Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bringing Up the Brats

Here is the Big Announcement - we are starting a new blog! Almost 2 years ago Bill started "Bringing Home Michelle" to document our story as we waited for Michelle and traveled to get her. I felt like it was his blog and didn't really write much those first few months. But something happened while in China - I wanted to share our story as well. The friends we have made through the blog world have really impacted our lives! Your encouragement, comments, support have meant the world to us.

I realized a while ago that while I wanted to continue blogging, I wanted to include our whole family. We have 4 great children, and I felt like this blog was really only for Michelle. I asked the kids months ago about a couple of names, and when I mentioned this one they loved it! You will have to check out the new blog to see why we choose that name.

We will keep this blog up for a while. I hope old friends might wander by and want to get in touch, and if our story of how Michelle came to our family is a help to anyone it is worth leaving it here.

We hope you will come join us at our new blog! Click here
- that's the link to "Bringing Up the Brats".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

#1444 Reunion - Part 3 and hopefully the end.

This was our red couch photo of our travel group in December of 2008. Thought you might have fun comparing these kids now to the photo below. Leah is on the front row far right - in the picture below she is on the far left. Alex is seated in the front on the cushions in the handsome green outfit - below he is making a mad dash for his mom. Mya is seated on the couch, far left, with the pretty black bow in her hair - below she is seated on the couch with the pretty pink bow in her hair. And Michelle is 2 down from Mya, sucking on her fingers - below she is on the right end of the couch in the pink dress.

Ellen tried the entire trip to get a picture of Michelle with Alex. This was about the best we could do. He was not into the whole picture scene.

I know I included this in my first #1444 post, but I just love this picture and all these beautiful kiddos.

While we were doing the red couch photo's, Teresa asked me to take a couple of pic's of her family for Molly's upcoming year update to China. I liked this picture so much I wanted to include it on our blog.

After the photo session, we headed out to eat at Mike's Feed Store for some yummy barbeque. They had a great area set up for us upstairs, away from most of their customers. All the kids had crayons and papers - I had warned the manager when I made the reservation that we had a LOT of young kiddo's, so they were prepared!

Here is most of our crew.

Sweet Mya! I loved seeing that pretty smile on her face. I didn't see it much last time we were together. She was a very sad, scared little girl when she joined her parents in China. It was great to see how happy and well adjusted she is now with her beautiful family. I thought she was a lot older than Michelle, but Sara reminded me they are just 8 months apart. That must have been part of the reason why they played so nicely together. It was great to see all these girls hanging out and having fun together. Makes me anxious for our next reunion.

Josh has a way with little kids, and Molly and Carson were no exceptions. Molly really liked Josh!

Boys being boys!

This is not a great picture of me, but it's such a sweet picture to me anyway I wanted to post it. I have waited a long time to see Teresa and Molly in person.

Carson insisted on posing riding this pig outside the b-b-que place. Looks like a great "Wacky-Wednesday" photo to me!

Michelle and Molly with Molly's Daddy.

All the LuoHe families went out for ice cream after dinner. It wasn't that we were even slightly hungry, we just wanted to continue the time together. We thought we might catch up with the rest of our group, but we had some GPS problems and ended up going a very strange route to the ice cream store. (Picture 3 cars caravaning through lots of neighborhoods. Josh kept asking me if we were going to someone's house for ice cream.) So we ended up being just the LuoHe families.

Here Alex has just realized I am taking pictures and he is getting ready to bolt.

Finally, as our trip came to a close, Molly & Michelle bonded. It took them a little while to get used to one another. I thought at first they didn't really remember one another - Michelle was so little when she was adopted, I'm not sure what she remembers. And Molly probably didn't recognize Michelle because she has grown so much and her hair is much longer. But as they were playing later that evening, I noticed Molly being very "motherly" towards Michelle. Brushing her hair, putting jewelry on her, etc. It made me wonder if there is something in those memory banks that they could almost remember.
Michelle loved her Wa-Wa from day one! It was a great transitional doll and gave her a lot of comfort in those first few days with her new family. It is still probably her favorite toy. She sleeps with her, take her on trips, etc. When Molly's family was getting ready to go get her last year, we mailed them a Wa-Wa from her mei-mei. It was sweet to see those pictures of Molly on their blog holding her Wa-Wa. So, it was very sweet to get these girls together with their Wa-Wa's. I was afraid we might get them confused, but there was no danger there. Michelle's Wa-Wa looked like she had been through a bit more "life" than Molly's Wa-Wa. (;
We had fun hanging out in the Berter's hotel room and letting the kids play. Josh & Carson are 2 of a kind - crazy, very sweet boys. Here they are doing their Mr. T impressions. I have never seen so much pink in a hotel room in all my life. Michelle thought she had gone to girl toy heaven! She and Molly had a lot of fun playing dress up too. Molly is more of a "less-is-more" kind of gal, while Michelle grabbed all the bling she could find.
O.K. #1444 people - those who came, those we missed this time around, and those who are honorary members. Mark your calendars - July 2012! Virginia Beach? Great Wolf Lodge? I don't care, as long as you are all there! Can't wait!!!

