Sunday, May 31, 2009

Leila Has a New Team

When I was at Debbie's photography workshop in Michigan two weeks ago, I missed Leila's four soccer tournament games. I failed to share with you that her team won first place for the second season. Woo hoo!! I know I wasn't thrilled with Leila playing on two teams this spring (and our lives revolving around soccer 5-6 days/week!), but the additional coaching really paid off. Leila really enjoys soccer, but got a late start compared to most of her peers. While they were playing soccer, she was into gymnastics. We saw a huge improvement in her soccer skills the past two months... just in time for tryouts last week. I'm thrilled to say she made a great U9 team for the fall. (The one we were hoping for!) This afternoon she had uniform tryouts for her new team. (Her new uniform colors are black and white. I will miss her pretty blue and yellow ones. :( Do you hear my husband cringing in the background? LOL) After we placed the order for all her new gear, we headed to watch the girls' U16 team play.

I used Matt Kloskowski's Surreal Edgy Lightroom preset on all of these. You may notice I added a watermark - the first two letters in each of the girls' names. We talked quite a bit at Debbie's workshop about watermarking. It's not that I think my photos are that great, but I don't want them to be used elsewhere without my knowledge since I just started posting publicly on Flickr. I've had one photo of mine "stolen" (that I know of) and I don't want it to happen again - especially when most of them are pictures of my girls.

Lovely Mia

I love how the bleachers created a sunbeam effect in Mia's eyes.


Fortunately, soccer is the ONE competitive sport that I really love to watch. I didn't know that until Leila started to play, but I really get into this game. Leila, Nolan and I really enjoy watching soccer. Unfortunately, Mia still climbs up and down the bleachers. But, she was pretty funny to photograph all over the place.

In the Action

Sliding the Rails

Soccer Time Out

Best buds... better make room for a third!!!

Best Buds

The Glare

Leila and Mia found a new friend on our way out of the game.
Leila, Mia & the Dog
Have a great week!! I hope I'm posting soon with a TA!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Photos of Da Xin!!!!!!!

I really had the feeling we would receive our TA this week, but nothing yet. However, we did receive a wonderful gift in the mail today. Praise the Lord!!!!!!

We received Da Xin's original letter (as translated two posts below) and four new photos of our BEAUTIFUL girl!!! Due to our agency restrictions, I am not allowed to post any photos of Da Xin on a public blog, so I have posted the new photos on my private blog. If I "know" you and you do not have access, please leave me your email address and I'll send you an invite. All of the pictures that we have received thus far are posted there.

One of the new photos was taken with her foster family. What a blessing it is to receive this. We would LOVE to meet them, but do not know if that will be possible for us. We have hinted to this in all of our letters to Da Xin, but have been told the orphanage will not arrange this for us. We shall wait and see... I am going to frame this picture of her with her foster family and put it in her room this weekend. We are so thankful for these wonderful people who have taken Da Xin in and treated her as one of their family for more than 4 1/2 years.. It is so obvious that she has been well-loved and cared for. And when she said they dressed her well, she wasn't exaggerating. She has been extremely well dressed in every photo.

Da Xin looks so very happy and healthy in every photo. Again, thank you, God!! We even received a photo of her in a ballerina-type costume performing at what appears to be a dance recital. Oh, what a wonderful gift. Now, if only we could get that TA so we could go over and get our girl!!!!! We just can't wait to be with her. But it does give me such peace to know that she is in such great hands until we can be together.

Here is a copy of the second letter she wrote to us. I still stand in awe of her beautiful penmanship! This just looks so difficult to me... and impressive.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Keep the Wimps Away from the Water

And in this case, the self-admitted "wimp" would be me.

Today, I went on Leila's first grade field trip to a nature camp and ecological center. Let me preface this by saying that I have great admiration for people who are at one with nature, but I am not one of those people. Even as a kid, I preferred to be indoors... far away from insects and creepy crawlies. It's always good for me to step outside my comfort zone. At least that's what I kept telling myself today...

This was my first shot of the day - Leila holding hands with her gal pal, Claire. How cute. (BTW, I didn't use my big camera today for reasons which you will soon see.)

