I interrupt this LONG break to share a video about Ohio Valley Voices' alumni for which Jazzie was interviewed. I am so proud of how far Jazzie has come and we owe a lot of her success to OVV.
Jazzie is the second one to speak, around the 1:35 mark.
Wow, here we are in October and I have been meaning to share some more pictures from our summer. Aside from my trip to Florida with the girls, we took another trip to Pennsylvania and Washington DC, but this time Matt came with us :-)
Up first was a family reunion in Pennsylvania. I love the rolling hills of Pennsylvania and it was great seeing family members we hadn't seen in years. We all slept in tents, made 'smores, played games, ate yummy food and had a wonderful time.
After spending the weekend with family, the four of us made the trip to Kent Island where Matt's uncle and his wife run the most beautiful B&B. It overlooks the water, it has a pool and uncle Ed and aunt Maria treated us like gold and spoiled us tremendously...
We love uncle Ed and aunt Maria and we highly recommend staying at their B&B. Check out their website here.
We took a trip to the National Harbor and rode the ferris wheel...
We went to Ocean city where the girls got to experience an Atlantic beach (much colder than the Gulf coast beach we visited earlier). Uncle Ed and aunt Maria took the day and came with us. We had a great time hanging out on the beach and walking on the boardwalk.
The B&B is about an hour out of DC, so we took the train into the city and enjoyed a day seeing all the sites.
We saw the sites from the "Hop on, hop off bus". I highly recommend this since there is so much to see and this really helped us seeing as many things as possible without having to walk everywhere.
We had such a great time with uncle Ed and aunt Maria, that we did not want to leave.
And this finally concludes our summer trip recap!
Hello blogosphere!! Is anybody still out there??
I'm still here!! I haven't blogged in what seems like forever and every time that I think I'll pick it up again, something happens and then I don't. But the other day the girls were reading old blog posts and having so much fun with it that I thought I should give it another try. So, what's new?
The girls went back to school today after a very busy summer. In June we decided to replace all the carpet downstairs and the hallway upstairs with hardwood and to refinish the existing hardwood. That meant that the girls and I had to be out of the house since refinishing hardwood and installing new is a major undertaking. Not to mention extremely messy! Matt stayed home to oversee the work and the girls and I drove to Florida to visit with friends and family. We were gone for almost three and a half weeks, but we had an amazing time!
We started out in Tampa. I have a very good friend that lives there and the girls and I spent four glorious days with Cath and her family. They pampered us with great food, cocktails, cheese platters and pedicures :-) We also visited the Tampa Zoo where the Chinese Lantern Festival was going on.
After Tampa we made our way to Remington Beach on the Gulf Shore to meet up with some more friends. To say that the girls loved the beach is an understatement.
We then made our way to Ocala to spend some more time with our friends. The highlight of our time there was horseback riding!
The girls also enjoyed seeing the manatees.
After Ocala we made our way to Clearwater Beach where we spent time with family. Matt's cousin lives there, plus some other family members that live here in Ohio were visiting her so we had a nice little family reunion, right there in Florida.
Of course we spent more time on the beach. The girls even tried some paddle boarding.
Tahlia LOVES the Dolphin Tale movies, so we visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and got to see Hope and Winter in person.
The girls and I had an amazing time in Florida, but we missed Matt terribly and were ready to see him after being on the road for almost three and a half weeks. But I am so glad that the girls and I got to have this time together. We made some wonderful memories that we will have for a lifetime and I came home to gorgeous new floors ;-)
For the past 3 months, Tahlia has been training for her first 5K through Girls On The Run (GOTR). If you are not familiar with GOTR, they are a wonderful organization that helps girls learn life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. Tahlia was part of the GOTR team at her school and I was one of the coaches. It was a wonderful experience for both of us.
This past Saturday was the actual race and unfortunately I wasn't able to run with her. I've had a calf injury for the past 6 weeks or so and it's been very difficult and painful. Since I wasn't able to run with Tahlia, she asked her fourth grade teacher Mrs. O to run with her. Mrs. O very kindly agreed to give up her Saturday morning and time with her family to do this with Tahlia. It was a GREAT morning!
Tahlia and Mrs. O ready to rock it!!!
Crossing the finish line:
Photo credit: PerspectiveZ Creative
So proud of her first medal!!!
I am SUPER proud!!!!
Okay, I am seriously a terrible blogger! Almost three months since my last post; I really want to get back into blogging regularly again, because I do enjoy it. So let me catch you up on the last three months...
The girls are doing great. Jazzie is breezing through her seventh grade honors classes and has discovered that she really likes engineering when she took it as one of her elective classes last quarter.
Tahlia joined the Girls On The Run program at school and I am one of the coaches. It is a great program that not only focuses on training for a 5K, but also teaches the girls about positive self image, being strong, being a good friend and citizen, etc. I am so proud of Tahlia since she doesn't love to run; I wouldn't even say that she likes it, but she is giving it 100%. She is one of the slower runners, but she runs at her own pace, consistently, not bothered by what the others around her are doing. There is something to be said about that.
My dad passed away at the beginning of the month. Even though he had not been at 100%, his death was still very unexpected. Matt and I went to Holland for a week to attend the funeral and to be there for my mom. Even though it was a sad occasion, it was nice to see friends and family I hadn't seen in years and to spend time with my mom and my sister. Alex and Winnie even came from London for a few days and it was great to see them. When you live so far away from family, you always live with the fear of something bad happening... It's been hard :-(
Matt had surgery on his ankle last week. He broke his ankle many, many years ago and it has never really been the same. The pain has been getting worse over time, so hopefully this will fix it. He will be in a cast for 10-12 weeks without being allowed to put any weight on it. Fun times!
Ruby is now 7 months and doing great! She is such a good girl and it feels like she has been part of our family forever.
So there you have it. Let's see if I can keep this blogging thing going for more than once every few months!!!
