Monday, November 24, 2008

Ian Gets Down to Business

Late Friday evening, I realized that I had left the charger for my Kindle at the office and my power was low. There was no way I was going the weekend without my book, right at the good part, so I packed Ian in the car and made the grueling 6 minute drive from our house to my office. I know what you're thinking...rough commute.

He loved sitting at my desk and playing with my keyboard. I wish I would have thought of it, but I should have gotten pics of him doing crazy things... in my manager's office, the high security server rooms, the owner's office, on a fork lift... you know, career advancement tactics. Probably a good idea I didn't think of it!

We also went to the grand opening of the new grocery store literally feet from our house. Ian loves the car/carts and they have 3, meaning we'll almost always be guaranteed to get one when we shop there. They don't know it, but that might make me a more frequent customer than competitive prices or convenient location. Others were probably wondering why, but I got a couple of cute pics of him driving the cart...and yeah, that's Ben & Jerry's in the cart. I have no shame.

We made a trip to our local Children's Museum, where I conveniently ventured without a camera (gasp!) and a fun new play area at a nearby mall...also sans camera. Could I be letting go of photo addiction? Let's hope not.

So... Today was my rescheduled Parent/Teacher conference that I blew off on Thursday. I called my mom before so she could keep me accountable. Crazy that at 35, I still need my mommy to keep me on task. While waiting for the meeting, I also stopped by the T-Mobile store to check out new phones... phones with calendars and task lists. Phones that won't let me miss another appointment like that again. My hot pink RAZR was cute 5 years ago, but it's let me down one too many times. Time for a big girl phone. I digress.

Although Ian is still on track to get in at the Learning Preschool down the street from our house, hopefully sometime in January or February, this conference was important. He's been at this daycare since February and this is the first communication we've received from them about how he's doing. I asked for extra time to discuss his hearing and how they need to be communicating with him...and to fill them in on his background. His teacher is a nice (young) girl who seems to have the kids best interest at heart. I feel bad that she essentially handles 15 2 year olds all by herself with one assistant. I also know that this type of ratio can't equate to much one on one time or focused learning.

In the end, she had a lot of great things to say about Ian's progress. The one thing he needs to work on is going to sleep at naptime. We never have issues at home, mostly because he loves that alone time in his crib to play and talk to himself. Put him on a mat in the middle of a room with 15 kids and he's a mess. If I can't get him to understand that he has to close his eyes and go night night at naptime, then I'm afraid I need to make it the daycare's issue to deal with. I kind of feel like I throw a grand a month at that problem...and have essentially hired professional babysitters to get him to take his nap. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but he's 2. If he doesn't take naps every day, I have a feeling he'll somehow live to see adulthood.

I did bring up the MANY bites he has come home with recently and his tattling that "Mommy, Tyler bites people!" She admitted that they have 2 biters in the class and those kids are both on probation. They have to have a teacher with them at all times (doubles their staff in the room) and if it doesn't get better in 30 days, they will be expelled. Sad for them, but something I can't tolerate. I certainly don't want Ian to learn that biting is the right way to communicate frustration.

I also asked that he get more water and less juice, and gave her some feedback about the nutrition level of the foods listed on his daily sheet. I know food is expensive, but when all meals are starches plus canned fruit... with a chicken nugget or fish stick, I can't imagine that he's getting much in the way of protein or calcium.

So, it went well. We have a couple of little things to work on, but he has proven that he can hold his own with his peers, isn't overly affected by the chaotic environment, and by her accounts is very good at "clean up" and is very gentle with his friends. As we know, he does very well with music, instruments, and books. I told her that his new passion is Little Einsteins, but never watched TV until just a couple of months ago. He probably gets 2 hours a week total, and I feel pretty good about that. It's an educational show and he has learned many instruments from it, and now enjoys classical music.

Below are a couple of pictures... Weak, I know. I'll get back into the swing of things soon!

"Getting I.T. Done"

Steering the cart... Even if I just have one thing, I'm forced to get this 100 pound cart and drive the lanes for 45 minutes.

