Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Look Back..

Just browsing through some photos..

February 2004

February 14, 2005

February 14, 2006

February 14, 2007

February 14, 2008

My How Time Flies!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Our Valentine Turns Five!

February 14th
our sweet Emma Grace turned five years old..

Emma is so excited to have caught up with her older sister Esther, which means she is no longer four! Since we celebrated with a joint birthday party for her and Esther back in January, we had a small family party for her. I love the fact that Emma's birthday is on Valentine's Day- although when she is older she might want to skip the family party for a more romantic affair.. but we have quite awhile before that happens!

As much as I love all of my siblings, Emma and I share a very unique bond. Maybe it's because she was our first one from China, but it was instant love when I met her. When we first met back in Beijing, China, I thought she would never like me, because she screamed for the first half hour! But once we got some food into her little stomach and she realized there was more coming, she never looked back. Emma is the most well adjusted (adopted) child you will ever meet, she knows it too. =) She loves to be loved on, held and played with. However, she's never been much of a cuddler because she is constantly on the move and never sits still!

Many people are drawn to Emma because of her small stature, undeniable cuteness and her personality. She's very prissy, girly and oh so very dramatic! Yet, at the same time she loves to please and is always there ready to lend a hand. She's very comfortable with her place as baby in the family, but she loves younger children and is very helpful at school. Emma isn't afraid of anything- she's perfectly comfortable going 70 mph on the jet ski as she is "tanning" with her big sis.

I see Emma as being one of the popular kids in school.. she's very fashion conscientious, loves boys and is always ready to have a good time. I've said this before, but I can't wait to see the two of them in ten years at 15.. my parents will practically be dead from keeping up with these two. I always joke with Mom that before her 18th birthday, Emma will have been on plenty of dates, gotten a tattoo and been clubbing.. all stuff I haven't yet done at 18! (Esther is the better behaved twin.. she will be much more content studying or sipping coffee..)

Emma brings a lot of energy and laughter to our family and we are constantly amazed by God's grace in granting us with her as our daughter and sister. We love you so much Emma Grace and we are so blessed by your presence in our lives. May you grow up with the love of Jesus in your heart and use your energy and sense of adventure to be a shining light to the world. We love you.. to the moon and back a thousand times!

"Put on then, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another.. And above all these put on LOVE, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.. and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Colossions 4: 12, 14, 16 & 17

A Few Facts about Emma:
  1. Her favorite color is PINK!
  2. She's got an amazing amount of upper body strength- I see a future gymnast!
  3. She wants to marry her older sibling's karate teacher
  4. Favorite princess: Belle
  5. Hates spicy food
  6. She's missing the finger nail on her right thumb.. it's never been there, and never grown back!
  7. Did I mention her favorite color is pink?

P.S. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be with Emma on her birthday this year. Early that morning, I flew with my best friend Elena to Grand Rapids, Michigan.. more on that in the next post!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Chinese New Year

Saturday was our last day at Disney World. As sad as we were to leave, we were glad to be going home. There was just too much sickness! The morning started early with an 8:30 AM trail ride for the older four kids and Dad. Forget about Disney, I think this was Kayla's favorite part of the entire week. (She is an avid horse lover) The trail ride was fun. It was Ian's first time on a horse, by himself. He had to work through controlling his horse, since it wanted to frequently take snack breaks! I felt bad for Asher, because you have to be 9 years old and he didn't understand how Ian got to go, yet he didn't. That's the only hard part.. trying to explain things to Asher and he doesn't understand.

After our trail ride, it was back to the cabins to begin packing up and heading home. We had quite the trek back.. all ten minutes of it!

Back home, it was into the shower and Chinese silks for the entire family! While we had planned on everyone being there, Kayla and Ian fell sick and so it was agreed that they would stay home. Over to the restaurant we went, and we were joined by Aunt Nanette, Andrew & Ethan. Funny: The FCC team made a mistake when they were printing out name tags and they accidentally gave Nanette & the boys our last name! So, it looked like Dad had two wives, which he thought was funny. We just pretended Nanette was his sister.. though she really isn't related to either of my parents!

Chinese New Year is always a blast and I look forward to it every year. It's the only time we get to take the entire family out, dressed in our traditional silks. Usually, we just order in from the local Chinese restaurant! We were joined by over 50 other adoptive families, including Miss Gracie and her family! We've "known" Lisa ever since they started their journey to Gracie back in 2005, but we hadn't met yet. It's always cool to finally meet the friends you've "met" over cyberspace.

This year, there was a Chinese dragon dance and the we even had "inside fireworks" which means about 50 little Chinese girls (and boys) jump up and down on bubble wrap. They loved it.

Anyways, Enjoy the photo's!!

How To Keep a Family Happy at Disney..