And just like that we are over a week into December already. I am happy to say that my Christmas shopping is 100% done, everything is wrapped and my cards have gone out the door! Now that it's December, we've been doing some fun holiday things. Tahlia and I went to Main Street in our town for some fun activities (horse drawn carriages, cookie decorating, visit with Santa, etc.). It was cold, but we had fun!
We went downtown to watch Santa repel down the Macy's building (so fun!) and to watch a fireworks show afterwards.
Ruby is getting big! She is now 3 1/2 months old and we love her to pieces. She is a really good puppy and it feels as if she has been with us much longer than the 8 weeks that it has actually been.
The other day a friend pointed out that Ruby has a patch on the white part of her fur that is in the shape of a heart. We had never noticed it before, but we think it's pretty special!
Jazzie has really settled in nicely into junior high. She had a bit of a rough start, but I am so glad to see her having fun now. She's developed a core group of friends and that has been wonderful for her. Her work ethic continues to amaze me; making the high honor roll for a fourth year in a row.
Selfie taken by Jazzie:
I love trimming our Christmas tree. Each ornament that we have has a special meaning behind it. Each one represents an important event, a special person, a fun trip or a major milestone. When we were putting the ornaments on our Christmas tree the other day, I pulled this one out of the box:
At this time of year last year, I was browsing on Pinterest and came across a DIY ornament with imprinted hand/foot prints. On a whim I asked the girls if they wanted to make one with Lily's pawprint. I am SO glad now that we did....
And finally, just so you know - Jazzie has informed us that when she grows up se will be adopting from Greece. Yes people, Greece. The reason being that she is really into Greek mythology and she somehow thinks that by adopting from Greece she will learn more about it ;-)
Like I mentioned in my previous post, I've been a terrible blogger! It's almost Thanksgiving and I have not posted anything about our November, so here goes...
We had a surprise party for Matt's parents who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. We invited them to come for lunch after they get out of church. They thought it was going to be with just us, but when they walked in, the entire family was here. They were surprised!
Our house was filled with love, laughter and good food that day.
My sister-in-law made this fabulous cake. She is quite talented!!!
On November 4 Matt and I went out and voted. A privilege not lost on me and something I take very seriously since becoming an American citizen.
Jazzie's workload in junior high is at times quite demanding. The fact that she is taking honors classes, means that there is more homework. Thankfully, my girl is very diligent, does high quality work and expects the best from herself.
The fifth grade at Tahlia's school did a small performance on Veteran's Day for the veterans in the students' families. We invited Matt's dad who served in the Navy and the Airforce. The kids sang songs, read poems and had a question and answer session with the vets. It was really nice and a wonderful learning experience for all the kids. I am glad Tahlia had her Pappaw there :-)
Ruby is getting big! She is now 14 weeks old and she really is a good girl. She is doing great learning the basic commands like stay, come, sit and down. The weather has been very cold in Ohio these past two weeks (we even had our first snow day last week), so we got Ruby a little sweater :-)
I don't remember ever having a snowday before Thanksgiving. It was awesome.
With the time-change we have been experiencing some amazing sunrises at the bus stop!
Ruby has managed to wiggle herself into Jazzie's heart. She still misses Lily a lot, but Ruby is slowly healing her broken heart.
It's been wonderful having Ruby in our home and family. Life just isn't the same without a dog <3
I've been a terrible blogger. Here we are almost at Thanksgiving, and I have not blogged since before Halloween!
A couple of pumpkin carving pictures:
Our neighbors had their annual Halloween party and Matt and I were going to go as Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty. However, the day of the party I developed terrible back spasms. They were so bad that I ended up in the emergency room. I still have no idea what caused them, but they gave me pain killers and muscle relaxers which helped somewhat. However, I was in no shape to go the party, so Matt went by himself :-)
Trick-or-treat turned out to be a FREEZING cold evening. Luckily, it stopped raining about 30 minutes before the kids went out, but it was still cold!
Jazzie LOVES Greek mythology and wanted to be Medusa for Halloween. So, I went to the Dollar Store, got a bunch of plastic snakes, cut a hole in a table cloth and called it a day :-)
She informed me that this was her last year trick-or treating. In a way it makes me sad, but I am excited to see her grow up and to see what the teen years are going to bring us.
Jazzie's best friend Sophie came and spent the night last weekend. Jazzie and Sophie have known each other for almost 11 years; ever since they were paired up at Ohio Valley Voices. We try to get them together a few times a year and when they do, it is like they've never been apart.
Among the things they did to entertain themselves that weekend:
My first thought when I saw this: "What a mess and what a complete waste of construction paper."
My second thought: "Just get over it and enjoy their fun and laughter".
My third thought: "They better clean up every last piece of paper!"
Matt and I had no idea how Jazzie would react to us bringing Ruby home. She had been pretty vocal about not wanting another dog and we thought that Jazzie would either fall in love at the first sight of an irresistible puppy, or be angry and upset. Unfortunately, it was the latter.
Like I did with Tahlia, I set up our camera to capture her reaction. When she walked in, she took a look at Ruby and her first words were: "What is THAT"?.... Who's puppy are we watching?" When I told her that it was our puppy, she burst into tears, said NO, ran upstairs and locked herself into her room... A disappointing reaction, but not totally unexpected.
For the next several hours, she refused to come out of her room, she refused to look at Ruby and she was not even interested in knowing her name. At one point she mentioned how it all didn't matter, because it wasn't her dog anyway...
I decided to tell her the story about the hawk and how it was a sign from Lily. I also told her that Ruby would never take Lily's place, but that she could heal our broken hearts... After dinner we had some friends and neighbors come over to meet Ruby and Jazzie decided to come downstairs as well. She sat for a long time just looking at Ruby. She asked me to tell the story about the hawk again and as she inched her way closer and closer to Ruby, I could see her heart opening up. She started to smile, she started to talk to Ruby and she petted her.
And that was that. I still see Jazzie holding back a bit, trying to protect her heart. But Ruby is winning it over quickly.
Jazzie has asked me not to share the video of her reaction, so I am going to respect that. It's the fact that she has accepted Ruby and is happy to have her in our life that matters anyway.
