Sunday, April 29, 2007

Engineers at Work!

The large box arrived in the third week of March with the following message inside:

Dear Josie,
Happy Belated Birthday! Your Dad has a college degree in mechanical engineering, so don't worry about all the parts that are left over when he's done assembling this trike!
Love, Uncle Ken, Aunt Agnes, Alex & Brandon

Alright! Another "Some Assembly Required" birthday!! Daddy loves these kind of presents !! Especially when they contain mocking notes from his (youngest!) brother!! Just to demonstrate how much Daddy loves putting stuff together, he made darling Josephine wait a month for her present. Bad Daddy! But, Josie takes her revenge - She decides to HELP Daddy put her trike together! This is how it went:

Step One: Empty Contents of the Box onto the driveway.

Step Two: Begin Assembly

Step Three: Read Directions. (Oooppss!)

Steps Four, Five and Six: When you get bored with assembly, supervise your Dad, make "hats for fingers" with the wheel cap bolts and play with the box it came in (in that order!)

Step Seven: Take your new trike for test drive before it's actually assembled.

Step Eight: Once it IS actually completed, Make Dad push you around on it for a good half hour to make sure it works!

ASSEMBLY COMPLETE! Thanks Uncle Ken, Aunt Agnes, Alex & Brandon!!

Maddie's Spring Concert

Today was Maddie's Spring Concert with the regional youth symphony. It is the last concert of the season and (we hope) her last with the beginning level group. Auditions are tomorrow night, followed by the 'wrap party'. The symphony runs on just about the same schedule as the school year, so this is a signal that the end of 7th grade is near. I swear this year is just flying by!

Of course Maddie's performance was flawless - at least I think it was flawless...I don't have any musical ability. So, as I told James upon our return from the concert..."I don't know if she played well, but she looked great!"

James stayed home this time around. We had just gotten Josie down for her afternoon nap as Maddie was due to leave for her performance. Since "Don't Ever Wake a Sleeping Baby" is our family's motto, Maddie and I roughed it on our own. She was just great, and as always, she made me so proud. I am envious of her talent & ability. Here are the last few shots of the concert:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bedtime Reading

Each night before Josie goes to sleep we have a stack of books that we MUST read before saying 'goodnight'. She is very funny, because she insists that they be read in a specific order. She'll say, "Cuddle Up, Mom", then settle in and get comfortable. Here's the rest of our nightly selection:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sporty Spice

The nor'easter has gone, taking along it's gray skies and howling winds. The past two days have been beautiful and we're venturing outdoors again. It's a great opportunity to get some shots of Josie in all her sporty glory. She's been driving around in the convertible with Dad, flying through the house and causing all sorts of mayhem.

Maddie has also been on the run, visiting Kings Dominion yesterday and off to the gym with Dad this afternoon. She's been practicing her audition piece on her cello and designing a roller coaster for Math class. I'm just trying to keep up.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Sad Day

We are shocked and horrified. Please keep all Hokies in your prayers.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Back Home & 'Pooh'ped!

We returned home from CA on Wednesday. Our last day at Disneyland was on Monday. Tuesday we toured USC and went to LA's Chinatown for Dim Sum. We checked into the LAX Marriott in preparation for our early morning flight on Wednesday.

Our time in California was really fun. However, James & I decided it was too long of a visit at Disneyland. Maddie & Leah strongly disagree with that statement! I'm pretty sure they felt that no visit to Disneyland is too long. At last report, they had gone on the Tower of Terror ride 8 times, Pirates of the Caribbean 3 times and every roller coaster in both parks at least twice.

The fact that Josie is only 33 inches tall had a lot to do with our inability to get her on a majority of the rides we had hoped she could go on. There are only so many times a parent can go around, around, and around on a carousel before crying "Uncle!"

Josie enjoyed visiting Minnie Mouse's house and the petting zoo in the California Adventure park. Our biggest challenge was keeping Josie occupied in the mornings. She gets up between 5 and 6 AM. Leah & Maddie are typical teenagers, wanting to sleep in late. So, keeping all the kids happy was a challenge. I think we did a good job, because all of them were exhausted upon our return home.