Since we visit Disney quite frequently, and happen to be a large family we do possess a wealth of knowledge about how to keep your family happy while at the happiest place on earth! Here's a few tidbit's of information we have learned:

  • Obviously, this trip proved to be a bit more difficult when half of the crew fell down sick halfway through the week. We spent the last half of our trip hauling several bottles of medicines, including two which had to be refrigerated! We started out the day double bagging the medicines and using ice from our freezer in the cabins. Halfway through the day, the bags would begin to leak and that's when we knew it was time for new ice! The restaurant's were always kind and willing to give us new ice, so it worked out well. Next time, we will bring a small cooler.. just incase!
  • This year we stayed at Ft Wilderness, which was a wonderful decision made by my Dad. Last year we stayed at The Animal Kingdom Lodge, and had a blast especially since our room was on the Savanna so we had views of the giraffes and zebra's. This year, it wasn't going to work for all nine of us to stay there again.. both financially and physically! The cabins at Ft Wilderness were perfect and everyone ended up having their own bed.
  • We went to breakfast one day, and it cost $90 for everyone to eat. To save money, we bought groceries at the nearby Winn Dixie (outside Disney premises) and had breakfast in our room each morning. The cabins all have their own full kitchen, and the maids do all of the washing up so you don't have to worry about it!
  • We ate breakfast a little later, and then kept the kids satisfied with snacks until lunch. To avoid the rush of everyone at lunch time, we usually waited until closer to 2 pm when most of the restaurants are a little less full! With our family, arriving at a restaurant is like a mission. Upon entering the restaurant, we send a team to find a table for nine people. This often includes putting together two or three tables and stealing chairs from nearby tables. Once the table is put together, the older ones take turns deciding on what they want for lunch. (The younger kids don't have a choice.. you either eat or starve) Half of the team is up at the register ordering, while the other half stays at the table keeping the younger varmints happy until the food arrives. Upon the arrival of food, it's a delegation.. you either cut up someone's chicken nuggets or put straws in the milk cartons. We use the "eat it or starve" method which keeps us from having to get up several times and try to find what each child will want. We usually order the same thing for the younger four, and the hungrier ones (ahem Asher) often finish what the smallest ones don't eat (Emma).
  • We kept a bag full of supplies inside of the stroller at all times. It was stocked full of snacks, water bottles, band-aids, paper towels, wipes and other necessities! (Even an extra pair of flip flops since my new Spurry's were giving me BAD blisters!) Definitely keep a bag full of snacks and drinks for your kids- it saves money and keeps you from having to feed them Mickey Mouse ice cream bars and churro's.
  • Throughout the day we often keep count of our tribe of nine, and it's a good thing we do because we've ended up with seven, instead of nine before.
  • Keeping the kids happy is the key to having a fun time at Disney. Now, when I talk about kids I am normally referring to Ian (age 9) Asher (age 8) and Esther & Emma (both, age 5). Being 18, I'm the other adult and Elena (age 16) and Kayla (age 13) are old enough to know how to behave!
  • At the beginning of the trip, each child received their own lanyard, which is the "necklace" you will see on the kids throughout the pictures. You can buy these anywhere in each of the parks and use them to display pins. Almost all of the Disney cast members wear the lanyards, and they are almost always willing to trade pins with guests. Our kids know that in order to get more pins, you have to be good. Bad children will suffer from the loss of a pin. While we don't usually condone bribing at home, it does work when you're at Disney World.
  • We rented a double stroller during the day for the younger kids. It ended up being $18 per day, and we could rent a stroller at each park. If you are going to rent a stroller, make sure you ask about their "weekly" deal and you will end up saving about $2-$3 a day. Hey.. you gotta save money where you can! =)
If all else fails, just remember that you're hear to have FUN and these memories only last so long. And don't forget, we're located only 10 minutes away from Disney, so if you have any other questions.. I'll try my best to answer them!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Disney World, Day 5: Epcot

Our last day at Disney found us at our favorite park--Epcot. We all love Epcot because there is something for each of us. Mission Space and Test Track are favorites for the older kids, while the parents love to cruise around the different countries. The little ones loved riding Soarin' and visiting China. =)
We spent most of our day in China, honoring the kids' heritage and Chinese New Year! We watched a movie inside their 360 degree room and it was neat to watch Asher's reaction to everything. The kids colored on masks and got a lot of attention from the store employees, who are all from China too. The highlight of the day for Emma was when she was coloring at the table and all of a sudden Mulan came up to her. Even though she was extremely shy, I knew Emma was so excited to be seeing one of her hero's, Mulan! Later, we found our way to the front of the line and took pictures and got autographs from Mulan and Mushu. (They were the only characters we got photos with during our entire week at Disney!)
We spent the rest of the day 'touring' the different countries and stopping for lunch in Mexico. In the afternoon, we met up with a patient of Dad's who works at Disney and gave us a free fast pass for Soarin! The wait time is usually upwards of 90 minutes, so this fast pass was a wonderful treat. We got to take everyone on this ride and it was enjoyed by everyone.
After Soarin.. it was a race to get out of Epcot and catch a ride via two different mono-rails to make it for dinner at Chef Mickey's over at the Contemporary Resort. While I was NOT looking forward to the craziness of an overcrowded restaurant with tons of little children and parents all trying to catch a glimpse of the characters.. it ended up being cute. The food wasn't too bad. it wasn't horribly crazy, but it in the end the kids all had fun so that's all that matters. Happy children=happy family!

