Friday, January 13, 2017

Snow and Celebration

Let It Snow
It finally snowed!  Stella finally got to see snow!  This girls was all smiles, squealing in excitement at the thought of snow.  And when I calmly asked if she knew what snow was, she confidently answered "no".  Stella was thrilled when she finally went outside to find out more about this thing called snow.  She wanted to have a "snow fight", which I assumed would be a challenge given that the quantity of snow was barely a dusting.  Somehow the kids managed to scrape up enough snow to make snowballs!  Add that to slipping and sliding on the trampoline and you'll find the best fun!  What did I see Stella doing on the trampoline?  Quickly scooping up snow and shoveling it in her mouth!!!  It may have contained just a touch of dirt, but she was more than happy to report that it was delicious!  The kids stayed outside longer than I had expected.  When you don't see snow too often (or ever in Stella's case), you take advantage of the opportunity!

The pink gloves!  
She finally got to wear her pink gloves!

Thinking Back
There are days I can't remember what I walked in my own bedroom for, BUT I can remember in great detail the day we met Samuel.  I can see his tiny face.  I remember "that panic" that came over his face when we approached him.  I can hear his scream (for hours).  I can see his nanny wanting desperately to comfort him.  And I can remember turning my back to her in my attempt to comfort Samuel.  I remember his very first smile in our hotel room.  I remember the way he ran to me if he saw me get the carrier out.  

I also remember seeing his same nanny again 18 months later and hugging her neck as if she was an old friend.  And I remember the tears in her eyes when she saw Samuel again a year and a half after he left to go home.

Samuel is a joy!  That sums him up!  When he first came home, he was serious and quiet.  After all, we ripped him away from all things familiar about the time he should've been learning the verbal language.  We jokingly called him the "fun police" because he was all business and firmly against the slightest sound of laughter.  Now today?  That kid can tell the jokes.  He will pull me close for a smooch, immediately followed by "Daddy, I just kissed your wife".  Quite often he requests for Daddy to "do airplane".  When he swings up-side-down on the monkey bars, he proudly announces that he will be in the circus one day.  He wants to be like Joey in all aspects...scary and good at times.  Before he even knows what Joey wants to eat, he says "what's Joey having".  Samuel has been caught a time or two wearing a princess gown with his sister...which he will not deny.  When I ask him nicely to stop growing so fast, he throws the comment back to me that his growth is my fault because I ask him to eat a healthy dinner.  

A few memories from the first time we met Samuel...

And then there are pictures of us enjoying our time together...

You can't convince me that this sweet lady doesn't love our little guy (8/2015).

She probably never expected to see him again after we left in January of 2014. We still send pictures to the orphanage so the nannies can see the fruit of their work.

And now...
He can't keep a smile off his face or his feet on the ground.  Circus-bound this kid is!

Thank you, Jesus, for allowing us the joy of teaching and loving this little one!  And what says "we are so very thankful for you" than a plate of steamy dim sum?  And so if you need us to tomorrow, better check the nearest Asian market.  That's where we'll be...celebrating this little ball of energy!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Suddenly...It's the Christmas Season

Pumpkins in the Patch
The pumpkin patch is always a hit - always.  

Question: You know what's most exciting?  
Answer: climbing on old trucks and tractors, seeing a farm animal use the bathroom, and climbing on old tires.  That's where the fun is for these three!  

So, next year I'll sprinkle a few pumpkins in our backyard after I pull the car out back and let the dogs out.  That outta do it!  JUST KIDDING!  I love that these three are so naive and amused easily by simple things.  These kids love being kids.  They begged to stay longer both times we went.  It's nice to enjoy these simple "country" pleasures right in the middle of the city.  

The littlest pumpkin in our patch

The sassiest pumpkin

The most snaggle-toothed pumpkin

Who are These People?

Crazy Dave, Super Girl, Bumblebee

Show Time
This was the first of many (two to be exact) Christmas performances for the 2 littles.  It was Stella's first ever and she was not about to let the spotlight fade.  Both Samuel and Stella were great!  They sang.  They remembered the motions.  They made us proud and they had fun doing it.  It's so sweet to hear them still singing songs about Jesus in the weeks following the performance.  

Stella can recognize our camera a mile away

Samuel remembered the motions

Took the opportunity for a picture while they were dressed up

And then came #2 for the littles and the first for Joey.  Joey has recently joined our church's youth choir.  He loves music and we thought this would be both a good fit for him and another opportunity for him to hear God's truth through music.  We've all been belting out these songs throughout December after the leaders gave us a CD with the songs to practice.  I don't know if they meant for the entire family to sing along, but that's what happened.  On more than one occasion, I looked in my rear view mirror to see Joey demonstrating the motions for Samuel to repeat...and these were motions that only Joey had to remember.   

