Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hip Hip Hooray for LOA!

One step closer to Kunming! After waiting a whopping 67 days, we finally received our LOA (Letter of Acceptance). I brought it to Lyle's office so he could sign his name lickity split and then I sent it overnight mail to its next destination--Texas of all places.

This is finally starting to seem real. We'll apply for visas in the next couple of weeks and as soon as China says GO, we'll buy plane tickets. We're still looking to travel in March. Lyle has drawn out plans for the bed with built-in drawers that he's going to build for Yun Xi and I've hung some pictures of our little guy on the wall. I feel like I'm in nesting mode--cleaning organizing, Goodwilling (that's a word right?) and just trying to envision our house with one more person. A little boy person! It's been a long time since I've had one of those and I'm woefully unprepared.

But ready or not, he'll be coming soon!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Musical Christmas

"Feliz Navidad" from Cholita to you and yours.
Believe it or not, a ukulele was top on her wish list.

She was very pleased.

Bruder received an instrument of a slightly higher quality--a Taylor acoustic guitar, 
in addition to the Beatles t-shirt from Lucy.

And although Rose was primarily gifted with "kits", her true love, 
she will be picking up her rented cello next week and begin lessons in the new year.
I envision a cello/ukulele duet in the future.
If you doubt the legitimacy of such a pairing, check this out:

The handmade gift this year came from Lucy in the form of a piggy bank for Cholita.
What a fantastic Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24th

It wouldn't be Christmas Eve without our traditional big Subway sandwich.   

Which is always followed by the reading of Luke 2.  Rose was our beautiful Mary this year.

Good tidings were proclaimed by Cholita, our lovely angel.

All came to worship the babe in Bethlehem.

From there, things move in a very different direction.  The Christmas Eve jammie pyramid.
Olaf looks concerned.

He knows how these things always end.....

.......with a child or two falling on top of him.

It was a wonderful Christmas Eve, but someone was missing.
We hope he likes jammie pyramids.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wish he knew we were waiting

It's strange to feel so connected to a person half-way around the world and realize that they don't have any idea you exist.   This week we put together a book for Yun Xi that we'll send to China.

 We included pictures of Mom and Dad, brother and sisters, of course, the dogs.

Olaf can be a bit shocking if you're not prepared.

He'll see his future home,

and learn a little bit about us.

But unfortunately, he probably won't see any of this until just a few hours before we meet him.  At the most, he might hear about us the day before.  Every orphanage has the prerogative to choose what information they share with the children and when they share it.  Yun Xi's orphanage is not the norm and I wish their policies were different.  I'd like to think that he was looking forward to meeting us as much as we are looking forward to meeting him.  Instead, he has no idea that a family half-way around the world says a prayer for him every single night and that they can't wait to bring him home.

I'll still send the book to China.   It will be worth the shipping costs if he even gets just one look at us on paper before we walk through the door in person.  It will be a traumatic day, there's no getting around that,  but we'll do everything we can to start off on the right foot.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Christmas card photo you WON'T be getting

For Bruder, Christmas card picture-taking is akin to the rack, water torture, the pit of despair....

And if they're not pouting, they're laughing.

Or attempting to put someone else into position.

Or complaining about someone's static cling hair.

Or looking who-knows-where.

Or one teenager might be giving his sister a punch while the other gives her sister the heimlich.

Or I don't even know what was going on here.

But I do know that whatever it was, it's preferable to the response I get when I say I want 
"loving family".
Believe it or not, there was one this year that made the cut.

P.S. Lyle made this swing for me several years ago and I love it.  We painted it three different times trying to find the right color.  White....too blah, blue......too zingy.......sage green, just right.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oh, how she loves a project

The students in Madeline's science class were asked to make creative representations of cell biology.  I told Madeline that she could do anything that didn't require sewing on my part.  She asked only for pipe cleaners and popsicle sticks and then retreated to her room.  Last night she came downstairs with this:

A cell zoo

 The zoo keeper is obviously the golgi body, or the "mail room" of the cell, shipping materials off to different parts of the cell.

These might look like monkeys, but they're really mitochondrion, producing 90% of the cell's energy.

 The carnivores, like the wolves and the lions and the alligators are the lysosomes, breaking down materials like food into smaller pieces.

 There's a complete accompanying report that explains that the fencing is the cell wall, the lizards and snakes are the chloroplasts, the manager's office is the nucleus, the food storage barn is the vacuole, etc. etc.

 I'm quite sure my 8th grade self would have made a poster.  

The littles were completely enchanted.

And the big smile?  Sister has promised them the zoo when it comes back from school.

