Tuesday, January 22, 2008

All good things must come to an end....

Our initial intent with this blog was to take our family and friends with us on our adoption journey. It has become apparent to us, and probably to you as well through our lack of posts, that it's time to officially end our blog. We have really moved from the ongoing excitment of the adoption process and getting to know Sydney to a typical family and we all know everything about her. We have pages on Facebook if you'd like to find us there.

Thanks to all of you for sharing in this remarkable journey with us!!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

So much has happened....

Christmas 2007

The girl will make a dress out of anything!

Swimming with cousins.

Wow....it's been so long once again! Sorry to everyone for the lengthy lapse in posts. I'll try to get everyone caught up....starting with Alycia. She completed a very successful volleyball season and we all enjoyed watching her play this year. She just keeps improving all the time and is such a good "all around" player. She is currently starting her Junior Olympic volleyball season and continues to hit the weight room regularly. We're looking forward to seeing the results when the regular season resumes next year. Sydney will look forward to once again referring to her sister as "Shesha Bobbyball", since that's where Alycia was every time Sydney asked for her! The varsity team lost about 7 girls this year, so there are lots of spots to fill and her coaches are hoping she's ready to dominate the net next year.....Go Shesha!

Alycia is doing an exceptional job with her tough classes this year, she has some advanced placement classes and 2 science classes. She currently has straight "A's"...she gets her brains from her mother's side of the family?? She also completed Driver's Ed. and has her permit (she's not really old enough to drive, is she???). She is still an amazing, wonderful young woman that we truly love to have around....which is rather remarkable because she is technically a teenager!

Then there is Sydney. We had our 6 month post adoption visit from our social worker in January, which gave us the opportunity to go back through pictures and think about how far we've come in such a short time. Sydney's development has progressed rapidly in all areas. Her dad explains her language development the best by stating that it took her a little while to figure out English but once she got it, she hasn't stopped talking! She truly talks almost non-stop and uses complete sentences. Physically she is doing great and has jumped from below the 25th percentile to above the 50th percentile on the U.S. growth charts. She came to us in July with little ability to play and now can direct her own play activities, even engaging in make-believe play. My favorite part is her ability to sit and read several books in a row! When we started trying to read to her, she would flip through the pages of one book and she'd be off to something else! She is still a busy girl but now she takes the time to engage in activities. Emotionally, she seems to be appropriately attached to her family. She is such a contrast....she is a very brave and tough girl when it comes to painful situations such as falls, wounds, shots, etc. but she can be such a softie emotionally. Unless you get her mad.....then it's the "tough as nails" girl once again, who is very good at ignoring you until she's convinced you have suffered enough to get back in her good graces.

We all had a wonderful Christmas and Sydney quickly improved her math skills by calculating that Santa=presents and presents=lots of fun for Sydney! She did a great job of making sure her sister got presents to open too. Our next big holiday event was our first Chinese New Year celebration. We attended an event at MSU-Moorhead that we all enjoyed. The food was great and she seemed to recognize some of the songs the children sang. We look forward to having a larger celebration next year....Happy Year of the Pig :) Valentines Day also meant another party at preschool and some of her favorite treats C-A-N-D-Y (we now have to spell things in our house)!! Today, in fact, marked a rare event for Sydney. The little girl who only wants to wear dresses, wore pants today! Only because she got a new bunny shirt from her Granny Goo for Valentine's Day that she couldn't wait to show off at preschool! I'll have to snap a picture as proof. Some of her other favorite gifts are the pink puppy from Auntie Jo and the quarters for the horsie ride (we have to plan a trip to the Chinese Dragon soon!) and the teddy bear from Gran-Gran, who waits for her to get home every day and is frequently seen hanging out with pink puppy in her chair. We're sure that Easter will also be entered in Sydney's list of "top 10 favorite holidays".

In the time we spent looking back, we found ourselves truly blessed with the support we have received from family and friends. We thought about those "sanity saving" moments after we returned home from China from my sister Cheri who took care of us in our first few days home (which are still a blur), to everyone who dropped by to visit (an adult conversation!!), to those whom we dropped in on when we felt more than a little stir crazy (Jo), to everyone who called just to check-in, to those who said a prayer or thought about us, and to the grandparents and extended family members who bonded with our new addition at a level we never anticipated.....thank you!

Not flesh of my flesh
nor bone of my bone
but still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute
you didn't grow under my heart, but in it.
~Adoption Creed~

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bad Bloggers

October 13th - Cute pigtails.

