Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas...So Far

We departed California on December 17, heading East to spend the holiday with our family and friends. Before leaving, we were so happy to have our friend Dave visit and share the lighting of his menorah with us. As tradition dictates, the youngest lights the candle. Dave recited the Hebrew blessing and then we shared a lovely dinner. Nine years ago, it was Maddie who lit the menorah with Dave... time is flying by.

We arrived in Washington just in time to enjoy the Christmas performance at Josie's former pre-school. We were so warmly welcomed back to St. Mary's... Josie had happy tears in her eyes while hugging her former teachers, Mrs J and Mrs M. I didn't even take out my camera. I truly just wanted to enjoy the moment. All Josie's friends were dressed as angels in preparation for their performance. It was so fitting - they are the most lovely children I have ever met. I was so thrilled to see all the Preschool Moms who have been such a huge part of our lives. The most important 'hug and hello' was for Michael's Dad, Bob, who was home on a two week leave from his service in Afghanistan. He left his family the first week of May, 2009. Please keep our friend and his family in your prayers.

After the Christmas program, we had a girls lunch at the local IHOP and then prepared for our big outing - a performance of Sesame Street Live! on Friday night. Forecasters were predicting between 12-24 inches of snow to begin sometime after midnight on Friday - so we ventured out with the knowledge we would be back long before the snow started.

Maria dances with the Sesame Street Gang

Emma, Josie, Maria, Meaghan, Lauryn, and Caitlyn before leaving for the show

If only forecaster were right... when we exited the show, there were already 2 inches of snow on the ground. I was driving a Chevy Impala rental car - which, (props to GM!) performed phenomenally on the snow covered 95. It took us 3.5 hours to drive 25 miles back to our hotel. The 95 was eventually closed by the State Police. I was fortunate enough to follow a snow plow for the last few miles of our journey - ensuring our safe arrival in Fredericksburg. It was quite an adventure!

A total of 2 feet of snow fell that evening and into Saturday. We were snowed in until the plows came through on Sunday morning. Here's a few photos of how we spent the day on Saturday:

Josie, Tori and Maddie enjoy some hot chocolate after a walk through a snowing downtown Fredericksburg

Once the snow was cleared, Josie and I headed out to visit our friends for playdates. Maddie hooked up with friends from elementary and high school and enjoyed some serious sledding! Josie and her friends enjoyed some serious dress-up fashion shows:

Emma and Josie strike a pose!

Maria, Riley and Josie do a Princess dance!

James joined us here in Maryland on the evening of the 23rd. We are happily camped out with my sister, Claudine. My sister, Suzanne and family arrived from Philadelphia on Christmas afternoon. We are now waiting for my brother and his family to arrive from Richmond, VA to have our family Christmas.

Best Wishes to you All for a wonderful holiday season. We're going to ring in the New Year in Virginia, so we're all very excited for the days to come.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Princess and the Frog Premier

This past Saturday night, we attended the premier of the Princess and the Frog at the Walt Disney Studios in Glendale, CA. Josie was nearly out of her mind with anticipation!

Upon arrival, we picked our tickets up in a warehouse used to store props from many Disney live-action movies. We saw a cannon from Pirates of the Caribbean; a few props from Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and a mock of the house lifted by balloons in 'Up".

After picking up some popcorn for the movie, we were shepherded in the theatre. The seats were plush and reclined, very comfy! Josie didn't even blink during the movie! She loved it. So did James and I. There were parts of the movie that got a bit loud - so if you have a little one with 'loud sound' issues, like we do - just be prepared to cover the ears for a few minutes. The story is fantastic, the music is awesome and even the 'bad guys' in the movie weren't too scary.

After the movie, we made our way into another warehouse that was converted into a Princess Wonderland. All of the girls were there! They had a small display of the gowns worn by actresses and actors in both the animated (models) and live-action Disney films. We saw Cruella deVille's gown, Queen Clarise's gown from the Princess Diaries; and the gown worn by a model for animating Princess Tiana of the Princess and the Frog. Very cool stuff!

They had a game arcade set up and a scary obstacle course that Josie braved on her own! Of course, no Princess party is complete without cupcakes... and we stocked up! We got the Princess 4 pack:

Here's the Cinderella Glass Slipper cupcake:

Here, Josie explains that she too used to live in Virginia and moved to California. (I had time while waiting in line to tell Josie an abbreviated version of the Pocahontas story). She asked Pocahontas, "So, when did YOU move to California?" !!

Finally, Josie and Mulan had quite a bit to talk about... Josie explained that she was born in China and asked Mulan, "Do you know where Hubei is?" I was really proud of her - she's usually quite shy around strangers. Around the Princesses, she makes conversation like she's at a cocktail party!

We finished our big night out with dinner in LA Chinatown. Josie was asleep before I got her buckled into her car seat! She saved two cupcakes for her big sister and friend, Hailey. Even when she's exhausted, she is a considerate little girl.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Stop Me If You've Heard This One...

See if this sounds familiar:

There once was a lovely woman happily raising her beautiful daughters somewhere far from the West Coast. She was surrounded by friends who loved her and she loved them. She also had a deep love for her husband who worked hard to give her and the girls a lovely home and a comfortable life. One day her husband comes home with news of an 'opportunity' and before you know it, she's packing up her beloved home and children - headed for Southern Orange County, CA.

