped little van just getting warm! Not too much longer Caryn, Jim & Austin showed up soaked to the bone and looking beat. They had gotten pretty far, but not all the way to the top. After getting them some warm clothes we left to get some lunch.
Our lunch was in a restaurant that is attached to a cloisonné factory. First we got a quick tour and demonstration on how cloisonné is made and then we headed to the restaurant. We had a great lunch, tried a very strong Chinese liquor (reminded Kris & I of very strong tequila) and the kids even got to enjoy some French fries! After lunch we got to do some shopping for cloisonné and then it was back on the bus.
We headed back into Beijing and got the opportunity to get a quick driving tour around the Olympic complex. We couldn’t stop to get out of the van, but our driver tried to go slowly so that we could get some good photos. Unfortunately I was only able to get some video of this because our camera had gotten soaked and the lenses were pretty fogged over from climbing the Great Wall. The stadiums were all pretty cool looking. The venue where the swimming and diving events will be is really cool, it looks like water bubbles from the outside! The birds nest stadium where the opening & closing ceremonies will be is also amazing to see in person.
At this point we were all getting pretty silly and I did some filming of the crazy drivers in China and we had a lot of good laughs. We didn’t realize it, but before we knew it we were at our next destination. We arrived at a tea shop for a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. We tried a number of different teas and learned the proper ways to make them. Cackie had had her moments all throughout the day, but she was pretty good through the tea ceremony. She tried all the teas and liked the black tea the best. The favorite part of the whole ceremony for everyone was when they showed us the “happy baby” which is a clay figurine of a baby that has a “special” way of helping you to know if your water is hot enough for making tea. I soo wish that I had that on video! The kids were hysterical and put some pressure on us to shop when they found out that you get a free “happy baby” with any purchase. Of course, that wasn’t a problem… I love tea and was happy to get some to take home.
After the tea we headed back to our hotels to relax and get ready to leave Beijing for Tianjin. Packing all our stuff up was quite an ordeal! The majority of our clothes were dirty by this point, but we had done quite a bit of shopping and had 4 silk blankets that we had added to the multitude of other stuff that we brought. After we got most of our stuff packed we headed down to a restaurant that Helen had recommended and had a wonderful dinner. The beef & black pepper was fabulous and the broccoli was soo yummy. It was also a lot cheaper than the other meals that we had had and we kicked ourselves for ordering room service those 2 nights. Poor Cackie was extremely pooped by this point and almost fell asleep in her food. She crawled into Michael’s lap and was out in seconds. Poor kiddo had changed her body clock 13 hours and gone 2 days with no nap, it was all catching up with her and she just couldn’t take it anymore. We weren’t too far behind her, which is why I’ve been so far behind in getting this updated!