Josie has returned to somewhat normal sleeping patterns, but she is still waking up around 12:30-1:30 AM crying for her Mom. We are hoping that a return to her normal routine brings back a full nights sleep this week.

Leah returned home to Michigan on Friday morning. That same morning I drove Maddie up to Aunt Claudine's house where she will stay until Sunday. Grandmom & PopPop were staying the weekend at Claudine's too, so Maddie will no doubt be spoiled rotten by the time we get her back!

Josie and I were subjected to a nightmare ride home from Claudine's on Friday. There was a truck fire on the 95 South (our route home) at 7 AM. The fire burned so hot, it melted the roadway. The road needed immediate repair, so the 95 was taken down to two lanes. The result was a 20 mile back-up. You read that right - A 20 MILE BACK-UP!!. All alternate routes were backed up as well, so we settled in for a long trip home. What normally takes 1.5 hours door to door was turned into a nighmarish 4.5 hour journey. Average speed was about 5 miles an hour! Josie was a trooper, given she didn't have any lunch. All I can say is Thank God for DVD players in cars and afternoon naps!!

Here are a few shots from our last days in California:

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Bonnets

Here are a few of the Easter Bonnets our girls donned today. Happy Easter!
(click on photo and select slideshow)


Saturday, April 7, 2007

It's a Small World...

It's not what you think. We haven't visited that ride yet.

We were up early and hit Disneyland as it opened. Maddie & Leah made the mad dash to ride the Mattehorn, while James, Josie & I decided to catch the newly revamped Pirates of the Caribbean. Josie was not enthralled with the Pirates. Again, it was dark and loud, so it only met two of Josie's criteria for a meltdown. As soon as the boat left the launch, she was saying, "hug, hug" which is Josiespeak for "pick me up and get me outta here!" (Most often used when she is strapped into a stroller!) I gladly put her on my lap and had her rest her head on my chest with my hands covering her ears. She did fine. She even wanted to look at pirate stuff when we exited the ride.

We met with Maddie & Leah at 9:30 AM to head over to the California Adventure park. The girls wanted to ride the Tower of Terror. James & I were in search of Mulan stuff. We had seen the Mulan character at this park when visited two or three years ago. (Can't remember when it actually opened...) Anyway, there was no Mulan. There was no Mulan merchandise, not even a sweatshirt! We headed back across the park and took in the Disney Playhouse live show. Josie loved it! She danced, clapped her hands and sang some of the songs. Finally, something she really enjoyed!

We met up with Maddie & Leah at the exit of the park around lunchtime. We decided not to spend the $50 lunch would have cost us - we were going to In & Out Burger instead! As we made our way toward the exit, we heard someone yell "JAMES!". It turned out to be Caroline, a long time and dear friend of James' from way back. We were so excited to see her! The last time we visited Caroline and her family was when Maddie was 4 years old! Since that time, we have exchanged Christmas cards and emails, but sadly not much else. Life is busy for everyone. Caroline was visiting the park with her youngest son, Niko, her partner Ken and his daughter, Amber. It was really a pleasure to meet Ken & Amber for the first time. We also had the pleasure of introducing Caroline's family to Josie. It was such an unexpected and wonderful surprise to see that's the Small World story for today. I'll let you know when we actually get around to the ride.

After lunch, everyone just conked out. Josie, Maddie and Leah all decided to take a nap. That left me a few minutes to take a steaming hot shower (it's cold here!) and get ready for our dinner tonight. We are meeting our friend and James' colleague, Wen, and his family this evening to celebrate Wen's new job. After commuting from Los Angeles (where his family lives) to Michigan (where his previous company moved operations) for a few years, Wen is now employed in the Los Angeles area again! We are so happy for him!

So, its another day down, here in CA. I took a ton of photos, but I only upload a few because of time constraints. If you click on the photo below, it will take you to the photos I uploaded today.