So I didn't think I would be ready for another dog as quickly as it turned out I was. I honestly thought that we would wait at least a year. Lily's death left us all with a lot of sadness in our hearts and I just wasn't sure when I would be ready to love another dog. Tahlia was ready not even a week after Lily died. Jazzie was a different story. She took Lily's death the hardest of us all and she vowed to never love another dog, because she didn't ever want to go through the pain of losing one again. Every time Tahlia as much as mentioned getting another dog, it would send Jazzie into a panic and into anger. "No, we are NEVER getting another dog" was always her standard reply...
About a month after Lily died, I found myself searching websites for available dogs. I checked our local Boxer Rescue and several other sites. I surprised myself, since I felt that my heart was opening up to finding our next dog. So I kept looking. I don't even know how, but through many searches, I ended up at Ohio State Boxers. This particular breeder had several boxer puppies available and while looking at the pictures on her website, one of them caught my eye. I contacted the breeder and within a few days, Matt and I made the almost two hour drive north to visit the puppies. Just to get a feel for them. Just to meet them. Not necessarily to purchase one, I told myself. But deep down in my heart I knew that we would be picking our next boxer that day.
On the way up, Matt and I discussed possible names if we did end up picking out a new pup. He mentioned that the name "Red' was coming through very strongly for him for whatever reason. We had never even met the puppies, but he definitely felt that name resonate with him. I thought it was a weird name for a dog, especially a female one :-). We continued driving and I started to question if I was indeed really ready for another dog. Were we rushing into it? Would Lily be okay with us having another dog? How would Jazzie react? As all these questions were running through my mind, I closed my eyes and asked Lily to send me a sign. I needed a sign from her that this was the right thing to do and that she approved. Throughout our marriage, Matt and I have always taken the sight of a red-tailed hawk as a sign from the universe. There have been many examples where the red-tailed hawk has given us signs. It may seem weird to some of you, but to us it is very real. We consider it our spirit animal. There have been too many instances where we have asked for a sign and a red-tailed hawk has shown up. Too many for it to be just a coincidence. With that said, I specifically asked Lily to send me a red-tailed hawk.
During the entire drive, I never saw a hawk :-(
When Matt and I arrived, we were greeted by the breeder and she had all her available female puppies waiting for us. I think there were 8 of them. I immediately picked up the one that had spoken to me in the picture on the website. I held her, put her down and picked up the others one by one. The one that spoke to me most was actually not the one that I had seen in the picture. That felt weird. I had been so sure that she was the one, but I wasn't feeling it. Matt asked me which one I felt was "the one" and when I pointed to Ruby, he let out a sigh of relief since he was feeling the same way. We had both picked the same puppy, without speaking any words. The breeder told me that the puppy that we picked out is actually known as a "red boxer", because of her coloring. Matt looked at me and said: "See! I told you the name Red had come through to me".... I still wasn't on board with the name Red, but I did take it as some sort of sign that this was meant to be our puppy. We put down our deposit and left. I was a bit confused, since I felt pretty strongly that we made the right decision, but I had not seen a hawk; I had not gotten my sign from Lily. But as we were driving down the breeder's long driveway and were ready to turn onto the main road, Matt stopped the car. Right in front of us, on the fence and at our eye level, sat a red-tailed hawk staring at us. I burst into tears; there was the sign I had asked for and I was at peace.
As we were driving home, we continued discussing a name. Since Red had come through to Matt and I did take it as some sort of sign, we decided we needed to pick a name that had something to do with red. A ruby is red. A ruby also happens to be the July birthstone. Both Tahlia and Jazzie were born in July. Lily came to us and died with us in July.
It was pretty obvious that this puppy's name simply had to be Ruby <3
I have a lot more to tell about our newest addition. How we came up with her name, that we got a sign from Lily and how the girls reacted to Ruby. After Matt and I found her, we didn't tell them; we kept it a secret for a month. They just came home from school on Wednesday and there was the puppy :-)
But for now, here is Tahlia's reaction.
I turned 44 yesterday and what better way to celebrate then by running a half marathon?
Another 13.1 miles in the bag!
When I got ready for the race yesterday morning, there was a note from Tahlia. So sweet!
The night before we went out for my typical pre-marathon dinner: pizza and ice cream :-)
Card from the girls, which meant more than any other present...
I love how Jazzie added the "(if you can)" after she wrote about me helping them with their homework. It is a fact that I struggle to help them with math, which is completely Matt's department! Jazzie is taking highschool credit math classes, so as someone who has struggled with math all her life, I am pretty much useless there. Even Tahlia's fifth grade math is a struggle at times (hello common core!), but luckily I have Jazzie to help me explain it :-)
Later in the afternoon, Cera and John came over with the kids and had dinner with us, so I got to hug and cuddle my grandbabies on my birthday as well.
Such a welcome surprise...
All in all, a great birthday!
Can you believe it is October already? My favorite month!!! The leaves are starting to change in our neck of the woods and I am desperate for our typical fall activities like apple picking, going to the pumpkin farm, etc.
This past Saturday we went to a local farm to see their sunflower field which was in full bloom and since there were hayrides and a corn maze as well, we will officially call this our first fall event of the season. It was a bit warm still for my liking, but it was fun nonetheless.
Now that the weather is changing and the temperatures are definitely cooler in the mornings, Tahlia and I did some fall clothes shopping this past weekend. This girl loves to shop and she is always so excited to have a special mommy-daughter date at the mall. I admit that I enjoy it as much as she does :-)
After Lily died and was cremated, I was thinking about what I wanted to do with her ashes. In the end, we ordered a beautiful urn...
Isn't it beautiful? I love it so much. I ordered it from Hong Ceramics and I highly recommend them. Gerald and Kelly were wonderful to work with and I am so happy that we not only have a wonderful way to keep Lily's ashes, we also have a beautiful work of art to display.
