Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

Sarah decorated our front porch and did an AWESOME job! Then, it was on to Halloween fun! Miss Sarah is a Pink Princess -- and a beautiful one at that! Hope everyone had a great Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lost My Job as Cook!

WOW! Kevin suggested that he and Sarah each take over cooking dinner one night a week! Can you believe it?!?!? Well, Sarah was so excited she wanted to start the very next night. I asked what she'd like to learn to make. One of her favorite things is chicken wings, so she wanted those plus green bean casserole. I added three chicken breasts (as I don't like wings) and some easy Alfredo noodles.

We started by making the green bean casserole and putting it in the oven. We also prepped the noodles to cook during the last 10 minutes of chicken cooking. Then we made a simple marinade of oil, teriyaki sauce, coarse black pepper, cayenne and salt. For the chicken breasts, she didn't want just plain old chicken and instead wanted to make kabobs.

She learns so quick! I explained how to clean the chicken, cut it into even sized pieces, thread it and marinate it -- and she was off! Then it was on to learning how to clean and operate the gas grill. Then there was understanding the hot spots on the grill and that some pieces will take longer to cook than others so you have to start those first. She was a real PRO! She cooked all the chicken, including basting and turning and moving it from hot to warm sides -- I didn't touch anything! And it turned out PERFECT!

She was so excited and happy to have made a whole dinner. The look of pride on her face made my heart sing!!

At the beginning of October we started a new way of giving her allowance and money to buy her own clothes, jewelry and make-up. She was a very careful shopper, compared prices and thought about purchases before picking items up. So far she's bought a pair of flare bottom corduroys, new lip gloss, new sparkly mascara and a beautiful black velour hoodie with faux fur trim. Here's a picture of her in her new hoodie -- she was so happy to have been able to select her own items and pay with her own money -- and she only spent about half of the money she was given so she can save the rest.

And, lastly, here's a scary picture of Sarah and me wearing our mom-and-daughter matching rhinestone studded cowboy hats. Kevin actually took the photo as she and I were in her room dancing to songs on her Ipod. She has purple maracas we brought back from Mexico a few years ago and I have a musical rainforest stick that we bought probably 15 years ago. But, what do they say? Everything that is old will once again be new!? Hopefully that will work for this old lady who now has a 14 year old daughter who loves to dance, laugh and sing!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Watch Out! She's DRIVING!!

Okay, so it's only the yard tractor, but she's still behind the wheel! And trust me when I say that she's a crazy driver! The back yard looked like some kind of art project when she was "done"mowing. The mower isn't one of the fancy zero-turn mowers but Sarah kept wanting it to make tight circles so there would be little tufts of grass left in the middle of each circle. But, it was her first time and mostly for fun.

But in less than 3 weeks when she turns 15 she can take a written test and if successful receive her learner's permit for REAL driving. It actually will be a bit before Sarah can take the test as, of course, it's in English and she's just learning to read and write. We hope it will be good incentive for her work on English though.

It's getting cold here and the leaves are starting to fall. Romeo the cat loves it as he lays in the window and enjoys watching the leaves blow around. Hope it's nice wherever you are!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Night FUN!

Life in a small town on a Friday night! A few of these are from tonight and others (I'm sad to admit!) are from a previous Friday night several months ago. Yep, we were goofy then and we're goofy now.

Doesn't the cat kind of look like a rabbit now?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rhinestone Cowgirls

Sorry I haven't posted lately. Kevin has been busy at school, I've been trying to get the shopping done for Sarah's birthday and Sarah has been busy with school and TEXT messaging! So, if any of you are in need of a text message, just let Sarah know! She would be happy to sit all night long and text message!!

I can't believe how wonderful the addition of text messaging to Sarah's cell phone has been for her in learning English. We have her type words out completely instead of using the text abbreviations such as "u" for the word "you", etc. This way, she's learning English the fun way and it really is pretty amazing how many words she's picked up just in the past few days.

Sarah was home sick Tuesday (with a bad cold) so she and I spent the day having a 'chick flick' marathon. We watched four DVDS -- "Mean Girls", "The Nanny Diaries", "Notting Hill", and "Never Been Kissed". When we went out in the morning to pick up the DVDs she wanted to stop by Starbucks and try a hot chocolate she saw on tv. I have to say I thought to myself "hot chocolate, big deal" but this hot chocolate was pretty amazing. I just love when I'm shocked in a good way by things like this!

Last Saturday there was no dance class so Sarah and Kevin decided to take one last Fall fishing trip. It was a GORGEOUS day and they had a good time even though Sarah only caught one small fish and Kevin didn't catch any. But as usual we stopped afterwards for pizza and it was a really fun day out. For me, the best part is the drive down and the drive back as we just sit and talk -- about anything and everything. Some of our best conversations come when we are in the car traveling.