Good Times! Heaven help us when it's time to get out and leave the store.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mom Loses Her Mind

Things are busy for me, as you can probably guess by my silence! I've been juggling a lot at work and haven't been sleeping well, but Ian is doing great. He is constantly doing new things that he hadn't done the day before, and just amazes me on a daily basis. He is becoming creative, opinionated...and has an awesome memory. I'm a little freaked out by the things he remembers and repeats days later.

We've had a fairly routine week, but today, after a haircut, I was supposed to go to Ian's parent/teacher conference. Well, I completely spaced and went to the gym after my cut....Just got in my car, drove right past the exit to Ian's daycare and kept going. Later, Shawn asked how my meeting with his teacher went and I almost got physically ill. It's so unlike me to blow off something important, especially when Ian is involved. I've had it on my calendar, talked about it all week and today, yet I had temporary amnesia when 5pm rolled around. Sigh. So, I emailed the director and said I had something unexpected come up and apologized profusely. Hopefully I'll be able to reschedule. When I got home, Ian filled me in on all the fun he had with dad this afternoon, a trip to REI and broccoli cheddar soup at Panera.

On a light note, I received an advance copy of the article our agency wrote about Ian for their Winter magazine issue. It essentially covers how we handled coming home right before the holidays and then talks about the challenges of placing boys, especially with certain special needs. More than anything, I'm just happy that by reading it, even one family might decide adoption is the right choice for them...and might just take another look at those waiting boys. It will be fun years from now to look back on his first year and have that as part of his memory book.

So, I owe my dwindling public a look back at Guangzhou and our coming home. Until I get back my emotional courage to talk about our trip again, I thought I would just save myself and post a few pics from the week.

Watching "Mighty Machines" from Netflix... Essentially just a video of trucks driving around a worksite, but he loves it.

He looks so long here. Definitely not the squatty legged little guy from a year ago.

Waiting for the garbage truck. Polli is still the tallest of my toddlers.

He loves the "bubble fro". Honestly, this is typically how we wash his hair.

Bubbles just never get boring

Friday, November 14, 2008

Looking Back at Hangzhou Part 1

I just realized we're about to reach the one year anniversary of coming home from China (Sunday), and I haven't even revisited Hangzhou or Guangzhou...OR Ian's Forever Family Day.

I realized, amidst being sicker than I've been in a while, that revisiting the China trip has been harder than I thought it would be. Is it a bit of depression about putting this milestone behind me?...Like saying I have to look forward now and not back? Is it the fact that I miss China and felt such a connection to the people and country during that trip...with a purpose for our time there that most people will never understand...and this anniversary means that time is a little further away now? I don't know. It has been hard though.

To make up for it, I've posted our favorite Hangzhou pictures. We were there from November 3rd through the 11th last year and I can't think of another part of China I would want a part of our lives. From the Buddhist monastery, to the tea plantations, to West Lake, to the waterfront... We only saw a fraction of the city, but what we did see was amazing.

We had planned to take a 2 hour train ride from Hangzhou up to Shanghai for one of our free days before meeting Ian, but our guide asked us not to. She did not want anything to happen to us so close to our big day. I can understand that. We were technically there to complete a business would be like going white water rafting 2 days before giving birth. Probably not a good idea.

We did do a bunch of great sightseeing those first days. Check out our Hangzhou posts here here here and here for a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, I was posting some of my pictures to Photobucket because of the Internet connections there, but those links are gone now, so unfortunately some of those pictures don't show up.

Once we had Ian with us, our guide really slacked off and wasn't a great resource from that point on. She essentially took us out in the morning, but then had us back to the hotel by 11 and we were left to ourselves for the rest of the day. After a couple of days of that, we started doing 2 things: 1) Venturing out on our own... with Ian in the hip carrier, it was a piece of cake and we had a blast meeting locals with Ian. 2) Offering to pay for our guide to take us places. We bought her dinner a couple of times and at that point she was willing to spend more time with us. It is what it is...

