Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Clothes have arrived at Nanjing Orphanage!

We just received an email from the Nanjing SWI orphanage that the box of clothes Sarah sent has arrived! And not only has it arrived, but the kiddos are already wearing the clothes! They were kind to send us two photos of the kiddos in their new clothes. They've indicated that there are several boys at the orphanage and that they need boys clothing (you'll actually see that the boys are wearing girls clothes in the photo), so our next box will include clothes for the boys.

If you are adopting from the Nanjing SWI and see your waiting child in the photo below, we'd love to know about it!

Friday, July 23, 2010

First Donation Heading to China!

Sarah is making her first donation to the children of China! She used proceeds from "Sarah Loves Ladybugs" and selected some clothes and accessories to send to her orphanage in Nanjing. She has 20 clothing items and 10 accessory items to send.

In China, clothing with English writing and bling is very "cool" so she's picked out some things that she's sure the kiddos will LOVE! And this time she's sending things for the older kiddos as many times donation of clothing are given for infants/toddlers.

She's already contacted the orphanage and they know the box is being sent. They'll be taking some photos of the kiddos getting the new items and will email them to Sarah .... she'll share the photos once they arrive.

THANKS so much to everyone for your support of "Sarah Loves Ladybugs"!! Sarah can't wait to save up for her next donation and looking into options for places to donate, so if you have a suggestion please let us know (any country, any orphanage suggestion appreciated).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Biggest Weekend Yet at Sarah Loves Ladybugs!

(Zip top bags in large and medium, fully lined with stand-up bottoms)

We had our biggest weekend of orders yet! THANKS so much everyone! Thought we'd share a few photos with you of the handmade items we worked on this weekend that are ready to ship their new homes.

The zip top bags are going to three different homes. Fabrics selected were: Little Cow Girls, Black & White Toile and China Girls. And three three flannel pillow cases will be shipping out to different homes as well. Pillow case colors selected this weekend were: Pink Cupcakes, Green Monkeys and Chocolate Cupcakes. Plus we'll be packaging up some pearl and Chinese jewelry, a checkbook cover and hair bows and getting them sent off.

THANKS everyone! As always, custom orders welcome!

(Flannel pillow cases fit regular sized bed pillows, singles or sets)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Christmas in July SALE!! Up to 50% OFF!!

Up to 50% OFF!!!

Now through July 24th we're having a "Christmas in July" sale at Sarah Loves Ladybugs .com!! Items are up to 50% off! Great time to pick up some goodies to stash away for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and more! As always, each item purchased comes with a card stating that 20% of profits are donated to worldwide orphan care. And we offer flat rate shipping for just $4.95 no matter how much you order. Special orders welcome as well for any of our handmade items.

Also, NEW HANDMADE ITEMS!! Sarah and Debbi have been working on zip top bags, pillow cases, checkbook covers, luggage tags, wrist key fobs and tissue covers .... each handmade by Sarah and Debbi in wonderful prints and colors. We have Chinese girls print in zip top bags, checkbook covers and luggage tags. We have Chinese character print in flannel pillow cases. Also, Autism Awareness print in our wrist key fob with optional coin purse. Plus, many more prints.

Until July 31 we're still taking entries into our "Help Spread the Word about Sarah's Store" drawing where you can win gift certificates to the store! We REALLY could use your help in spreading the word. If you'd like information on how to help and get entries, just drop us a note at sarahlovesladybugs@gmail.com . THANKS!

We hope you'll stop by the store at http://www.SarahLovesLadybugs.com !

Monday, July 5, 2010

Room Service, Anyone?!?!?

On Sunday morning, the 4th of July, Kevin and I were being lazy (as normal) when the home phone rang. We did what we normally do when the phone rings, we ignored it and let it go to the answering machine. But this was a special call .... a call made by Sarah who was still in bed, using her cell phone and calling upstairs (ie, the living room and kitchen) to request .... what for it ..... ROOM SERVICE! Her message, "I'd like room service please!"

Little did I know that she also had left two text messages on my cell phone (which was in my purse so I didn't hear the messages come in). The first message reads "Can u make me waffles? Dad too please." The second message was sent about 20 minutes later and reads "Can u make waffles?" Guess the kid REALLY wanted waffles!! And she's a goofball!

No, she didn't get breakfast in bed. She did get waffles though ... I just roll that way!

Hope you all had a wonderful 4th!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sarah's Store is OPEN!!

