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!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer Days of Texas

A Day with My Girl
Apart from our few months alone when Stella first came home, we haven't spent much "fun time" alone. Those first months were filled with charades and tears from a little one who seemed annoyed by coming home with her mom alone - like a punishment. Can you imagine spending day and night with a room full of your peers and suddenly you're thrust into a foreign new life where you're expected to spend hours on end with one adult. And you don't even know that adult. You can't communicate clearly AND you have to watch in utter frustration as the other children in the home are taken to a playtime in a place you desperately long to belong. And so since starting Mother's Day Out in January, our alone time has been somewhat limited. So here we are almost 9 months home and Stella is in need of a hair trim. With some hesitation and self-diagnosed allergy to glitter and boas, we saunter into Sweet and Sassy. She sat perfectly still and concentrated on every move her stylist made. The glitter in the hair. The glittered hearts on her cheek. And then she noticed the birthday party girls dancing on the runway. Nothing could keep her attention quite like that show. She danced. She was in a zone. Completely captivated by their giggles, their sparkly dresses. And then it hit me. This was a first. She loves all things girly, but it's doubtful she had ever seen such a party. She had never been to a shop with all things pink and shiny and fancy. And just like that I forgot about her boundary testing and my own frustrations that she pilfers through my things and looks on with utter disgust when new foods are introduced.  I just saw this little girl standing there in complete awe of new and exciting sights. Sure, we won't be back to this special place very often, but it was worth it today.  To see this little one experience such sight and sounds. To visit a place that made her feel precious and captured her inner girliness.   

What Does the Future Hold?

Scenario #1
Me: (Spying construction near our home) Look over there. I wonder what it is.
Samuel: Maybe a restaurant? Maybe a store? Maybe a street?
Me: It looks like they are building walls, so it's not a street.
Samuel: It could be a street.

Scenario #2

Samuel: (As we're driving home one evening) It is getting dark outside?
Me: Look out the window. Do you think it's getting dark?
Samuel: It is! The sun is going to China.
Stella: No.
Samuel: Yes. The sun goes to China.
Stella: My China?
Samuel: It's not your China. It's everybody's China.
Stella: No, it's my China. 
Samuel: God made the sun go to China. He's powerful.
Stella: No, he's not. It not go to China
...and the not-so-friendly discussion continues. Meanwhile, we're laughing and pulling our hair out at the same time. Debates. Arguments. Discussions. Fights. They must be training for something greater!  

Webb, Webb, and Webb
Attorneys at Law 
Established 2015

They may open a firm together one day, but it's doubtful they will agree.  Although, it just might be worth attending court that day to hear what odd "discussions" ensue.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Another Texas first.  In Russ' infinite wisdom, he bought us seats with all-you-can-eat goodies.  Gee, I'm thankful they didn't weigh us before and after the game.  These kids can eat us under the table!  

The Newest Rangers Fan

He was all about the hot dogs

His new favorite past-time...crossing his eyes

Corn Fields of Nebraska
And what make a road trip to Nebraska so memorable?  I mean, besides the gourmet hot breakfast prepared each and every morning by a smiling new friend.  Linda spoiled us all - to the point that we had "Linda Detox" when we arrived back in Texas where we were expected to again care for ourselves and pursue our own entertainment.  She has won over these littles!  Linda won me over years ago, which is the only reason I'd travel 10 hours in the car with 3 children!  That clearly screams "I'm crazy for Linda"...or does it just scream "I'm crazy" in general?

Sister's first pedicure was a hit

And then there was this place with this mousey guy

And we so hated to leave

A Big Decision
There will always be something special about the Nebraska corn fields.  The Lord really grabbed the interest of Joey there.  We've had several conversations about who Jesus is and how powerful our Lord is.  All the kids know that He loves them and wants what is best for them.  And Joey's heart had been growing more tender towards God's presence in his life.  Sooooo, on the winding roads of Nebraska in the middle of the corn fields and with 2 very inquisitive siblings intently listening, Joey invited Jesus into his heart!  My baby made such a humbling decision!  We are over the moon excited for him.  We are looking forward to helping him grow in this new relationship with the Lord and watching from the front row as God grows this little guy!