Stay tuned tomorrow for our BIG ANNOUCEMENT... (and no, we are NOT adopting again!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

#1444 Reunion - Part 2

We arrived in Louisville a day earlier than the other families. We did this for 2 reasons - I knew we had a long trip and we would not do well traveling 20 hours in a 48 hour span. We also wanted to make sure we had time to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum. It turned out to be a great time for our whole family. Joshua thought he had gone to baseball heaven! Here he is posing with one of Mickey Mantle's bats. We got to tour the factory and see how the bats are made, especially how they make individual bats for all the professional players.
Michelle loves baseball! She has gone to all her big brother's games this spring and if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she will probably tell you either a mermaid or a baseball player. She insisted we take her picture as well! When we toured the factory, we were each given a miniature Louisville Slugger bat. Just what every parent wants their 3 year old to have! Ha! Needless to say, these went into hiding as soon as we could get ahold of them.

Bill Jr. played little league baseball and still enjoys watching the game, so he enjoyed the tour as well. I was told recently he rarely appears in our blog, so I am going to make a point of putting more pictures of Bill Jr. in the blog.

The museum has a section for young kids to play, a batting cage, movie about the history of baseball and Louisville sluggers, factory tour and much more. We were able to order Josh his own Louisville Slugger with his name burned into the handle just like the big leaguer's. If you ever go to Louisville, take the time to visit the museum. We had a great time!
Later in the afternoon, we went back to the hotel for a short nap and some pool time. As we were at the pool, we began to see the other families arrive. Once we all arrived, we grabbed some sub-sandwiches along the way and went to a park to let the kids run around and let the parents catch up with one another's lives. It was a fun park, with water fountains for the kids to run through and lots of fun swings and slides.

I took this picture of Sara and Angela just for Renee Mongold. We missed you lady!

Bill and Lizzy were great big siblings to watch Michelle while we talked with the other families. It was a warm evening - Teresa asked if we could please plan our next reunion somewhere cold, like Maine. After the 100+degree weather we had been having on the east coast, the mid-80's didn't seem so bad to us. Sorry Teresa - we really weren't trying to melt your family. (:

On the way to the park, we saw this really interesting building facade in the middle of the road. It was literally the front of an old building with the road circling around it. Our kids inherited their Dad's sense of adventure and their mom's quirky sense of humor, so of course we had to stop and take some pictures. This was such a pretty picture of Elizabeth.

Things kind of went downhill after that. I don't know if you can really see our faces, but we were trying to re-enact a haunted house.

On Saturday we planned a trip to the Louisville Zoo. Here are all the kids, at least those who were 10 and under. Starting from the left (as you look at the picture) are Molly & Carson, Josh & Michelle, Maya, Owen, Carter & Cole, Leah with Eli & Jeremy.

Alex was continuing his organized picture strike, so we had to catch him seperately!

I love this picture! Michelle had a lot of fun with these girls. Even though Maya and Molly are both almost 2 years older than Michelle, they were very close to the same size and played so sweetly together. Most of Michelle's good friends back home are boys, so it was nice to see her get some "girl time", especially with these girls who hold such a special place in our hearts.

Now the brothers get in on the action!

Probably one of the best parts of the trip for us was meeting all the older siblings. We traveled to China with all our kids, but most families did not. They are all such nice kids. There were a lot of boys Josh's age, and he had a great time with the McClintock kids. Cole and Carter are very nice boys. Carter is not a picture taker either - if I could get one of him and Alex together, well, that would have been a huge accomplishment!

Here is Molly with her Mommy.

You may notice that there is no Josh in this picture. Joshua kept running ahead, and hanging out with some of the other boys. We were all walking at different paces, hanging out and talking with different families, so we did not worry that Josh wasn't with us. At one point, about halfway through the zoo, we all gathered at the splash zone to let the kids get wet and cool off a little. That was when we caught up with the other families and realized Josh was lost. Bill found a zoo employee who called the security team and they reported Josh was with them. At least he knew enough to find someone who worked there and let them know he was lost. I think Bill was a little annoyed, because Josh did not seem too remorseful once we retrieved him. Instead of feeling like he was in "zoo jail", the zoo employees made it a fun experience for Josh. It seems he told them he was sad because he missed the rhino exhibit because he was lost, so they took him inside the rhino cage and let him pet one. Gheeze!

Leah and her Mommy in the petting zoo.