Sarah's project is an online store called "Sarah Loves Ladybugs"! She has all kinds of wonderful goodies from handmade hair bows (panda bears, ladybugs & more), Chinese freshwater pearls, Chinese jade, sterling silver and lots of necklaces with BLING!

Best of all, she's giving 20% of the profits to charities that benefit orphans. The remaining profit will be set aside in a college fund for Sarah. The first charity she'd like to donate to is Half the Sky which works in her orphanage in Nanjing.

So, please stop by, tell your friends and family and best of all ... have fun!

Also, she has a new blog just for her store and a Facebook page .... PLUS she's having a drawing for great prizes!!! Here is the info on the prize drawing

Help us spread the word about "Sarah Loves Ladybugs" and you could win free goodies!!! Now through July 31 you can get entries into our free giveaway (no purchase required).

On August 1st we'll draw names for prizes. Prizes are limited to one prize per person and are as follows:
1 - $50 store credit to SarahLovesLadybugs.com
2 - $25 store credit to SarahLovesLadybugs.com
5 - $10 store credit to SarahLovesLadybugs.com

To receive entries:

Receive 5 Entries:
**Become an official follower of our blog!http://sarahlovesladybugs.blogspot.com

Receive 3 Entries:
**Blog about us! You'll get 3 entries every time you blog about us and include a link to our store in your blog post! Just post a comment on this blog with a link to your blog post or email us the link.
**Post about us on your Facebook page! Just let us know. You'll get 3 entries for each time you post about us and include a link to our store www.SarahLovesLadybugs.com .

Receive 1 Entry:
**For each of your friends who become a follower of our blog (Just drop us an email and let us know which friends you referred -- it's that easy!)
**For each of your friends who becomes a fan of our Facebook page (Just drop us an email and let us know which friends you referred -- it's that easy!)

You can find our email address on the main blog page. Feel free to contact us and THANKS SO MUCH!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sarah's Project -- Clue/Teaser #6

We're in Disney for our summer vacation so sorry I haven't posted as much. We drove down to Florida so had two full days in the van and we're starting our third day at the parks. Pin trading is super fun and we also enjoying the calmer rides (Sarah doesn't really like roller coasters or scary rides) and lots of great sites and food. We've been busy hanging with Mickey and the Gang!

Here is clue #6 for Sarah's Project. Kevin tells me I should call these "teasers" instead of "clues". By whatever name, here it is ....
Clue/Teaser #6 -- This cute little Chinese panda is saying "Ni Hao" in Chinese which means "Hello" or "How are you?" So, how are you?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Clue #5 -- Sarah's "Project"

Clue #5:
In 2006 “Half the Sky” (www.HalfTheSky.org) started projects in Sarah’s orphanage. This photo was taken approximately 12 hours after we met Sarah for the first time and about 2 hours after our adoption became formalized. We went to the orphanage to visit and for Sarah to say her good-byes. Here she in one of the younger children’s room. In the back left of this photo you’ll see a woman in a white shirt. On the front of her shirt is the “Half the Sky” logo indicating she is a “Half the Sky” employee.

“Half the Sky” is working in many of China’s orphanages. Thousands of children are now enrolled in “Half the Sky” programs to provide love and hope for orphaned children. Since “Half the Sky” began its work in China in 2000, more than fifteen thousand children have benefited from one or more of these five innovative programs: The Baby Sisters Infant Nurture Program, The Little Sisters Preschool Program, The Big Sisters Program, The Family Village Program and The China Care Program.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sarah's Project -- Such a Mystery!!

Oh my goodness! We've received emails, phone calls and texts asking ...."What is Sarah's project?" Well, it's still a secret until we get a little further along .... hopefully mid-June!! But, we really appreciate all the interest and thought we'd have a little fun while we wait for the big unveiling. So, we'll be giving clues and hope you'll pop back in from time to time. Feel free to post your guesses in the comments section!!

Here are clues #1 through #4 .....

1. No, the secret is NOT that we are adopting again (our family is complete at 3 plus one fuzzy cat!).
2. Once unveiled, we would LOVE everyone's help and support to make it work. For those who help, we'll be having a drawing with prizes .... really cool prizes! Our legal teams advises we state "No purchase necessary to win!" LOL! (Well, they didn't say the "LOL" part!)
3. Why is it taking so long? Because it's a big project with many parts and we want to wait until all the parts are ready.
4. See photo at top! Oh, a fortune cookie!!

Thanks everyone!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Yes, We are ALIVE!!!

So many of you have written to ask if we're ok ... YES, we are! Seems time has slipped away from me again and I've neglected the blog. SORRY!!!