October 11th - Watching the snow fly

September 21st - getting ready for bed...sure
looks tired doesn't she :)

October 14th - Alycia and Sydney

October 12th - Chillin' on the couch

August 29th - Pretty in pink

We (Tina) have been bad about posting anything lately. We (Donny) are also very behind with adding some new pictures of Sydney. Here's what's been happening lately:

Our oldest cat (Fluffy) has once again shown his maternal side by running to Sydney whenever she gets mad and cries. This only makes Sydney cry harder because she wants to be left alone when she is mad, which includes being looked at by any humans or cats!! Temper, temper, temper! It's a difficult adjustment for Sydney to give up her reign as queen of her universe but she is slowly making progress. The additional language skills that she is gaining have helped immensely but unfortunately for Sydney, "no" in English doesn't translate into anything that she likes!

Sydney is spending a lot more time running around town shopping and visiting family and friends. She loves to hear the words, "do you want to go....." it doesn't really matter where! She has attended several of her big sister's volleyball games and is turning into a great little Lakers Cheerleader. Alycia is playing on the JV and Varsity teams this year. She gets lots of playing time on JV and got into her first varsity game this week against Moorhead. We can already see improvements in Alycia's skills from last season and we're looking forward to watching her games again this year. She also has a tough academic schedule and is doing a great job of juggling everything.....including spending some time with her little sister.

We are finally getting some of our pictures developed from China but have not begun the process of sorting through the video footage yet. Sydney had a couple of negative reactions to things from her time in China, so we're being cautious about what we expose her to at this point. One incident involved her viewing of some video footage taken by another family when she was with the orphanage staff. She woke up screaming from her nap for the next two days. The second interesting but less intense reaction from her was her first trip to a Chinese Restaurant in town. When some of the waitresses came up to talk to her in Chinese, she froze and refused to look at them or take food from them. She didn't eat much of her meal either, which is not like her at all! It would be nice in these moments for her to be able to talk to us but for now, we're just trying to read her behaviors.

Daycare is going great and Sydney seems to enjoy the preschool curriculum, especially the songs and the artwork. She can't wait to show everyone her pictures at the end of the day! She helps her daycare provider (a.k.a. Patty the Saint) and her friend Abby with diaper changes and seems to be doing better in the "plays well with others" category. It was a tough adjustment for Sydney when the school age kids left and a few new little bodies appeared in their place. Taking turns and waiting for what you want are difficult tasks for adults, so we think that she is doing remarkably well considering her developmental age!

Sydney's current favorite things to do at home are:

1. ANYTHING with her big sister
2. Anything with her cousins
3. Launching her little body through the air (both feet leave the floor!) to body slam her dad
4. Watching "Finding Nemo" or "Dora"
5. Playing in the water with her kitchen toys
6. Putting stuffed animals, her parents, her sister, her cousins, any visitors, dolls, etc. "night - night".

Her new favorite saying: "hey, hey, hey" from the scene with the crabs in "Finding Nemo". She knows what's funny!

We (Donny) will try to get some new pictures posted soon, so you can see how much she has changed since we brought her home.

Monday, July 31, 2006

THE Appointment

We had Sydney's BIG appointment with her pediatric cardiologist (Dr. Rios)on Friday. He is a fantastic doctor and we immediately felt at ease that Sydney was in his care. Dr. Rios conducted a brief exam and sent us to have her ultrasound. I was a bundle of nerves and the procedure seemed to take forever! Sydney did very well during the eternal ultrasound. Donny helped hold Sydney in place and I kept her busy eating Yogos (Yogurt to go) and fruit snacks. The end result was that everything looks good and Dr. Rios will continue to see Sydney for yearly check-ups.

Sydney was very happy to have her big sister return home on Sunday too. Sydney seems to speak more English with her sister than she does with us. I heard several new words pop out of her mouth while those two were talking. We're very glad to have Alycia back home too....she was gone for too long! How will I handle this when she really leaves the nest in a few years??!! Denial, denial, denial....

We also took Sydney to meet her Auntie Jo, Alex, Bob, Spike, and Baby. She caught a glimpse of Spike but Baby was MIA and did not get to meet Sydney (I'm sure Baby is eternally grateful for this as she will not require therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!). Sydney was not too sure about Jo's dog Alex. She did much better and dared to venture onto the floor as long as Alex maintained the required distance. Otherwise, Sydney mainly hung out between Donny's lap or Alycia's lap UNTIL.....Jo offered us a snack! Suddenly the Snickers bar and pop were worth the risk of having to sit on a kitchen stool alone with Alex at her feet waiting for something to hit the floor. Too bad for Alex.....Sydney made sure she devoured every last crumb! Sydney definitely liked Jo and Bob, so we'll have to visit again soon. I think Alex will win her over in the end too.

