Friday, April 26, 2013

International Day

Chloe's elementary school hosts an International Day annually and represents the multi-cultural make-up of Chloe's school. Each country represented has children within the school of that cultural heritage. This year there were many countries represented--
Great Britain
India
Cuba
Spain
Greece
Sweden
China
Japan
Korea
Guatemala
Phillipines
Poland
Thailand
Italy
Norway
Ireland
The Parade of Nations


Tradition has it that every year International Day begins with the Chinese Dragon Dance.

Last night was International Night for the families and included dances and songs performed by the children and booths telling some history of each country along with a sampling of foods the country is known for. During school on Friday, each of the classes will visit the displays.

Chloe represented China along with many other children of Chinese heritage. They performed a Tai Chi fan dance. They have been rehearsing for a few weeks and last night was a culmination of lots of practice and preparation on the part of both the students and parents.
Chloe is the third girl from the right (in a deep squat).

 


I'm glad that Chloe is confident and proud of her cultural heritage. I am also glad that she can go to school in a place that welcomes diversity and celebrates it.

Some of the Chinese fan dance performers in front of the China display.

Monday, April 22, 2013

2nd Copy Arrives

Our 2nd copy of our i800a approval arrived in the mail today as expected. So far the postal service is 50/50 on critical adoption documentation.

I started organizing all our paperwork and passport copies for the travel binder we will take to China. Two copies of our 1-797--check. Thanks USPS.

Our i800 application/paperwork arrived on Thursday, April 18th at the lockbox. I haven't received the text confirmation, I guess I will wait for the mailed confirmation. It seems the average processing time for the i800 right now ranges from 14-18 days. That means we could potentially get our approval on my birthday!!!!

I am thinking we will travel in July. I truly hope before (who doesn't) but July is the most likely. I am slowly beginning to plan what we will pack. Emma Claire is in the far northeastern part of China and the average summer temperature is 68F. We will be there for one week before going to the southernmost province of China where we will spend a week in 84F with 82% humidity.  Shorts and sweaters?

Nesting

On Saturday afternoon, Matt and Chloe went to practice at the track and Oliver and I stayed home. It was a chilly day so I set out some Legos for Oliver and he contentedly played in his (and Chloe's room--shhhh) while I was upstairs tackling the attic.

We have a walk up attic that easily gets disorganized. It serves as part closet (our house is 80 years old, our closets are a joke/insult in 2013), storage for crystal and serving platters, storage for luggage, holiday decoration storage and houses 8 years of saved clothing for Emma Claire passed down from big sis Chloe.

First step, schedule the Big Brothers/Big Sisters to come and pick up a donation---they got me inspired and set a deadline to get "it" out of the attic if we didn't need it or use it.

Once I cleared up, bagged it and took it down stairs I could tackle the clothing bins. Tackling the stacks and stacks of giant storage bins of girl's clothing was like hitting the baby clothing jackpot and overwhelming. There is 12 giant storage bins of clothes. I've kept them according to size, but there was an extra storage bin of just shoes which had to be sorted.

I found the outfit Chloe was wearing on the red couch at The White Swan Hotel and plan to take it to China for Emma Claire to wear at the consulate appointment. Love it!!

I sorted through everything and donated some outfits that I could recall only fit Chloe for one wear (from all indications, Emma Claire is a larger baby than Chloe).

I took note of what was missing--pajamas and socks. I also took note of the ridiculous amounts of baby shoes I bought. TONS of baby shoes.

The saddest part was the bin that contained all of the gifts exchanged with other October LID families while we waited. There were cards and ladybug onesies. There were two shirts gifted to us, for Chloe and Emma Claire to wear, one said "Jie Jie" (big sister) and the other said "Mei Mei" (little sister). The "Jie Jie" shirt was a size 4---four sizes smaller than Chloe's current size and indicative of the length of time we have waited for Chloe's Mei Mei.