We still loved Hangzhou and can't wait to go back and share it's history with Ian. Even though he is from Wenzhou, 4 hours south by train, we feel a special connection to Hangzhou.

What's happening present day? Well, Ian's speech therapist continues to be amazed at how great he is doing. He is consistently making huge strides with each meeting (every other week). He is making more complex sentence strings and is starting to use action words and prepositions, which he hadn't been doing with consistency.

He has developed a passion for the Disney cartoon Little Einsteins. I've tried Tivo'ing Ni Hao Kai Lan, Go Diego, and Thomas Train... But he loses interest after a few minutes. Not the case with Little Einsteins. He talks about Einsteins and "rocket" all the time and asks about 100 times a day if he can watch. I usually let him watch an episode every couple of days, or a couple on Friday morning when I go to work later. From only a few weeks of that, he can now differentiate between cello, violin, piano, flute, and drums. He has also developed a love for singing...rather having me sing to him. He'll say something like "train" and I have to sing "Wheels on the Bus" with what a train does on the bus... Everything on the bus. For hours. No wonder I lost my voice last week! He also loves You Are My Sunshine, and I love the look on his face when I sing it to him at bedtime. He knows every word. It's so cute.

Tonight, he's having another sleepover with Grandma Trish and Grandpa Tom. I suggested it this morning so Shawn and I could go to dinner and a movie, and Grandma was more than happy to agree. It's a little too quiet, Polli doesn't know what to do with herself, and I have no idea what I'm going to do with free time tomorrow morning... But I'm proud of myself for caving in again. It's good for Ian and probably good for us, too. Should I have a glass of wine? Yes, I think I should!

Below are some of our favorites from days 1 and 2 in Hangzhou... I'll post more in a couple of days from our other 4 days there before moving on to Guangzhou.

Our first picture in Hangzhou. In front of "Broken Bridge" on West Lake. We got some strange looks... we were among the only "Westerners" in the city. I also got a lot of pointing and rubbing arms, like it was WAY to cold for short sleeves... it was in the upper 60's, but most everyone was in sweaters and several layers.

Our surrogate Polli was ready to meet Ian.

At Lingyin Temple & Buddha Mountain, where there are hundreds of Buddhas carved straight into the mountainside. This one site would be worth a trip to China alone. We now wish we would have gone back to see more.

One of my favorite Buddhas

I loved the lake inlets. This picture really expressed the peacefulness of this sanctuary for me

Pictures were not allowed inside the temples, but there were hundreds of these buildings...and so much to see and no way to describe it in words.

The hillsides just went on forever. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, yet we were only a few minutes from the city.

The Chen Family Dragonwell Tea plantation behind us. This too went on forever.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy 21st Birthday Ashlee Rose!

Today is my niece Ashlee's 21st birthday! We've been close our whole lives. So close, I sometimes forget she's not my own daughter. She has grown to be a responsible, smart, and ambitious college student in Fresno, California, and I haven't seen her in over 3 years...Since her high school graduation. Before that, she came every summer and hung out with us... she has yet to meet Ian OR Polli, now that she leads the complicated life of a poor college student with a full time job, a house full of pets, and limited access to air transportation.

Ashlee, whatever you are doing on this special birthday, be safe and let someone else drive! Love you and miss you lots and lots! - Auntie

People at work can hardly believe this is me... but it is! Me at 15 holding a 9 month old Ashlee Rose. This picture just screams 80's, from my hair and makeup to the avocado green chair and lamp!

My last picture with Ashlee... At her High School graduation party in 2005

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Family Day! Ian is with us a whole year!

I'm still very behind, but now that I'm starting to feel better, I'll be catching up soon.
We postponed Family Day for the most part while Shawn and I both struggled with our separate illnesses. We had planned to order the same food we ate that day in Hangzhou, but Shawn was not eating solids yet, so it didn't make sense. We put the food off until last night and, well, it wasn't nearly as good as what we ate in Hangzhou.

