Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Getting Back to the Routine

Well, we're settling back in to our normal routine here. The cruise was great! Maddie was extremely upset when school opened up 2 hours late on Monday - as opposed to being closed completely. It seems there was a Math test she was not at all prepared for. Who can blame her? Would you study Math with swaying palm trees in your line of vision?!

First order of business was to get all the laundry done. Check. Second order of business was to get Josie reacquainted with all her cartoon homeboys and homegirls. You know the crowd - Little Einsteins, Mickey Mouse, Curious George, Dora, Diego and Noddy. Then, she HAD to visit with each and every one of her toys, books, and Playdoh containers. I'm happy to say that she is back to her old schedule of breakfast, some TV, a snack, torturing the dogs, playing with her toys and wrecking the house.

James was working while we were on the cruise and continued less than an hour after our arrival home. His main concern was that I immediately mail in our tainted Peter Pan Peanut Butter lids for reimbursement from Conagra Foods. Yes, we did have the tainted peanut butter, but we all ate from the jars and suffered no ill effects. Still, better safe than sorry. I'm just not that sure that the extra $5.00 in refund money is worth the push at this time. But you know the saying, "When daddy's happy..."

The most disturbing thing that occured in our absence was that Carson (a.k.a. Bubba) apparently refused to eat while at the kennel. He really is a Mommy's boy, but I was surprised by how hard he took the separation. He came back to us as nothing but skin and bones. I weighed him this morning and he lost 2.5 pounds in one week! For a dog his size, that's a lot of weight. It broke my heart to see him.

We had planned to pick up both dogs on Sunday (the kennel only opens from 6PM-8PM for pick-ups) but we were hit with an ice storm, the kennel lost power, and the RT 1 (the main route to the kennel) was closed down because of fallen power lines. The dogs were fed, but that's about it. When Josie & I arrived to pick them up on Monday morning, they had not been bathed. The staff asked if I wanted to wait. Absolutely not! Give me my babies now! Casey, as has been the case in the past, has no voice. Apparently, she had barked herself out by Wednesday. She just has a pathetic croak escaping from her mouth at this point. She did not suffer from an eating disorder in our absence so she is still in fighting shape.

After getting everyone settled back in, bathing dogs, doing laundry and grocery shopping, I finally got some time to check in on my computer. I just had to check in on the kids sites that I follow (listed on the right). Blog withdraw is an ugly thing.

I was very amused by Mary-Mia's account of damage inflicted by Hurricane Hubei (a.k.a her twins, Rose & Marie!). That same Chinese hurricane must have spun clear across the country and hit here in Virginia! I'll offer the following photo as proof of the chaos created by our own Hubei honey:

Even with all the mess, it's great to be home!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What a Difference A Day Makes

24 Hours ago this is what we were doing:

Today, this is what we're doing...

Just doesn't seem fair!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Swimmin' Wit Da Fishes

Here's a photo parade of our day at the Dolphin Discovery Center in Cozumel!

Grand Cayman Snorkeling

Hello, from Cozumel! It’s 8AM now, so we’ve not yet left for our “Swimming with the Dolphins” adventure. Yesterday, in Grand Cayman, it was a beautiful day. Sunny and in the mid 80’s. Yummy! Josie was in the care of her grandparents while James, Maddie and I went on a Reef & Shipwreck snorkeling adventure. It was just awesome!

Our boat pulled up right onto the beach where we boarded and took a short ride to the coral reef. If you imagine your hand spread out, with your wrist as the beach, your fingers would be the coral reefs and the space in between would be small trenches where tarpons and barracuda hide. We got to see both of these fish, along with thousand of others swimming among the many different kinds of coral.

Our Captain asked if anyone had seen ‘ Finding Nemo’. Of course, many of us had. He then explained that we would not see any Nemos but there were thousands of Dori s. He also explained that they WERE the dumbest fish in the ocean and that YES, they did possess a 3 second memory. We found this to be true – and it’s funny to watch them go back and forth.