Now that the attic is cleaned and baby inventory has been taken, it's time to shop (my favorite part).
Clockwise: Care package sent via Ann at The Red Thread to Emma Claire, shoes and socks for the children at Emma Claire's orphanage, pajamas, luggage bag tags from Etsy, bibs from Etsy, blanket lovey for Emma Claire via Etsy, more bibs via Etsy and new luggage--it seems our attic was the dying place for worn out suitcases--I got these bright green cases at an additional 20% off of the sale price.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earth Day Cupcakes

Chloe's Girl Scout troop had a bake sale for Earth Day to raise money to build a well in Africa. Chloe and I made these cupcakes. I got the recipe here.
 
 

Neither of the kids like cupcakes/cake. Chloe only wanted to eat the marshmallow rolled in green sugar and Oliver only wanted the pretzels. To each his own....

Friday, April 19, 2013

Springlike

Warmer days...finally!! Oliver and I spent most of Tuesday outside working in the yard--I was cleaning up the yard and planting flowers and Oliver was helping to make a mess of it again.





Thursday, April 18, 2013

2013 Club Race #1


This past weekend was the first club race for the 2013 season. Chloe is just racing Micro this year, but Matt is also racing DD2 in the "shark tank" of the Masters class.

Matt took both kids up on Friday night to spend the night at the track and I stayed home, spending the evening making a wreath and changing light bulbs!!! Super exciting.
Everyone in their race suits. Emma Claire was given a pink race suit by the track owners. So very tiny and cute!

Saturday was practice and Chloe's Micro crashed into the wall during laps when the suspension came loose. Chloe is always so calm and matter of fact about accidents. It didn't seem to phase her. I'm always impressed with her composure.



Sunday was race day and Chloe came in first during the pre-race qualifying giving her a good start to the final Micro race. Unfortunately, luck was not on her side and a wire came loose on her kart severely limiting the power and she had to come in out of the race. She was very disappointed because she thought she would win the race and a podium finish. It was upsetting to see how disappointed she was.
Matt racing.

Back to the pits.

He doesn't want to drive, just look the part.



Matt participated in his first races as well. The Master's series is hard core and those guys race. Matt is the only DD2 in the series and races alongside TAG and other shifter karts.

Next weekend its off to south Jersey for a regional race. Lets hope Chloe has better luck!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Did I Say...

And, as predicted, our post office has lost our USCIS approval. Mail has arrived for Wednesday and no approval in the mail. That's 5 mail days since approval and nothing. Emailed our USCIS officer and hope to get a new one sent.

Edited to Add: I contacted our agency and they received a copy of our 1800a approval on Monday. Our caseworker was able to email me a pdf of the approval so I could include it in our i800 filing, which I overnighted via FedEx to USCIS. Our case officer at the NBC unit is mailing us a new hard copy. Fingers crossed it gets here and we don't have any other lost items sent via USPS.

Our i800a approval, the original, arrived in the mail on Friday, April 19. I assume it was delivered to the wrong address and they put it back in to the post for re-delivery. I am curious to see when our 2nd copy sent from our officer on Thursday, April 18 arrives. Wondering if I should start worrying about our i800 arriving!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

APPROVAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We received word via email that our i800a was approved on 4/11/13. I had just written the post below when I saw on RQ that someone had been assigned an officer (see Edited to Note at end of post) so I decided to send off an email to see if we too had been assigned an officer. I got an immediate response back from our assigned officer (also the officer who responded to my first inquiry a few weeks ago via email) that we had been approved and it was in the mail. Now that I know it is approved and on its way I only have to worry that our crazy postman will deliver it to another house as is typical of our mail delivery!!! Always have to worry about something after all.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Back Home

The flight home from Texas was uneventful. I had worried because severe thunderstorms were supposed to hit the north Texas area about the time we were to take off from DFW. Luckily, it was only raining and we departed on time.

We flew cheap-o air and I was pretty nervous about the flights after having read horror stories on line. I discovered though that if you are aware of cheap-o air's luggage rules and procedures then it is no problem. I also discovered that 3/4 of people don't read rules and thereby make things difficult for the other 1/4 who do.

The kids are pretty good flyers---once they can use their electronic devices.

Waiting on our luggage--Oliver crawling all over the filthy floor of LaGuardia. Disgusting.

Little man helping with the luggage with Chloe taking the other suitcase up front. I love this picture.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The BIG 4-0 Girl's Weekend

Back in the fall, my college best friends and I decided to finally live up to a promise we made at the University of Arkansas to celebrate our 30th birthdays together ten years after the fact.