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
Micah 6:8

This past month has been super busy with school ending and new adventures beginning.  So, happy 10 months home to Stella Alyu!  The new discoveries of family life continue.  And now we have this big guy above walking into a deeper relationship with his loving Creator.  Thank you, Jesus, for touching his heart in such a special way.  For sure, many moments to celebrate!  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What's Going on

Where are all the Animals?
Once upon a time, I had the bright idea to take the kiddos to the zoo on a day when Joey was dismissed at noon.  Apparently, so did a million other people.  It seemed as though people came from every known continent to enjoy the sights of the Fort Worth Zoo that very same day.  When you have to park so far away that your feet are blistered and your eyeballs are windburned by the time you approach the entrance, it might be a good idea to consider Plan B or really anything other than Plan Zoo!  So we made a quick decision to browse the beautiful plants at the Botanic Garden.  Samuel was in such a need for a nap that he fell asleep before I changed plans.  So when we unbuckled at the Gardens you can imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth that occurred.  He wanted animals!  And only animals!  Thankfully he was easily swayed with a granola bar.  Hey, food changes everything.  The Webb munchkins enjoyed the Gardens far more than I had anticipated.  Also, I was especially thankful I had shoved an entire Walmart snack aisle into the teeny toddler backpack I was hauling around.  That made all the difference!  They did find the flowers beautiful, especially the pink ones (said Stella).  The boys mostly wanted to run, jump, and scare any birds within a 10 mile radius.  It was free fun for all and it wore them out!  The grounds are spectacular!

Just getting started...

This guy loved jumping from rock to rock.

The kids enjoyed these speaking tubes, when in 
actuality they yelled loud enough to be 
heard just fine without them.  

The kids all loved this area!

This tiny house was so much fun.  

They look like 3 giant burglars getting ready to take over.  Of note, we were approached by a security guard who informed us that no one is allowed inside.  So, we kinda did break and enter...except someone else had literally broken the doorknobs off which leads us to believe we were welcome to enter.  Oops!

Spring Tea
The Mother's Day Out program the littles attend is wonderful to organize special events.  They must know we love to see our littles perform and that our littles love to perform.  It was amazing to hear all these kids tells the truth of the Gospel!  Amazing!  While they may not fully grasp the meaning of the words that come out of their mouths, it gives us great opportunity to talk more about it and really dig into the love and sacrifice of the Lord.  These 2 little ones sang their hearts out.  Ok, so only Stella sang.  But Samuel stood up there like he owned the place and did all the motions!  

These 2 are loads of fun!

A-Camping We Did Go
We hadn't fully welcomed Stella into our family yet.  

The final step: camping

So, the adventure started with a trip to the laundry mat to wash sleeping bags a few days earlier.  That was quite the excursion in itself!  And what would one expect to do at the laundry mat with sleeping bags? Well, sleep there...of course!  Disgust covered Stella's face as we loaded back into the car.  She. Wanted. To. Sleep. There.  At the laundry mat.  I managed to carefully paint a picture of the true camping trip to come and she settled down.  

Like every other trip before, we loaded the car as full as it would go...and then we added a few more things.  We picked Joey up from school like that!  And that doesn't even include the carload of other "necessities" that Russ was bringing.  How much can a family possibility need to camp for the weekend?  The kids, dogs, and I arrived an hour or so before Russ, so we brought out the entertainment by way of play doh and snacks.  Russ tackled the construction of the new tent when he arrived.  With the size of this new structure, he said he felt as if we needed a permit!  With out new tent up and ready to welcome guests, the kids made it seem as though they had just arrived at a new luxurious resort.  And I'll admit that the new tent is quite the beauty!  The sleeping bags were the cherry on top!

We met some dear friends at the campsite for additional entertainment and laughter.  A couple of them were newbies like Stella.  I'd say it was a successful trip.  Fishing, smores, play doh, coloring, games, bubbles, sticks, bugs...we kept them all busy!  