After 40 minutes we headed around a corner and into a cove to swim above the shipwreck. It wasn’t a sunken galleon or anything like that…it was a sunken container ship from the 1940s that ran aground. The crew, knowing that ship was not going anywhere and that it couldn’t sink because it was already grounded, abandoned ship and headed for a local watering hole. What they neglected to consider was that the ship was carrying a hull full of rice. That, combined with an undetected gash in the hull and the rising sea water, caused the rice to expand and literally pushed the hull apart, causing it to ‘sink’. In the 1960’s the Brits decided to do away with the wreck by using 10 cases of dynamite that not only destroyed the wreck but killed 4 people on shore and damaged a number of building. Our Australian captain called this a ‘typical Brit cock-up’!

It had rained the previous day, so the water was a bit milky. However, we did get to see the wreck and surrounding undersea life. It was a great experience!

We celebrated our Family Day anniversary at dinner with a toast to Josie. She is so incredibly loved by everyone in this family! We are all so lucky to have each other! A number of the adoptive family members we have met on board came by during dinner to offer their congratulations. What an incredible experience, what a wonderful life!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jamaica and Our 'Gotcha' Anniversary

Hello from Georgetown, Grand Cayman! We are having a wonderful time. Before I start with the travel report, I’d like to make note that today is a very exciting day for our family. Today is the one -year anniversary of ‘Gotcha’ for Josie. It was one year ago today, in a cold conference room in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China that we first held our Josie and completed our family. Amazing, Overwhelming, Miraculous, Frightening and Joyous – all at one time. We are so thankful and humbled by the tremendous love that Josie has brought into our lives.

I should begin by mentioning that we were unaware that Josie is practically a rock star here on board the Star Princess. I get stopped about 50 times a day -by folks telling me how precious and adorable she is. I have also met every aunt, uncle and grandparent of an adopted Chinese child sailing with us. While standing in line to have our photo taken on Formal night, the lady behind us grabbed me and said, “Both by granddaughters are from Hunan!” And, in the dining room that same evening, I was introduced to Allison, a ten year-old adopted from Vietnam.

It is wonderful to see the pride and love that these folks feel for the children. I commend all adoptive parents for the way they make the big world just a bit smaller and SO much warmer through the families they build.

Not too much to say about Jamaica that 1000 people haven’t said a 1000 times before. Pushy vendors, aggressive cab drivers, and ‘entrepreneurs’ around every corner. That said, the folks we came into contact with on the street, while still very aggressive, were in good humor and took a “No, Thank You” and a smile for what it is - and moved on to their next victims.

The weather was cloudy and it rained intermittently for most of the afternoon. Josie was happy though, being entertained by her cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Maddie went horseback riding with her Aunt Claudine and had a blast!

In the evenings, I have been heading to the casino with my parents. I doubled my money on the first night, and came perilously close to winning a new BMW for my husband. I did not do so well on my second and third outings. I had fun though!

Maddie and the other cousins have been spending their evenings watching the shows, playing in the arcade or having slumber parties in a chosen cabin. They are all great kids and have been amazingly well behaved. Next up is the report from our adventures today in Grand Cayman – but I have to upload the photos first . The ship is now pulling anchor and we are headed for Cozumel.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Cruising Away

From Cruise Day 1&2
Well, we’re at sea on the Star Princess headed for Jamaica. Things are running smoothly, given that we are a party of 15. The weather was uncooperative at first – when we awoke in Ft. Lauderdale is was a brisk 46 degrees. Now it is warming up, but still cloudy. I’m okay with that – it’s the beach that I love.

As I type this, Josie is taking her afternoon nap on the bed and Claudine (my younger sis); my Mom and my Maddie are on the adjoining balcony discussing what their plans are for the rest of the day. I’m grateful for the quiet to collect my thoughts.

I’ve learned a few things in preparing for this trip.

Vacation Preparation Tip #1 – Don’t go with the Level 2 Spray-on Mystic Tan because the gum chomping college kid behind the desk says it will “work for You”
From Cruise Day 1&2

I’m sorry, but after following all directions carefully, my hands are the color of Cheetos and other parts of my body (which thankfully are covered by my one-piece suit) resemble the flesh of an oompa loompa. Note to self: Less is more where spray-on tans are concerned.

Vacation Preparation Tip #2 – Do not bring your 22 month-old daughter with you when you take your very excitable Jack Russell Terriers to the kennel.