We hope everyone is doing well and have enjoyed spending time with friends, neighbors, and family as they stop by to meet Sydney. Come and see us soon!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

July 23

Lounging with Dad

Sydney and Alycia on one of their many wagon rides

Having a few potatoes with her ketchup!

First slice of Godfather's Pizza

Everyone is finally healthy in our house! Sydney had her first doctor's appointment with her regular physician and everything looked good. He said that he could not hear anything out of the ordinary when he listened to her heart but we won't know for sure until she sees her cardiologist on Friday. She did very well during her examination until the nurses gave her 5 shots! She went back to daycare after her appointment and proceeded to fall on the sidewalk and scrape her h ands and knees. All together the bandaid count at the end of the day totaled 8! As of today, we're back down to zero bandaids, so we're headed in the right direction. Sydney is also doing a lot better at naptime and is crying less when we lay her down for the night.

Alycia spent the weekend with Donny's family in South Dakota. She comes home on Sunday and leaves for volleyball camp on Monday. When she returns from camp, she is leaving the next day with her other grandparents (my family) for Medora. Donny and I would love to go along to Medora....it's kind of been our family trip with my parents for many years now...but we don't think that Sydney is old enough to enjoy it this year (maybe next year??). She has earned a new nickname from her little sister. Whenever we say Alycia's name Sydney says, "shesha bye bye" and waves at the door. We all miss Alycia already, so we'll be very lonely by the time she finally comes home. I plan to visit her at volleyball camp just to see her....how bad is that! This is her first year staying in the dorms for camp and I know she will have a great time. She's such a great kid!

One of our neighbors (Sara) came over to meet Sydney on Friday and they had a great time! Sydney decided right away that Sara was just another "big kid" and had her running up and down the stairs, tickling her, making all kinds of weird faces, and giggling at everything! Sydney was sad when Sara had to leave and sat on the steps by the door for a while before she was ready to play again. We'll have to visit Sara again as soon as she's ready for another stairmaster workout!

Sydney and I went shopping yesterday at Wal-Mart and a department store downtown. Sydney was very patient and even tried on some clothes. She loves to ride in the shopping cart at Wal-Mart. She could be mistaken for a greeter at Wal-Mart ( if she were a few decades older)! Sydney loves to just ride around, sing songs, and say "hello" or "ni hao" and "bye bye" to almost everyone. Like her friend Sadie, she is still talking a lot in Chinese when she plays. We looked at Emily and Erik's blog with Sydney last night and she kept pointing to Sadie in the pictures. It's been fun to get updates from the other families in our travel group, as well as the family in Holland that adopted one of Sydney's playmates. I hope we can keep in touch as the kids get older too.

We hope to see some more of the extended family soon. We've settled into a comfortable routine and would love to have you all meet Sydney. She is still shy at first but warms up quickly. In a couple more weeks we plan to take Sydney on her first big overnight trip to grandma and grandpa's house to spend some time with her great-grandma and meet family and friends in Devils Lake.

Hope to see you all soon!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What's been going on at home

Sorry that we've neglected the blog but we have been busy nesting. We all struggled with jet lag for about a week and then Donny and Alycia got sick with a cold. We have all kicked jet lag and most of us are healthy now. Donny is still trying to shake his annoying cough but finally seems to be feeling a little better every day.

Alycia jumped back into her summer schedule of speed/strength training and volleyball. She has spent some time at the lake with her cousins and has reconnected with her friends too. She still seems to enjoy her little sister (the novelty hasn't worn off yet!). Alycia has always been a remarkably easy child and continues to be an amazing young lady and a wonderful big sister. Her little sister thinks she is the best!!

Sydney has made an amazing adjustment as well. She struggled with sleeping through the night during our first week home but is doing well in her own bed now. It's difficult for us to know when she is awake because she won't make a sound when she wakes up... she sits quietly on the floor in her room or the hallway upstairs until someone discovers her! It would be nice to be able to communicate with her to tell her to say something or make some noise so we know when she's up!! We have tried to be creative and put some bells on her door and we'll keep working on the communication stuff. I don't sleep as soundly anymore because I keep listening for the bells or some sign that she might be awake before anyone else is up in the morning.