Kevin says that only Sarah and I could go to a state park to go trout fishing and come home with rhinestone cowboy hats! The park store is getting ready to close for the season so all the clothing was buy one get one free, so we did! Sarah's is PINK (yep!) and mine is black. She doesn't want her picture taken right now so I can't post one of us, but will try to get one later. Although I'm not really sure what I have in my closet to wear with my rhinestone cowboy hat. But my daughter wanted "mom and daughter" hats and I would never say "no" to that!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Budget Baby!

Awhile ago Sarah expressed an interest to go back and visit China sooner rather than later. We had originally talked about going after high school was done but she seems to want to go in the more non-distant future to visit with her foster family, aunties and friends. And we want her to love her homeland and to be excited about a visit back. So we've started looking into options to see if it will be possible.

We put together a budget and are trying to watch our spending more closely. This has been a great learning tool as well as Sarah sat a bit while we were working on the budget. She asked some questions and we found a way to involve her more in our day to day running of the household.

Now, instead of a weekly allowance she receives a certain amount of money at the beginning of every month. She is responsible for selecting (with parental veto power!) and purchasing her own clothing, jewelry, makeup and fun items. Of course we buy all the household stuff, school stuff, pay for her cell phone, etc. And we buy the "essentials" as to clothing and shoes (coats, tennis shoes, undergarments, etc) but she buys the pants, shirts, sweaters, dresses, etc. If she decides, she can be happy with clothes and items she has and save all her money.

We thought this would be a good way to help her start now figuring out how to select items for herself regarding "wants" vs "needs" and how to compare items, shop for bargains, etc. She and I go "girl shopping" every Sunday and last Sunday we window shopped quite a bit, but she decided to keep all her money! She was such a good shopper looking at sales and figuring out percentages off prices, comparison shopping and list making. She made this Mama proud!

One of the first "budget conscious" things she did was to make her kitty a new toy. She had looked at a cute little cat play house at the pet store that cost $20. She came home, found a box, covered it with wrapping paper, hung a shiny paper ball inside and some ribbon down over one of the doors she cut into the side and put a big bow on top. Romeo loves it! She declared, "I just saved us $20!" She's so darn cute!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oh, My! Sarah is Cell Ready!

It's happened. Sarah has her very first cell phone with Bluetooth. Oh, my! All of the sudden our little baby doesn't seem so little anymore! She's thrilled to say the least and I have a feeling it will be hard to get her to bed tonight. But that's not such a bad thing -- seeing her so excited was priceless.

And, no, for those of you thinking it, she DID NOT pick a pink cell phone -- it's actually blue! Also, please note the black and white shirt. Last week she asked to go shopping as she's decided that the world doesn't need to be just pink.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hey, Mum!

Yesterday after school, Sarah jumped in the car and said I had to come into school. "Why?" I asked. My mind raced ... was she in trouble and a teacher wanted to talk with me? "Because I bought you and Dad something!" Whew! Then, I thought, "What could she have bought us at school? Left over lunch?!?!?"

We headed into the music room and Sarah's teacher said, "Sarah has already paid so you can pick whichever one you want!" Sarah had used her money to buy us a beautiful large mum plant that the choir is selling to raise money for a trip. She's such a sweet kid! I picked out a gorgeous yellow mum and we placed it right outside the front door.

Then after dinner it was on to our FIRST high school football game. We could tell Sarah was nervous as she wanted to take her Ipod and she had the headphones in most of the night. This is one of her comfort mechanisms as I think it kind of makes a little "world" were she can just listen to the music she loves and it gives her an "out" when it comes to talking. As we left the car she started talking but it was more of SHOUTING as she had the volume up so high! So I'm sure she turned it down because if we would talk during the game she could hear us even with the booming crowd.

Three or four different times groups of girls came up to her and gave her a big hug which made Kevin and me very happy to know she is making friends. And as any typical teen she was more interested to people watch (actually student watch!) than to watch the game! She's even entertaining the idea of going to a game with her friends one day. And, the first school dance will be here soon -- she has her money ready!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mini Pumpkin Vacation

This weekend we went on a mini vacation to find the perfect pumpkin. Last year at this time, Kevin, Sarah and I were on our very first family mini vacation and it was to the same place. While I'm jumping ahead here, Sarah proclaims that we will do this EVERY YEAR because it's so much fun! It's a great family tradition.