We did dress Ian in his outfit that he met us in and I was SHOCKED that it fit him really well (except the shoes of course). It was several oversized layers then, and he's taller and skinnier, but I think he'll even fit in it next year.

He humored me and let me take several pictures, but other than that, we had a fairly normal day. I opened a savings account for him with the help of his grandparents, and his Grandma Trish & Grandpa Tom bought him a little ukulele to be his "first guitar".

We bought Ian a train expansion kit and I have two classic books on order, in the hopes that I can progressively build him a collectible set of books by the time he's an adult. Whether he appreciates it or not is irrelevant. Who knows what he'll like or won't when he gets older! I also plan to start a memory book of his first year home... and if the procrastination gods are willing to take a vacation for a while, I hope to get it going this week.

I also bought a garden stone kit (an idea shamelessly stolen from Tracy, Adam & Charlotte) but I've yet to open the box. When are those procrastination gods taking vacation again?

While I build the energy to revisit Hangzhou and our first day with Ian, enjoy a few pictures of Ian in his outfit from our first meeting....and a few other cute shots.

Bad red-eye, but I loved the look on his face in this picture

Already developing decent chopstick form

Enjoying his belated Family Day dinner. I know the fortune cookie isn't authentic, but the rice was pretty close.

Grandma Trish brought us this great book. It's really well done. It's timely because Ian is starting to show interest in everything China. He thinks all kids were born in China and knows exactly where it is on the globe.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Update...and belated look back at Beijing

I badly wanted to revisit our trip to China day by day, but I got really sick and just couldn't bring myself to expend the energy. The mom train rolled on in our house, and I endured Halloween, the following weekend, and all this week while barely hanging on by a thread. My voice came back yesterday, just in time for Shawn to come down with the stomach flu. He is now down and out... and just for those wondering, the dad train apparently DOES NOT roll on...the mom train takes over. Sigh. So, as you can see, I haven't had time to blog or read I'm really missing some of my other bloggy friends.

I've also realized that it's hard for me to revisit the China trip the way I wanted to. With this one year milestone, I know now how much I miss it there...not only the sights, foods, and cultural experiences, but most importantly the emotional part of the trip that led up to and came after our meeting Ian. Words can barely describe what that trip meant to us. It wasn't just "cool" or "humbling". It was truly life changing...and hard to recount without some deep introspection, and I don't have that kind of energy these days. One day I'll write out a really detailed account of how that trip changed me and how I really feel, but by then it will be just for Ian. He deserves that, I think.

To catch up through the Beijing leg, I've posted a handful of our favorite pictures up to when we flew out to Hangzhou on Nov. 3rd. In the next couple of days, I will catch up with Hangzhou with a special pause to talk about that day, today's remembrance, and how we spent our first anniversary of "forever family day".

Also, welcome home mom & dad (grama & paga)! They arrived home yesterday from a 2 week dream trip through the Panama Canal. I'm still SO jealous!

First day of need for introduction: Mao & The Forbidden City

The Empress's Garden in the Forbidden City. It was really beautiful

Inside the Temple of Heaven grounds. I loved all the people hanging out and playing cards and tile games...talking, laughing, smoking... It was extremely cold and windy, but you'd never know it by watching them tell stories I'll never understand, do tai chi, and drink tea like they had no cares.

For those who followed our trip, you know that my mantra was "Duck is Yuck" despite my smile. Holy cow was it different than I thought it would be!

Still one of my favorite China shots. Nothing short of going yourself could describe the odd, uneven, STEEP characteristics of certain sections of the Great Wall. If we go back to Beijing when Ian's older, it will definitely be to make him scale this bad boy. It might just be the discipline I threaten him with in the coming years.

How cold do I look here? It was below 30 degrees on the Wall and extremely windy. Who knew I'd need more than a windbreaker?

By far one of our best meals in China was in an obscure restaurant between Beijing and Baoding...

I can almost taste the garlic sauteed broccoli. I'm still trying to find a Chinese restaurant to properly replicate it.

