Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Bostons

We have 3 goofy Boston Terriers. They are sweet, but they are kinda dumb. Probably my fault for not training them well. They are all super-friendly and want nothing more than to be petted and snuggled. They own the sofa now.
Lucy is the oldest. I think she's about 7. She was four when we got her. She had been rescued by a woman in Gainesville. A man up there was fighting pit bulls and raising wild pigs. The Bostons were being used for a puppy mill business. When the State went in and shut down his Pit and pig operations, they left the Bostons. They were considered "livestock" and he could do whatever he pleased with them. They were left in suspended chicken wire cages 24/7, no vet care, very little food or water, and physically abused. If a Pit or Boston didn't perform as desired, they were thrown to the pigs. When the Bostons got hungry, he threw a live chicken in the cage. Some people are very sick in the head. Sylvia heard about the Bostons and wanted them out of their terrible situation. She ended up having to raise the money and buy them all from this horrible man. There were 6 dogs in all, I believe. Two had to be put down immediately. Our Lucy was the last to find a home. We're glad she's with us. Even if we had to replace her knees (cha-ching! ouch!). She is VERY meek and mild. She likes nothing better than to snuggle and sleep. Well, and eat people food.

Is this the face of contentment? I think she's actually smiling.

After we got Lucy and fixed her knees, we got to thinking that she seemed sad and lonely. She loved playign with the neighbor dogs. I'd kept in touch with Sylvia and mentioned we might be looking for Boston #2 to be a friend for Lucy. She said she had the perfect dog. She and Lucy already knew each other and got along great. And so we added Jingle to the mix. About 2 seconds after Jingle walked in the door, she and Lucy were chasing each other all over the house. It was a happy day! A few months later, Sylvia called again with a male she needed to re-home. Lucy had actually served as a foster mother to this particular dog, and he had had a litter of pups with Jingle, so... Smoochy became Boston #3. When they are naughty, we just say we'll send them all up to Grandma Helen!!
Here is a video of Jingle snoring. She and Smoochy are snoring champs. She's such a nervous, uptight dog - can't you tell? She is happiest when she's flat on her back in dreamland. Oswald is the orange cat watching her from the floor. He waited until I'd stopped the camera and then whacked Jingle on the nose just for the fun of it. She squeaked and was up on all 4's in about .5 second, totally confused. Oswald was quite pleased with himself.

video

China Tree School

China Tree is a school run by an adoptive couple with a little girl from China. It's purpose is to teach Chinese culture and language to kids. Olivia attended in the fall of 2008, but the school wasn't running the way the couple wanted, so they shut it down for a time. They have started up again with a new location and new cirriculum. We've attended 2 classes so far. Olivia loves it. I think she'll do really well. Brooke is young enough that she just likes to go places and socialize with other kids. I don't know that she'll pick up much language, she doesn't pay much attention to the teacher, but the exposure will be good for her. First the kids start with writing, then they move to circle time, where they work on language basics - the 4 tones, the Chinese alphabet, etc. Then they split up and move into smaller classes and work more closely with the teachers doing arts and crafts, etc.

Here is Olivia during circle time. She loves to volunteer and move around. The little boy at the front is Sheridan. His folks have been SO valuable to us during the wait (for Brooke's paperwork to be completed), during travel and getting all the post-adoptive paperwork done. Plus, they are just really nice folks.


This is just a shot of Olivia jumping during circle time. I caught her just as her feet left the ground and it looks like she's on her tippy toes.
Here are the little ones in their separate class. Sheridan is in blue. Little Ella is in green. She lives just down the street from us and is 3 years old. Brooke is in red and Olivia is behind her. Their teacher is Autumn. She is VERY patient. She has to be.
The Chinese language uses 4 tones. You can say the same word 4 different ways and each tone gives the word a different meaning. Very tricky!! (It's even worse than trying to memorize the "la" and "le" in French!) Here are the kids being drilled about the 4 tones. Olivia, Sheridan and Maddy are at the front. Like I said, Olivia likes to move...

video

Goings On

First of all, today (Monday) was "test time" at gymnastics. I didn't know it. I didn't take the camera. I spent the whole time struggling to keep Brooke entertained. (Sometimes that's not so easy.) At least I got to watch the end of class, when Olivia was presented with her Green Certificate. She was ECSTATIC!!!! Oh, I wish I had the camera then. But, here she is with her certificate and wrist band at home. Basically, the "green" designation means that she has reached the half-way mark for what they'd like her to achieve in this class (Kinder-roo). She's one of the younger ones in the class, so we're pretty impressed. Technically she's not suppsed to be in the class because she's in pre-k, not kindergarten. But the teacher felt she could do the work and let her move up. She was so proud of herself I thought she was going to burst. Go, Olivia!
I found these stacking buckets at the consignment store. They are so fun! Brooke loves them because they stack up taller than her. She put them all together in the correct order the first time she played with them, so no "order" problems for this young lady.