Sydney has not had any major temper tantrums since the first few days we were home and the screaming fits seem to have disappeared too (our ears are thankful!). Her personality is fantastic! She has a wonderful sense of humor and loves to be silly. She wakes up happy in the morning and stays that way until it's time to go to bed. She does not like taking naps or going to bed at night and still cries for a while when we lay her down. Her communication skills are growing every day. Mom was correct when she said that if we were half as smart as she is we could be learning her language as quickly as she is learning ours! Sydney understands most of what we say and uses lots of gestures to communicate with us. She still mainly speaks in Chinese and refers to herself as Er Wei most of the time, however, she responds all of the time now to Sydney and has started to use her new name too. She is extremely observant and figures things out very quickly.

I thought that I would be cooking congee and noodles until she was 20 but she has decided that whatever we are eating is much better than congee! She's pretty happy when her plate looks like ours and she will point to her food and her sister's food and smile! She had her first pieces of pizza and discovered ketchup last night.....her Grampy Gary will be so proud (pictures to follow soon)!! We haven't discovered much that she doesn't like to eat and, thankfully, her system seems to tolerate all of the new foods too.

We decided to try her at daycare to see how she would do and planned to gradually transition her during August so she would be ready to roll when school started in the fall. We picked a small (about 8 kids), home-based daycare with a provider (Patty) who has her early childhood degree and follows a curriculum. Sydney decided that she LOVES her daycare and the kids! Her first day was going to be half a day but she did so well that she stayed the whole day. Patty thought that we could try her a couple days a week to start. This week is her trial run. Yesterday Patty decided that if we wanted her to come Monday through Thursday every week, that would be great with her. Sydney has already learned the routine and plays so well with the other kids that she's easy for Patty to keep. Sydney is very excited in the mornings when she sees her bag by the door to go to Patty's house!! She is happy to see us when we pick her up and does well when we bring her home, so we'll see how the rest of the week goes. We don't need to push Sydney and we'll be watching for any signs that she feels overwhelmed.

With Sydney off at daycare, that means that Donny and I are back to work this week. It feels like we have been gone for months!! One of my co-workers commented that Sydney looks like such a natural part of our family in our pictures. Although the adjustment for Donny and I has taken a little longer then it has for the kids (slight change of pace from parenting a 15 year old!), I can honestly say that she is a wonderful fit for our family.We'll post some new pictures as soon as we can so you can see the little monkey in action!

The trip home

We left for the airport in Guangzhou at 5:30 am on July 6 and we were all excited to finally be on our way home. The airplane ride was horrible for Sydney and she had several screaming rages during the eternal flight home! On the flight from Guangzhou to Tokyo, a nice Chinese woman sitting behind us talked to Sydney in Chinese and calmed her down. Unfortunately, there was no nice Chinese woman on the long (11 hours...seemed much longer) flight from Tokyo to Minneapolis. Thankfully, I had grabbed a couple of bags of lollipops on our last shopping trip in Guangzhou. We decided to try a lollipop during her second or third screaming tantrum and she stopped crying! She actually fell asleep sucking on them a couple of times. She only slept for a few hours but we were grateful for any short period of rest that she was able to get! I don't think that we were ever so happy to see Minneapolis as we were when we came down through those clouds!!

Then we had the long line in immigration to get through. I counted the number of lollipops that were left and prayed that we would make it through the airport without her laying down and screaming. She was fussy but we managed to hold her together. Sydney received her official stamp on her passport and processed her paperwork to make her a U.S. citizen. Erik, Emily, and Sadie (
Herbivores go to China) were in front of us in line, so we cheered with them and were sad to see them go. It was the last family from our group that diminished slowly due to differing connecting flights. They are a great family and we enjoyed visiting with them and sharing time with Sadie.

Fortunately, Sydney loved to ride the buses in China and also loved to be in the van. She fussed for about 30 seconds over being in her carseat and then decided it wasn't so bad after all. Donny and I decided to pull a Cooper and Lisa and (against expert advice to the contrary)drove ourselves home from the cities. We made it safely to our front door and managed to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime.

Jet lag was much worse coming home then it was in Beijing. Sydney was up for a few hours during the night, which meant that we weren't able to sleep until 3 or 4 in the morning and were up again by 8 am. Our saving grace was that my sister came to stay with us for the weekend or I'm not sure how we would've made it. She did the shopping and cooking and entertained Sydney while we sat on the couch in a daze. To add to the jet lag, Donny and Alycia decided to get sick with colds, which made it more difficult to snap back to a normal routine. We somehow managed for the four days after my sister left until my mom came down to stay on the following weekend. By then, Sydney and Alycia were sleeping on a normal schedule and Donny and I were gradually catching up on our sleep as well.