An early Christmas.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Our Si Guy

We've decided on a name and miraculously, every single person in the family is thrilled with it.  I'd begun to think that was impossible.   For the longest time, I campaigned on the virtues of the name Levi.  I made converts of Cholita and Lyle and Lucy.  Bruder and Rose weren't sold on it, but Bruder said he'd be fine with whatever we chose and Rose.......well, let's just say she doesn't suffer in silence.   She did, however, come to us one night and tearily say that she surrendered.   She's nothing if not dramatic.

Still, there'd been so much angst over the name that I couldn't say it with the same happiness I had when I first mentioned it to the family.  The poor, wonderful name Levi had been beaten to death.  So, from the back of the pack surged a name that we'd been considering from the very beginning.

* It's Biblical.
* It's somewhat quirky.
* It means "one who hears", which we quite love.
* There was a man in the Bible by this name who carried the cross of Jesus, a story that we'll be sure to mention when we teach our little guy the gospel.
* It has a nickname that Lyle finds incredibly cute.
* And the final kicker..... when the name is written in Mandarin, it has the same first character as our little boy's name, Xi.  In China it's pronounced Xi Mon.  I took it as a sign.   And goodness knows we needed one.

The moment Cholita heard the news, she grabbed a marker and put into writing the sentiment shared by the whole family: we love our little Simon.  

And anyone who mentions chipmunks, well, they'll have to face the wrath of Olaf.

He's more vicious than he looks.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Well, I can tell you what his name ISN'T

In the interest of family solidarity and happiness, I asked my husband to reconsider the name we'd originally chosen: Owen.  He said that it was his least favorite, but if it's what I wanted, he'd learn to love it.  "O.K.," I told him, "so I'm calling L.L. Bean and will have it monogrammed on a Christmas stocking.  If I do that, we're committed.  You're fine with that?"  "Yes," he said, "name him Owen."

I called L.L. Bean within the hour and felt at peace that the decision was finally behind us.  I planned to keep the name a secret from the kids until we decorated for Christmas.   They'd find the new stocking in the box with all of the decorations and ornaments, and they'd cheer and celebrate and we'd sip our hot chocolates and make a toast to our little boy.  At least that's what I'd imagined.

And then I got this from my husband....
"It just doesn't look right."

Lyle said he'd tried to like it.  He'd really tried, but it just had no meaning for him.  Each one of our children's names has meant something to us, something beyond us just liking the sound.  And so the name Owen wasn't meant to be.  For us.  But if you happen to know of anyone expecting an Owen, let them know where they can get an awesome deal on a stocking.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Thanksgiving to Remember

Contrary to popular opinion, when I said we were sleeping at Lyle's dental office, we were not sleeping in dental chairs, although I do appreciate the image.  We were in the spacious staff lounge and had brought an air mattress from home, so we were hunky dory.

Unfortunately, the power still hadn't come back on at home by mid-morning on Thanksgiving, so we loaded the car and drove 2 hours east to Lyle's sister's house.  The dinner was fantastic, the company couldn't have been better, and being in a home with electricity was simply divine.   We heard that night that our power at home had come on and we rejoiced.

We woke up Friday morning to a phone call alerting us that a pipe had burst in our rental house next door and the cute little cottage was now more akin to a swimming pool than a domestic residence.  We took only enough time to change out of our pajamas before we hit the road.  Thankfully some friends and neighbors helped bail (literally) us out and we moved furniture into our garage and slogged sopping carpet and pad to the dump.

Did I mention that the turkey was really good?  It was a Thanksgiving to remember.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Have you ever watched that show "Everest" and contemplated your odds of reaching the summit?  I've always known that I wouldn't make it past base camp.  I have toes that freeze when the temperatures plummet below about 70 degrees.  So when we lost power on Monday and the temperature outside was in the teens, I knew we were in dire straits.

Bruder was huddled up with friends and the rest of put on coats and hats and multiple layers of socks.  We do have a gas fireplace, four of them actually, but they all have electric switches to turn them on rendering them useless.  Yesterday we brought sleeping bags and and pillows and lots of board games to Lyle's dental office and we've been here since, contemplating Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Because He's Cute.....

And because things are relatively quiet here on the home front, I thought I'd share Xi Xi's baby pictures.  I only have two.  Actually, I have three if you count the grainy black and white newspaper finding ad, which is hardly worth counting.  I can't even imagine having only two pictures of Bruder's whole babyhood.  During his first year, I probably averaged at least two pictures every day.  And that was even before digital cameras!