Our Guide Anna explaining the pilgrimage of Ming's Tomb. Before we left, we taught her how to say "that's off the hook, dog!". It was hilarious to hear her repeat it back to us.

A common crowd of Chinese tourists. This was at Summer Palace.

If it weren't so cold, I would have wanted to spend more time at Summer Palace. It has the longest continuous covered walkways in the world... and every square inch is hand painted and beautiful.

I couldn't always hear or understand Anna as she explained the history at Summer Palace... But it was still breathtaking, in any language.

Preparing for the Hutong tour. It was our last day in Beijing...and we were exhausted, and only a few days away from becoming parents!

Common transportation in China. I couldn't imagine leaving without a picture of a national icon

The outside of a Hutong. That tour was the icing on our time in Beijing...and extremely humbling. I'll never complain about the things I don't have again.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ian's First Halloween!

We were really concerned that Halloween would fall flat since Ian was still refusing to wear his costume. It also didn't help that I had lost my voice and felt really horrible. Shawn also found out that the Halloween festivities in his office were by RSVP only and the deadline was last week.

Luckily, I learned that one of our local malls organized a big Trick or Treating event, which seemed like a much better idea than braving the cold, wind, and rain to do it in our neighborhood.

Grandma Trish and Grandpa Tom came over in the morning to handle Grandma's normal Friday duties and planned to help us with the candy-getting, and then stay the night at The Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls, which is just a few minutes from our house.

We headed to the mall, had a wonderful dinner, and then started the trick or treating. Ian actually let us put his costume on, but refused to wear the hood. OK...We'll take what we can get! I had a feeling he would nix the hood. He hates to have his ears covered, which I can understand.

So, we headed into the mall and it was more chaos than I ever knew possible. I had never seen so many people in one place...well since exactly one year ago in Beijing! Ian was wearing his costume with no problem, which was great...however he was not happy about the strangers handing out candy. The first store we went to, there was a giant Jelly Belly bean handing out candy, and he was not planning on getting anywhere close. He actually threw his candy bucket at the Jelly Belly and backed away. We were all laughing so hard we were crying. I only wish I had captured that on film.

Shawn and Grandpa carried him to the next dozen or so stores and he was slowly getting the hang of it. We eventually put him down, but he still had major Stranger Danger. That's good. I like that he is reluctant to go to people he doesn't know.

We continued through the mall for another 30 minutes or so before we were ALL exhausted and ready to circle back to the parking garage. There was no meltdown, no over stimulation... nothing like that. It was officially a successful evening. Ian had learned the word candy, and I no sooner had him in his car seat when he started asking for me to "open it". He had 2 or 3 candies on the ride back home and was really ready for bed by the time we arrived. It was raining by then, so we decided to stop while he was still in a good mood and didn't take him out in the neighborhood. In fact, after he went to sleep, we shut the porch light off, made a pitcher of Cosmos, and pondered what to do about all that candy... We also had roasted seeds and pumpkin pie made from our carved pumpkins in the backyard (turned out awesome).

He slept until after 9am this morning and Shawn unfortunately woke with a bit of whatever I have. Grandma & Grandpa came by for breakfast and coffee before heading back toward their end of town at about 11am.

Polli and I napped through Ian's 3 hour nap...and then we played with his new train track expansion pack, and made a delish butternut squash soup and chicken fried steak. Ultimate fall comfort food! If chicken fried steak doesn't cure my cold, nothing will.

I'll reminisce about Beijing tomorrow... I'm too tired to blog more tonight. In the meantime, enjoy some pictures of Halloween, Ian dad & Grandpa Tom playing with his new train track.

Everyone enjoying his new train track expansion set. I've since reconfigured it to be one big circle so he and Polli can both sit in the middle comfortably. Next, we'll have to get him a train table.

It was HUGE that he let us put him in the costume without incident.

Smiles! It was shaping up to be a good night!

Not sure about the stranger part, but was starting to understand the allure of candy.

Checking out his stash

Riding down the escalator

Getting the hang of this "asking strangers for free food" thing

Eating a Laffy Taffy in the's favorite!