The month or so before the beginning of April I spent getting ready to attend the 44th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in Orlando. As I'm not writing this blog entry from some beach on an island somewhere, you know I didn't win the million dollars! But, I had a wonderful time none-the-less. And, yes, some of you did see me on Food TV in an ad for the Bake-Off. The ad ran for about 6 weeks and was such a fun experience for me. Hopefully I didn't let my "inner diva" out too much after seeing myself on tv! (And if I did, please don't tell me!)

After I arrived back home we left for a 5 day trip to Chicago as part of a field trip Kevin takes his students on. While they were off at exciting (yes, I wrote that with a straight face ... right!) places involving finance and banking, Sarah and I spent time in Chinatown. At first she was hesitate to take much of it in, but after hitting a few stores we came upon a wonderful restaurant that she enjoyed so much. She liked it so much we went back the next day. We didn't know until we arrived that in the Chicago Chinatown the predominant language is Cantonese. Unfortunately Sarah can't understand Cantonese.

Now we are back home and winding up the school years. Kevin gives his last final today and Sarah will be done on the 25th. I think they both are ready for a break!

We do have some exciting news. In mid-June Sarah will be unveiling a project she's working on that will help others and help herself, be fun and be work, teach her things and hopefully help her teach others things .... the list goes on. We hope you'll stop back and check in then!

I'll leave you with a few photos from our trip to the Field Museum .... apparently we are silly most of the time!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Anime Mug

Sarah is taking a year long graphic design class in high school. She's really excelled at it and overcome the difficulties of learning all the English terms associated with the computer design program (such as the difference between a "magnetic lasso" and a "polygonal lasso") after only 2 years of learning English before she entered the class.

The first half of the year was spent learning how the design program worked and now they have moved into the practical applications which is much more fun. They've made bumper stickers, a calendar and window clings so far.

The most recent project was to design a coffee mug. Sarah just brought her creation home and it's adorable! She LOVES anime and combined several different anime images and the lyrics from part of a Celine Dion song all woven together with a colorful background ... and she got 100/100 points. Go Sarah!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

She Passed -- Driving Permit!!!

Yes, it's happened!! After school yesterday Sarah took the driving permit test .... and passed!! It's one of the milestones that just smacks you in the face and says "yep, she's a young adult now!" And especially for a teen learning a new language, taking a written driving permit test is more of a challenge then just having to learn the entire 50+ page instruction booklet. We couldn't be more proud of her!

We went out for a celebration dinner and Miss Sarah picked Red Lobster .... she had lobster pizza appetizer and lobster and seafood pasta ... and she was so happy! On the way home we let her drive a bit and she'll get more practice in this weekend. Our state has a graduated permit system so she'll have this starting permit for 6 months and needs 40+ hours of driving with mom and dad and then in 6 months can apply for the next level permit which will allow her to drive by herself (with only one other young person in the car). So, it's the start of her new-found driving independence.

As they say, "Look out!! Here comes Sarah!!! Stay off the roads!!!!" Okay, just kidding!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

High School Play -- Opening Night

(Starting the day)

Whew! Opening night of the high school play! The kids did AWESOME!!! Sarah helped with hair, make-up, backstage work and was "the right side legs" of the "sinking ship!"

(right legs belong to Sarah)

(First night was a SUCCESS! With Amy)

(Who says backstage crew can't ACT!?!?!)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Curtain UP!

Today is the last play rehearsal before the high school play opens tomorrow. Sarah was at school until 9:30 last night and tonight looks to be no different as they have the final run-through. She's a "stylist" (hair, make-up and costumes) plus one of the tech people with headphones which I think is a way of saying she's to be there to run around, get things and do things as needed. Plus she gets to hang from the rafters above the play which I have to agree has some coolness factor to it.

The play wraps up with the final show on Saturday night and then there is a big after-play party. Plus, it's the start of Spring Break so why not start it off with a BANG!

Will try to have Sarah get some photos and we'll try to take some tomorrow.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why We Adopted An Older Child

We asked our adoption agency if there was anything we could do to help get the word out about older child adoption. We wrote the following entry which was recently used in their newsletter. Thought we'd reprint it here for those who do not receive the newsletter. The question we seem to be asked the most is "Why did you adopt an older child?" Here is the answer ....

Every morning when I crawled out of bed my line of sight was focused on the room across the hall. Our baby nursery was full to brim with a crib, toys, clothes, diapers … everything except a baby. The nursery had sat empty for so long that dust was actually creeping up everywhere because I really never wanted to go into that room much. The room reminded me of too many dreams and too much emptiness. Our dossier was sitting in China waiting to be matched with a child, but the progress had started to crawl along and we knew it would be months and months before it was our turn to be parents.