Esther, sitting outside of "Mexico"
A much better, perkier Asher
Asher and Esther in front of China
The three amigo's

Meeting Mulan and Mushu

How many can we fit inside the stroller?
Goofy is our waiter?
Mom doesn't seem to mind..
Donald Duck came by for a visit!
And got a hug from Ian.. =)
Even Mickey came by!
Minnie seemed to be the favorite..
Asher looks embarrassed because Minnie has just given him a kiss =)
We love Minnie!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Disney World, Day 4: MGM

Thursday was a tough day, at least for me. For everyone else, it was probably their favorite! While the rest of the family spent time at Disney's Hollywood Studios (we still refer to it as MGM) I was confined to my bed with an awful headache and the onset of a sinus infection. Poor Dad made another trip back to the pharmacy to pick up some much needed relief, which I finally found after two doses of Sudafed. I stumbled into the park around 2 pm and the rest of the day was a blur. Tower of Tower, Rockin' Roller Coaster.. the rides I had been looking forward to the most, were put to the side as I enjoyed two renditions of the High School Musical Parade and the Little Mermaid Show. (All of Esther's favorites) Unaware to us, poor Asher was suffering from his own headache and after the discovery of a high fever and watching him fall to sleep on a park bench, we realized it was definitely time to go! Back to the cabins we did go, and back to the Pharmacy went Dad!
Good thing we have seasonal passes, because we really enjoyed MGM.. we just didn't get to see much of it!

That's why there aren't many pictures.. and they are all of the little ones since they are more complicit to pose. =)

Once I arrived, I found Emma snacking on a yummy popsicle.
Esther's beloved High School Musical.
She loved everything- sang every song and danced like a little teenager.
I seriously think she is a thirteen year old stuck inside the body of a five year old..
They are hard to see because they're so tiny!
After the Ariel show, the girls had to try on Princess crowns.
This is their signature "Hannah Montana pose"
Waiting for Mom to finish her pin shopping..
Crazy children..

We decided to wait outside while Mom, Elena and Kayle were in one of the stores shopping for pins. Asher had "that look" on his face that said he was not feeling very well, and he was burning up. I had him come sit on the bench next to me.. and I'm not kidding.. he was asleep in two minutes! I even moved off the bench, and he stayed asleep. Poor guy!
We put Asher in the stroller while we walked out of the park.. no one
wanted to disturb him, or carry him!
Well at least these two weren't sick.. yet.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Disney World, Day 3: Animal Kingdom

Day Three started off a little bit unplanned.. an unscheduled doctor's visit to our room happened somewhere in the middle of the night. I can't remember if it was 2 or 5 am.. but there really is no difference between the two.. it's still WAY to early! Poor Emma's fever was spiking out of control and while we didn't have a thermometer to confirm.. she was easily in the 102-103 mark. Fortunately, having a father as a doctor makes it a little more convenient. We simply had Elena move into Mom & Dad's cabin, and Dad moved into ours while he cared for our patient. After a stronger dose of antibiotics and Motrin, the fever was finally better under control by the mid morning. Esther slept through the entire event- I'm sure an ambulance's siren couldn't have awoken her.
Needless to say, our adventure that day was a bit delayed so we didn't make it to the park until closer to lunch time. Emma was feeling better, but in order to keep it that way we would have to cart around a bottle ox Amoxicillin, which requires refrigeration. We simply double bagged it and changed out the ice supply every few hours.
The rest of the day was medically, uneventful thank goodness! We took Asher on "Expedition Everest" and he loved it. We kept teasing him that he would scream.. but he never did. He had a very solemn look on his face the entire time, but would never admit to being scared. I think he did have a good time, but he told us he would rather not go again! We also went on the Safari ride, which the kids all enjoyed.

Heading to Animal Kingdom
Kayla & Ian playing the drums
Asher loves anything that makes noise!
The "Tree of Life"
Poor Emma, still feeling sick.
We bought her a Lion pillow to help make the ride a bit more comfortable.
While watching the bird show, Ian actually got called on from the audience to participate!
The lady standing on the left asked simple math questions like 4+3=? and it was a race to see who would answer first.. the bird or Ian? Actually, the bird won 3 out of 4 questions!
Asher stealing Esther's seat.. and Emma looks a bit perkier!
Sorry.. you'll have to twist your neck for this one!
On the Safari ride..
Mom & Asher
If you look at the water you'll notice we were caught in a daily Florida downpour!
I thought this was a cool picture... I was trying to get one of that tree and never realized there was a broom dangling from the Safari truck!
The Disney Savanna
I don't know what kind of cow (?) this is, but I liked the picture!
Time for some more antibiotics!!
Later in the afternoon, at the parade
I think that's Minnie Mouse
(We met another adoptive family with a daughter from China.. she's the one in the pink bow!)
At dinner.. Asher using his chopsticks to eat ice cream! That takes some skill.
Our only sighting of Mickey Mouse from that week..