The Usual Suspects---
Christi "The Boss" and Melanie "Never Mets a Stranger"
 

"The Two Shannons"--the polite ones.


Our original plan was to take a 4-day cruise from Galveston through the Gulf to Cancun but in early February the cruise ship we had scheduled to travel on had a fire on board and became known throughout the world as “The Good Ship Lollipoop”. Needless to say, our cruise was canceled and our money refunded as Carnival tried to clean the ship and its reputation. I’ve sworn it was my first and last cruise.

But, that left three of the four of us with plane tickets to Texas and nowhere to go. We threw some ideas out there and decided we wanted to keep it in the same price range as our cruise. That led us to Fredericksburg, Texas in central Texas and center of the Texas wine industry and since it was in the hill country in central Texas, it was just about the same driving distance for those coming from Houston and for me coming from Dallas.

I was flying into Dallas to drop the kids off with BeBe and PaPaw on Wednesday, April 3rd and the others were in Houston. We planned on meeting at our rental house in Fredericksburg late Wednesday.
The rental house.

After we landed at DFW and I picked up a rental car, I dropped the kids off at my parent’s and got them settled in. Around 6 p.m., I hit the road for what should be a 4 ½ hour drive. It was raining and ended up taking me around 5 ½ hours.  The others were already at the house when I arrived and the Girl’s Weekend officially began with “hellos” and the exchanging of gifts.


Jewelry, glasses and wine yokes.
 
We spent the rest of the evening catching up in the hot tub of the rental house. The next day we had scheduled massages at The Fredericksburg Herb Farm which were great and relaxing. There were only two masseuses and Melanie and I went first, which gave us time to head to the bar and enjoy a Bloody Mary much to the dismay of the ladies of the local Baptist church which should have foretold a lot about the town considering the restaurant didn’t staff a bartender during the day.

After our massages we headed to Fredericksburg for lunch at Pasta Bella which was good. We then walked the cute downtown shops and met some locals and got some recommendations on places to eat dinner. We learned from some of the younger residents that Fredericksburg mid-week isn’t that lively. Our favorite quote was, “This town doesn’t even have a Whataburger!”.

As we walked the downtown we soon began to notice that all the shops were closing at 5:00 p.m. I was looking for a sweater of some sort to wear out that night since it was much chillier than I had anticipated and my only sweater I had worn for two days. I wasn’t having any luck in the downtown shops and since they were closing, we headed to Bealls where I also struck out except for a UT Longhorns fleece on deep discount. The fleece was next to a rack of sale shirts and once the four of us noticed the shirts it was all over. They were possibly the worst shirts ever and we had to buy them. Since it was our 40th birthdays, we decided to create “The Stupid Shirt Society”. Fifty has red hats, why shouldn’t 40 be some silly shirt about swag? Of course, we had to accessorize with earrings from the clearance rack as well. For less than $5 we were ridiculous styling.

After our shopping spree, we picked up some grocery items and headed back to the house for cocktails and primping in our new duds. Of course, we laughed so hard that we barely noticed the time and at 8:40 p.m. we were desperate to find an eating establishment that served food after 9 p.m. It was slim pickin’s.

Our first stop was a local bar which had been described on-line as “the bar scene” of Fredericksburg. If this place is THE bar scene then I pity Fredericksburg and it doesn’t represent F-burg very well. It was a walk-in/walk-out situation for us but just enough time spent inside that we all smelled like cigarette smoke and were concerned about emphysema.