She doesn't know a soul in California and is totally depressed by her house hunting trips - she's used to wide, open spaces. There is nothing familiar around her, but she knows that 'Home is where the Heart Is'. As long as she has her daughters and her husband, she'll be fine...

Believe it or not, this story is not only about me - but my new friend Karen. Karen's BFF Julie stumbled upon this blog and persuaded Karen to get in touch with me. Oh, I forgot to mention that Karen's youngest daughter, Kenzie, was born in China. Oh, and another thing... her 14 year old daughter is Maddie (Madison). Can you believe it? Julie thought that these similarities merited an introduction for the two of us. She was so right!

After a few months of corresponding via e-mail, Josie and I took an afternoon to share lunch with Karen. Our lunch was 2.5 hours long! We had such a fun time sharing stories of our new lives, our families and our feelings of loneliness here in our new home state. Karen left our first meeting confident in the knowledge that some people you meet through the internet are not crazy :-) I left our lunch knowing that I had just shared an enjoyable afternoon with a lady who had a heart as big as Texas! (and yes, that's the state that Karen left behind)

We agreed that it would be great to get our husbands and kids together to have some fun at Disneyland. Today was that day!
We had such a great time! We met for lunch in Downtown Disney and then headed over to the California Adventure park. Kenzie was so sweet with Josie - putting off riding all the exciting 'big people' rides she was now tall enough to ride - to ride the far less exciting kiddie rides with our JoJo. Josie was just thrilled to hold Kenzie's hand and to have someone close to her size to hang with for the afternoon. We also cut our Maddies loose to ride the coasters, meeting up with them at 3PM.

Turns out that the camera loves all the girls and they happily posed so Karen and I could document the afternoon. James and Karen's husband, Eric also had a great time chasing the little ones through the park and pulling the all-important Bumper Car duty.

Here are some photos from this afternoon:

Josie and Kenzie cuddle up with Pluto

James & Eric take the girls for a ride!

Here's Karen and me with our girls.

Josie, Kenzie and the Mouse

Madeleine, Josie, Kenzie and Madison - what a bunch of beauties!

Karen and Eric have two college-aged daughters who will be joining them in California next week. I can't wait to meet them! We're anticipating a lot of fun times ahead...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

My Mom & Dad arrived on Saturday and my younger sister, Claudine, got here on Wednesday night. My Mom is a whirlwind of activity so we've been busy all week. Josie and Maddie are absolutely thrilled to have their grandparent and aunt here with them. Grandmom & Josie baked cookies on Tuesday:

(a Maryland crab cookie in honor of Aunt Claudine!)

We also celebrated James birthday last Saturday. Boy, is he getting old!!

Here's one last photo of Maddie directing Grandmom on how to stuff a turkey ;-)

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ortega Wildfire

Yesterday we had another California 'first'. We had just picked up Maddie from school when we noticed some purplish, brown 'clouds' off to our left on Antonio Parkway. The further south we drove, it became clear that what we were seeing was not clouds but smoke from a wildfire in the hills. This is how it looked as we travelled south:

Being the adventurers that we are - and having our camera on hand - we followed the smoke to the Ortega Highway.

We weren't the only ones. I pulled over on a turnout on the winding Ortega Highway, trying to determine the location of the fire. Kind of a useless act because there are no cross roads on the highway. It runs straight through the hills with nothing on either side of the highway... So we just followed the highway and soon began to see the planes and helicopters fighting the wildfire.

Finally, we came upon the staging area for the firefighters and the actual origin site of the wildfire.

It is truly amazing to see the power of these wildfires out here. They seem to have a life of their own, destroying anything in their path. This fire was contained, but not extinguished, around 11 o'clock last night. It was started by a downed electrical line around noon yesterday. In that short time, the fire consumed 250 acres. There were no injuries or property damage. You can read the whole story HERE.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It's Not Just the Smile...

After seeing the Halloween photos I posted here and on Facebook, my friend Donna suggested I should do a post about how James and Josie have the same exact smile. It's so true.

It is rumored that the CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs) goes to great lengths to match each child to a family with similar characteristics. I know many adoptive parents who are amazed by how well this matching process seems to have worked. We would love our children no matter what, but it is so incredibly fascinating to see ourselves in them. Obviously, James & Josie have the similar Asian features. But, it's downright scary to see how their gestures, facial expressions and overall temperaments are exactly the same!

I went through my photo archives to see how far back I could spot these similarities. I was totally surprised to see that they have been alike since the very beginning! Thanks, Donna for suggesting this trip down memory lane! See if you agree that our Josie is the image of her Dad:

This photo was taken when Josie had been home with us for just a few days.

This photo still cracks me up, nearly 3 years later!

You can see here that Josie also has her GungGung's smile!

Here, it's the look in James' eyes that I see now in Josie...

And finally, this is a series of photos I took of James and Josie while we were on vacation in 2007. Me, Maddie, James and Josie were enjoying the sunset as our ship departed Piraeus (Athens) Greece. Maddie and I still love looking at these photos and marveling over the absolute love you can see in their eyes:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Scenes From Halloween

The Princess & her Dad

Josie and her friend, Katie

Trick or Treating:

I'm still waiting for Maddie's photos from the party she attended on Saturday night. She went dressed as Madonna (circa 1980's) and won for best costume!