Disney Satuurday 4/7/07 6:16 PM

Friday, April 6, 2007

Not So Sure About the Mouse...

Well, we've finished our first day here in/at Disneyland. Of course, the thing everyone wanted to see was how Josie would react to seeing Mickey & Friends in real life as opposed to watching a cartoon of them on TV. Results are mixed. She watched them from afar - at the opening ceremony in Toontown. They danced, she danced. They clapped, she clapped. She named everyone of them and waved. But, when it came to up close and personal...well, let's just say she was not as enthusiastic. She did not cry, she did not try to run away. She kind of just...watched.

Given what we know about our lovely Josie, we kind of expected this hesitancy. She is always cautious around strangers. This is in direct opposition to her older sister. When Maddie met Mickey for the first time at just about 3 years old, she ran with arms open saying, "Mickey! Mickey!" We knew this wouldn't be Josie's reaction but we were really hoping to avoid a total meltdown... and we did. We're really proud of our little one!

What Josie really did enjoy was riding the teacups with Maddie & Leah. I tried to capture the giggles that were evident even from my position outside the gates of the ride. No such luck, but watching the three of them laughing and spinning really gave me a lot of joy. How beautiful my girls are...just amazing!

For the majority of the day, I would cut Maddie & Leah loose to go ride the coasters, while Josie and I walked around, checking out the musicians, feeding the ducks. We met the girls for lunch and then agreed to meet up again in 2.5 hours. By that time, Josie had ridden the carousel and 'Pinocchio's Journey". The latter was a HUGE mistake. It was dark, had loud noises and scary looking characters. Basically, the 'Josie freak-out trifecta' . My defense: it had a short line. ( I know, I'm an idiot)

We left the park around 3:30. Maddie & Leah headed right to the pool - although it wasn't really hot or sunny today. Josie couldn't stand to be left out, so we joined them about a 1/2 hour later. She is now sleeping soundly and the two older girls are out having dinner with James. We picked up some rice and chicken for Josie around 5:30 when she started screaming "hungry!" Okay, hint taken...

I am exhausted but happy having watched both my girls have a wonderful, magical day. Here are a few more shots from today:

Stealthy Visit to Gung & Mas

We left our house at 5:00AM to get to Dulles Airport in time for our 8AM flight to LAX. The flight was unremarkable and arrived on time. We picked up our car and by noon, West Coast time, we were on our way up to visit GungGung & MaMa. The 405 was remarkably uncongested so we made the trip within an hour & a half.

Was there ever a grandparent who wasn't thrilled to see their grandchildren? Josie went to work checking out all the toys that are on hand and playing with MaMa. After a bit, GungGung took Josie for a ride around the backyard in a red wagon. She had a ball! Maddie and Leah checked out other things around the house, but managed to stay out of trouble. Ma made us a delicious lunch of stir fried noodles, shrimp and chicken. One great thing about visiting the in-laws is that we always get authentic and yummy Chinese food!

After lunch, we kissed everyone goodbye and headed back the way we came and headed for Disneyland. Traffic was not as cooperative and Interstate 5 was a parking lot. We're used to rush hour traffic. What I personally detest about driving in CA is the narrowness of the lanes. Holy Shamoly!! I ducked or cringed for most of the trip! (I am a horrible passenger!) Anyway, we arrived safely.

We are staying at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. The photo shows the view from our room. It overlooks the
California Adventure park. This is our 5th or 6th visit here, but it's Josie & Leah's first. So, at check-in they received buttons that note it is their first visit - and this is supposed to bring "special magic" their way in the parks...we'll see...

We also got a big surprise at check-in. Apparently, each day the hotel selects one family at random to be 'Big Kahunas'. Thursday, it was us! We got a balloon bouquet, special treats delivered to our room, a Paradise Pier desk clock, a phone call from Goofy, and a special frame for the photo they took of our family with (plastic) Goofy in the lobby! Very cool! We are most thankful to the hotel staff for being so wonderful to the girls.