We lucked out at our next stop, the Buffalo Nickel, which stayed open until 10 p.m. It was at the Buffalo Nickel that Melanie we began chatting with one of our waitresses and found out she was 17 years old with a 2 year old child at home. It was an uplifting conversation {insert sarcasm here} as we heard about her “life” while wearing shirts about our swag. It was a bit of a buzz kill on the evening but it looked to improve when she offered to show us THE happening bar in town, Red’s, which just happened to be on the way to her house because she didn’t have a ride home. So, with our waitress in tow, she took us outside of F-burg down some abandoned road by a cattle barn through and industrial park when Melanie felt compelled to inform her that we were being nice taking her home and were hoping she wasn’t taking us somewhere to be “jumped”. She wasn’t. The place was a dump. Worse than the first place we went to that evening. No way were we setting foot in there. We dropped our waitress at her apartment and as we bid her farewell she told us she was excited to go to a tractor-pull the next day and get drunk.  And on that bombshell, we called it an evening and went home to start an online voting contest on who wore the best shirt.  Hint: It was midnight when the shirt photos were posted and the only one with friends still awake was the person from the west coast. She also happened to be the winner. Hmmmm…..how did that happen?

The shirts:
Christi's shirt: "Awesome All Day Every Day"

Shannon's shirt: "Who Needs SWAG When You Have GANGNAM STYLE?"


Mine: "Status: Single, Taken, Who Cares I'm Awesome"

Melanie's shirt: "Call the Doctor My SWAG is Sick"
And, yes, we wore them in public (at 9 p.m., there were only maybe 14 people we saw in these shirts):


Friday was wine touring day. Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect. I am a native Texan and didn’t expect much but we were all surprised. I had booked a limo for a wine tour with a driver. There was the four of us and two other couples in the limo with our driver Cole, who was a good sport and great cameraman. We went to 5 wineries and a distillery and bought something at each stop. The Tempranillo wine from Texas is great and our wine tour was great fun. Of course, we had our stylish handpainted and personalized wine glasses and wine yokes that turned heads everywhere we went.
At limo pick-up before the winery tours began.

Melanie and Shannon in the limo.

Christi & I in the limo.
Melanie tasting wine at Pedernales.

Christi, Shannon & Melanie looking good with matching wine accessories.
 At the distillery. The before-----

The after:


Our limo group.


At Hilmy Vineyards.
We got back from the wine tour late in the afternoon. If you would have asked me on the day, I would have told you I liked William-Chris wines the best, but once I got back to Dallas with my purchases and sampled the wines, the bottles I purchased at 4.0 Cellars were my favorites along with the Pedernales Tempranillo.

For dinner, we at a German restaurant on Main Street in F-burg. We walked out of a steakhouse after it appeared to be one thing from the outside and was totally different when we got into the dining room---very stuffy, not for 4 loud ladies on a birthday/reunion trip. After dinner we headed to Luckenbach, Texas to the famous dance hall. We were greeted by Tumbleweed the longhorn and his hilarious handler and had to oblige a photo shoot. When I sent these photos to Chloe via text, she didn't think it was a real longhorn I was sitting on. Tumbleweed was real, that is why Shannon is holding his horn, so one of us doesn't get gored.
Tumbleweed.
Where I am being instructed NOT to touch Tumbleweed's neck.



The group shot.



In the dance hall.

Luckenbach was fun and laid back. There was all ages there and the band playing that night was excellent. We returned from Luckenbach and Melanie and I hot-tubbed and gossiped well into the wee hours of Saturday morning which meant we didn't wake up and get going until after mid-day. We went for a late lunch and some more shopping on Main Street where I had my eye out for a fancy pair of cowgirl boots to wear to Gruene Hall that night.
Needing a little help to remove the boots!

The boots.
Gruene, Texas is outside San Marcos and was an hour and a half away from F-burg. I love Gruene Dance Hall (oldest in the state) and Asleep at the Wheel was playing a sold out show on Saturday night. We left later than we anticipated (what's new) and arrived at Gruene with just enough time to eat. We chose an outdoor venue with a live band.

After we ate, we went to the concert at Greune Hall. Very Texas. Very fun!
Tonight's theme--BIG Texas hair!

We made the 1.5 hour drive back to F-burg and woke up on Sunday morning, packed the house up and had brunch before we said our goodbye's at the Shell station across the street because someone clogged the ladies toilet at the restaurant (no one in our party!) and we had to go across the street to use the toilet.

After our goodbyes, I drove the back roads back to Dallas in 4.5 hours and was reunited with the kids at my parent's house.

It was a fabulous getaway with great friends. We have to do it again in 5 years (or sooner)---just not a cruise or Fredericksburg--BTDT!!!!!
 
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