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Leila and Claire have been begging for a play date for months. I have a strict policy: If we don't know the parents... no play date. I met Claire's mom today and she and I formed an instant connection as two of the wimpiest moms there. I loved her!! LOL. The girls were thrilled to find that there will be play dates in the future. Claire was adopted from China, so I think the girls feel they have a special connection, too.

Part I: Digging in the Creek

"Are you ready for this muck, Mom, because you're going IN!!"
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Yep, there was no P*hotoshopping of this yucky water. And I'm standing right in the middle of it!
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It was at this point that I thought these boots were my best investment EVER!
That is, until I stepped a little too deep and the water started flooding in my boots. I am so not a pro at this!
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This was the point in the day which I am least proud of. I tried to be big and brave... I mean I was in the water already... and I start pointing out the big crayfish that were swimming around my ankles. I asked the girls to see if they could try to catch one. "Why don't you pick it up, Leila's Mommy?", one of the girls asked. "Who me? YUUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKK!!! NO!!!!!!" At this point, Leila and Claire jet out of the water and the other three in my group started backing up in fear. Oh no, how do I retract this statement? So, like a very bad actress, I started trying to cover my mistake with some serious over-acting that they weren't scary at all. The girls slowly came back in the water and all was good, but I was reminded of a very important lesson... never show your fears in front of a group of children.

Can a chaperone get fired? :)

BTW, here are a few of the little dudes swimming around my feet. Do YOU want to pick them up?
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Part 2: Learning about Wildlife

This was my favorite part. The instructor was great and I learned as much (if not more) than the kids.

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Part 3: The Nature Hike

At this point, the clouds broke and it rained during the entire nature hike. Oh well, I'm ok with getting rained on. It was below my knees that was soaked that I was worried about.

Leila held a tiny baby frog.

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And I do mean a TINY frog...

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I think I scored bonus points with Claire's mom when I whipped out the W*et-Wipes for the girls after our little frog excursion. LOL

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it's back to school we go...

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It wouldn't have been my pick of places to go, but it was great for the kids and anytime I get to spend some time with Leila and her friends is a really good day. Even with muck in my boots, I enjoyed our little field trip. I just won't be signing up to chaperone any camping trips anytime soon. ;)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Letter from Da Xin!!

We received a wonderful surprise in our inbox today!! No, not a TA... yet... but a long-awaited second letter from Da Xin. We're still waiting for the pictures that came with it. Our agency dropped them in the mail today. I am guessing they are hand-drawn pictures and not photos of her, but I'll just have to wait and see. That will be another nice surprise arriving later this week. (Hopefully with a TA!)

Through the letter, we are finally able to learn a little bit more about her foster family. The economy sounds pretty similar to local headlines. In the letter, Da Xin refers to herself as 11. I sure hope not!! I hope she was just rounding up to the 7 days until her birthday. If she was 11 on May 9, then we have some serious issues with her paperwork. I've already started rounding up, so I'll just assume she was, too. The letter also confirms something we already assumed through the referral information - she isn't taking any English in school, although I did find it quite interesting that one of her courses is "moral character."

She sounds like such a sweetheart. I am starting to pack and get ready for traveling. I went out tonight and purchased a few more clothes for Da Xin. Leila has informed me that she wants them to wear matching clothes. lol. I sure hope Da Xin does, too!

Here's the letter, translated as we received it:

Dear Papa, Mama and other family,

How are you? It was very nice to receive your letter, and it makes me miss you more. How’s your health? I miss you…

My Chinese Papa is a gym teacher in my school. My Mama is a laid off factory worker. My older brother is 22 yrs old, and he is majoring in architect. He just graduated and hasn’t found a job yet.

I am 11 yrs old, and I am a fourth grade student. I learn eight subjects in the school, Chinese, Math, music, art, physical education, moral character, computer and science. My hobbies are riding bicycle, roller skating, drawing, singing, dancing and playing badminton. I also enclosed couple of pictures, hope you like it. Seen the picture feels like seen me.

Okay, I will stop here today. Wish you good healthy and be happy.