And she loves to knock them over, too. I liked this pic because I caught them in mid-tumble.

One day it's freezing, the next it's 60 degrees. The girls finally enjoyed some outdoor time. And we got to watch the extenstion being built onto the neighbors' sunporch. After the extension is done, they are going to put up a privacy fence across the backyard. Yeah! We like them lots, but if they put up a fence, then we can link onto it and... let the dogs run free out in the backyard. YEAH!!! In the picture it looks like our property runs up to the tie-wall. Unfortunately it does not. The neighbors own a few feet towards the playgym. It will be interesting to see how the fencing is done.


A couple Fridays ago it was Pajama Day at Olivia's pre-k. She was VERY excited. It looks like she's packed for China again, but it's her sleeping bag, pillow, slippers and doll, and blanket. We had to pack the night before. When we got to class, the room was filled with everyone's bed stuff. The kids had a ball.

Brooke - enjoying her most favorite thing in the world - chocolate - in ANY form. I guess she gets that from me.


Daddy helped Olivia make a tent in her bedroom. The kids slept together under the tent, on the floor in their sleeping bags, for over a week. We finally put a stop to it yesterday. (I wanted the mess cleaned up and Mark wanted his favorite blanket back.) I've had to sleep on the floor in there and there's no way I'd do it for FUN. The young are just so much more flexible. And goofy. Mark plugged in the portable DVD player and they watched movies in there, too. They loved it.


Thank you for the tutu's, Aunt Linda! But we prefer to wear them on our heads!

Baby Grunge Ballerina.


Daddy's little girl. From what he has said, I think Mark's hair used to look alittle like that.


This is Oprah. She is the senior cat in the house. She came to us from a rescue situation (it was us or the pound) about 5 years ago. She was used to being a single cat, so she did NOT appreciate having other cats around. She almost hissed herself to death. But - and I'll never understand how this happened - the other cats simply ignored her. They'd beat up on each other all the time, but they just ignored Oprah. So, after about a week, she realized that she looked kind of stupid hissing at everyone. And she stopped. And things have been perfectly peaceful since then. But all the other animals respect her. She's 17 and she sleeps alot, but the others always walk way around her and never make eye contact. It's really pretty funny. And she doesn't take any funny business. She'll let them know if they ever step out of line. Oprah - ruler of the household. She's really a great cat - it's like having the Queen Mother living with us.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Art

Brooke loves to copy her older sister. She loves to paint with her, and color and draw.




I think Olivia is putting out some good work for Brooke to learn from. This is just a small sampling of her work. She does handfuls every day.

This is Olivia walking down a path. I thought it was pretty neat that she drew herself from the back.


Daddy cut out paper dolls for the fun of it (to impress Olivia). She was not happy with pale, plain paper dolls, so she gave them the "Olivia treatment". They are named Olivia, Brooke, (Aunt) Carol, Mom.


A dog (Scooby Doo is her absolute favorite).


This next picture is work she brought home today. It seems her style has changed literally over night. These faces make me think of comic book characters.


This is her version of a stained glass window in the pizza place we ate at in Fort Wayne.


This is her version of Kai Lan.


An ink rendering of Strawberry Shortcake.


Olivia and her snowman.


Me. Thank goodness she didn't add the wrinkles!


Her birthday card for Uncle Dave's 50th birthday next Sunday. Yeah - half a century!! (He never looks at the blog, so it'll still be a surprise to him.)

It amazes me that she can draw like this. Last year at this time she was drawing more like Brooke is drawing now. Scribbles. It's fun to see the different light bulbs pop on in her brain... When the kids in pre-k all draw a picture about the same theme, the teacher hangs them on the large windows on either side of the door to the classroom. You can always spot Olivia's work in an instant. Most of the kids draw smaller stick figures or scribbles on the center of the sheet. Olivia's sheet is always filled edge-to-edge with color and detail. She's pretty proud of her work and it gives her alot of self-confidence.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Brooke's Re-Adoption is Done!!!!!!!

It has been soooo cold that the cats won't even go out. The dogs don't want to go out for potty breaks. Brooke's official re-adoption court hearing was scheduled for 9am Monday morning and I had invited Grandpa Howard, Grandma Sally and Debbi (aka Aunt Bubby) to witness the event. (The court only allows you to bring a couple people.) But by Sunday, I was having second thoughts about making anyone get out in the nasty cold. So, I let the grandparents off the hook and told Debbi she didn't have to come, either. But she was still game, and bravely fought thru the cold and icy roads in her fancy pants Mercedes to witness Brooke's last legal battle.