When Matt was transferring the ashes to the urn, Jazzie got emotional. These were the first tears from her over Lily in a while. She is definitely doing much better and is actually able to look at Lily's picture and smile instead of cry.
I have been working on putting together a memory book with pictures of Lily and while working on that and checking dates, I realized that Lily died on the exact same date that we brough her home: July 27....
We continue to miss her terribly...
But it's October and that makes me SO happy!!!
Jazzie has been learning about ancient Greece in social studies and she LOVES it! Here is a video of her talking about Athens and Sparta. I'm posting it to show off her amazing speech :-) Yes, I am a very proud mom and at times her speech still blows me away, because Jazzie is deaf. She is deaf, people!
What is funny about this clip is that Jazzie mentiones at one point that she wouldn't want to be stuck inside the house all day. But as soon as she says it, she realizes how funny that statement is, because on the weekend all Jazzie wants to do is stay in her pajamas all day, read, play games or do crafts and never leave the house.
Enjoy this history lesson...
The last few weeks we have been finding our way into a new school routine. After a rough start, Jazzie is finally settled into the junior high swing of things. Yes, the workload is pretty hefty and we have to get up really early, but things are fine. We continue to struggle with Jazzie not being willing/able to be a better self advocate. Whenever there is an issue in class where Jazzie has a hard time hearing, she'd rather not say anything and struggle silently than speak up. She simply hates to draw attention to herself and the fact that she is deaf. She almost missed the schoolbus coming home yesterday, because she missed an announcement stating that the bus would be parked elsewhere. Self advocacy continues to be a work in progress...
For the past month, we've had the pleasure of having Alex around who was here taking care of some visa business. It was great for the girls to have their big brother around and we enjoyed spending some time with him, even though we just saw him in China ;-)
My fifth grader is reminding me at an almost daily basis that she is growing up to be a lovely young lady and that she possesses personality traits that I find so admirable. Just the other day I overheard an argument she was having with one of the girls in our neighborhood. This girl wanted to do something Tahlia did not want to do and she was screaming at Tahlia. Tahlia however, stayed completely calm, never yelled back, talked in a normal and rational voice and completely stood her ground. I was so proud of her for that. And of course, now the girls are the best of friends again ;-)
Having a husband who works out of the house has many advantages! For instance, it's nice to start out the day be going on a walk together. We'll often go and have lunch somewhere and the other day we went and saw a movie before the girls got back home!
I'm lucky to have him and I think I'll keep him ;-)
The first week of school is over and we are still trying to find our groove. In the past, getting back into a school routine has never been a big deal. The girls were both at the same school, so they got up at the same time, got on the schoolbus at the same time and got home on the same time. So getting back into the swing of things after summer was not that hard - we just picked up right where we left off.
However, now that Jazzie is in junior high, their schedules are different. I need to wake Jazzie up at 5:30 in order to get out the door by 6:20. That in itself has been hard. Add to that getting used to a new school and classes, and things have not been that easy for Jazzie. The homework is already quite significant. Jazzie is taking several honors classes and the work involved with those is NO joke! She is also taking Chinese as one of her electives and that is proving to be more difficult than she thought.
The verdict after the first week of school is that Jazzie is overtired and overwhelmed. I must admit that she has not had the best attitude about all of this, which makes it a lot harder on all of us. Last night she was a basketcase; complaining about school, complaining about homework, complaining about the bus, complaining about her backpack being heavy, etc. She was SO tired, so I sent her to bed before 8:30, but after only a couple of minutes she came back down to get her flashcards to study for her Chinese test. At this point she is beyond tired and is crying. When I went to check on her 10 minutes later, I found her asleep like this:
The tear in the corner of her eye is killing me...
Sigh... . On the one hand I wish she wouldn't complain so much and spend that time in a more productive way instead (like studying!). On the other hand I KNOW that she is feeling overwhelmed. Part of me fears that this is going to be a hard year, but the other part is telling me she just needs some more time to get in her groove and she'll be fine. She definitely needs to manage her time more wisely and while I feel a need to constantly remind her and help her, she's in junior high now and she simply needs to be more responsible. She's 12 and in junior high, but when I saw her in bed like this, she just looked like a baby to me.
This is hard.
I wrote about Tahlia's orphanage visit here while we were in China, but I tought I'd add some more details and pictures in this post. Tahlia's orphanage was the first orphanage we visited (we visited Jazzie's just a couple of days later). I highly recommend visiting the orphanages early on in the trip. Our girls were excited for the visits, but also a bit nervous. I think waiting to visit the orphanages later in our trip would have been difficult, since the suspense and the anticipation would have been looming over their heads the entire time. This way we got those two major visits out of the way and we had the rest of the trip to enjoy other things.
We were very fortunate that Winnie's dad also came along for the trip to Tahlia's orphanage. He acted as driver and it was nice to make the drive to Yangchun SWI as a family. The drive was quite long (we had some traffic issues) and we didn't arrive at the East Lake Hotel in Yangchun until evening. The nice thing was that the hotel is very close to the orphanage (maybe 15 minutes at the most), so we had a very short drive the following morning.
When I checked out the view from our hotel room I got a bit emotional, because reality hit that I was taking my first look at the area where Tahlia was born...
The area is actually quite beautiful. This was the view from the front entrance of our hotel:
Before we headed to Yangchun SWI (on the 4th of July), we took some pictures by the lake in front of the hotel...
I was surprised that it only took a very short amount of time to get to the SWI. We barely even had time to settle in the van before we caught our first glimpse of Yangchun SWI. So strange to see something in person that I've only ever seen in pictures...
You should know that we traveled to Yangchun SWI without a guide. When I was planning our trip, I was so confused as to whether or not we were required to have one. Different people had different opinions. In the end, we used a service who took care of our re-visit certificate (a certificate of permission to visit the SWI). They sent it to the orphanage ahead of time and we were told we could go without a provincial guide. We obviously did not need one since we had Winnie and her dad with us who acted as guide/driver/translator. However, if you ever need an agency to arrange a revisit to your child's orphanage, I highly recommend China Women Travel Service. Looking back, I think that we probably could have visited without paying for a re-visit certificate. It definitely helps to have someone who knows the language that can call the orphanage ahead of time to set up a date and time for a visit. I suppose it also depends on how willing the director is to work with families directly instead of dealing with government and provincial officials.
