Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our Yearly Bowling Event

Every year, in memory of Erin and to celebrate her birthday, we go bowling, watch one of the Grease movies (I or II) and eat something from Dairy Queen- all favorites things that Erin loved to do. 

This year the gorgeous weather made it a much easier evening event, with the temp in the 40's.  There have been years when it's been so cold out that we didn't want to leave the house, and one year the back doors of the car froze shut while we were in the bowling alley! (I'm not kidding)
January in South Dakota can be brutal.

Kinda dark, I know, but it's the only one with Quinn and Camille.

We won't disclose the scores..... :-)

Before heading to Sioux Falls for bowling, we first stopped at Hurley for a 5th grade girls basketball game.
5th grade girl's Fan Club!
Bri waiting to go in
Quinn and Luke- where are your pompoms?
Then when we got home from Dairy Queen, we played The Farming Game.  I gotta say, it was nice to put away the Saturday To Do list and just play with our kids for the day.

However, if they are out of undies on Monday because the laundry didn't get done on Saturday, I don't want to hear about it!

Monday, January 30, 2012

1 month anniversary

It's been one month since I first got my arms wrapped around Quinn, and now I just can't imagine her not being in our lives.   She has settled in as if she owns the place, and we couldn't be more thrilled! 

Talking on the phone is her current "thing" and everything becomes a phone, including the TV remote control.  It's hilarious to watch her babble, then say "yah, yah, yah" and then laugh as if she just heard a joke!!  What a character she is!

She is also fascinating by the piano- she will sit and tinkle the ivories for up to 20 minutes before wanting to get down.  Maybe she will be our piano player?

Not sure why this got fuzzy when I added it..?
I find myself getting caught up in just watching her- it's so surreal to see her as part of our family and I almost can't believe that she is finally here.  I'm sure that I won't always have this feeling of disbelief, and she will become just one of the gang, but for now, I'm enjoying the sheer delight that I feel when watching her.

I don't think the feeling of awe will ever go away. And I'm okay with that :-)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Luv with just a touch of jealousy

No one was more excited to adopt Quinn than Camille. 

Before Quinn came home, Camille was sorting out toys to share with her.  She was drawing pictures of her and Quinn playing together.  She had lots of big plans for the two of them, and at the root of all these plans was the hope that she and Quinn would become best of friends.

It's no secret that sometimes Camille feels left out, now that there are only 3 kids still at home.  Luke and Bri have a closeness that tends to leave her out, and they are both older and involved in alot of the same activities, which leaves Camille on the sidelines.

Her expectations of Quinn balancing out the sibling group were understandable. 

What she didn't expect was to be a little jealous of Quinn.  One day I read her journal entry, and it read "I hate that Quinn is here.  She gets everything."

Our conversation went like this:

Me: Camille, are you mad at Quinn today?
Camille:  No
Me:  You mentioned in your journal entry that you wished she wasn't here.  What is that about?
Camille: (typical avoidance)  I wish I was still a baby.  Babies get everything.
Me:  Really?  Like what?
Camille:  They get all sorts of stuff bought for them, like cool little boxes of cereal, and apple juice, and stuff like that.
Me: I buy cereal for you too, but you get the big bags because you eat more.  The little boxes are for Quinn's baby bag so she can eat them when we go places.  And you got apple juice when you were little too.
Camille:  Well, I wish I was still little.  And I wouldn't have to do school either.
Me:  Well, there are lots of things you get to do because you are 9 that Quinn doesn't get to do.  You got to go to the Chipmunk movie last night, right?
Camille:  yah.
Me:  Well, Quinn didn't get to go because she's too little.  She also has to take a nap during the day.  Do you want to go back to naps too?
Camille:  Ummm...No!
Me:  Well, there you go!  

(That was interesting- she managed to include in her disdain of schoolwork along with her complaint regarding Quinn- way to slip that in there, sweetheart!)

That was the first episode of jealousy we've encountered so far, so I think it's going pretty well.

Other than the "inequality of treats" infraction, all the kids are welcoming Quinn into the family and seem incredibly proud to have her as a sister.

And Camille is still banking on Quinn becoming her cohort in crime and all other fun activities.

(Don't you love the outfit?  She is quite the character!)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Erin Leigh~

Every Jan 23rd seems to catch me off guard. 