We left home in plenty of time and headed to court. The roads weren't bad at all, so we made good time. (Except for the terrified van driver who drove 30 mph on the perfectly dry road and slowed down everyone behind him.) We made good time - up until we got to the courthouse and found the parking deck closed because the ramps were iced. Everyone was in a hurry trying to find parking since everyone had an appointment with a scary judge, people were mad, and there were no parking spaces left anywhere near the courthouse. After getting hemmed into an actual graveyard( a whole different story), we finally found parking a couple blocks over and down from the Justice Center and we grateful for that! As we bundled the girls out of the car, we were worried about getting them inside before they froze. But then an angel appeared in the form of a little (tiny!!) old lady driving a Senior Citizens' bus. She was driving around, picking people up and bussing them to the courthouse. Saved!!!! We ended up being a few minutes late, but the judge hadn't entered chambers yet, so we were were ok. Debbi was there on time, of course, just to make us look bad. She even got a parking space directly out the back door of the courthouse!!! (She should have bought a lottery ticket today!)

There were 3 families doing adoptions today. I think they were all "foreign re-adoptions" like Brooke's. They took in one family at a time and we were all done by 10am. Here are Olivia and Brooke entertaining themselves as we waited our turn.
We were the second family to go in. We had to swear we had told the truth in all the paperwork (petition) submitted for the re-adoption, and we had to promise to take good care of Brooke. The judge glanced at the original Chinese adoption docs and declared us "all done". It took about 3 minutes. Debbi was "allowed" to approach the bench once our hearing was done to take our picture. The judge is Jackson Harris. (He's not too popular right now because he allowed a billboard to be erected along the main street in town. People are all worked up over the "eye sore".)


Where is a picture of Debbi, you ask? Oh yeah - I forgot to take one!!!! Sheez! The woman goes to all the trouble to be there and I don't even take her picture with Brooke. But she was there and she looked great. Take my word for it.

After the hearings for everyone were complete, we were escorted down to the Clerk's office where we received certified copies of the signed Decree of Foreign Re-Adoption. (Now we can get Brooke an American-issued birth certificate, which will make things a lot easier for her and us.) As I waited for the copies to be made, Mark talked with one of the other families and found that they live in our subdivision! They were doing 4 re-adoptions today - for 2 of their kids adopted from Russia a few years ago, and their 2 new children from Ethiopia, ages 3 and 5. They have 8 kids in all!!!! So, as we left, we said we'd see each other at the pool this summer. What a small world. And - they both grew up in Indiana, like Mark! But they went to Notre Dame. Phooey! Go Purdue - Go Boilers! We ran an errand and were hungry, so we went to Longhorns and had a nice lunch to celebrate. (The walls are naked because they are totally redecorating. It felt really weird.)


We headed for home. It was nap time for Brooke and bedtime for Mark since he had to head to work tonight. We've discovered Chinese children's songs on YouTube and Brooke loves to listen to them. Ni Wa Wa is her favorite. She got to hear a couple songs and it was off to bed.

We should be done with all the legal stuff for Brooke's adoption now. We have a 6 month and 12 month update to do with the agency, but that should be easy and the agency does most of that work. It's nice to have court done. Our county has a reputation for being difficult to work with. I was glad it went as smoothly as it did. (The other family had a terrible time and had to hire a lawyer.)
One odd thing - We haven't talked much to Brooke about being "adopted". She's simply part of the family and it's a little early to start trying to communicate with her about it. (We're just working on being Chinese right now.) I was surprised the other night when I reminded Olivia, in front of Brooke, that Monday morning we'd be going to court for Brooke's re-adoption. Brooke immediately got all worked up, saying "Adoption! Adoption! No! No!" and some other words I couldn't catch. I was really taken aback and quickly said, "Don't worry - it's just paperwork - you're staying with us. You're not going anywhere!" She must have understood me because she said "OK" and calmed down, all happy again. It happened again last night as I was putting them to bed, though she didn't get as upset as before. I don't know why she would recognize that word, or why it would upset her. It makes you wonder what she was told in China. And in English?? And it also makes me realize she understands a lot more of what I say than I thought... that's good and bad... :)
Back to school and the old routine tomorrow. The girls start China Tree school on Saturday - that should be fun!

Fun at Uncle Dave's

We stopped by Uncle Dave's house while out running errands. Carol's sister was there along with her 3 Russian lapdogs. They are fuzzy and tiny. Brooke loved them. Here she is hugging (smothering) Sunny, who weighs in at barely 4 lbs.