After arriving at Yangchun, we parked the van in front of the building and went to the office of the director, Miss Yu. Miss Yu has been the director at Yanghchun for many years and was there when Tahlia lived there. In fact, she was the one who handed Tahlia to me almost exactly nine years prior. She welcomed us very warmly and seemed genuinely happy to see all of us. We were given tea and we all sat around the table. Miss Yu gave us some general information and we were able to ask lots of questions through Winnie. We were handed Tahlia's file and I asked if I was allowed to take pictures of it, to which she responded that I could.
Matt, Miss Yu and Winnie's dad (looking at Tahlia's file):
Miss Yu took one look at Tahlia and said that she had no doubt that she was a Yangchun girl, because of the way she looks ("short, stalky and cheeky"). Then she added jokingly: "Kind of like me" ;-)
Tahlia sat next to me on the couch and together we flipped through her file, with Winnie translating for us.
As I was flipping through the file, I realized that we had copies off all of these papers at home. But then I turned the page and when I saw this my heart stopped for a moment:
This was new to me. I'd never seen Tahlia's footprint before until that day and I was so excited to discover something new from her past. On the following page was this tiny picture of Tahlia; another item I had not seen before:
Tahlia asked: "Who is that baby?" I told her that it was her, and it was at that moment that she started to cry. I think she was overwhelmed by being at the orphanage, seeing her file, and seeing the picture was just too much. She said: "This makes me very sad, mom"...
I took Tahlia into the bathroom so she could compose herself. Matt told me later that director Yu was actually happy to see the emotion in Tahlia because it means she is not afraid to show it. After that, Tahlia was fine and we finished looking over her file.
Before we took a tour of the building, Miss Yu gave Tahlia a gift.
We were given pretty much free access to the building. I have read other blogs and talked with other families who traveled before us and they told me that certain parts of the building were off-limits to them. We were able to go whereever we pleased. I am not sure why we were given a bit more freedom than some other families in the past. Maybe it was because of the fact that we traveled without a guide and there were no worries about a guide reporting any rules that were broken.
Next to Yanghchun SWI stands the House of Grace. This is the old building where the orphanage was housed before they moved to the newer, larger building they are in today. I don't believe that Tahlia ever stayed here, and if she did it was only for a very short time. The House Of Grace is run by a lovely couple and they operate on donations only, instead of government money. There was a baby there who I knew was going home to her American family a few weeks later and I had been in contact with her mom. I told the mom that I would check on her and take some pictures. So when we entered the House Of Grace, I made a beeline for that particular baby to see her, hold her and take some pictures. It was at that moment when another little girl named Maria came running over, put her arms up and wanted me to hold her. She was about 4 years old and when I picked her up she immediately put her head on my shoulder and held on to me tight. I was overcome with emotion, because I could tell that she was just so desperate to be loved... Tahlia and Winnie took an opportunity to show her some love as well.
Jazzie and Tahlia played with the other babies, took selfies with them and handed out hair clips. It was so nice to see both Jazzie and Tahlia interact with the kids and see them have a good time with them.
When we stepped back outside, we saw a young boy staring at us. He did not talk; he would not answer Winnie, her dad, nor Alex when they tried to speak with him. He seemed very interested in us, but he was also very timid.
Upon returning home I learned that this boy is a bit of a sad case. He used to live in the orphanage, but was labeled as "non-manageable". He no longer lives in the orphanage, but with the elderly people that live on the property as well. He is not available for adoption.
Since he seemed to be fascinated with us, I suggested to Jazzie that she give him a lollipop. At first he had no idea what to do with it, so Jazzie showed him how to take the wrapper off and eat it. It was really quite sweet...
After we felt that we had spent enough time on the orphanage grounds, Miss Yu took us out to lunch. It was a wonderful experience with good food. Tahlia wanted to sit next to Miss Yu and it was so sweet to see her be so happy to sit next to someone that is the only link to her past.
Yes, that is a dog sitting between Tahlia and Miss Yu! The dog belongs to Miss Yu and she takes her everywhere!
After lunch we were able to go to Tahlia's finding spot and put up posters. The posters contained the date that Tahlia was found, a brief line stating that she is happy and healthy and an email address asking to contact us with any information regarding the birth family. We stressed that we were not looking to gain anything, aside from sharing information. To date, we have not heard anything. I wasn't expecting to, but wanted to be able to look back and say to the girls that we at least tried to find their birthparents.
I am so glad that we were able to give this experience to Tahlia and to do it together as a family. Part of it was emotional for her and not all of her questions were answered, but I do believe it gave her a bit of peace. Seeing with her own eyes where she lived, seeing people that looked like her and meeting Miss Yu who was nothing but warm, kind and loving towards her was just what she needed.
We spent the first part of our trip in Winnie's hometown of Siu Lam, which is not far from Guangzhou. We stayed in Winnie's family's home and hung out with her parents, brother, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Winnie's family was extremely welcoming, kind and hospitable and we really enjoyed spending time with them. We saw quite a bit of her hometown and our favorite way to do that was by rickshaw :-)
I love Winnie's protective "arm-seatbelt"!
Along with riding around town in a rickshaw, we visited a temple...
Cooling off by the only fan in the temple ;-)
Winnie's aunt treated us to a massage which was very much appreciated!! I have never had the kind of massage I received that day. Matt, Winnie, Winnie's brother, her cousins, her aunt and I were in a private room where we served tea and fruit. They massaged our feet, our lower legs, neck, upper back, shoulders and face. It was extremely relaxing and towards the end I was almost asleep.
Alex stayed behind at the house so that the girls could swim.
From what I understand, Winnie's parents filled up their pool just so that we could use it and Tahlia in particular really appreciated that! She spent a lot of time in there perfecting her flip with Matt.