All smiles - marshmallow smiles

He found a new place to rest

Walking a gravel road to the bathroom, showering with beetles, and the open fire were strange and new.  Stella seemed to accept it all in stride.  We attempted fishing but ended up getting lines caught in bushes.  Looking for walking sticks and rocks soon replaced fishing and everyone was just as happy.  The littles and I attempted to catch up with our friends walking to a farm area.  With skipped naps, almost anyone can guess how that little hike ended.  Stella was stumbling down the middle of the road.  Samuel was literally tripping over his own feet.  And our 2 littles who spent years in a tropical region of China surprisingly claimed they were actually melting (in the 80 degree heat).  The melting continued in the form of a meltdown under a tree on the side of the road.  Both kids.  Stella attempted to sit in the road to rest and was baffled as to why I sternly suggested she come into the grass.  Samuel was just melting in general sitting in the grass weeping uncontrollably.  Can you imagine the sight?  We somehow managed to flag down (read: caught the curiosity of) a park employee who retrieved our lifesaver...Daddy in a moving vehicle.  

Webb camping 2016 is off to a great start!

And how do you think Stella felt about leaving a few days later?  I saw that same look of utter disbelief as we began loading up our things.  She. Wanted. To. Stay. Longer.  I think we've found another camper, folks.   

As of yesterday, we're already a family of 5 for 9 whole months.  And so start the jokes related to the middle child...or even the 3rd child...she fits both, kinda.  The camera forgets to come out (I blame the camera).  The days whirl by too quickly.  Special events go undocumented.  Sooooo, happy 9 months to our dear daughter...yesterday and with no pictures.  I'll do better next time.  Maybe.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Time Marches On...

Drive-In What?
You haven't experienced movie-watching to the fullest 'til you've been to a drive-in.  The smell of a burning engine coming from the idling neighbor car.  A quick jaunt to the restrooms trekking through the Alaskan wind gusts (we were still in Texas, mind you).  Three small tightly bundled egg rolls giggling in the back of the car.  A giant refillable container of...Dr. Pepper.  Yes, please!  The kids loved it!  Because the Alaskan breeze picked up speed, we all ended up packed in the back of the car.  One of us, who shall remain nameless, kinda of "rested his eyes" during the 2nd show.  In his defense, he needed to muster up the energy to drive us safely home.  The rest of us huddled together and enjoyed not 1, but 2 shows that night!

Kick that Ball!
The soccer season is off to a strong start!  Joey's game was first and he scored a goal!!!!  Go, Joey!  The Alaskan breeze from the night before had lingered and there was practically ice forming on the players' jerseys.  At least that would likely be the story you'd hear if you asked them.  They warmed up and went on to have a great game.  The littles followed that up with some super star moves.  There was a need for motivation for one little sassy girl to participate, but snack promises were the answer!  Both littles eventually participated and seemed to even enjoy the game.  What?  

Growing a Love of Golf
Ok, so maybe it was just an excuse to coordinate these 4.  In honor of the Masters, the boys wore their Masters shirts with Daddy...and Stella was over the moon to have a green coordinating dress.  So, Mom took the opportunity for pictures!  Maybe one day soon they'll actually learn what golf is!

Stella at 8 months home
Stella has surprised us in more ways than one.  Over the past month we have discovered that she prefers salad and asparagus over dirt cake (crushed oreos layered with pudding).  The Brothers are astounded.  She prefers bok choy over a baked potato.  It's true!  She has found her new love: a side ponytail.  She draws attention to it as soon as she notices another human being.  She requests that I too wear a side ponytail.  I've managed to distract and avoid thus far.  For a little girl who rarely plays with dolls and finds pleasure in digging in the dirt, I never expected the 80's pop star look to be so pleasing.  Stella's vocabulary continues to expand and amaze!  She enjoys photobombing.  She's adamant about keeping up with the brothers, which has helped to improve her coordination and encourage her interest to try new things.  Also, she loves to be photographed!