I'm tooling along, minding my own business, enjoying the level of relaxation that comes from the After Christmas frenzy, and then I see the date on the calendar, and it takes me back. 

It's been 14 years since the accident and Erin would've been 26 years old today.  But in my mind, she will always be 11 years old.

Giving me flowers on Mothers Day

She was selected with JR Olsen as Crown Bearers for Homecoming

Happy Girl!

Holding her new baby brother Luke.

Happy Birthday Sweetheart!  I'm sure the birthday parties in Heaven are incredible :-)

We all miss you and love you so much.

xxoo Mom

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bri's BB game

Today was a first for 2 of our girls- Bri had her first ever basketball game, and Quinn got to watch her first girls basketball game!

Bri was so excited and nervous at the same time, but she went out there cool as a cucumber and played very calmly and purposefully.  We were all thrilled for her when she made the first basket for her team!  They were outplayed with a score of 29-7, but she came off of the court flushed and exhuberated, telling us how much fun it had been and that she couldn't wait until the next game.

Bri, Shania, Kaylee, Tori, Coach Richards


Bri and her Cheerleaders
I love that she got so much joy out of playing today and just being with her friends. For them, it is still just a game...not a reason to stress out, or an opportunity to fail, or a guilt trip from sports crazed parents and fans.  I relish this time in her life when playing sports is done because it's just plain fun, and for no other reason than that.

Great Job, Cougars!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Carpe Diem

This post describes so well to the conflict that I often feel- grateful to be a stay at home mother, but frustrated because many days parenting feels more like a job than a priviledge.  But, like the author, there are moments in every day that I revel in the joy of motherhood, even if it's only for a few minutes, and that nourishes my soul enough to get up the next day and do it again.



Look at those angel faces!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Food, and other updates~

From the time that we wrapped Quinn up and took her to our hotel in Tiayuan after Gotcha Day, she has been having, shall I dare say, Blowout Diapers.  At first I attributed it to the stress of leaving her orphanage and being placed with these two funny-looking strangers, and then thought that maybe the change of diet and formula may be the culprits.

We are at the end of week 3, and still experiencing diapers of epic proportions.

So, tomorrow Quinn has her first American medical checkup, and ironically will have a Japanese doctor at our local clinic! (We had a Chinese doctor there as well, but he just recently transferred to a larger hospital- darn it!)   We are hoping that he can help determine what could be causing her tummy to turn out these mini explosions. 

Mommy detail tonight was to fill a specimen cup with "poo" and put it in the fridge (wrapped in a sealed baggie) and bring it to the clinic tomorrow for parasite testing.  Often, kids will pick up giardia or other internal parasites in orphanages, and these are known for causing diarrhea, so this may be what's affecting Quinn.

Another possibility and an interesting fact I've unearthed with my research is that there is a prevalence of lactose intolerance among Asian children.  We discovered this as well with Native American children that we have had in foster care, and it stems back to a culture's native diet generations ago and whether milk was part of that diet.  This could be the culprit as well for poor Quinn, so we have eliminated dairy as best that we can and substituting Soy milk and yogurt for cows milk.  (Apparently the bacteria in yogurt helps the digestion and yogurt seems to go down better- go figure!) 

Considering we have our own dairy cow and are avid cheese and ice cream lovers, this is a daunting task when I look at it as a permanent diet adjustment, but for now, I'm trying to just take it a week at a time and see how she does with these modifications.

The whole cultural diet influence is so amazing!! Is it something programmed in our DNA?  My friend, Sara, was adopted at birth and tells wonderful stories of the food cravings she had for fish/herring and other "Nordic" food when she was being raised in an English/German home.  She is Norwegian by nationality, and she craved food that is historically consumed by Norwegians and people of that geographic area, although she was not raised with these foods as a main part of the diet presented to her.  Where did these cravings come from?

  It begs the question of Nature vs Nurture when it comes to our menus and the food that we choose to consume. And the fact that if hundred of years ago, your ancestors didn't have access to fresh milk in their diet, then their digestive system didn't regularly process milk and years later, their descendents are lactose intolerant because of that lack of milk. 


Anyway, back to Quinn :-)  This little girl is an eating machine, lactose issues aside, and my arms tell me that she has gained weight since I first held her 3 weeks ago.