Sydney had a few difficult moments at home and had several more screaming tantrums. At least in our own home we didn't have to worry about needing lollipops anymore! Those rages seem to have subsided now and she is settling into her new home. She wasn't sure that she liked the cats at first but she is learning to be nice to them and pets them, unless they try to smell her toys or try to lay on her, then she gets made and fusses at them (in Chinese, of course). She is using quite a few gestures now to communicate and continues to parrot a lot of our words. We're trying to stick to a routine here and use similar phrases for things, so she can catch on a little quicker.

Sydney got to meet both sets of grandparents and her great-grandmother already. Unfortunately, we were all having a bad day due to a short night of sleep when my family arrived, so they will have to wait to experience Sydney's better side. We've been busy trying to run around after Sydney so she can show us the spots that we still need to toddler-proof! She enjoys dragging her ill father up and down the stairs and already knows that she is not allowed to climb the stairs without help. Lucky dad!! She doesn't seem too interested in playing with her toys for very long and is more intent on exploring her environment and putting toys in drawers. Mom also got a purse full of presents from Sydney stashing her toys.

Sydney seems to enjoy being a girl and already has a favorite dress from great-grandma. If it's in her closet, it's the one she wants to wear! Mom also bought her some hair clips, which she loves to have in her hair unless they are hidden in a purse or a drawer.

She still likes her baths but doesn't like to lay down for her naps or bed and cries herself to sleep. It's frustrating to not be able to communicate with her at times like this! We'll just keep trying different things to see if we can stumble across a solution.

It's great to be home and we can't wait for everyone to get to know Sydney!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

4th of July

Sorry to the morning coffee club for not having posted anything for a while. We have had a couple of slow days and didn't have much to post. Yesterday afternoon we did some shopping at our favorite little shop, Jordon's. I wish he had everything that we are looking for in his store because it's nice to be able to just look at things without people following you around trying to sell you everything in their store. We bought Sydney some traditional dresses and two pairs of squeaky shoes. They certainly make the squeakers in the shoes loud enough! It's fun to hear other kids squeaking down the hall in the hotel!! Sydney LOVES these shoes! We might have to see if we can find a larger size to bring home because she will likely grow out of these pretty quickly, judging by how much she is eating. We're still keeping her on a bland diet of congee, toast, noodles, rice, bananas, and yogurt. It seems to help keep her stomach settled down.....we just hope it holds for a few more days!

We have really been blessed with a great group of other families here. Everyone is so generous and caring. It helps so much to have them around and it's been fun getting to know them. It's so fun to watch all of the kids bonding to their families and changing already. We will miss not seeing them and their kids every day.

Last night we ordered in food from Danny's Bagels and Alycia and I had some incredible macaroni and cheese. Sydney enjoyed her chicken noodle soup and crackers and Donny tried a hamburger and fries. He said it wasn't bad but it's not quite like home either. After supper Donny and Alycia took Sydney swimming for the second time. This time we remembered the cameras! She had a blast and seems to enjoy everything a little more if her sister is there. She let Donny and Alycia hold her in the big pool and spin her around. She didn't want to get out of the water but it was getting close to bath time. Thanks to the squeaky shoes she agreed to get out of the water! While I put Sydney in the tub, Alycia and Donny went down to the deli and grabbed some ice cream. Donny gave Sydney a few bites of ice cream....she knows who to go to when mom says "no"! By the time her bath and snack time were over, it was close to bedtime. She decided to be a night owl last night and it was almost 10:00 when she finally went to sleep. She was content to just roll around in her bed but she wasn't so content before lunch today. She decided to spend around 20 minutes howling and crying! Not quiet tears either....the kind of cry that you can hear in the elevator a couple of floors down!! Alycia and Donny left to go to Lucy's Cafe for lunch and I decided to keep Sydney here and feed her when she calmed down. She doesn't like to be held or touched when she's upset, that seems to make things worse. She likes to sit by herself and just cry....it's heartbreaking not to be able to comfort her! I made her noodles and got her food ready and she started to calm down a little bit, so I went over and asked her if she wanted to eat and she decided to be done crying. We're not sure what made her mad in the first place but we figured she's likely just tired and irritable. She was pretty lazy after lunch and just lounged on her dad and pretended to bite off his finger.

Sydney is taking a much needed nap right now and we're hoping that she wakes up feeling better. We're just planning to hit a few more shops this afternoon and we've started packing things that we don't need for the trip home. I usually hate packing but packing to go home is very exciting!

Tomorrow we have our appointment at the consulate and then we are done! We hope you will all enjoy the 4th of July and maybe someone will take pity on us and repeat the grilled steak and potato salad (some with no onions, of course!) when we get home???!!!

We're counting down the hours!!