Garrett's girlfriend had some "special" boots that the girls were very excited to try on. Olivia loved them and declared she was going to buy a pair. I told her fine, as soon as she moved out she was welcome to wear whatever she wanted. I like to think of them as Ziggy Stardust boots, even tho they make me think of something else...


Being at Uncle Dave's house always brings out the "wrestler" in the girls and this time was no exception.
After beating on Uncle Dave mercilessly, the girls rode him like a donkey.


Later, at home, I caught Mark sneaking a dessert while he thought I was putting the kids to bed. It was cranberry sauce with A LITTLE whipped cream on top. This, from a guy with type II diabetes, who claims to his doctor that he's "being good". He felt very ashamed. Then he finished the bowl after he stopped laughing. Aye-yi-yi.

Got Snow??

They predicted flurries in the early afternoon Thursday. Everyone got excited, as usual. I figured it would be nothing, but the schools announced they would let out at noon. By the time noon got here, the weathermen had changed their mnds and said we wouldn't get it until later that night. But the kids went on official "Snow Watch". And it got grey, and then..... only about an hour later -

It snowed!!!!!!! And snowed, and snowed a little more. At first it was like tiny sleet. You could hear the shhhhhhhhhhhhh sound as it hit the bushes and grass. I like that. Then it turned to fluffy snow. Not wet, packing snow, but at least it was snow. The dogs were NOT impressed. They have gotten so spoiled, they don't like to get wet and they don't like to get cold. I made them go out, but they certainly didn't stay long. They tried to hide when I called for potty breaks.

Here are the front steps. Yes, those are still the Halloween pumpkins. I have to admit, I don't even think about them being there. I wonder what they look like on the inside now... Could we still scoop out the seeds and toast them? Probably not. I bet we were the only house in the subdivision to have Christmas pumpkins! (Maybe the whole state?)




So, my northern friends and relatives will look at these pictures and laugh out loud that school has already been cancelled for the next day. It wasn't even an inch of snow. But what doesn't show is the layer of sheet ice UNDER that cute snow. As usual, when the sun set, the temps fell and everything froze. And we live in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, so there is very little level land in the area. I was not happy about Mark heading out to work the midnight shift. But he was determined. At least he has lots of practice from living in Indiana, Michigan and Colorado. So he didn't panic when he slid sideways and backward down the driveway to the frozen street below, which is another hill. He fought his way up to the stop sign, turned right and then headed downhill to the subdivision entrance. I just had my fingers crossed as he disappeared. He admitted he forgot about the ski slope all the way down to the entrance and admitted that he really hoped no one was on the crossroad in case he shot right past the stop sign and out into the road. He was thankfully able to stop, and made it to the brewery, albeit very slowly. Of course, being a guy - he forgot to call and let me know he made it in one piece. Since work didn't call looking for him, I figured he must have made it. The weathermen predicted that we wouldn't get above zero until the next week.
The front steps were terribly dangerous and the dogs had almost all wiped out trying to get down them, so I put cat litter on the steps to make it safer. (There's no way we're gonna let Lucy break her knees after we paid so much for them!) But the only kind of litter I had was the clumping kind. Did you know that when clumping cat litter gets wet, it doesn't just clump? It turns back into squishy clay!!!!! Surprise!!!! I think I've finally gotten all the clay footprints and pawprints cleaned up. What a MESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark came home around noon the next day and declared that he was done for the day. We weren't going anywhere else. He fell asleep with Brooke on the sofa. Thank heavens he wasn't scheduled to work the weekend.


They had a really nice nap while Olivia watched (what else?) Scooby Doo upstairs.


The girls loved the concept of "Snow Day" and had lots of fun building pillow forts and fighting while they stayed out of the cold. Neither one wanted to go out and play in the snow. I didn't encourage them. I remember playing in the snow and I hated getting cold and wet and having to wear tons of clothes. If the snow had been wet enough to pack, they could have slid down the hill and that would have been fun. But this wasn't fun snow. So, let's stay in, stay warm, and have hot cocoa and watch cartoons. Olivia especially hates the cold. She is already saying she is moving to Hawaii when she gets older because it is always warm there. One of her pre-K friends must have clued her in. I just told her she better have a really good job so she can pay for her room and board. Brooke wasn't impressed with the snow at all. It gets much colder in Luohe than it does here and the orphanages have little to no heat. She's been there, done that.

It's Monday night now and the schools will finally open tomorrow, Tuesday. Most of the ice is gone. But nobody wants to put their kid on a bus, on a steep hill, and pray it gets to school ok. It's just better to stay home and stay safe. It only happens once a year, so it's no big deal.