And I think we are making wonderful headway in the area of Trust.

She is bonding with her new siblings fairly well....

Helping Bri with her homework

And I think SHE thinks that this is kind of a good place to be...

She is definitely a keeper!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Girls Versus Boys

As I watch Quinn toddle around our living room, looking just as cute as she can be, I contemplate the series of events that brought her all the way from Datong City, China,  to my living room in Viborg,  South Dakota.  Mainly I think about the decisions that her birth mother had to make when she discovered that Quinn was a girl...with spina bifida.

Was she abandoned because she was a girl, or because she was a girl with a handicap?  The One Child policy in China has caused some problems in China that has been surfacing over the past few years due to the lack of potential wives for the many sons raised during the past 30 years since this policy began.

Cultural preferances are usually based on necessity.  My great grandparents raised 11 children on a farm, but large families were the norm back then.  The more hands available to work on the farm, the more land that could be farmed.  As our culture changed to 8-5 jobs and families living in the suburbs, the need for large families declined.  We became a "One girl, One boy" society, with the average family being 2.4 children.  (The .4 comes from those "crazy" families who went ahead, flaunting convention, and having "GASP".... 3 children!)

I think it's interesting that China is now having to rethink this policy and begin taking steps to address the gender imbalance that they are seeing.  This article below touches on some of the changing viewpoints, and some of the steps being taken currently to amend the gender imbalance trend.


I think that someday down the road, China will regret shipping off so many of their little treasures, like Quinn, to other parts of the world.  Hopefully they will come to understand that every child is a treasure and special, no matter what limitations they have. 

Our group's three treasures~  (yes, ours is the crabby one!)

Quinn was not happy having her picture taken!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I can't tell you how good it is to be back home again, among my peeps, breathing fresh air, and brushing my teeth without bottled water.  The marathon trip home was anything but fun.  Quin was AMAZING, and a real trooper, and surprised even those that sat around us who were, I believe, prepared to endure a screaming 2 year old.  She only slept about 2-3 hours of the flight, but seemed content as long as we kept her occupied.  

The highlight of the flight for Loren was to change a major diaper blowout in a tiny airplane restroom. (I love that man!)  He even had to wash out her shirt and keep her from rolling off of the slanted changing table- Daddy/daughter bonding at it's best.  

I got engrossed in watching as many free movies as I could- I was so happy to hear English on TV that I was fairly hypnotized by our little movie screen.  However, someone should've warned me about the movie "Courageous".  Yah.... I bawled.  (Awesome movie, but have kleenex handy) 

We traveled about 25 hours by the time we hit Mpls Airport, and we still had 5 hours of driving to go.  We decided that 2 large Mocha Frappes from McDonalds would give us our second wind, so we decided to hit the road to get home that night.  Immigration was quick and painless- our agent had adopted from China 30 years ago, so we hit it off right away.

Came home to a clean (gasp!) house, and my Mom, Aunt Gayle, and daughters pretending to play cards so that they wouldn't freak Quinn out by smothering her when we got there.  Travis took off the next afternoon after a nice visit, and we all began to settle in to enjoy being a family.  I gotta say, I have the best family support team ever!  Thanks Mom, Gayle, and Travis!!  My awesome friend, Sara, also lined up meals for the first week home- how thoughtful is that?!  I am so blessed to have such incredible people in my life.

Since we've been home, we've been recovering from colds caught during the plane ride home, and trying to re-establish our days and nights, the hangover from jetlag.  Quinn has already attended a basketball game, violin lessons, and was announced in church on Sunday. 

Luke, Bri, and Camille are all vying for Quinn's affections, and it's kinda cute to watch the games involved with becoming "her favorite."  She likes them all, but so far doesn't want to be too far from Momma's leg, which limits what I get done in a day!  I need to remind myself how long we have worked to get this precious girl home, and just enjoy the moment. 

Here are our attempts at our own "Red Couch" pictures~

Meilynn DaiFu- just beautiful!

April trying to capture the moment

Drew and Amy working to get Salem to smile- how cute is she?!

Yah, that would be OUR daughter doing the crying :-)

Last group picture in the lobby of the Marriott before we head off to catch our planes. Andersons, Johnsons, Scotts
Wenxi, our guide, is in the middle.