Josh also had a lot of fun with the Smith boys. Eli & Jeremy are such nice kids, and for a long time Jeremy was our "extra child" was we traveled through the zoo. At one point I smiled at Bill and told him, "See, we have room for another kid in our family." To that, Lizzy replied, "If we knew we could get such a nice, quiet child like Jeremy, that would be fine mom. But we don't get quiet children - we have kids like Josh and Michelle." Good point Lizzy - but I wouldn't have it any other way. It's amazing to see how all these kids are in the families they were meant to have. I believe with all my heart God choose each of these kids and their parents for one another. It amazes me to see how they all fit together!

Another fun thing at the zoo was seeing a local FCC group. (Families with Chinese Children) I noticed as we were walking though there were several kids that looked like ours but weren't part of our group. As we stopped for a while to play at one of the playgrounds Sara spoke to one of the parents and found out this was one of their FCC outings. So cool!

After the zoo, we made a quick detour to Churchhill Downs to see where they run the Kentucky Derby. Everyone except Lizzy had fallen asleep in the car for a little nap, so we just took a quick pic and headed back to the hotel.

I'll post the rest of the trip tomorrow...

Monday, July 12, 2010

#1444 Reunion - Part 1

This weekend our travel group, CCAI #1444, had a reunion in Louisville, KY. It was a central location for a lot of the families, so we decided it was a good place to meet. It turned out to be a great location - lots of fun, kid-friendly things to do. We had 4 of the 12 families join us, plus some "special guests". It was great to see the Altermatt's, the Smith's and the McClintocks. The Berters, along with Molly and Carson, live not too far from Louisville, so we invited them along to join the fun.

I took a lot of pictures, and since we didn't get home until after 11:00 p.m. last night, I am only going to put up a few today and blog more later in the week. I have to admit, I was feeling a little jealous of the Berter's and Altermatt's with their short drives!

We had a great time. It was wonderful to reconnect with these families who share such an important part of our lives. And it was great to finally meet the Berter's! Michelle and Molly were in the same foster home for a while, so we think of Molly like a "sister". It was great to see them together, and even though it took a little while for them to warm up to one another, they got along great and seemed to really connect by the time we had to leave!

I'll post more soon, but wanted to give you a couple of pictures for now.

Here is our version of the "red couch" photo. These are all the kids adopted from China, not just the #1444 group. Leah on the end in the red sundress, and her older brother Jeremy is on the opposite end. Carson and Molly are next, then Michelle and Maya. (Michelle, Maya & Leah were part of the #1444 group.)
And here is sweet Alex with his Mommy. Alex was not in a picture taking mood, so we had to get a picture of him seperately.

More soon...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Daughters... they grow up too fast!

It seems like just yesterday my daughter Elizabeth was just like Michelle. Here is Michelle playing with one of her best buddies, Luke. She is happy it's summer and she can enjoy lots of outdoor time.
Elizabeth has grown up so fast. I am excited to see the beautiful young woman she has become, and I know she is more than ready to move on to the next phase of life. To say she is excited about college is an understatement! But I'm not so sure I'm ready. I'm gonna miss her so much!
Here are a couple of pictures of her singing with her friends at her school's baccaluareate service last week. Tonight she graduates from high school. I've enjoyed every moment of her growing up. I love my sweet girls. (and my boys too!)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You've come a long way baby!

When Michelle first came home, she would not let me even brush her teeth. It was weeks, if not months, before I could get in there and really clean those pearly whites the way I wanted to. I can't say that I blamed her - she had a lot going on with that sweet little mouth.

Today, she jumped up in the chair. I have to say, Dr. Wooddell is awesome. She gives her a ride in the chair, she gets to wear sunglasses so the lights don't hurt her eyes, and she gets to "tickle" all her fingers before she has to "tickle" all her teeth. Good job Michelle. I love seeing those pretty teeth smiling back at me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer Fun

It seems like my kids will be in school forever... as I read on Facebook and hear from friends in other parts of the U.S. who are getting out of school this week, I can't believe we still have 4 more weeks left!

But, we have some fun summer plans to look forward to as well. We are planning a reunion with our travel group. There were 12 families that went with us to Henan Province, and we will join about half the group this summer in a central location for most of us.

When we looked at the map, we realized Michelle's "Big Sister" from her orphanage and who we believe spent some time in foster care with Michelle as well, lives very close to our reunion site. We have kept in touch with Molly's family, and invited them to join the fun. Read what Molly's mom said this morning in her blog

We feel a special connection to all the kids from Luohe, but Molly holds a special place in our hearts. We think of her as family, even though we have never met her. When we visited Michelle's foster mom in Luohe, we asked to see Molly, but were told she was out playing with the foster-moms' sister.

Michelle was younger than Molly when she was adopted. I'm not sure if Michelle will ever be able to articulate to us what life was like for her in China. But Molly can, and I hang on every blog her Mommy posts, especially whenever Molly tells of her time in China. She is not only Michelle's "Big Sister", but in many ways we feel like she is Michelle's voice as well.

I can't wait to see this beautiful, spunky, precious child for myself this summer!