Thursday, July 24, 2014

First Concert

Chloe has a theme song when she races karts. In tough races or when something has gone amiss and she is down on the starting grid, we will play Katy Perry's "Roar" to pump her up. As Chloe's driving progresses and she finds herself atop the podium more, Chloe is also becoming more aware that in her male-dominated sport many boys take offense to getting beaten by a girl and many others see her as a push-over because she is a girl as well.

"Roar" really fits as Chloe's theme song for karting.
Of course we had to purchase the "Roar" concert shirt.

So, when Matt found out that Katy Perry was coming to our area he recommended we take Chloe to her first big-time concert.

Chloe was excited and really enjoyed the concert. She has never been the tween to get up and start dancing or scream when Katy Perry came out. She's subdued. She sat, watching, taking it all in. And Perry opened the show with "Roar". Chloe just smiled.

Everyone was given glasses to view the concert--it made everything light up like a prism.

Matt and Chloe before the concert at dinner.

Matt and I on the other hand had an apparent blast. Capital Cities opened for Perry and we really liked them. Katy Perry also put on a fantastic show. Very entertaining, very empowering for girls.

K.P. floated up on balloons at the end of the show.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1 Year Gotcha Anniversary

The first time we met. Emma Claire is being held by her nanny who was reluctant to let her go.
It was a year ago today that a little 11-month old baby girl was brought into the Heilongjiang Provincial International Adoption Center and I got to hold Emma Claire in my arms for the first time. I couldn't wait to Sk*ype and introduce Emma Claire ShiWen to her big sister and brother and of course, Daddy.

I guess it's only fitting that this week Emma Claire started saying her first three-word sentence, "Hold Emma Momma!".
Emma Claire on her one-year Gotcha Day. I dressed her in blue, because she was wearing a blue, baby boy onesie overalls when we met.

I keep repeating that this past year has been a whirlwind. She's turned our world upside down but we wouldn't have it any other way.

The Heilongjiang Provincial office doesn't complete a lot of international adoptions, in fact, our large agency hadn't had a referral from that province in 10 years when we got our referral! So, when Heilongjiang does have an adoption, they are very welcoming and make it a celebration with a photographer on hand. When we were leaving the province to go to Guangzhou, we were given a photo album by the province official. I am sharing photos of Gotcha Day that were taken by the province photographer.
Emma Claire's Chinese passport photo. Not sure why she was dressed in an adult shirt for the photo.

Emma Claire (after being changed out of her blue overalls by her nanny) and I with my sister, Deanna.

The first time I got to hold her.

Emma Claire being held by her nanny after a clothing change.

Emma Claire's nanny changing her clothes. She's also telling me how to make a bottle and Sophie, our translator in the gingham shirt on the right, is translating and also telling the nanny that Emma Claire isn't my first child. The nanny meant well and you could tell she loved and cared for Emma Claire. Of the three adoptions we've completed this was the least stressful and most relaxed one because the province officials were so welcoming. Having the process calm and not rushed was nice. The nanny offered lots of advice and insight into Emma Claire and was truthful in the condition of the orphanage and areas that she knew Emma Claire would need some extra attention to be brought to age-level.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


People who adopt often celebrate the "Gotcha Day" anniversary. And, we are coming up on that one year anniversary in a couple of weeks. But, I always keep track of the "+1 Anniversary"--the day that our child has been with us longer than in any orphanage, etc.

Today marks the day that Emma Claire has been with us longer than she has been with anyone. For Emma Claire it is important to note that it has only been this last month that she has really come into her own. She is her own little person and her confidence and surety is growing daily.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Saltwater Aquarium

I've been talking for years now about getting a saltwater aquarium. Chloe and Oliver both have freshwater fish and since we've been married Matt and I have usually had a freshwater fish tank.

So for my birthday, Matt surprised me with a trip to a saltwater aquarium store to meet with the owner and discuss what is involved in keeping a saltwater aquarium and our options on sizes and tank shapes.

Our original thought/plan was to get a small tank (around 50-60 gallons). True to form, we left the aquarium store with an order for a special made cabinet and aquarium system for  120 gallon saltwater reef tank.

So, it was happy birthday, happy mother's day, happy anniversary and any other gift-giving holidays to follow.

The cabinet was specially made to our height and stain specifications and took six weeks to be made and shipped.

The tank was brought to our house and installed on June 20 (our 16th anniversary). The guys set up the cabinet, filtration system underneath, base rock and live rock which will act as the anchor for the corals and polyps we get for our tank and serve as hiding spot for the fish and other creatures. They then filled it with saltwater and began the cycling of the tank (which takes 4-6 weeks).
The Before: The space in the living room for the tank.

The lower cabinet, which houses all the filtration and heating, and the tank brought in.

The sand, base rock and live rock installed inside the tank.
A look at the install.

After the saltwater was added. Super-cloudy.