Everyone is excited to get going today - Josie was up at 4AM. So, now it's 6:30AM and we are headed out for the opening of Toontown at 7AM! Here's a photo of Josie at tubby time last night - showing off her Mickey Mouse soap. She has no idea what an exciting day she is going to have!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

We're Off...Again!

We're leaving early tomorrow morning for California. We'll land at LAX around 11AM and then head on up to the desert for a quick visit with GungGung & MaMa (James' parents). We'll leave Lancaster and head back down to Anaheim to....

You guessed it?! We're goin' to Disneyland! James insisted that Josie's first visit with 'The Mouse' be in his native California. James also insists that the closer, in-the-same-time-zone, Disney World is just too much for a little girl to handle. So, just as her older sister did 10 years ago, she will make the pilgrimage to the Magic Kingdom in CA.

We hope to have some wonderful photos to share with you in the coming days.

P.S. We haven't told Josie she's going to meet Mickey yet! (Can't wait to see her reaction!!)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Our Lady of Adoptions

Yesterday, we had our final post-placement visit with our adoption social worker, Janice. The first time we met Janice was when we began the adoption process for Josie - way back in January 2005. Ah, yes! Back when we were rookies at this adoption stuff...

As required by law, Janice visited with us on three separate occasions back in the early part of 2005. Her job was to prepare a 'homestudy' report which is then filed with the adoption agency and with the USCIS, (or INS as it used to be known as) and THAT is used to produce a form which gives us advanced approval to adopt a child abroad. Whew! What a paper trail!

Janice was also the bearer of the most precious gift - our first photos of Josie (or Chong Si Li - as she was then known as...) on Thursday, January 5th, 2006. That's the photo shown above. Once we returned home from China with Josie, Janice visited us three more times for 'post placement visits'. These visits are required by our agency, the China Center for Adoption Affairs, and the Commonwealth of Virginia (for the purpose of readopting in the state). Finally, there is the last visit which takes place at or near the one year anniversary of Josie's adoption. That was yesterday's visit.

I have to say right now, that Janice should be nominated for sainthood. Her patience and kindness during our adoption process should be grounds enough for beatification immediately!! When you take into consideration that I am a total control freak and James has never taken 'no' for an answer in his life - well, to say she had her hands full would be an understatement. Note to future adoptive parents: the CCAA does not work on an American ( or Canadian,or insert country here) time line. This was the HARDEST thing for my husband - who can attribute most of his success in life to his shear 'force of will' (or as we like to call it- hard headedness!)- and I to accept. I firmly believed that if I was organized and had complete knowledge of all the facts that I could somehow control the process. Oh boy, was I wrong!

Throughout the turbulent times, Janice remained the calm and ever smiling wonder that she is. When we hugged her goodbye yesterday, we were saying goodbye to our one true advocate in the whole adoption process. We will always consider her our friend and hold her in the highest esteem - as she was one of the people who helped us find our way to Josie.

So, just to be sure about all that 'sainthood' stuff... I checked with Catholic Online's directory of saint names. It seems that there are currently no St. Janice's on the books! ( Just as a quick aside - Janice is a form of the name Jane, which means God has Mercy. There are a TON of St. Janes - most were French and most were guillotined for refusing to follow some sillyass French laws)

Since we'll be in Rome this summer, I'm going to request an audience with the Pope (you can do that via fax now!) and petition him to start the ball rolling on getting us a St. Janice of Richmond. Sounds nice...

Thank you, Janice - for everything!!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Cherry Blossoms

The weather was less than cooperative for yesterday's outting to see the Cherry Blossoms. The skies were overcast, but the girls managed to have a wonderful time anyway. James took the girls around the Mall and the Tidal Basin. They even rented a peddle boat and took a ride around the Tidal Basin to get a look at the monuments from the water. They had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Full Kee, and then headed home. Maddie's friend, Monica, also joined them for the day. Here are some shots from their day: