Thursday, December 26, 2013

3 Years Ago...

3 Years Ago, Abigail had a very traumatic and difficult day.  
She mourned a great loss and Larry and I don't forget that or take that lightly.  
But today, she is a happy happy happy kiddo.
We know that there will be many more questions in the future, but we take it one day at a time.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

Best Christmas Gift of the Year:  Abigail woke up and occupied herself by quietly making paper snowflakes with computer paper (yup, she used scissors while we were sleeping) until 6:30, when she crawled in bed with up (cold as an ice cube) and cuddled for 30 minutes before she rolled over and sighed happily "I have the best family."
No, Kiddo, we have the best daughter!!

Most kids get to open pajamas on Christmas eve.
Our little monster was delighted to open Wolverine Claws instead!

Christmas Eve 2013

Small Point of Frustration: This was the highlight of my day.  Apparently Larry doesn't share my family-centric sentiment because the only update he posted on FB was nonsense about football. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Time is Here; Happiness and Cheer

I love Love LOVE the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I feel totally ripped-off that Thanksgiving was as late as possible and this time was short,  but we have crammed a lot of fun stuff into Christmas Time.

I hope to update more while on break, but for now, here are pics of Abigail discussing gift options with Santa and a picture of her at her holiday concert, where she sang 4 pieces.  Her BFF is on the left side of the pic wearing jeans.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tiny Dancer, part 2

Abigail posed with her flowers after her performance.
Her Aunt Steph, a former dancer, came to see Abigail's
performance and brought her flowers with
super-hero flags stuck into the bouquet!
A pic from the show
Today was Abigail's first, and maybe last, dance recital.

This was her best move!

She kinda' liked dance.  On Tuesdays-Fridays, when we picked her up from Junior Kindergarten, she always eagerly asked if she got to go to dance class that day and when we said "no", she would get disappointed.  But on Mondays, when we picked her up and announced it was "dance night" she would pout and protest as we cajoled her into a leotard and ushered her out of the house.  And when class was over, she would bound happily through the door and tell us about her favorite parts of the class.

At the dress rehearsals this week (yes, plural, 2 dress rehearsals), she was bored at best, resigned at worst.  She grumbled and pouted about it, but when she was on stage, her face lit up.  She smiled and did a great job.  Once back off the stage, she turned it off and begged to take Karate lessons.

We want her to take some type of lesson.  We don't want her to have to have multiple-night commitments at this age, but we want some structured activity in her life.  She liked dance, but clearly didn't love it.  We will look into Karate next, and maybe someday (after seeing some Broadway shows) she may want to try dance again.  But if not, that is okay too.  We love our little tomboy for who she is and Larry said tonight "It is amazing that we have this little person living with us in our house."  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Family Traditions

Abigail's Junior Kindergarten program is amazing.  They work on 1-3 words per week in thematic units and by the end of the week, Abigail always has new and impressive words in her vocabulary.  She uses "prototype", "measurement", "fiction", "non-fiction", and "perseverance" in sentences with ease.  But as we begin the holiday season, "tradition" is getting a lot of mileage.

We put up the Christmas tree today.  Abigail, now 4, knows the tradition: "We put Aunt Seung Lan on top of the tree," even though she was only 1 when she last saw Seung Lan and Seung Lan's precious daughter is a full 6 months older then when Abigail last saw Seung Lan, about to turn 2 this week.

But with tradition, Seung Lan is still in our hearts and on the top of our tree!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Trip to PA, part 3

Sunday morning started out a little drizzly, but eventually we made our way to a local pumpkin patch to enjoy the festivities.  We started out with the requisite faces-behind-the-cutouts pictures.

Then Abigail climbed on round bales that were laid side by side and up to 2 high.  And she climbed some more. And she climbed some more after that. As she continued to climb, she became more and more brave until she was jumping off the tops and landing on more hay below.  And then she climbed even more!

With much persuasion, she then rode on a hay ride out to where there was a corn maze ending in the pumpkin patch.  She took an eternity to pick out her pumpkin.  Like as much time as she spent on the round bales.  Larry could only compare the experience to watching a women shoe shopping.  Then we figured out what was taking so long:  Abigail was confused and upset that none of the pumpkins had faces.  Once we explained that she would carve it at home and give it a jack'o'lantern face, we were happily loading 2 pumpkins onto a hay ride back to the barn.

 Abigail also "milked" a cow.  She was very persistent at this.

Then she climbed on the round bales some more.
We finally convinced her to say good bye to the hay when we bought organic burgers and dogs from the farm to eat for a late lunch.

It was a really fun day and I am glad that Abigail got to share it with 2 of her 3 grandparents.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall Trip to PA, part 2

Another highlight of our trip to PA was that I got to see my oldest friend (we have been friends for 23 years: since junior high school), her wife, and their baby girl.  

Abigail had some wonderful "big sister" type moments, when she pulled baby E in a wagon and gave her a piggy back ride (with my dad's help) and showed baby E the horses on the farm.  

But Abigail also had some challenging moments too, that we need to address before (and probably more after) we bring her sibling home from China.  For example, she wouldn't share with baby E, even if the item under contention was one that Abigail NEVER is interested in.  She didn't want to share a ball, any of 3 pumpkins, some baby toys, a toy rake; whatever the baby took interest in was what Abigail wanted at that exact moment.  Often, I can talk to Abigail logically on her level and get her to think clearly when she is making crazy decisions, but that didn't work this time!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Trip To PA, part 1

Since our country still celebrates that largely irrelevant doofus Columbus, who accidentally "discovered" America half a millenia ago, Larry and I had a 3 day weekend.  Not that I am complaining about that, but it would be nice to forget Columbus and have a new holiday for someone a little more worthwhile.

Abigail running through the leaves while
my father raked them for her
Anyhow, we took an amazing mini-vacation to my parents' farm in western PA, where we were surprised to see that not only were the leaves still on the trees, but they had barely turned color!  That was unheard of in mid-October while I was growing up, a time in history when my mom designed Halloween costumes to fit over snow suits.

But it was so beautiful.  (With over 200 pictures, I am going to blog this in several entries.) On Saturday, it was one of the perfect fall days, cool but not cold and Abigail spent many fun hours with the tiny pile of leaves that had fallen (notice how much green is still on this giant red maple tree though).  Abigail loved to run through the pile of leaves, kicking them in all directions as she did and giggling maniacally as my parents feigned exasperation at having to rake the pile together again.

Yinski pretending to be irritated with Abigail
for messing up the pile of leaves

It is like trying to locate
E.T., but without all of
the stuffed animals!
She is such a joyful child!!

Interesting look

It is a shame we don't have
a happier child!

What is going on in her head right now?

My mother gave her the idea of throwing leaves at me.
Abigail thought she was pretty bad-ass to do this!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The i clue, by Larry.

Abigail and I were playing superheros in the basement.

Unprompted Abigail runs over and says "maybe this i will give us a clue about the bad guys"

She is so observant and creative.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tiny Dancer

Abigail excited at home before class
Tonight was Abigail's first combo ballet-tap-gymnastics class.  She prepped by watching YouTube videos of Broadway show-stopper tap numbers and scenes from The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.  She was psyched. She was ready to go.  She shed her Spiderman t-shirt and running shorts today after school and slid into her pink uniform without complaint.  She allowed me to "pony" her hair without whining.  She packed her ballet shoes, tap shoes, and water bottle into her brand new Superman "pack pack."  Then she arrived at the studio and stood still as a statue for 30 minutes, joined the kids to rummage through their own bags, change shoes, and stood still as a statue for 30 more minutes!  No amount of gentle teachers kneeling at eye level or excited bouncing kids grabbing her hands and trying to drag her into the action could convince her to move. She got a little more excited with the gymnastics portion.  Surprisingly, in the car on the way home when I asked "what was your favorite part" Abigail enthusiastically replied "the ballet!"

Miss Statue, with the flower in the back
so she didn't have to look at it.
She accepted the pink but drew the line at flowers.

Abigail on the bar.
She flew down the balance beam.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dossier or Deathly Hallows?

Did you ever wonder about the adoption "paper chase"?
Here is a visual for you: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the left, our completed dossier on the right.

Keep your fingers crossed for a match by February: we'd love to travel before next school year, and in above-freezing temperatures this time around!!  I cannot express how much we would LOVE to get to travel during summer break so we can really enjoy our time in China and take in some of Hong Kong on the way home.  Since our home study delayed us 9 weeks (incompetent, inept.....), it would not surprise us if we have to travel 1-2 months into the new school year!!

At least this part is done.  Now we just sit back and wait!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bike Buddies

We got a bike buddy for Abigail.  Well, and for me.  It is fun biking with her this way, though I am afraid she isn't getting as much exercise as when she rides her tricycle.  But on the other hand, it doesn't require bucketfuls of patience to take her to the neighborhood playground when she rides this instead of a vehicle that maxes out on a 4-inch pedal revolution.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

First Day of Junior Kindergarten!!

Our big girl started Junior Kindergarten this morning.  She has been excited for weeks, although we know she was a little nervous because we would find her asleep in our bed in the evening after she was tucked into hers or because she would ask questions about it or because we would say "In Junior Kindergarten, you will have to do X thing by yourself" and she would reply "I don't want to talk about that right now."  But we also know she was excited because she has been asking "do I go to school today??" for the past few weeks and when we drive past the building in the car, she always wants to point it out and have us stop and drive around the back to see the playground things.  I can't wait until she gets home and we find out how she does!

(And let me tell you, next week, when she gets to ride on her first bus and go on her first field trip, when someone else is driving my baby around in a bus on a field trip away from school everyone will need to be asking me how  I  am doing!!!)

Monday, August 5, 2013

One Week Past Surgery

Abigail playing with her cousin
the weekend before her surgery
One week ago, we were at Children's National for Abigail's lip and nose reconstruction surgery.
She had an initial surgery sometime between 5 months old and 8 months old when she was in China and, although it was done by an American surgeon who was on a mission trip there, it was a functional fix but not an aesthetic one.  Our amazing surgeon at Children's National said he does similar trips and often gets only about 20-25 minutes per cleft kid, but in America, he spends 3 hours on such a surgery to do A+ work.  

Two nights before her surgery, Abigail
was wound up at bed time and insisted
I take a picture of her.
The goal of last week was to give Abigail some symmetry to her already adorable and beautiful face.  I'm not going to blog the details or post pics until her stitches are out in order to protect Abigail's privacy.  (However, if any other parents of CL/CP kids are going to be facing a reconstruction surgery, please feel free to PM me.)

So it has been a long week, but kids are so resilient and Abigail is doing great.  Kids just go through things way more easily than adults do, I think.  Abigail is so brave and spunky.  I have been so proud of her this past week.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Happy Match Day!

Happy Match Day Abigail!
In July 2010, Larry and I mailed our dossier to our agency and then went to Pittsburgh with my brother Jim and sister-in-law Steph where we joined up with my Dad to bicycle ride from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, an adventure item on my Dad's bucket list that we were loathe to let him do alone.  The 2 days on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail was pretty great biking (as far as biking goes), but after 2 days on the C&O Towpath we were all feeling tired and ready to be done.  Then on July 21st, in a hotel room in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, as the 5 of us filled ourselves with take-out pizza and free iced coffee, we got a phone call from our agency.  The woman on the line asked why we had not responded to the child's file we were sent weeks ago since it was about to be sent back.  I told her that we never received such a file.  (We had received a very flippant voice mail about 10 days earlier saying "This is so-and-so from CCAI.  Call me back when you get a chance" but all returned calls went straight to her vacation voice mail.)

A few minutes later we were all staring at the tiny pictures on Larry's ipod of our daughter.  
I didn't sleep that night.  I don't know if it was all the coffee or my new daughter!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday Snapshot

This is the first photograph Abigail has ever taken of us.
Since she got 90 % of us, it is not too bad, right?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Vacation To Charleston

This past week, we took a 3-day vacation to our old haunting grounds in Charleston, SC.  It was, as Larry described, "bittersweet" to be back where our home was for over 26 combined years.  We stayed with friends who lived a few streets over from our old home.  We ran our old running route through the neighborhood. We took Abigail to her old playground and park.  We met up with many old and dear friends.

We had a few "surprises" for Abigail, who kept declaring "I love vacation!"

One day, we arranged for her to have a lead-rope guided horse ride at Middleton Plantation.  Her horse, old and decrepit and wrinkly around the muzzle was presented to her and she gasped "Oh!  He is SO beautiful." His name was JP and Larry was given the lead rope to guide her around for her 35 minute ride.  He was more interested in munching grass than following Larry, but sweet Abigail, with her last 2 minutes of time said 'Go back to the grass Baba to give JP a thank you for me riding him.'

On another day, in-between the frequent bursts of rain that kept happening and were just long enough to get things wet and disrupt outdoor activities, we surprised Abigail with a trip to "Shell Beach" on James Island (really Peter Demetre Beach or something like that).  She had a fun time digging holes.

When asked about her favorite part of the vacation, Abigail said "Staying in this (the Watkins') house."  I guess she has really missed these friends.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Snapshot: Red Umbrella



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Snapshot: Epic Parent Fail

Okay, I think it looks worse in the picture than
in person, but you get the idea.
I swear that we put sunscreen on her.
I think the problem was that she went right into the
pool after we slathered it on.  Truthfully, she has
never burned before but I feel like the worst mom ever.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Yearly Cleft Clinic

Today was our yearly cleft clinic for Abigail.  The first 2 years she attended the MUSC cleft clinic in Charleston, SC.  Since we have moved, we got into the clinic at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC.

Our amazing little nerd reading a book about
Assateague Island horses
During her 4 morning sessions, Abigail saw the audiologist, the speech therapist, an ENT, and the dentist.  It was discovered that her right ear tube is out and is causing hearing loss in that ear, that her speech is excellent for a kid her age ("three" sounds like "free" for example) but all of her possible troublesome cleft sounds are fine.  (Although, it did take a home video and a mini bag of Doritos for the speech therapist to get enough info about Abigail's speaking abilities  and don't you dare judge us for bribing!!)

After a quick lunch break, Abigail saw the plastic surgeon and then fell asleep in Larry's arms for our sessions with the psychologist and the geneticist.  

Lar and I were not initially blown away by the team:  they weren't bad or anything, but from what we have experienced, audiologists and speech therapists are a special breed of patient, saintly people and must be like that everywhere.  ENTs are all business, which is their job, so that is good too.  So given the horrible traffic (it was 1.5 hours to get there and 2.5 hours to get home!!) we were thinking of switching to the Richmond clinic next year.  Then we met Dr. Oh (plastic surgeon) and the British psychologist, who sounds like a genius just because of her accent and we were hooked on the DC clinic.  

Recent family pic
Abigail was such a trooper, really.  Larry and I were incredibly proud of her, how she behaved, and how she comported herself.  She cooperated all day (besides the little bribe in the speech evaluation) and was polite and not moody or difficult.  Then she peacefully fell asleep in her Baba's arms, which just made him melt.  
I also know that I am lucky beyond belief that this amazing, intelligent, funny, clever, beautiful, creative little individual is my daughter.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about that.  And when I am in a children's hospital all day, and I see the Huge problems that so many kids are facing, I am scared out of my mind at my  own good luck and fortune.  I can't even wrap my mind around it sometimes!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Abigail's First Hike

In South Carolina, we lived less than a mile from Palmetto Islands County Park (a 700+ acre park through wooded spaces, marshes, and open playing fields), and we have missed having a place like that since our move to Virginia.  Today, however, we explored a great little place a few miles from home.  Our out-and-back hike probably totaled only 2 miles, but it was a fun hike and Abigail became very excited about climbing on rocks and exploring. I love to watch my kid move:  she is so powerful and graceful.  I can't get enough of watching her.  (She was also excited about the picnic she packed and she picked out a great spot to eat, but was too excited for food at that point so she ended up eating it in the car on the way home instead.)
This section was her favorite part of the hike

Tell her aunts and uncles:  Abigail is
getting ready for her first hike up Old Rag!!
Kid at play

Monday, May 27, 2013


Her first catch of the weekend
We took advantage of a 3 day weekend and made the drive to PA to visit Grandma and Yinski.  Abigail got to experience her first time fishing.  She caught 5 on the first day.  She loved touching them and after the 2nd fish, she wanted to do everything herself and she became defensive and indignant when she was given any  help (especially with casting).  Abigail is more patient at fishing than I am!  (Abigail is more patient with many things than I am!)  On the 2nd day, she caught 2 and then just wanted to throw bread in the water and watch the fish eat. 

Becoming a bit more independent
Reeling in the "big one" as Baba looked on, jealous

During the visit, Abigail certainly enjoyed her days and being the center of attention among 4 adults.  But in the evening, she seemed to be experiencing "homesickness" for the first time.  She cried of wanting to be home and in her own bed and in her own room.  When I pointed out that she was having fun with her grandparents, she sobbed and agreed that she was and that she loves them but she just wished she could be home and she was very confused by that.

When Abigail is asked "what was your favorite part of the weekend" she simply said "playing with Grandma Judy."  My mom certainly had to earn her place this weekend:  Abigail had her on the floor playing before Larry and I even carried the suitcases in from the car, woke her at 5:15 in the morning to start playing, and ran her pretty hard.  During Sunday's nap time, Grandma Judy ended up asleep on a picnic blanket in the yard!