There was nothing my husband or I could do about the wait to adopt a child, but we could do something fun and worthwhile with our time. He focused his spare time on enjoying the outdoor life of fishing and hiking. I focused my energy on my hobby of entering cooking and recipe contests. One day our two hobbies collided as I was called as a finalist at a national cooking contest scheduled for the same time he was planning to be out hiking the Appalachian Trail. So we decided to combine our two trips. We would drive south together, attend my cook-off and then I would drop him off at the trail. Once on the trail, he intended to hike for three weeks and would be without cell phone reception most of the time.

The day of the cook-off was gorgeous weather and tons of fun. After not winning a cash prize that day, we headed back to our hotel to relax and to get ready for our drive the next day when we would be saying goodbye for a few weeks. Kevin turned on our laptop computer and at about the same time we remembered that Great Wall China Adoptions had planned to post a new waiting children’s list that day. We logged on and read through many of the files. We were reading the special needs files more out of curiosity than anything. We had never fully considered the waiting children’s program because we knew that in a few short months our dossier would be at the top of the pile and ready to be matched with a non-special needs infant. Our empty nursery soon would be full!

He was the first one to read through the list and then he passed the computer over to me. After a few minutes, he said, “Did you read the file about the 13 year old girl?” Actually, I had not yet. So I opened her file. No photos were included but I read the few pages of text about her. After 13 years of walking on this earth there were just a few sentences describing a young girl who had endured much in her life yet still after seeing many younger children being adopted she had asked that her file be sent out in hopes of finding a family .

At this point she was 13 years old and just 8 months away from being considered “too old” to be adopted. On the day a Chinese child turns 14 he/she is no longer available for international adoption. On a 14th birthday when many kids are excitedly opening presents and eating cake, a boy or girl residing in one of China’s orphanages is experiencing the first day of the rest of his/her life … a life without the hope of every being adopted internationally.

Something in this young girl’s file clicked with both my husband and me. We talked endlessly about “why” we had decided to adopt and finally were able to put it into words. We simply wanted to be a family. I wanted to be a mom and he wanted to be a dad. Together we wanted to be parents and to be part of a family with a child. We thought back and laughed at how we had contorted our faces when in one of our adoption seminars we had been asked to draw an image of what we thought our child would look like. We had no set ideal image of our child – no race, no gender, no age and no size. So, we had drawn a stick figure with an arrow pointing to the image labeled “our son or our daughter.” We knew the rest of the information would be revealed to us in time and we were excited to meet the person who would one day replace that stick figure drawing.

We stayed on an extra day at the hotel to give us time to talk more and to think. We sat together and carefully went over each question on the special needs adoption request form. We said we realized as first time parents that we lacked the background in having raised a child through the teen years, but we actually saw a huge bonus in our ability to spend all of our time with our child. As first time parents, we knew we would have the extra time needed to help an older child to learn English, to be there to help with homework and studying, to help our child adapt to a new culture and to simply be there for “whatever”.

The phone call that changed our lives came in the early morning hours on July 5. We had stayed up late watching fireworks and were still in bed when the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “You’re parents! Run to your computer and I’m sending you photos of your daughter.” We almost fell down the steps trying to race to get there! We kept hitting the refresh button on the email until finally three pictures arrived. There she was …. our teen daughter! We were parents!!

The next few weeks were a blur. The nursery came down and the teen girl room went up. We talked with our school system about what options our daughter would have. We secured an English tutor. We chatted with other parents about what things their teen kids liked. We filled our daughter’s new room with all things girly and pink. We bought an Ipod and Kevin’s Chinese students helped select some current Chinese music to put on it. We packed and we flew off to China.

And we’ve never looked back. We’ve been home 2-1/2 years now. Our daughter is 16 and in high school. I would by no means attempt to tell you that it’s been an easy road. Sarah knew no English when we met, she left her country and her friends behind to start her new life and she had to get to know two crazy Americans who showed up and wanted to be called “mom and dad.” But the one constant thing in our lives is family. We experience the ups and down together. We are family.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chinese Rice -- Easy Recipe #2

I'm all for convenience foods and quick and easy. But in the world of Chinese kiddos and rice ...all rice is NOT created the same! Here's a good guideline to follow when selecting rice. If the package has the word "minute" or "quick" in the title it's probably not the rice your kiddo would prefer. (I'm not saying he/she won't eat other rice, but you'll probably get big smiles from the rice above).