"Our" perfect pumpkin patch is located in Lawrence, KS, were Kevin and I lived for 5 years. We really enjoy the town, the wonderful downtown which is vibrant and full of life, the University of Kansas which offers so many cultural and fun possibilities and we have some GREAT friends there!
Our trip takes several hours of driving each way so we get up early, drive, spend the day finding the perfect pumpkin and shopping and visiting with friends, stay at a hotel and then head home on Sunday morning. Here is how the day started:

When we arrived, we headed downtown to our favorite restaurant (Chipotle) where we filled up on awesome burritos! Then we walked around a bit, stopping at a used bookstore where last year Sarah was able to find some Chinese language books -- unfortunately this year there weren't any books that peaked her interest. Then we met up with our friend Dana and headed to the pumpkin patch where there was lots of looking and lots of goofing around!

This was the first time we've left our kitty cat alone for more than a few hours. We hoped he would just curl up and sleep most of the time we were gone, but I don't think that was the case. He wasn't bad, but we think he must have been pretty nervous as we can tell he didn't eat much of anything and we don't think he slept much at all. When we got home, he was so excited and would not let any of us out of his sight. After playing, all he wanted to do was curl up with us and sleep the evening away. Even now, Sarah is at school and Kevin is at work and Romeo won't let me out of his sight -- I'm typing with my hands over him as he's refusing to leave his spot curled up in front of the keyboard.

We eached picked a pumpkin to bring home and Sarah also picked a yellow pumpkin for Romeo. She's going to make kitty ears to put on top and paint a kitty face on it! Can you tell it's kitty love?!?!?!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Thoughts & Prayers

A wonderful family we traveled with in China needs your thoughts and prayers right now. They adopted their daughter Julia while in China and just recently returned home after completing their adoption of Paul and Samuel (brothers) from Ethiopia. They are joined at home by sister Mary too.

Yesterday, their youngest son Samuel who is 3-1/2 was involved in a horrible tractor accident at home. The doctors have already amputated one of his legs and he is facing many more surgeries for injuries to his other leg, arm and pelvic region.

Please keep this family in your hearts.

Their family blog:

A link for medical information regarding Samuel -- check under the heading "journal" --

Friday, October 3, 2008

More Photos from Nanjing

Sarah received an email today with three more photos of her younger years. The dates (in the lower corner) on the orphanage camera seem to be off so we have no way of knowing which dates are right and which are not, but we are so happy to have these photos.

The photo below is the oldest photo of Sarah (we believe). She is on the far right in the pink and white coat. I asked her what the Chinese symbol behind her head on the wall is and she looked and said, "Oh, my! It says 'Yan'" which was her Chinese name! Weird indeed.

In the next photo she is standing in front in the orange coat. She said they reciting something similar to the US "Pledge of Allegiance". The place is called "Yu Hua Tai" and is a special place in Nanjing. The story behind Yu Hau Tai is that a Buddhist monk once spoke to a crowd there and his words were so beautiful, flowers fell from heaven like raindrops (Yu Hua). You can get brightly colored stones there called Yu Hua Shi (raindrop flowers). Sarah has one of these stones and brought it with her to the US.

In this last photo she on the far left in the pink. The kids are standing out front of the orphanage gates selling newspapers. You can see the gates in the background on the right and the white building in the very far back right is the rehabilitation building in the orphanage compound. The buildings off to the left are apartments that surround the compound.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New OLD photos!

UPDATE: Sorry! Sarah is in the back row, second from left. If you click on the photo it will make it bigger.

Today on the Internet I came across two more photos of Sarah that were taken in China. The photos are stamped 2-11-2002 so they are the oldest we have of her so far. Yes, I've been spending lots of my time searching the 'net for photos, but I have found some so my searches are not completely fruitless!

These photos were taken by an US adoption agency that helped to sponsor the Nanjing SWI older children in a yearly event where the kids were given money and allowed to go shopping for a new winter coat. For many of these kids, this was the first time they were ever allowed to select something for themselves. The older kids shopped for the younger kids and Sarah said that since she was younger she did not get to go shopping, but she selected this coat from the ones brought back by the aiys (aunties) and older kids.

Sarah loves being able to have some older photos of herself. She will never have baby photos or photos of her first several years. Most likely these are the oldest we will ever find. For that I am very sad. I can't imagine not knowing what you looked like when you were a baby, or four, or six or eight. But we love finding the ones we can and treasure each one.

p.s. Please don't miss today's other post below! A BIG THANKS to all of you!!!

THANKS Everyone!

Lesa; Jen, Dave, Leah & Daniel; Mike & Barb; Joanne; Sherry; Sherrie; Clay; Carole; Albrecht93; Norah; Diana; Lauree -- and everyone else!!

Just wanted to let everyone know how much we appreciate your comments and kind words that everyone leaves on our blog. And your emails too! Sarah is learning to read and write and she loves to come home from school and see what comments have been left for her.

She's amazed that people that she's never even met have an interest in her life and it really makes her heart sing. THANKS!!!

p.s. Crazy Cat says "Hi" too!