The 3 performers

Fun + Learning 
Samuel has been asking almost weekly to go to the children' museum, so we found some time.  Thankfully Hoo Hoo was here for a visit (November) and we got to take her too.  With the public schools still in session, we had the museum mostly to ourselves.  And it didn't take much to impress these 2.  From cup stacking to dinosaurs, they had a blast.  What they really wanted to do was play in the grocery store area, which we did for quite some time.  You should've seen how quickly they could restock the shelves.  What is it about scurrying to put the plastic bread and fish in their designated bins?  Wish I could somehow transfer that idea to the toys in our house!  There was also an area with tall tubes containing gusting air.  The idea was to create a flying creation by cutting and taping paper plates and paper cones.  We spent quite a bit of time at this station mostly because there were scissors and tape readily available.  With some guidance, Samuel made this rather large creation (below).  And he was sorely disappointed when it wouldn't fly.  It's no wonder though.  The creation contained about 5 lbs of tape!  

To Make Momma Happy 
They know what they need to do.  I "forced" these poor helpless children to go stand outside and smile.  It was tough, but they managed.  See...they're so cute!  And they made our Christmas card look cute!

Merry Christmas!

How can it possibly be 3 years ago (tomorrow) that we boarded a plane to bring our Samuel home?  How. Is. That. Possible? 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

In the Groove of School and a Birthday Celebration

School Daze and Going Strong 
The little (not so little) guy is tackling 2nd grade with a passion.  He was in shock initially that the fun and games were replaced with actual learning and hard work.  Sure, there's still some shananigans from time to time, but he's learning so much.  It's not uncommon for us to find him reading at home.  For fun.  On his own.  He actually like it, I think.  He'll never admit it though.  Joey is so quick with math and finds history intriguing too.  The first 6 weeks have been successful!

These 2 little have gotten off to a good start at preschool.  Stella walked in like she owned the place from day 1.  She's known by some as the "karate girl".  She reports daily what songs they've learned and the Bible stories they've heard.  She tells me what she and Samuel play on the playground.  They're in different classrooms, but apparently hang out together on the playground.  Stella is independent to carry her backpack and gets settled into her classroom quickly.  You should've seen the way her face lit up the day we walked in to see friends using...scissors!

Samuel has shocked me from the very beginning.  He talks.  At school.  On purpose.  Out loud.  For those who know about last year, this is a stretch from the weeks of crying and the complete silence.  All those words he had "saved up" during the day last year came out as soon as he got in the car.  They may have multiplied at that point too.  This year, his daily word allotment must've been expanded as his teachers report that he talks at school AND he talks nonstop in the car.  What's funny is that it's not always related to daily living or really anything.  Just today, he was asking if I remembered the zoo and the mangos there.  Um, we haven't been to the zoo in at least 10 months.  And mangos at the zoo?  Um, nope!  Please jog my memory...if that's even a legitimate memory.  
Who killed the banana?
This is an example of the important questions posed by Samuel recently.  Please help.  We're still trying to figure out who killed the banana!

Lots of Bonding
These guys have spent a lot of time together lately.  Joey is eating up that special attention and he's learning so much.  Daddy took him to a Hog game vs TCU.  Humility...that's what he learned at that game!  Or was that the fight song he learned?  

They've been running thier own construction company as well.  Construction company? it really a construction company if you only build for your family, occasionally, and you make whatever your dad decides to pay?  By the way, Joey's bid was $4 for the shed...$19 if he completed it the day it was delivered.  Unfortunately, he was unable to complete it on the first day.  

Turning 8 is Great (in September)
Joey decided that Medieval Times would be a great location for our family celebration.  His motivation..."we get to eat with our hands."  Ummmm, son, I can make you a sandwich so you can eat with your hands!  Ok, so the knights and swords were another motivator.  The boys were on the edge of their seats.  Apparently, Samuel was quizzing Russ with an illegal number of questions during the show.  I was sitting by Stella who was certain that all the fighting was not for her.  Everyone enjoyed eating with their hands though.  And the Pepsi...that was something special for the littles.  

This guy is somethin' special!  He is so smart and funny.  Joey amazes us daily with his Lego creations, his ability to spell (just ask his Dad), the rate at which he completes his math homework, and the speed at which he steps in to help his siblings (strangely enough the same speed occurs when some pestering is necessary).  He loves his family and friends and the Lord is surely growing compassion and leadership skills in him.  We love Joey for the gift that he is!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

One Year

Stella-isms: A Breakdown in Communication
To our amazement, Stella has picked up English faster than we expected...and even some phrases that we didn't expect.  Thank you, Joey!  The human brain's ability to decipher a foreign language is astounding.  Then, to be able to fully and clearly communicate with the new language within 6-9 months...WOW!  How did God even do that?  There are still some things that make me laugh.  The fact that she tries -with complete confidence- to correct Samuel's pronunciation is quite intriguing.  And there are a few key phrases that make me giggle...

 Mommy, will you paint my ponytail holders?

When someone sneezes, of course the correct 
response is to say Ah Choo. Of course.

If you'd like, I can heat your food in our microphone.