Here's the rice Sarah loves. It's called Calrose Rice. She also loves "sticky rice" which is what you find in sushi, but sticky rice will not work for reheating or stir-fry so we tend to *stick* with non-sticky varieties. She's also enjoyed jasmine rice before which reheats very well.

This awesome recipe only has two ingredients -- 2!!! On the back of whatever brand you buy will be the rice to water ratio. For this rice, the ratio is 1-1/2 cups rice and 2 cups water. While we do have a rice cooker, we don't use it much and 99% of the time I make the rice in a large non-stick pot instead of pulling the rice cooker out. A bigger pan works better because of the bubbles. And here's how to make it ...

1. In large non-stick pot (with lid), combine uncooked rice and water. Cover. Bring to boil over high heat, just until boiling is starting (not a big rolling boil).

2. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Eat and Enjoy!

Please note -- DO NOT STIR rice during cooking. The only thing you may have to do is to lift the lid once or twice to let the bubbles go down. But don't stir it at all! Seriously, don't stir.

When it's done it looks like this ...

We make BIG batches of rice. Sarah loves to eat it right out of the pan, just plain. Then we refrigerate the rest to use for fried rice. For fried rice, I just dice a little spicy sausage link and cook it over medium-high in a non-stick skillet for a few minutes. Push the sausage aside in the pan and break one or two eggs into the skillet. With spatula, stir the eggs around breaking the yolks and allow to cook, stirring just every so often like you would for scrambled eggs. When eggs are cooked, push those aside. Add a bit of oil to the middle of the pan and then add rice; toss everything together and cook until hot. If desired, add a bit of soy sauce at end.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chinese New Year Stamps

Just a quick entry today .... the US Postal Service has Chinese New Year stamps available right now and they are gorgeous!!! I stocked up on several sheets to use throughout the year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Q&A -- Chinese Language (Written and Spoken)

Thought I'd do a few "Q&A" entries about questions that several families have asked us. This first one is about Chinese language, both written and spoken.

Written Chinese --

Written Chinese characters comes in two main forms -- traditional and simplified. Traditional Chinese is the "original" Chinese character language. Traditional Chinese is mainly used in Taiwan (Republic of China), Hong Kong and Macau. Simplified Chinese was created by decreasing the number of strokes and simplifying the forms of a sizable proportion of traditional Chinese characters. Simplified Chinese is mainly used in the People's Republic of China (Mainland China) and Singapore. Therefore, most of your kiddos will be used to simplified Chinese characters.

Pinyin is a written phonetic representation of simplified Chinese using the English alphabet. For example, the simplified Chinese character for "love" is Simplified Chinese character for love. The pinyin for "love" is "ai". In public schools in China the kiddos learn the Chinese characters as well as the pinyin for each character. The one slight drawback of pinyin is that there may be several different meanings for each pinyin grouping so just having the pinyin may not tell you the exact meaning of the intended character. For example, in paperwork you'll probably be given your child's Chinese name in pinyin and then you'll wonder what the meaning of the name is. In order to get the true meaning, you'll need the character representation to assure accuracy in translating.

Why is pinyin important? Well, because pinyin is how your kiddo can use electronic translators and computer keyboards. The electronic translators that many parents purchase in China are used by typing in the pinyin and then using the results to select the correct character. Once the correct character is selected then the translator can display the English equivalent. So if your kiddo does not know pinyin, then he/she will not be able to use an electronic translator. Also, once you are home you can use a program on your computer that will allow your kiddo to type in pinyin and the then a box will pop up with all the possible Chinese characters with the pinyin. Then the user just picks the desired character.

Spoken Chinese --

For spoken Chinese, my understanding is that there are actually 7 main dialects: Mandarin (850 million speakers), Wu (90 million speakers), Yue (includes Cantonese)(80 million speakers), Min (50 million speakers), Xiang (35 million speakers), Hakka (35 million speakers) and Gan (20 million speakers). There are also many, many, many, many local dialects. The two dialects we hear most about are Mandarin and Cantonese. Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of China and spoken primarily in Northern and Southwestern China. Cantonese is spoken in and around the city of Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton), in most of Guangdong province, eastern Guangxi province, Hong Kong and Macau. While the spoken words in these dialects sound different, the words are written exactly the same!

Also, I'm told that in schools now most kids learn Mandarin as well as their local dialects, so if your child has been out to public school then there is a good chance he/she knows Mandarin even if he/she is from a location where another dialect is spoken. However, if your child has been in orphanage school solely then he/she may only know his/her local dialect.