Our time here in Winnie's hometown was the most relaxation we had during our trip. As I mentioned in my previous post, things got very busy after we moved on, but we really enjoyed our stay here!
Coming up... Tahlia's orphanage visit.
A few people have asked me to write a bit more in detail about our China trip. I actually think it is a good idea since I have had some time to think about it and process it. I will break up my thoughts in several blog posts. The question that I have been getting the most is: "Do you have any advice for other families?" or "Is there anything you would do differently?"
The one thing that I would differently is to have more restdays in between our busy days. We only had 17 days to work with and of course we wanted to do and see as much as possible. It is hard to imagine what a big country China is. To get from one place to the next is no small feat. Aside from a couple of days rest and relaxation in Winnie's home town, we had no breaks. We were either on our way to our next destination or doing something in the city that we were visiting. We spent many hours in the car, train or on the plane. And if we weren't traveling, we were walking around the city that we were in.
All of this, along with the effects of jetlag, made for some very tired people and kids falling asleep in cars, at dinner and all kinds of random moments.
Towards the end of our trip the girls were asking if we could please have a restday, but we had no time.
Another inter-China travel day:
Pretty scenery from the train:
So yes, we were constantly on the go, we stayed up late, it was very hot, we never stopped and it was exhausting. I have no regrets though, because we wanted to make the most of the time that we had and experience all we could in the short amount of time that we had. We did just that.
But... if we ever did this again, I would make sure we have some extra days where there is nothing on the schedule. Some days where we can sleep in, walk around at our leisure, take a nap and just relax. Our trip was worth all the exhaustion, though. I am forever grateful for the memories that we were able to make with our girls in their home country.
The girls are back in school and I am hoping to go back to regular blogging again!
Tahlia is now in fifth grade and Jazzie is in seventh. This is the first year that the girls are not in the same school building. Jazzie moved on to the junior high (!!) and her school starts an hour before Tahlia's. Jazzie now needs to get up at 5:30 in order to catch the schoolbus by 6:30. So early! It's very strange to not walk both girls down to the busstop. Add to that the fact that Lily is not with us anymore and the walk feels very different...
Our fifth grader:
And our seventh grader:
This is our third day back, and we are slowly trying to work our way back into a school routine.
Here's to a great year, girls!!!
May 26, 2002 - July 27, 2014
We had to say goodbye to Lily yesterday. On Saturday Lily started acting kind of funny during our daily walk. She seemed disoriented and overly out of breath. The next day she was having problems urinating. She kept squatting down, but nothing came out and it seemed like she was in pain. I thought that she might have a urinary tract infection, so Matt took her to the emergency vet. Once there he was told that she in fact had a large tumor on her bladder that was preventing her from being able to urinate. Between the fact that she was 12 years old and the fact that scans, surgery and chemo were going to be in her future to prolong her life for just a short amount of time, we had to make the decision to put her down right then and there. Matt called me with the news and the girls and I drove over so we could say goodbye to Lily and be with her during her last moments.
The vet brought out a soft blanket for her to lay on and we had a few moments with her before the shot was given. I took out my cell phone and snapped some pictures. It may sound weird that I wanted pictures of her final moments, but I am so glad that I have them... We petted her, talked to her, hugged her and cried while I felt her heart stop beating :-(
And then it was over...
I cannot tell you the sadness and emptiness we are feeling right now. To see my girls be so heartbroken is the hardest to deal with. It's Jazzie's birthday today and she does not even feel like celebrating it.
Lily - you were the best dog a family could wish for. Full of love for all of us. We will miss your kisses, you laying near us, our walks in the woods, your sweet loyal eyes, your everything. Thank you for being a loyal and loving family member for 12 years. We loved you and we know you loved us.
Run free, sweet LouLou...
Our girl turned 10 today!! She thought it was pretty special that her 10th birthday was here in China.
We stayed up until midnight so that we could sing Happy Birthday - party in the hotel room :-)
We went out to dinner with Winnie's family, since Winnie's mom's birthday is the day after Tahlia's. Here they are blowing out their combined birthday candle ;-)
After dinner, the girls enjoyed a swim on the 77th floor of our hotel. Very cool!
Being in Hong Kong - not a bad place to celebrate ones birthday!!!!
After our visit to the Terracotta Warriors, we had a great night out in Xi'An. Xi'An is quite beautiful and given the fact that it is so hot during the day, the city really comes alive at night (don't get me wrong though, it is ALWAYS crowded here!).
Winnie and the girls in front of our hotel before heading out for dinner.
Matt and Alex waiting for dinner to arrive.
Wherever we go to eat, Winnie always tries to order something off the menu that is local to the area that we visiting. Don't you love how the waitress is pouring our tea?
Alex pouring beer in cool little bowls.
Nice ceiling in the restaurant:
I got bubble tea for dessert. I just love that stuff!!
We made our way to the city square to see the locals sell their items on the street (I like how you can cross a busy intersection underground instead of fighting traffic...
There are a lot of old, pretty buildings in Xi'An that light up at night. It's gorgeous!
On our way back to the hotel we walked through a night market, lined with various restaurants and stalls. It was almost midnight and it was still so crowded!
Another long, busy day in China!
We visited the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'An today. What an amazing historical site...
The farmer who orginally discovered the statues in 1974 is here this week signing autographs.
To listen to how they were discovered, why they were originally made and to see how many there are is amazing. And to think there are even more!! They are confident that there are more warriors that have yet to be discovered and they continue looking for them in the surrounding area's. My mind is officially blown.
Today we made our way from Changsha, Hunan to Xi'An, Shaanxi. We took another train and we are quite the spectacle here! People stare at us and are constantly talking to the girls (in Chinese of course and when Winnie tells them they don't speak Chinese, we often get a disapproving look from the locals). I was waiting with our luggage and at one point a couple came running over, frantically talking to me in Chinese. The womon stood next to me and forced me to put my arm around her and just like that her husband took a picture of us. Hilarious!