The gymnastics involved in leashing 30 pounds (combined) of dog, while removing a toddler from a car seat - should only be attempted by Olympiads. My attempt resulted in the two dogs taking off across an ice covered parking lot while my Josie clawed at my chest thus exposing my undergarments to all the unfortunate souls in the waiting room. Run in, apologize, place daughter on a chair in waiting room, run after dogs, get dogs into waiting room, and apologize again. Balance daughter on hip while writing and holding two dogs on leashes. Console daughter as dogs are taken into ‘The Big House’ and she cries “Bubba, Tatsey, Bubba, Tatsey”.

By the time we got to the airport in Miami I was soooo ready to get on a boat and just keep that Pina Colada arm extended, never seeing the bottom of those lovely plastic cups or the end of those pretty little umbrellas! Alas, it has not happened (yet!) but at least I can dream.

From Cruise Day 1&2
We’re having a wonderful time. The ship is very nice. I’m having a great time being with my siblings (and spouses); my parents; my niece & nephews and my own family. I’ll fill you in on our activities tomorrow. I think if you click on the photo below you can see the album of shots I've taken in the past 2 days. There are no captions, but I'll work on that later!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

One Act of Mercy

Back in October 2006, I got "roped into" a job that I really didn't want. I am the Team Leader for Confirmation Group 15 of our church. Maddie will be making her Confirmation in the Spring of 2008 - so that just let's you know the duration of the job. A year and a half. Basically, I plan and help execute 3 Spiritual Works of Mercy and 3 Corporal Acts of Mercy with a group of 9 soon-to-be teenagers.

Like I said, I didn't really want the job. With a new toddler in the house I was barely able to keep my head above water with making dinner, cleaning the house, and other Mom duties. But yesterday, the kids performed their first act of Mercy and I am SO happy I was 'talked into' this job.

James and I took the kids over to the local homeless shelter where they were to help the kids at the shelter make Valentines. They also passed out "goodie bags". Our group consisted of 3 boys and 4 girls who attend 3 different area schools. I had never been to a homeless shelter and I just didn't know what to expect, neither did the kids.

I was SO PROUD to be with this group of young adults! They were just phenomenal! The little boys at the shelter just hung on every word our young men said. Our guys helped the little ones with their Valentines, drew 'tattoos' on their arms and talked about the TV shows they all watched. They were so gentle and kind, I seriously had trouble not welling up in tears.

Our girls were just as wonderful. They jumped right in with the little girls - stamping hearts on Valentines, getting themselves covered in glitter glue and loving every minute of it. Our girls got a bit of a shock though, when Jeri (one of our girls) asked a little girl who she was making her Valentine for. The response? "I'm making it for my Mom, she's dead but I'm gonna put it at her grave so she knows I made it for her."

Wow, how's that for life smacking you in the head?!

I know that teenagers get a bad rap sometimes, but watching this group of kids really gave me a good feeling about the future, and their futures. They are just so compassionate and kind. I am so impressed and so honored to know all of them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Significant Snow Event and Other Lies

It's a damn embarrassment that 2 inches of snow is a Significant Snow Event here in Virginia. It's an insult to our friends in Alaska, Michigan, Oregon and Massachusetts who have struggled with FEET of snow and ice storms that knock out the power for days! I humbly apologize on behalf of my whimpy statesmen and our overly excitable TV weathermen.

Maybe you can tell that today was a snow day for us?! This greatly alters my morning routine. The first and most important alteration comes in the form of me getting a morning shower... while there's still hot water!!! Mind you, this heavenly shower is not without it's interruptions. Josie came in first, wanting to hop in the shower with me although she was still fully dressed in her footy pajamas. Next came Maddie, wanting to know how the new shower was working out for me. Then, the two dogs came sniffing around, waiting for me to get out of the shower so they could lick the water from my legs. Finally, my darling husband came in to wrap me in a warm towel as I stepped out. It's nice to be loved.

Second alteration to my routine came when I went downstairs to turn on Sesame Street and instead was greeted by the sounds of Mary J. Blige on VH1. Niiicccceee. My oldest daughter is showing great promise in her music selections. Perhaps we'll make it through the teenaged years without arguments...about music anyway.

So. It's a bit after 8AM and the nearly two inches of snow/slush that fell last night is already melting. This is a tragedy because we have, here in front of our house, what could possibly be the best sled run in the region. You start at the top of the hill as you enter the gates.

From New Album 2/1...

You build speed as you decend, and then take a tight hairpin turn to the right and continue on down toward the golf course.

From New Album 2/1...