Why does this matter to adoptive parents? First, if you are wanting to learn some Chinese before you travel to meet your kiddo you'll want to be learning the same dialect your child speaks. A few parents have commented they tried to learn a bit of Mandarin only to find out their child only spoke Cantonese. Second, if you are arranging a tutor or translator for when you return home, make sure that person can communicate in your son's or daughter's dialect.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Noodles & Eggs -- Easy Recipe #1

We've had lots of requests regarding easy to make foods that older kiddos will like. The first one comes straight from Miss Sarah --

Noodles & Eggs

2 cups water
1 package brick style ramen noodles with seasoning packet (any flavor)
2 eggs
3 Tablespoons frozen peas and carrots

Bring water just to a boil in medium saucepan; reduce heat to low. Add noodle brick. Gently break eggs (one at a time) into the water along side the noodle brick. DO NOT STIR. Allow eggs to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Gently turn eggs over. Gently break apart the noodle brick with a fork and add frozen veggies. Continue to cook until eggs are cooked through, noodles are soft and veggies are warm. Serve in bowl with chopsticks.

Simple -- yet satisfying. This is one of Sarah's fav meals and it's good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Older Child Adoption -- Part 2 (Reprint from 4/6/09)

We've been chatting with a few families who recently arrived home with older adopted kiddos. It's strange in a way to kind of be taken back in a time machine! Many of the concerns and fears these families are facing are the same ones we had. We worried if we were doing things that would scar Sarah for life! Was she scared of us? Was she scared of the house? Was she hungry? Was she worried she'd never find food she liked? Was she lonely not being able to communicate well? Was she having bad dreams? And these are just a few of the thousand thoughts racing through our minds?

So a bit about some things we've experienced and/or heard from other families. These are things related to the first few weeks together when everyone is trying to get his/her footing. As you settle in, many of these things will just become a memory or will transition into more long-range ideas. At first, our suggestion is to just focus on some basics ... the rest will follow in time.

1. Light & Sound. At the orphanage lights are on 24/7. Even at night the rooms are not completely dark because the aunties need to be able to move around. So a dark bedroom, hallway and bathroom may be very scary. Night lights seem to work great but if that's not enough perhaps leaving a closet light on or adding a small table lamp would do the trick. Also, orphanages are not quiet places, even at night. Usually there are many kids in one room plus any noise from other rooms or people walking in the hallways. Several kids have enjoyed having a small cd player in their rooms to "cut the quiet" down so they can fall asleep.

2. Soft beds and Sheets. Along with scary dark and quiet rooms, American beds and sheets are probably going to be strange to your kiddo. As many of you know from your hotel experiences in China, beds in China are HARD and those are beds with thicker mattresses. At many orphanage the beds have very thin mattresses or no mattresses at all. Sarah had a hard time with how soft her bed was which is really funny now because she complains when we go to a hotel about "how hard" the hotel beds are and how much she misses her nice soft bed! Also, in China, there are blankets but not sheet sets so you'll probably have to explain that the kiddo is to sleep between the sheets and not simply on top of them.

3. Food. Ramen noodles, ramen noodles, ramen noodles. We were buying these by the case when we first returned home. Now, Sarah will ask for some maybe once every few weeks. Also, try hard boiled eggs, plain white Chinese rice (NOT minute rice), flour tortillas with scrambled eggs and meat inside, original red can Pringles (don't know why, but many families have reported kids loving these!), hard bread sticks (again Pringles makes one Sarah loves), popcorn and crackers. We were so worried that we weren't providing her with nutritional meals but really at the start it's just about getting the kiddos to eat SOMETHING. And many kids won't do well with dairy foods and haven't had much in the way of milk or cheese.

4. Bonding. Overall, I give my husband all the credit in the world when it comes to bonding during those first few weeks. His idea was to just be silly! And it worked. It made Sarah more at ease and a happy kid. It's the best suggestion I have to offer! Other suggestions include badminton (and you don't even need a net -- just hit back and forth), drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, blowing bubbles, taking walks or pretty much any outside game.