The man in this picture apparently wanted to know how our family fits together. I was quite impressed with Alex who was able to explain to him (with his limited Mandarin) how we are all related.
Tahlia has been so sweet with the kids around here. She is always smiling at them, waving at them, asking them for hugs and taking selfies with them :-)
Once on the train we settled in for the five hour long ride. In typical fashion, Tahlia put on her mask and her earbuds and was out for about two hours.
Jazzie and I played some games:
The rest of us napped and played a various electronic devices.
This little girl sat in front of me and kept staring at me; she was so cute!
And now we are checked in at our hotel in Xi'An. I'm off to bed since I'm so tired and another busy day is waiting for us tomorrow. Goodnight!!
Today was the day that Jazzie had been waiting for. After being picked up at our hotel by our local guide and driver, we took a two hour drive to Youxian SWI...
Dirt road leading up to the SWI:
Director Ding and his vice-president were waiting for us and welcomed us warmly. The vice-director immediately took Jazzie's hand started to lead us into the office where we were served tea and fruit.
It was surreal to see my first real glimpse of the place where our daughter spent the first 10 months of her life. A place I had only seen in pictures before...
I had to smile when I noticed a picture of Holland on Director Ding's office door...
Once in the office, we were given Jazzie's file to look over and they showed as a scrapbook that another family brought several years ago when they visited. The thing is that I had completely forgotten putting together a page until I came across it ;-)
After speaking with the director for a while, we were given a tour of the building. The orphanage houses only five children now!! There is only one room with babies left. We passed several others room with empty cribs just piled on top of each other or lined up in a row.
The one question Jazzie had was if there were still people that worked at the SWI who were there when she lived there. Turns out that there were two nannies still!! They both remembered Jazzie when we showed them a baby picture.
Jazzie and her caregiver:
We immediately recognized this nanny, beause she was the one who carried Jazzie into the hotel and had her on her lap while we were waiting to receive the babies... We were amazed that she was still there.
Looking a bit pensive...
A few pictures in front of Youxian SWI:
Then the director and vice-director took us to a local restaurant for lunch:
After lunch we went to look at Jazzie's finding spot, but were surprised to find out that we stopped at a local jewelry store first so that the director could buy the girls a necklace with their Chinese zodiac charm. Such a sweet and lovely gesture!
With the vice-director...
Tahlia was treated just as warm and kindly as Jazzie was.
Next and final stop: Jazzie's finding spot.
We put up a poster...
And it wasn't long before we had people coming to check it out ;-)
Getting hugs goodbye:
So, so grateful we got to do this as a family...
Tomorrow we leave Hunan and will make our way to Xi'An where we will see the Terracotta Warriors.
Canton Tower - it changes colors and looks so cool! (Picture taken with my phone from a moving car, so not the best quality)
View from apartment:
Our last morning in Guangdong we went to the Four Seasons Hotel for breakfast on the 79th floor. Very cool!
Our ears popped riding up to the top.
Down in the lobby we took some time to check out the amazing atrium...
Atrium from the top:
After breakfast we headed down to catch the speed train that would take us to Changsha, Hunan.
Someone's tired and trailing behind!
Speeds of 300+ miles per hour...
As long as this girl has her mask, she can sleep!
Pretty scenery from the train:
After checking into our hotel, we ventured out for dinner...
We went to bed tired and ready for Jazzie's orphanage visit the next morning!
Currently it is Monday evening, July 8 and we are in Changsha!! We left Guangzhou this morning and took the speed train to get here. It took about three hours and it was not bad at all. We are all checked in at the Longhua International Hotel and if you are going to be traveling to Changsha any time soon, I highly recommend this hotel.
We had a great time in Guangdong and we are so grateful to Winnie's parents for opening up their homes to us. It was wonderful to take Tahlia back to where she came from and I really believe she left her province with a sense of peace. It was especially wonderful to experience her seeing herself in other people on the streets. Every time she saw a person that looked like her, so pointed it out and several times she went up to a little gitl, just because she thought that they looked like her :-)
We spent yesterday morning on Shamian Island. We stayed there during our adoption trips and even though a lot has changed since we were there, it was still nice to walk around the island and see all the familiar sights.
The medical exam is where we offcially found out that Jazzie was deaf (even though we already knew it in our hearts, but kept it quiet in fear of us not being able to keep Jazzie). We were asked three times if we wanted a different baby and the entire experience was so emotional for me that I blocked a lot of it out. I just remember crying and crying because I was SO afraid that we were not going to be able to keep Jazzie because we were not approved for a special needs child. Thank goodness our wonderful agency worked overnight to get our paperwork in order and we were able to take Jazzie home. A special shout-out to our travelmates who consoled and supported us during that time. It was almost surreal to have Jazzie stand in front of the building 11 years later.
The White Swan Hotel was closed for remodeling so we could not get in :-(
One more swim in the pool at Winnie's family's apartment building. I'm on the 29th floor and Matt and Tahlia are down there swimming!
Finally an update!! I am having a hard time posting pictures due to very slow internet. On 4th of July we visited Yangchun SWI. It was an emotional day for all of us, but I am so glad we got to this for Tahlia. We will visit Jazzie's orphanage on the 9th, but for now here are some pictures of our Yangchun visit.
Picture taken before we got into the car to head to the SWI, right across the street from our hotel.
Matt and Alex talking to director Yu:
The director handed us Tahlia's file and we were able to look over everything and take pictures of it.
We even got to see am early picture of Tahlia that we had never seen before. It was at this point tht Tahlia started to cry. She was just so sad and I can't even imagine what was going through her little head.
Tahlia and her official Yangchun file:
Tahia received a gift from director Yu. Winnie's dad is holding it up for her. He came along and served as our driver. So cool...
This little baby is going home to her American parents in a few weeks. I got to snuggle her and whisper that her mommy and daddy were coming soon. I also got to send a few pictures to her mom :-)
The girls had a good time playing with some of the other children. We brought beach balls and hair clips for them....