We Saw the Ocean
We took our first family vacation as a family of 5 and we went the big ocean!  It was the first time the littles had ever seen the ocean or the vastness of the sandy shore.  All three kids had completed 2 weeks of swim lessons just prior to our trip.  And to my surprise, they were all swimming by the end.  So, off we went with our little fish to a big family beach house full of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins!  

Just stepped out of the car and headed to the beach

She was already very curious

We love the beach

Little fish

Showing off those muscles

I can't even count how many Samuel-sized waves crashed into/over Samuel or how many times Stella held her breath in preparation for the crashing waves.  Joey stayed under water more than above.  We were both shocked at how brave Stella was in the water.  This is the little girl who literally tried ripping off her wet swimsuit after getting out of the pool in China last year.  She's still pretty cautious climbing at the playground, but she was a fish in the ocean!  A few jelly fish found us (mostly found Joey) and came a little too close to investigate us.  Ouch!  We found crabs. We found one particularly strange crab that refused to walk away from us despite the foreign onlookers and attempts to catch him in the net.  Our kiddos had the best time with their little cousins...who didn't even recognize that they were little.  What a treat for us all!  If you want to make sure to have the most amazing beach view and all the delicious food your tummy can hold, you should totally invite Big Joe and SuSu to coordinate your trip.  They've got it down!  

A Day to Celebrate
One Whole Year.  It's been a year since we first held Stella in our arms.  Some days it seems like she's been here her entire life.  Other days it seems like it's been only a few months.  This year has been 365 days of adjustment and change, laughter and learning.  And that means adjustment for our whole family.  This girl has brought a tenderness, a giggle, and facial expressions that not only speak louder than words...they scream!  There have been some sweet cuddles and an abundance of kisses.  At times, it's been a harder adjustment for me...the debut of emotional drama, challenges common with adoption, her need for attention.  Meanwhile, Stella seems to have found her place in the family and wiggled right in.  I forget sometimes that her early formative years were spent in an institution, not a home.  I fail to remember that her caregivers were paid employees, not parents.  Her friends were her family and at times, they just left and never returned.  I guess there are changes when anyone - no matter the age - comes into your heart and becomes family.  Despite the challenges, God has blessed our time together and changed our lives for the better.  We love our Stella!  And she says she loves us too.  We all agree we want to go back to China one day, but the kids only want to play at the hotel and eat.  Sure seems like a loooooong flight to climb on plastic equipment and satisfy our craving for dumplings.  However, we do hope to take our kiddos back to the beautiful country that made us family!  Until then, we are equal opportunity dim sum-tasters, traveling far and wide...Arlington and Carrolton to San Francisco and Salt Lake City!

A Quick Glimpse at our First Year Together

Friday, August 12, 2016

Birthday Happies and Such

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to this great Daddy!  

The Big Celebration
We're still unsure what (if any) birthday recognition Stella received on her special days in the orphanage.  No doubt the birthdays in China couldn't even compare  to the celebration with dear friends here at home.  One thing we are pretty certain of (based on the sweltering heat from our trip in August) is that the "warmth" of the special day was somewhat familiar.  Whew!  What's funny to me is that our two tropical Huizhou babies are so quick to insist that they are in fact melting in complete misery in the Texas summer "warmth".  Whatever.

Birthday cookie cake

Daddy lighting (and relighting) the birthday 
candles in the summer wind gusts

Big Brother

Little Brother

And then the actual, that was even more special.  Gifts, cake, and a fever.  Wait.  What?  A fever?  Somehow the gifts made it all better!

Family Celebration

Symphony and Star Wars
Why would we take our 3 littles to hear the symphony?  Because they were playing Star Wars and other fun songs...and the atmosphere didn't require that we threaten our children to remain silent.  And we had a picnic.  Oh, and there were Cheetos involved.  Everyone was happy!  Oh, and we got to ride a bus to the Botanic Gardens.  Also, there were peanuts and glow sticks present. Did I mention that everyone was happy?  It was a great night.  For me, the magic of the evening was watching our children watch the fireworks.  They were starring in awe, jaws dropped, and lots of Wow and Whoa! There's just something special about those sparkling light displays in the sky!

Samuel always has a smile ready to share

Sister sure enjoyed herself too

This guy was the most amused with the fireworks

My Love

Let Freedom Ring
Happy Birthday to our Great Land

VBS 2016 is in the Books
Submerged.  The kiddos (and a pretty awesome buddy of Joey's) enjoyed a week at VBS learning more about Jesus as they were "submerged" in His word.  Apparently Samuel had forgotten last year and Stella was newly baffled as to why we would be going to church again and again.  Even though her "AGAIN?" rang out loudly in confused protest, I'm certain they all learned and laughed their way through the week.  I caught a glimpse of the littles from time to time as I was teaching other children in the area.  Each time they happily waved and seemed to be content with their own group.  All 4 kiddos agreed that water day was the highlight of the week!  And we're so very grateful to their teachers for pouring more of God into their lives this week!

Coming Upon a Year
Happy 11 months home, Stella!  

** Disclaimer: I may have forgotten to actually post this, but at least it was written.  That has to count for something!