Most boys who are abandoned in China have a visible special need and our Yun Xi was no exception.  Cleft lip and palate, club feet, and other limb differences are common amongst the boys in China's orphanages, but Yun Xi did not have any of those things.  What he did have is what doctors in China called a "vascular malformation" or hemangioma on the inside of his left cheek.  Hemangiomas are relatively common and not a great cause for concern.  In fact, they often go away on their own.

When Xi Xi was nearly 8 months old, though, he spent a week in the hospital where an oral surgeon performed two operations to remove the hemangioma.  From the smiling face I see in post-surgery photos, it looks like he did a great job.   Still, I think his chipmunk cheek was rather endearing.

Not surprisingly (to me at least), my dentist husband is eager to get a look inside his son's mouth to see where they performed the operation.  There are many things in Yun Xi's file that could have been more detailed, that I wish were more detailed, but let's just say they were quite thorough in their description of the removal of the hemangioma.

Lyle found it fascinating reading.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Made it!

Back in July, when we respectfully asked China to allow us to adopt Yun Xi, we were given a deadline of 90 days to have all of our papers signed, sealed, delivered and logged-in in China.   Several agencies said there was no way it could be done.  Our agency however is made of sterner stuff.   "Let's do this warp speed," they said.

In 90 days we had to (just a sampling):

*Get notarized documents from California, Oklahoma, and Utah.
*Have physicals.
*Get police clearances from all of the places we've lived since age 18.
*Have a social worker make visits to our house.
*Get friends and family to write letters of recommendation.
*Do on-line training.
*Get fingerprinted.
*Make countless trips to the notary.....she'll be getting a Christmas card.
*Visit the Secretary of State's Office in Olympia.
*Send documents to consulates and embassies in San Francisco, Houston, and DC.
*Wait for all of the government agencies to stamp, sign, or do whatever they needed to do to the above documents.
*Etc., Etc., Etc....

Our deadline was October 23rd.  I knew when we sent our papers to China that we'd be close.  Depending on how long it took on the China side to log-in our papers, we may or may not make the deadline.  Well, just this morning I found out our log-in date.  It was October 22nd!  We made the deadline by ONE day!  It makes all of those overnight fees and courier charges worthwhile.

So on this momentous day, I'll share another Yun Xi picture.  This is a rare photo of him not in full-out grin, but the grin is obviously right under the surface.

We're still hoping to travel in March.  I planted some daffodil bulbs last week and thought of how happy and bright they would look in the spring, welcoming our little Yun Xi home.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Fourteen years ago yesterday our little Hawkeye made her entrance into the world.  We were at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City.   Lyle was in his prosthodontics rotation during his junior year of dental school, and we wondered if he'd even make it for her birth.  Thankfully he did.  At that time of our lives, I was watching other people's children in our '70's era condo during the day and in the wee hours of the morning Lyle was cleaning the dental lab.  Our toddler boy was a chubby little package of endless energy.  We were poor and busy and tired, and on October 25, 1996, we were blessed with our sweet and confident Lucy Loo.

When he met her at the hospital, her brother leaned down and whispered loudly in her ear, "I've loved you from the day you were born."  Obviously not long, but a sweet sentiment still the same.

Last night she was gifted with an I-Pod that she finds adorable.  My guess is that I'll find it in the washer.  The shirt she was wearing was picked out by Cholita and bought with her very own money.  When I asked her what she thought Lucy would want for her birthday, she said, "I think she'd like to see me in a white dress."  When she saw my look of disapproval, she quickly said,  "Just kidding.  What I meant to say is that she'd like to see me in a white skirt."  She's a sly one.

Rose also labored over a present and also used her own money.  Lucy absolutely loved her ring.

And Bruder's present?   In the card he'd taped to the box, he wote, "I'll have you know that I had to summon up all my courage to go up to the cashier and actually buy this item......".  What could it possibly be?

Taylor Swift piano music.  

That's a truly sweet brother.

Happy birthday to our wonderful fourteen year-old.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sweet Pea Spa

Or I also could have titled this post, 
"The Best Big Sister EVER"!

Here are the "under twelves" enjoying a relaxing drink before beginning their spa experience.  
Notice the massage center in the background.  

Normally I'm not too keen on the kids using my bathroom, but anything that keeps the littles entertained for literally hours, is a good thing in my book.

And if a foot soak is what it takes to get these two calm, cool, and collected, then so be it.

Lucy took these photos and I just love them.  
And toddler feet?  Well, I love those too.

From the foot station, they moved onto the hands.

Lotions, ointments, and nail polish.

And now, introducing one of my favorite pictures of all time....

I give you......

Spa Cho!
AKA Queen Cucumber

Poor little brother will wonder what fate has befallen him.
Lyle grew up with six sisters and lived to tell the tale. 
 Let's hope Xi Xi can handle three.