First pic back home with big sis Bri

Sharing ice cream with Bri

Nuthin cuter than a kid in footie jammies!
South Dakota never looked so good~

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Last day in China

This has been the longest two weeks, and yet, I'm still surprised that we are nearing the end and it's time to fly home.  Today we will fly out of Guangzhou and into Shanghai, stay the night in the hotel there, then fly out early tomorrow morning.  First stop is Tokyo, where Loren was wondering if they would stamp his passport "just for the heck of it" but I warned him not to try anything that would result in him landing in Tokyo prison and me flying home alone.  Priorities, man.

We have gained so much from this trip! 

First and foremost, an incredible daughter who is amazingly resilient and already willing to trust these two goofy looking strangers- that in itself is a miracle. That she has survived all that she has and is still able to smile and experience joy is a testament to her inner strength. 

Second- new friends.  We have had the priviledge of traveling with 2 amazing couples..  Both husbands are pastors, sports fans, and all around great husbands and fathers.  The wives are incredible mothers and advocates for orphans and fun Sisters of the Traveling Pants kinda gals, adventurous while keeping the home fires burning.  They have added so much to this trip and we couldn't have asked for better traveling companions.

Third- an appreciation of where we live, our country, and all that we have been blessed with.  Our freedoms; from censorship, from family size regulation, from limiting our travel or career choices.  Our living space and the luxury of living in the country and not crammed into an already overflowing city.

Fourth- an appreciation for each other as a couple, supporting each other in this adventure and truly enjoying this time together.  I can't think of anyone I would want to travel with more than Loren- he has been an incredible support and alot of fun too!

Fifth- a reinforcement of our faith in God's promise that he supports our mission for the care of orphans, and that he has been with us during this entire trip: keeping us safe and putting people in our paths that we were meant to meet. 

Sixth- an appreciation of China, it's current culture and it's rich history. We have learned so much about the country and people during our visit, and I come away from here with a respect of Quinn's heritage.  I hope I can pass this appreciation on to her as she gets older.

So as we get the last items crammed into our suitcases, I'll end with a few pictures from the last few days of our time in Guangzhou.

Here I am, looking cute as always.

We went into the White Swan hotel and got pics in front of the waterfall. 

This is the Jewelry mall, where the Wholesale Pearl district is located. We watched pearl necklaces being strung.  Can't believe that all of these stores are jewelry stores~

Dressed up for her Consulate appointment, but not very happy about it!  Still cute, even when she's pouting.

Hugging Dad, after the consulate appointment.

Shopping on Samian Island. 
Mark, April, Dai Fu, Loren, Drew, Amy, Salem (Quinn is standing with me)

Medical checkup on Samian Island.  Kids did NOT like this part.

Quinn was not cooperative!  She cried just as much getting weighed as she did getting her TB shot!
So anxious to see you all back home!  Take care, and see you all soon~
Love, Michelle and Loren

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Adoption Update

We had been having trouble with the internet over the weekend but seem to have it figured out now. 

Friday morning we went to the Shanxi Province museum in Tiayuan.  I am not always a big museum guy but generally interested enough in history that I like to go.  We learned a lot about the history and culture of the province Quinn is from.  We are trying to take in as much as we can so we can help her know her Chinese heritage as well as her 'Scandinavian' background.

We left Tiayuan Friday afternoon for Guangzhou.  This is the final leg of the adoption process.  Saturday morning we went to the clinic for Quinn's examination.  Added to the list of things Quinn doesn't like include doctors and doctor's offices.  It did go relatively quickly and painlessly and we spent the rest of the day visiting the shops downtown. 

Sunday was a free day.  We didn't do much which I think we all needed.  Today (Monday) we go to see the results of the TB test and then another museum.  Tomorrow is our consulate appt and then Wednesday we collect Quinn's visa and head for the airport for a plane to Shanghai.  Thursday we begin our journey home going through Tokyo and on to Minneapolis.

I see a new swing being added to our swingset!

Michelle and Quinn in front of Starbucks. 
(You know how much of a coffee drinker Michelle is.)

Having lunch Saturday with the Scotts and Andersons
at Lucy's cafe on Shamian Island.

More later from Michelle.  (she is much better at this than I am - I'm surprised she let's me on her blog!)