Of course, parents are posted at the top of the hill and at the curve to ensure cars don't interfere with the fun. We were hoping for some sledding today, but alas, our community plow is far too efficient, and the hill has already been plowed and salted. We need to find a 'natural' alternative..a nice hill that doesn't get plowed.

When I was little, and living in Philadelphia, we had 'Cemetary Hill'. Now, I know it sounds like this hill was named by a bunch of kids with big imaginations, but it truly was a ....cemetary hill. Each year there were more tombstones to dodge, but you couldn't beat the incline. Nor could you beat the comraderie. Every Dad in our neighborhood loaded up the station wagon with kids and we all headed out for a full day of racing downhill, runny noses and the occassional collision with said tombstones. It was a blast!!!

So, instead of being outside enjoying the frosty air, we are trapped indoors. Packing....

Oh, yes! Did I forget to mention that in just about 48 hours we are sooooo outta here?!?!?!? Headed to warmer climes, my friends! We are off on a 7 day cruise in the Caribbean, compliments of my wonderful parents! The whole clan, 15 in all, will enjoy Grand Cayman Island, Cozumel, Mexico and Jamaica among other warm and toasty places!!! Cannot Wait!!! Can't wait to see Josie in the little bathing suits I bought her, either!! So, here's another frosty picture for us to comtemplate while we prepare for warmer days!!

From New Album 2/1...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Morning

I get a lot of comments along the line of, "Where is James?" or "The kids are great, but what's James up to?"

Well, here's the answer! James spends his workdays in peaceful solitude, working his butt off so that Josie, Maddie and I can play with cameras, digital camcorders and blogs. On the weekends, he spends his two days off being bossed around by the women in his life. I always have a "honey-do" list, Maddie always has a scheme to get Dad out to the mall and Josie, well - she's just a pushy little imp that none of us can resist.

As Josie becomes more 'vocal', I'm becoming much more adept at making movies. So, here's one from this morning that captures James' "relaxing" Sunday Morning...

Friday, February 9, 2007

One of Our Favorites

Andrea and Elmo. Heaven. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Feeling Yukky

Josie started to sniffle last Friday and since then has had a wicked cold. While she has remained her usual, adorable self - it's been a terrible time. How does one get a 22 month old to blow her nose? She literally grunts in frustration while rubbing her runny nose. It's like one big "ARGGGG".

I feel just terrible for her! I've been giving her a decongestant prescribed by her doctor, but I'm not thrilled with how groggy it makes her. I do have saline drops for her nose, but I'm unsure of how to use them. Josie was less than thrilled with my first attempt!

She's snoring like a lumberjack and having a tough time with her bottle. Hard to drink when your nose is all stuffed up! Her appetite is off as well. Guess you don't want to eat when you can't taste anything.

Anyway, let's hope our little firecracker is back to her normal self soon.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Josie at Bathtime

We made this video last week while Maddie was helping with Josie's bath. If you haven't met her yet, this shows just how adorable Josie is and why we all just love her to pieces!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Maddie, Kelsey & Justin Timberlake!

While Josie and I were trying to get over our colds, Maddie was off to the Verizon Center in DC to see the Justin Timberlake concert. She e-mailed me the following photos from the concert:

Maddie had a fantastic time with her friend Kelsey and we thank her parents for allowing Maddie to join them for this special event. Note: Maddie attended another concert at this same venue a few years back...Her very first concert in fact. She was 5 and half years old and she saw the Backstreet Boys!!

Friday, February 2, 2007

If We Were Candy

Been having a bit of fun this morning and thought I would share! Here's what James looks like as an M&M. Notice the wind blowing through his hair, his sensible work shoes and (of course!) flowers for his darling wife

And here's me, looking far more glamorous as a candy than I ever could in person!

And the girls, As cute as candy, and just as delicious!!

What a yummy family we have!!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Share the Love...

Our friends and fellow PSBI/Welcome House mates - The Swales - have just received their referral!! Three years in the making for this little peanut, but she's finally here!

She is a chubby cheeked darling from Jiangxi Province. Jiangxi Province borders Hubei Province, which is where Josie was born! She will be 8 months old on Saturday!! Please continue to check "3 Peanuts" link on the right hand side of this page. Kim will be posting more information and more photos of Will and Harry's mei-mei (little sister!)

We are just over the moon for the whole family... Stay tuned!