5. Hugs. Lots of people are wanting meet your new kiddo! They want to welcome him/her with big hugs! Except that in China hugging is an odd behaviour that most people don't do! To most Chinese, hugging is just down-right weird! I'll never forget when we went to meet with a few of Sarah's friends and the minute the kids saw each other they raced to one another, stood about 1/2 an inch from each other's face and jumped up and down -- all without hugging or touching each other in any way! So don't be surprised is there is squirming when hugs are given and if your kiddo doesn't want to give hugs in return.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Older Child Adoption -- Part 1

In the past week we've had 7 families contact us regarding older child adoption. Some are getting ready to head to China to bring their newly adopted son/daughter home and others are considering adopting an older child. We are so happy to hear from these families!

We're being asked lots of questions and are more than happy to try and offer thoughts as long as everyone remembers that we are not experts on ANYTHING and are simply offering suggestions or relaying information we've encountered or heard about.

Thought I'd start by reposting a few entries from a year or so ago and then I'll try to do some new posts as well. We've been fortunate to meet many families who have come home with their older adopted child/children and have learned many things that perhaps we can share.

Here is the first repost:

One family who contacted us commented that they know others who read our blog and were wanting to ask us questions but who "didn't want to bother us" by doing so. Please don't feel it's a bother to ask questions as I remember back to how much information we craved and how few places were available to find answers. We'll help with what we can as long as people understand that we are not and do not claim to be experts at ANYTHING!!! LOL.

You can always reach us by using the "email us" link on the right hand side of the blog.

So, I thought maybe I'd just list a few of the questions we've been asked and post some answers. I'll do a few today and try to do some more over the next few days. These are in no particular order.

1. On your blog your life seems like "roses and cotton candy" all the time! Is your life really that GREAT?

Yes and no! The purpose of our blog is to "burst with joy" about our daughter! As most of our family is in another state, we use the blog as a way to update family and friends on some of the more interesting and fun things going on in our lives. In a small way, we also hope that by giving a glimpse into the life of a family with an older adopted child that maybe others will find that adopting an older child might be a great fit for their family as well.

One thing we are trying to do as parents is to emphasize that life has it's ups and downs -- and always will. But we (all three of us!) are working on ways to minimize the impact stresses have on our lives in order to have more "flower and candy" days. Do we have days that we struggle with life, cry our eyes out, stress-out, flip-out, wig-out and generally freak-out? You betcha, baby! But, I'm not going to put that stuff on the blog. It's private and it's stuff every family goes through.

2. Was the language barrier a problem?

If I had to pick a "yes" or "no" answer to this question I'd have to pick "yes" -- but not to the point that it was an insurmountable problem. There were so many things we wanted to ask her, to make sure she was comfortable, to see if she was sleepy or hungry or scared. But with the language barrier we weren't able to do that with certainty and it weighed on us.

When we met Sarah, she knew just a handful of English words such as "water, mom, dad, number." Communication was through lots of hand gestures, facial expressions and "trial and error." It wasn't until much later that we realized how much Sarah was "reading" from our body language and interpreting from the tone of people's voices, the "look" in their eyes, etc. Because she didn't have the luxury of language she used other means to try and understand what was going on. So while your child may not "get your words" he/she is getting your meaning (whether you want him/her to or not!)

Our understanding is that the older a person is, the harder it is to acquire a new language. For Sarah, spoken English came first. Now, reading and writing are coming along -- with reading coming along faster than writing. And she's maintaining her Chinese as well so in her brain it's kind of a fight between Chinese and English!

Last year and the start of this year when I would sit with her and help with math homework, she would talk with me in English but when she was doing the math problem and more "in her own world trying to figure the math out" she would be saying the numbers in Chinese. A few months back it "clicked" over and now she says everything is in English -- even to the point of saying "of fudge!" when she drops her pencil! So I think in a way her brain is transitioning to putting Chinese in the background and English is taking up the foreground.

Also, when she talks with friends in China I hear so many English words peppering her speech now that sometimes I can tell the person on the other end of the phone has said something like, "what the heck are you saying?" because she'll get all flustered and then go back and say the phrase in Chinese.

3. What does Sarah think about US food?

Now, Sarah loves US food! She digs Lean Pockets, hot dogs, onion rings, Pringles, pizza and Easter Peeps! At the beginning, not so much!!! When we first came home, she pretty much wanted Chinese rice, meat, eggs and noodles.

For rice, she loves the Cal-rose rice. And you don't need a rice cooker to make it. Simply use a non-stick saucepan or pot, put 3 cups rice, 4 cups water and a dash of salt in. Put a lid on the pot, bring it to boil over high heat and as soon as the bubbles are showing turn the heat to medium-low and let it cook with the lid on and undisturbed for 20 minutes. That means no stirring and no peeking under the lid!!! Sarah actually likes me to cook it a bit longer sometimes as she loves there to be a thin crunchy layer on the bottom!