Da Xin

Monday, May 25, 2009

Our Memorial Day Weekend

"Almost Heaven West Virginia" was plastered all over everything when Nolan and I lived there during our first five years of marriage. To the girls, this marketing slogan is spot on. We spent the last four days in Wild & Wonderful WV (yet another tourism slogan) to visit Nolan's Mom and Dad and the rest of his family, and the girls just love it. They played croquet, went swimming, jumped on the neighbor's trampoline, had a picnic, cracked more hickory nuts than one could count, went for walks in open fields, stayed up late and so much more. Nolan's brother and sister-in-law were in from San Diego, so they got to spend time with their Aunt Karen and Uncle Andrew, too. It is a much more relaxed atmosphere than when we're at home. No work, school, soccer, gymnastics or appointments to get to. Ah yes, almost heaven...

Leila holds the neighbor's hedgehog. She loved it. Mia... not so much, as you can see by the look on her face. :)
Visiting family... including great-grandma, Belle. It is on this visit that I learned we have been seriously depriving the girls of a porch swing. Who knew?


Finally... freedom for my energetic Mia.20090523_57-2

Leila standing in the field above her great-grandmother, Sada's, house. You can see her church in the background.



Beautiful flowers, thanks to Uncle Eddie's green thumb.


Poor Mia pouting because she can't hang with Leila and the older neighbor girls.


Don't worry... the pouting never lasts for long.


Mia and her uncle Andrew on the neighbor's trampoline.


(Shout out to neighbors Becky and Lauren for the hedgehog, trampoline, watermelon, etc. etc.)

I hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Iris

What a week!! It is tough when I have multiple days of meetings that go into the evening. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often with my job, but it does happen occassionally. I am so thankful for my mom who takes such great care of the girls when Nolan and I have to be at the same meetings and dinners. (Thanks, Mom!! We love you!!)

I was looking forward to capturing Leila outside tonight standing in the iris that have bloomed in the front of our house. Unfortunately, they don't last long, so I need to catch them when I can. Of course, I think the real beauty here is Leila. The iris just make a nice setting.

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(I need lots more practice with backlit photos.)

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It may be a few days before I can post again, so I hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Weekend & Adoption Update

What a fantastic weekend!! Debbie was an AMAZING instructor and our group of ladies was so much fun... and talented!!! On top of that, Ian and LiLi were quite the adorable and professional models. Oh, they were so cute!! (Ahem, I mean handsome, Ian.)

I have a super busy work week this week, from morning until night, so I won't be able to pop around Blogland until late this week, but I did want to post a few pics from the weekend and share some great news. On Friday, we got an email from our agency that Da Xin's visa application went through, so we are 2-3 weeks away from TA, meaning 4-6 weeks away from travel. Four - 6 weeks!!! (Assuming there are no delays due to the H1N1 virus.) Have you ever felt so excited and so very nervous at the exact same time? Well, that's how I am feeling. I can't wait to meet our girl... to hold her in my arms... to just be with her. Yet, at the same time, I have major butterflies. She's turning 11 in 15 days. I'm about to become a mother of an 11-year old!! Yet, I know...

"I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13




Click on any of the photos to go to my Flickr photostream, or click on the slideshow below if you want to see more pics from the weekend. (Click on the four arrows in the corner to enlarge.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Little Flower Girl & Fun Weekend Plans

Mia and I planted flowers Monday night while Leila was at soccer practice and she was such a good little helper. She wore her little D*ora gloves and helped hand all my flowers to me and break up the soil with her little shovel. She could water plants all day long if I let her. She was cracking me up because she leaned over to smell the flowers and her nose kept getting deeper and deeper into the pot, almost into the dirt. Of course, I had to run and grab my camera. She just keeps me laughing all day long. She is such a riot. I am amazed at how, at age 3, she has this impeccable comedic timing. (At least in these Mama's eyes.) If she grows up and does stand-up, it would not surprise me one bit. lol




I planted lots of these. I have high hopes to have fresh flowers in my kitchen all summer long. (I have those same high hopes every year and it never happens.)




Oh, how I love this girl!!