The next morning after the set-up. The water was still a little bit hazy but it all cleared up by mid-afternoon.

In total, it will take about 6-12 months before we have a fully functional reef aquarium. Right now, it's rock and little else. The weekend following the install, we had several people over at different times and all of them would walk in the door, see the tank look at it and say, "Hey, do you know you have no fish in the tank?"


But, now that the cycle is under way, we have three different types of damsel fish in the tank. In about another month we can add some soft corals and start stocking the tank. Its been a learning process for me and Chloe has been a big help. She feeds the fish each day and helps do water tests weekly. Hopefully the novelty won't wear off because I feel a great amount of pressure to get this right so we will have a beautiful tank and not a big waste of money.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

True Toddler - 23 Months Old!

Emma Claire is 23 months old today and she is truly a toddler. Gone is the baby.

The biggest change this month is Emma Claire's noticeable change in behavior and attitude. She's always been a little bit sassy but she's also been clingy and sometimes timid.

Not anymore.

The kid can hold her own with her brother and sister and asserts her wants with them. Chloe and Oliver have left babying her and now I hear, "MOM! Tell Emma Claire to stop trying to take {insert iPad, pillow, remote or name of toy here}!". Gone are the "She's so cute" kissy-face comments from big brother and big sister and we've moved into "she's so annoying"!

She wants to be a big kid and do big kid things. We've also taken a slight interest in the potty (we like to flush it) and will actually acknowledge we need a diaper change.

She was released from Physical Therapy this month. She's almost to an age-appropriate level and she was released because she has become non-compliant. Emma Claire made no bones about it. She did not like PT and she made that abundantly clear with her temper tantrums and refusal to do anything during the sessions. The most frustrating thing was, when the clipboard came out for her physical therapist to write the session notes (which meant the session was over) Emma Claire would start giggling and high-fiving. She totally knew what she was doing.

Emma Claire remains in OT, which she loves, though I don't know if she will remain in much longer.

Emma Claire also now has three stuffed animals that she takes all over the house with her. She has a cat, which interacts, and two puppies. She really has bonded with the one puppy which she will call "Puppy" and sometimes "Hush" (which is what she tells Flash when he barks or makes his Flash-isms).

Now that the older kids are out of school, I've gotten her on a more schedule naptime instead of her cat naps she would take during the school year when we were running kids here and there.

Next month she will be two and her age can catch up to her attitude!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014


Saturday, June 28 was OVRP club race #4. It was a night race. Chloe tested her re-built motor and did well. In the end, she came in 2nd but had the fastest lap times.

We hung out at the house on Sunday, Chloe had a fellow race pal over and the kids played. Matt took the day off on Monday and we headed to the track to unveil Oliver's new kid kart. He was surprised as he thought he was getting Chloe's old kid kart.
Oliver's FA (Tony Kart) Kid Kart. He chose #56 for no apparent reason other than he likes that number.
All geared up and ready to drive.
He looks like he is patiently waiting to go on track. Not the case.

On track with big sister.

In front down the straight.

One proud dad and a happy little boy.

Emma Claire says, "I hope I get a new kid kart and don't get handed down a blue kart. I want purple."

Listening to instructions from Matt.

On track with Daddy following in the golf kart.

Cleaning his kart after a long day of practice.

There were so many people at the track and he was so impatient wanting to drive his new kart. It was pretty cute to see him so excited to kart.

He got in lots of lap times and practice. He followed big sis around the track and also went out with Matt.

Oliver will continue to get more practice in at the track and towards the end of the race year we will see if we want him to compete in the kid kart races.

Monday, June 30, 2014

School's Out!

Finally! School is out for the summer. Chloe's last day was June 26. Yes, school gets out here one week before Independence Day. I will never be able to wrap my head around that as I am programmed that school gets out around Memorial Day.

It's all the kids, all of the time now.

It took me exactly one day of all three kids at home to write up a daily schedule, including a chore chart.

So far we've lounged around and played in the blow-up pool I purchased to entertain the kids. There are no swim clubs/town pools in our area so this is the next best thing. Some people have asked why we don't put in an in-ground pool since we have all this space and the answer is simple -- This isn't Texas and our pool water doesn't naturally heat up from summer warmth. Pools in this area are COLD unless you heat them. It costs a lot of money for something that you can use for basically 2-3 months out of the year (less for us since we are kart racing most of the summer). People who have pools here have said that you MUST heat them to swim in them and you will choke the first time you get that electric bill for heating the pool. One person told me it was their "biggest regret and waste of money ever". So, I splurged and bought this little number. For $40, its served its purpose. I also purchased a smaller pool for Emma Claire and a water sprayer for the older two to run through. So far, so good.

Emma Claire even got into the pool. Yes, she has swim suits but she usually never gets into the pool (she doesn't like baths) but for some reason she wanted into the baby pool on this day and decided to climb right clothes, shoes and all, prompting us to strip her of her clothes and let her splash in her diaper.

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