For noodles, it was nothing fancy. The block-style ramen noodles were very familiar to her. I did order some online to get an extra spicy version as she loves spicy food. Her favorite way to eat them was for me to boil the water, add the noodle block and then along the outside of the pan away from the noodle block I would break two eggs into the water. I wouldn't stir the noodles or anything until the eggs had firmed and then I added the seasoning packet. She stopped eating these after about a year and hasn't wanted them since.

About eggs, Kevin and I both like over-easy eggs where the center is runny. The first time I made these her eyes became huge and she absolutely wanted nothing to do with them! She wanted to make eggs and so she cracked them into the pan and cooked those eggs until they were browned on both sides! When they were done she pointed to them and smiled at me and I got the idea! Since them I've called them "crunchy eggs" and to this day she say, "Mom will you make me crunchy eggs?" But, she also likes runny middles now too! And she loves hard boiled eggs.

Also, we had several kinds of chop-sticks and Sarah always picked the cheapo bamboo kind that you can get in bulk packages at any Asian grocery store. She wanted nothing to do with the fancier ones because she just wasn't used to them. And for the older children, they may not have used a fork and knife before because in China most of the food is made in bite-sized pieces so chopsticks can be used or eaten by hand. She won't mind me telling you that we laugh now about the first few times we had pizza because she kept trying to pick it up with her chopsticks until finally she gave in and just used her hands! And now the chopsticks are packed away in a drawer because nobody uses them anymore.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Drama Queen

Just a quick note. Sarah started this past week as a hair, make-up and costume assistant for her school's drama department. They've had two meetings so far and have 5 weeks until opening night for the play. Things are going to get interesting around here!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gift Box from China

In the year or so prior to coming to the US, Sarah had a sponsor family in China. She would spend some weekends and holidays with this family. Today, she received a large box from them filled with clothing and cross stitch items. There is quite an assortment of goodies, mostly traditional Chinese clothing including dresses, pjs, pants and tops. Also, two VERY heavy flannel lined coats with balloon style pants. Perhaps they think it's too cold there in the US.

Also there are two cross stitched pillow cases and one cross stitched cell phone case. Sarah thinks perhaps the woman from this family hand made these items.

(Very heavy flannel lined tunic coat)

(Heavy jacket with koi fish pants)

(Floral embroidery on front/back)

(Egytian style tank dress)

(Cross stitched pillow cases and cell phone case)

(The loot, part 1)

(The loot, part 2)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mile-High Peanut Butter-Brownie Pie

In April I'll be competing with 99 other home cooks at the 44th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in Orlando, FL. One of us will win the grand prize of ONE MILLION DOLLARS! Just typing that makes butterflies in my tummy!!

Pillsbury.com and Bakeoff.com have just posted our recipes and recipe photos. I hope you'll stop by, check out the recipes and if you feel there are some exceptionally wonderful looking recipes and knock-your-socks-off tasting recipes that you'll register at the website and give your favorite recipes a 5 star rating (and comments about the recipes if you'd like, but a comment is not required to give stars). Registration is quick and easy.

My recipe is "Mile-High Peanut Butter-Brownie Pie". The direct link is below --


Mile-High Peanut Butter-Brownie Pie


1 Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box
1 box (15.5 oz) Pillsbury® Chocolate Chunk Brownie Mix
1/4 cup Reese's® peanut butter chips
1/3 cup Crisco® Pure Vegetable Oil
3 tablespoons water
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Jif® Creamy Peanut Butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 container (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 tablespoons Fisher® Party Peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons Hershey’s® mini chips semi-sweet chocolate


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Unroll pie crust; place in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate as directed on box for One-Crust Filled Pie; flute edge.

2. In medium bowl, stir brownie mix, peanut butter chips, oil, water and egg 50 strokes with spoon. Pour batter into crust-lined pie plate.

3. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, covering edge of crust with strips of foil after 15 to 20 minutes, until crust is golden brown and center of brownie is set. Cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate 1 hour or until completely cooled.

4. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter and powdered sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread mixture over brownie. Sprinkle with peanuts and chocolate chips. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving. Store covered in refrigerator.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gingerbread House - Better Late Than Never!

Sorry to be so late with these photos! I actually only remembered I had them because in the car this morning Sarah started talking about next year's gingerbread house. She's already making plans! But here is the original. The three of us had a great time decorating it before Christmas.

(Powdered sugar "snow")

(Mom smudged the S.K.D.R. initials!)