I'm headed up north tomorrow for Debbie's photography workshop in Ann Arbor. I am SO excited to meet Debbie, Steffie, Gail and Colleen, and it looks like there will be many other great ladies as well. Plus, a whole weekend of photography - oh my word!! Unfortunately, I signed up before we got Leila's soccer schedule and I will be missing four tournament games. :( Her team placed first in the last tournament, so I'm really sorry to miss her play. She has really made great improvements this spring and I know I'm going to miss some of her "sick" moves, as her coach calls them. I told Nolan he needs to text me with the play-by-play and video tape as much as he can, but I know there will be plenty more tournaments in my future that I'll be sure not to miss.

I'm also excited that I got a new toy to try out this weekend. I stopped by the camera store during my little shopping spree last weekend and the Canon reps just happened to be there. Oh boy, am I in trouble when the Canon reps are there!! I got myself a pretty red ring and let's just say I won't be quitting my day job anytime soon with this super-expensive hobby. I'm going to take it out for a little test drive this weekend to make sure I like it, but so far, so good. The pink flower in this post is SOOC (straight out of camera) and the other pictures are pretty darn close. I am really looking forward to learning tons from the Pixel Fairy Princess herself and the other ladies this weekend! I hope you all have fun weekend plans!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dilemma... And Impressive Engineering

What's wrong with this picture? (Other than my wreath is hanging crooked.)


Let's zoom in a little closer....


And even closer...


Because we have a covered front porch, birds are always trying to make a nest in my seasonal wreaths. Typically, I catch them early and toss their sticks and straw away before they get a chance to really start working on it. This time, however, I didn't catch it until the bird was done. That's a bummer, because I think this is a pretty cool little masterpiece, yet I don't really want it sitting on top of my wreath. But just look at that perfect circle - all done by a little bird's beak! And that mud splattered on my door - all brought by a little bird to glue his creation together. Pretty impressive, eh? So, what to do... what to do...? I haven't seen the bird come back since he saw me standing on a ladder looking into his pretty little nest the other day. (I've had my whole family up on the ladder to admire his/her hard work.) So what do you think? Leave it? Toss it? Anyone know much about birds to know if it's going to come back? How cool would it be to have little eggs up there waiting to hatch?

The poor little bird worked so hard. What should I do?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mia & the New, New Testament

I hope everyone had a very happy and relaxing Mother's Day!!! Mine was wonderful... getting a wonderful breakfast cooked by Nolan and Leila, lunch at the restaurant of my choice and some time to myself to go shopping. Awww yes, a good weekend, indeed.

On another topic, Nolan was teaching Leila the books of the Bible for Awana last month, so I taught her a song to help her remember the New Testament. Mia, of course, doesn't want to be left out, so she learned it, too. As a three-year old, her version includes Actsapoffles (Acts of the Apostles) and First and Second 'lonians, but I'm still a pretty proud Mama. Enjoy!

I hope you have a great week!

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Zoopendous Day!

Mia had not one, but two, playgroups today. We started off with our weekly neighborhood playgroup, which Mia and I always look forward to. Then, it was off to the zoo to meet our FCC playgroup.

Attempting to take a picture of 13 three- and four-year olds is nearly impossible. The whole sequence of photos I took was pretty darn funny, but I'll just post the best ones. (i.e. all 13 kids were in the photo.) There was always one child running in or out or a mom in the picture as she ushered her child back in. Oh, what cute little girls they are!! And may I just say that I think all 15 of the kids (two siblings not pictured in the group shot) did amazingly well, especially considering this was during naptime for most of them.

Can you tell by these photos that I have a future "class clown" on my hands? lol





This is a "What were we thinking?" moment. This was even worse than the group shot.


Mia watching the baby elephant through the glass.


Just some of the beauties that were there...

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What a fun day!! And, to top it off, we get to see many of these girls and their moms again tomorrow morning for Chinese class and group photos for the 2010 FCC calendar.

BTW, thanks so much for all of your comments and support on my last post. I am thrilled to say that I was in contact with a friend of mine who met some families with children close to Leila's age that were also adopted from Russia. I am going to get their contact info and hopefully set something up. Maybe we can set up a larger group in our community, starting with these few families. That would be wonderful!

If I don't get around to posting any more this weekend, this photo reminds me to wish you all