Winnie enjoyed some cuddles as well:
This little girl was fascinated by the girls iTouches and really enjoyed taking some selfies with Jazzie and Tahlia:
Alex talking to a boy who kept following us around...
Jazzie gave him a lollipop and he had no idea what to do with it. She showed him how to eat it and it was just so sweet.
Tahlia in her old room:
Tahlia really enjoyed seeing director Yu. Tahlia made a point of sitting next to her at lunch and gave her several hugs. She definitely felt a connection and I think it must be because director Yu is the only direct link to her past. Miss Yu told us that she defintely feels that Tahlia has the Yangchun look ("short and cheeky") and has no doubt she is from the area.
Putting up a poster at her finding spot:
I am SO glad we were able to do this. Even though it was emotional and hard to see the kids that are still there, in the end it was a very positive experience for all of us.
Hey everyone! Did you miss me? :-)
I just wanted to let everyone know that we will be traveling to China in three weeks. We are very excited to visit the girls' SWI's, but it has also come with some nerves and fears on their part. I am sure this trip will bring up emotional issues, but I am confident that in the end, this will be a great and amazing trip for our family. Alex and Winnie will be joining us and I plan on blogging from China.
I've decided to close the Jazzie and Tahlia Blog.
I've been struggling for a long time with which direction to take this blog in. I might start another blog about cooking or running with possibly some motherhood experiences mixed in, but right now I'm just not sure. What I do know is that my girls are getting older and Jazzie has expressed that she does not want certain things or pictures posted on the blog. I have to resepct that.
With that said, I have 7 years worth of blog posts that I'd like to preserve somehow. I would appreciate any suggestions on how to do that. The blog will stay open for another week or so, but after that I'm done. Thanks to all who have read and commented over the years. It's been fun!
Happy Birthday, Jazzie Jay. You are one amazing girl and I love you SO much!
All Jazzie had asked for was this particular electric pencil sharpener. It's quite fancy (for as far as pencil sharpeners go) and Jazzie was THRILLED when she opened it :-)
A 1,000 facts of the human body. Perfect for my curious and eager to learn child :-)
It's so nice to have a pool in our neighborhood! There are times when it seems like the entire neighborhood is there (especially on the weekends), but there are also times when nobody is there (like right around dinner time). Last night I took the girls down after dinner and nobody was there; we had the pool to ourselves!
I can not get this girl out of the pool!
Hard to believe that our baby (who is not a baby anymore by any means) turned 9 yesterday.
Happy Birthday, Talley Tay!
Busting through her streamers to go and open her presents...
Our girly girl got lots of girly things: hair chalk, nail art, earrings, a hairbrush and a Target gift card - her true wish ;-)
Tahlia wanted to make a rainbow cake, so of course we did!
While we were spending the day at Sea World we got news that Matt's 98 year old grandmother was in the hospital and that she wasn't doing well. We were told she only had a couple of days left to live. At the end of the day we called her hospital room from the Sea World parking lot, and while her daughter held the phone to Grandma's ear, we were able to tell her how much we loved her. We heard her say that she loved us and she told us goodbye. There were lots of tears in the car that evening :-(
Matt and I talked and we decided that we would cut our vacation short and drive back home in the hopes of seeing grandma one more time. The weather had been bad all week anyway and we were pretty much done. We packed up our stuff after our day at Discovery Cove and started driving home. We left at 7 PM and drove all night. When we were two hours from home we got the word that grandma had passed away...
The girls are so lucky to have known their great grandmother. She lived a full life, had 5 children, 15 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren and 10 great-great grandchildren. Grandma was a spunky lady with a big sense of humor. She was a little firecracker and it seems somehow fitting that she passed away on the Fourth of July.
The thing we had been looking forward to the most on our trip was a visit to Discovery Cove to swim with te dolphins. It was a nice sunny morning, so we finally got to swim! The afternoon brought some more thunderstorms, but we got to have our dolphin encounter, which is why we came!
Feeding the birds in the aviary...
We went to Sea World and met up with my friend Debby and her girls. Debby's oldest daughter has a cochlear implant and all four girls get along so well. It was great to meet up with them and spend the day together.
Feeding the stingrays...
Inside the penguin exhibit. It was so cold inside!!!
Waiting for the Shamu Show...
Time for some rides!
The girls made Debby and I go on this water ride ;-)
A great day with friends!!!
Once again, the weather wasn't too good. We ecountered a LOT of rain on this trip to Florida. It wasn't one of those typical Florida storms where it rains for 45 minutes or so and then the sun is back out. No; it was just rain, rain and rain with a few breaks in between. I think we picked the worst time to go to Florida! Harry Potter World also wasn't on the original agenda. We had planned to go to Aquatica, but the weather just wouldn't allow it. So since Jazzie is so into Harry Potter, we went to Universal Studio's instead.
Matt and the girls rode the watercoaster several times!
We hadn't initially planned on visiting Epcot, but since the weather was rather rainy we decided to go. There are so many indoor things you can do there, so the weather really doesn't matter. I am SO glad we went. I think it is my favorite of all the Disney parks. We rode "Soarin" (my very favorite ride in all of Disney World) several times. We saw more characters, walked around the World Showcase and rode more rides.
The first day of our trip we visited the Magic Kingdom. We were there three years ago and the girls were REALLY into the princesses then. They still enjoyed seeing the princesses, but this time around they enjoyed the rides much more. They were introduced to Space Mountain and loved it. We rode it multiple times! At one point Jazzie said: "Mom, now I know all the secrets about Disney World, and I am enjoying it in a different way". Good observation from my girl!
Merida was new, so the girls were excited to meet her. Tahlia even learned how to shoot a bow and arrow :-)
You cannot visit the Magic Kingdom and NOT ride the teacups!
We stayed at the Magic Kingdom for the entire day. We saw the light up parade and the light and fireworks show at the castle, which is always great. The light show on the castle is relatively new and it was absolutely amazing!
Waiting for the parade: