Tuesday, June 27, 2006

One Year Ago...

Monday, June 27, 2005
Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
23N06, 113E16
88F 94% humidity

Monday, June 26, 2006
Riverside, California, USA
33N57, 117W24
80F 49% humidity

So it was a year ago today that we were in Guangzhou, China sweating profusely in a small room at the Department of Civil Affairs when they brought in our adorable daughter who smelled awful, was wearing an outfit 3 sizes too big, and was stiff with fear.

She was 16 lbs and 27.7 inches long. She ate every 4 hours, took two 2 hour naps a day, and slept for 12-14 hours a night. She had never been in a bath or pool and didn’t like being in highchairs. She didn’t really sit up- she flopped to the side in a mermaid style pose, and although she didn’t really crawl she could scoot Army style with amazing speed. She was happy, curious, incredibly busy, paid close attention to everything we did, and was very headstrong and determined. She had almost no hair, one tooth, and would not allow you to touch her hands.

Now here we are a year later. She’s 22 lbs (25%) and 32 inches long (50%)- her onsie & waist size is 9 months, but she needs 18-24 months in length for pants (was I ever glad when shorts season started!). She eats when she feels like it, and lately it’s either feast or famine. She takes one 2-3 hour nap a day around 2 o’clock, and doesen’t go to bed until 10pm and doesn’t wake until 9am...and she picked that schedule, not us. She took her first steps last October, and now she runs whenever possible. She has enough hair to make 2 lopsided pigtails behind her ears, and has all her teeth except her 2nd year molars...which are on the way. She still doesn’t like highchairs...or the carseat. She is still incredibly busy- if she’s awake she’s in motion. She loves the bath, has to removed from a pool kicking and screaming, and now wants to hold our hands. She’ll dance to any kind of music, anytime and anyplace. She loves to be outside and around other children. She loves animals. She is fascinated with cars and motorcycles.

We’re seeing a language explosion currently. All of a sudden new words are being attempted every couple of days. The words of the week are: airplane, no, bear, grandpa, and Dumbo. These are added to: up, please, night night, teeth, eye, Beep, moon, more, bus, balloon, octopus, bath, baby, cheese, mine, ice tea, ball, and out. Now don’t go thinking she’s got a career in oratory- these are all said in Tenley-ese; so “Dumbo” is “bumbo” and “balloon” is “bahoon” and so on. But she’s starting to parrot the things we say, and we got our first 2 words together yesterday (“baby bear” as in the Sesame Street character).

T- 3 months to 2 years. “Headstrong and determined” currently translates to “willful and defiant”. Not getting what she wants generally causes a tantrum that ranges from frowning while growling and stomping the feet to full out kicking and screaming while throwing her body around on the floor. It’s charming...at least she hasn’t started doing them in public yet...yet. If you leave the toddler unattended she will get into everything and is happiest relocating the contents of drawers and cabinets to the midddle of the living room floor.

As for Mom & Dad: we’re good. I’ve survived my first year as a stay-at-home-Mom. I’m not going to lie- it’s been rough. I went through a long period of re-adjustment where I felt trapped and resentful. Eventually, I finished mourning for my former life and got over it. I still have my days where I wake up with exactly one nerve and Tenley jumps up and down on it and I am intensely grateful for my support network: Jeff, my Mom, Meg, Beeps, and Kim & Jaxon. All of these people have helped me keep my sanity at one point or another. I find that having caffiene in the morning and getting a nap in are essential to keeping me a happy Mommy. I think this will be Jeff’s last year with his fun job at Disney- he’s tired of working 6-7 days a week and wants to spend more time with Tenley. A tired Jeff is a cranky Jeff and he ends up with very little patience and becomes miserable to be around.

I don’t know why people have kids to “save their marriage”: being a parent has added a stress factor to our lives that wasn’t ever there before- I think we’ve fought more in the last year than we have in the 1st seven years of our marriage. Why? Because being parents has brought a whole new dimension to the word “tired” and we now have stresses and responsibilities we didn’t have. The good news is that we’ve kept our sense of humor, so we usually end up laughing at ourselves. Don’t get me wrong- we still love each other and are very happy and we have absolutely no regrets about adopting Tenley...but I don’t think I could have ever imagined the changes the last year has brought.

We love our little girl with all our hearts. She makes us laugh until our sides hurt, and there is nothing in the world like her hug or her smile. We are honored to have been chosen to be her parents, and it is truly amazing to watch her grow and learn. My baby is gone- she vanished this last year and was replaced by an exhuberant toddler. I miss my baby, but I relish the fact that she still fits in my lap when she’s rocked to sleep; and I look forward to seeing the little girl start to emerge in the next year.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Big Shoes to Fill

Having fun in Grandpa's shoes!!

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Weebles: are a line of children's toys originating in Hasbro's Playskool division. Shaped like eggs with a weight at the fat, or bottom end. They wobble when pushed, but never fall completely over, hence the name. Some Weebles were designed to look like humans; newer ones (made in 2004 and later) look more like anthropomorphic animals.

So while Tenley spent another fun filled day romping in the pool and eating animal cookies with her grandparents, I had a major event occur in my living room: What Not To Wear, the Home Edition.

For those of you who know me personally, you know that when I say "my wardorobe is out of control!" it is a drastic understatement. Piles of clothes. Bags of mismatched socks hidden in the closet. Swimsuits from college that I secretly dream of fitting into again. Skirts that are way too short and totally age inappropriate that I haven't let go of because they are from days when my size was a single digit. You get the picture. Something had to be done. But I needed help: the task was incredibly daunting, and I have absolutely no fashion sense to speak of. It was time for a self imposed intervention. So today, at 9 in the morning, Aunty Meg the Cleaning Natzi arrived.

Meg is a triple threat. A) She has fashion sense and a great sense of style both classic and trendy, B) she is ruthless (see post on 4/10/2004- Calling in Reserves!!), and C) she has known me my whole life and can therefore be brutally honest with me and know that I will take absolutely no offense. Knowing this, I was ready for her. I emotionally detatched myself from the textiles, and I moved the contents of my closet and several piles onto hanging racks in the living room, and made laundry baskets of things like jeans and t-shirts to be sifted through.

I was actually more brutal than she was, owing mostly to the fact that she had softened herself up so she could deal with me dramatically clutching garmets to my chest and refusing to part with them...which I did only twice. I was however frog-marched to the full length mirror in Ten's room more than once so she could point out why a garmet was, or was not, flattering. Which is where we find the word of the day: weeble-esque. Notice how the weebles in the picture are rather shapeless in their clothes? This insult was hurled at many of my outfits, and was only out done by the shirt that as I buttoned it, Meg said I looked like the rather dyke-ish lesbian friend of her late mother's.

In the end we took seven bags of clothes to the Goodwill. We will have to do a second day of this, because we didn't get to the bags of socks, shoes, swimsuits, formal wear, stuff in the cubbies and the stuff in storage. But I was counseled on what to wear with what, which jeans for which occasion, and I was allowed to keep a couple favourite weeble-esque shirts so long as I promised never to been seen in public in them unless the Big One hits in the middle of the night and they are the closest garmets within reach.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mommy Who?

Today is Day 2 of our Grand Experiment: can Tenley be left alone with her Grandparents for 1 week +??
The Experiment came sooner than we thought it would. We hadn't planned on leaving her alone for a week until fall when we would go on a Mom & Dad vacation without her. Each month when we would venture to the center of the state to see Jeff's parents, we would leave her alone with them overnight to get used to the idea...so far with disastrous results. But we were going to be visiting last weekend, and the Grandparents had plans to be down here next weekend, so Grandma asked if she could keep the Tenster for the week. Jeff wasn't so sure...leave his baby for a week? He said no. Then he realized that we were only 4 hours away which was better than 4 states or 4 days away and decided to ask me what I thought. My response was to begin packing Tenley and to e-mail my Mother In Law to inquire if she'd like more than a week. I have been giddy with the excitement of a Tenley-free week ever since.

We left for Clovis before dawn on Friday, and we were delighted when Ten immediately recognized her Grandparents and went running to see them. She was well behaved and slept through the night on Friday & Saturday. She headed off to church on Sunday morning and trotted into the nursury without a backward glance.

While they were at church, Jeff and I were packing and fretting. How should we leave? Sneak out or say good bye & let her watch us drive away? What if she thought she was being abandond again? What if she didn't sleep or cried all the time? Was this too soon? Eventually our common sense prevailed and we realized that we sould say goodbye, if there were problems we could come get her, and that we knew their families who had left their kids far sooner with no damage done.

After church and a Happy Father's Day lunch at Claim Jumper, we decided to say goodbye and hit the road. We shouldn't have bothered. Tenley didn't give a hoot about us wanting to give hugs, kisses, declarations of love and trying to meaningfully tell her that we would come for her- she was far more interested in getting Grandpa to go get in her pool with her. She didn't even wave bye-bye...but we did, and we missed her even as we drove away.

Apparently, she hasn't missed us. She did search the house for us yesterday when she woke up, and pointed to our pictures...but then she saw the dog and her pool and we were forgotton. Of course, why pine for parents who say "no" when you have Grandma who gives you frosted animal cookies for breakfast??

Sunday, June 11, 2006

1 Year Reunion

It's hard to believe that it's already been a year since we traveled to China to get Tenley. At this time last year we were packing furiously, and our Gotcha Day was only 17 days away.

Pictured at left is Scott & Gayor's backyard under siege by Group 103 &104 families as we celebrated our 1 Year Reunion yesterday.

Mother Nature cooperated by giving us a perfect warm, sunny day that wasn't a scorcher. Those of us that were local brought food and set up the entertainment; and we all spent the day relaxing, catching up, and watching our beautiful little girls (and boys) happily playing together.

It was so great to see everyone- most of us have had very little contact over the last year, and we've all vowed to try to get our girls together more often. It was really amazing to see how much they had (and hadn't) changed, and to compare notes with each other and discover how alike they all are. It was also amazing to see how well they still knew each other and how well they played. Most everybody was polite, shared and took turns- there were hardly any fights or toy snatching...which is odd for a group of 2 & almost 2 year olds.

For our part, we're always delighted to see Scott & Gaynor and their princesses and we got to see all of the McAdams clan...the only 2 families we've seen more than once in the flesh since we've been home! Katie, Amanda and Tenley all know who each other are and seem to enjoy playing and getting into mischief together. I was delighted that Susan & Jerry came with their son Truman and Ivy- who was one of Tenley's cribmates at Yang Xi. Susan and I talked and discovered that Ten & Ivy were apparently cut from the same bolt of cloth as they are almost exactly alike in their tempers, likes & dislikes, and behaviors. Oddly, they both seemed to remember each other and if you told Tenley "go give that to Ivy" she would search the house and yard for her and give her the object. We were also really happy to see Dennis & Teri with their cutie pie Elenor(who loves to be chased and have her bellybutton tickled), and Hal and Loren with Kira - all of whom made the trip down from No.Cal. I can't believe how big Pete & Faith's daughter Kate has grown, and it was fabulous to see she and Chris & MaryFrances' daughter Grace so happy and healthy...considering they all had chicken pox in China! It must also be said that the big kids were really great about playing with each other and with the little ones.

All in all: our girls were happy, healthy and beautiful. They're all cutting molars, finding language, and smart as whips. Their little eyes sparkle, and they all know who their Mommy & Daddy are.The air was filled with happy little shrieks and giggles, and the padding of little toddler feet as they ran through the house and all over the yard.

Some favourite moments: Nathan negotiating a trade with Tenley of his balloon sword for the Little Tykes car she was riding around in.
Watching Tenley and several of the other little ones discovering Play-Doh for the 1st time. Seeing all the adults covered in glitter because our kids decided to decorate themselves instead of the foam visors.
Laughing hysterically as we turned ourselves into a bunch of idiots trying to get the girls to sit on the couch, look at us, and get their picture taken...yeah right- it's like herding cats.
That chesse & pesto thing Susan made- yummy!
Amanda not wanting Tenley to leave when the party was over...it was so cute.
Just seeing everyone and chatting with all the other Red Thread moms & dads while we reminisced about our trip and how it feels like it was 1,000 years ago.

It was so much fun, and I'm sorry that all of the 103/104 families couldn't make it...hopefully everyone will make it next year...and hopefully we'll see more of each other before then.

The pictures are up at www.jeffandmichelle.net! Just click on "photos" and enjoy!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Adios BC, Hello CA

Tuesday was our last day in Vancouver, and we just hung out on Granville Island. It was also the only warm and sunny day we had while we were there!

We popped over to Sevasty's in the Net Loft building for some breakfast, and then I went on the hunt for some boxes to ship things home, as I was quite afraid that our luggage was going to be over limit. I found a couple, and after some re-packing and shifting of contents, the boxes were stuffed with not needed things like our cruise formal wear and the laundry, and the bags were likely to pass any scrutiny we received.

After dropping our parcels at the post office, we headed back over to the Market to let Tenley chase the birds one last time, and then we trotted back over by the pond to The Cat's Meow for some lunch. It was so nice out that we opted to sit on the patio, and in the process we met one of the waitresses who was there for lunch... and who also happend to have been adopted from Korea when she was 3. She was delighted to see Tenley, and echoed the thing we have heard from so many adults who were adopted: reassure them with love. Always let them know how much you love them, and if you have biological children, always make sure they know that they are loved equally. It's always nice to see well adjusted adopted adults, and reassuring to know that they love their parents and that your kid has a strong chance of being well adjusted and loving you too.

When we finished our lunch, it was time to check out and catch a taxi to the airport. Our check in went smoothly; and we had a good laugh about the fact that as you come up to Customs and Immigration there is a large sign that says "Welcome to the United States". Apparently we've annexed the Vancouver airport.

I have to say that I love the Vancouver airport. Why? Well, it's clean and in pristine condition, there's a nice array of shops and food, and best yet: there are play structures for children. No kidding! We had a large plastic Little Tykes structure with stairs, tunnels, and 2 slides on that gushy foam stuff right by our gate. Two gates down there was a boat and teeter-totter thing. It was brilliant, and the Tenster happily ran herself ragged so she was already good and tired when we hit her with a dose of Benadryl before we boarded.

However, in true Tenster form, she had a complete hysterical kicking screming back arching meltdown for 30 minutes as we boarded and taxied...just like the flight home from China! Fortunately, she collapsed into sleep after we had been in the air about 5 minutes, and bless her twisted little heart she slept all the way to LA!!

It was a Charles Dickens vacation: the best of times and the worst of times. We have learned that it is miserable to be on a cruise with Tenley until she a) no longers finds stairs a novelty, b) learns to sit at the table for a meal like a lady, and c) is potty trained and old enough to go into the kids programs. Vancouver was great though. Being in one place, having the ability to moves around and find engaging activities to wear her out made all the difference. So we'll just have to do destination vacations with Tenley...but there's no way in hell I'm taking her to London this fall!!!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Monday In The Park With Tenley

We reserved Monday for Stanley Park . If you've never been to Vancouver, Stanley Park is like Golden Gate Park in San Francisco or Central Park in NY. It has a nice advantage of being right on the sound too, so in addition to the beautiful wooded settings like you see in our picture, you can also cruise around the sea wall and enjoy the ocean.

I love Stanley Park the way I love Golden Gate, and I am truly saddened that I have nothing of their sort anywhere near me to take the Tenster to on a regular basis.

We began our day there by meandering towords the Farm and the Train which are located a short way in the park near the Vancouver Aquarium. We took our time getting there stopping to admire the beautiful flowers and trees in full spring bloom. We watched the gardeners meticulously grooming the rose garden, which is sure to be spectacular in the next couple of months as it's intricate layout and pristine white trellises come alive with flowers. For her part, Tenley ran pall mall across the huge expanses of lawn, smelled the flowers, collected pine cones, examined the band shell, and stopped at each playground we encountered to sample it's wonders.

At last we arrived at the Farm and Train, which are located right next to each other. Very conveinient. Tenley and I hung out in the train station watching a Peahen who had escaped from the farm and was loudly calling for her mate while Jeff bought us train tickets, and then we all climbed aboard for what was a rather long ride through a very green and peaceful wooded glen. At one point we passed a little farm house with a barn and a yard where some of the animals are kept in their off time, and found the Peacock standing on a fence seemingly hiding from his shrewish mate back at the station. Some goats happily ambled down to the fence by the tracks and bleated at us as we went by. Eventually our ride came to an end, and Tenley and Jeff went to check out the locomotive before we headed over to the farm.

We crossed over a little bridge into the farm admiring the ducks, swans, and a turkey who looked like every picture ever embossed on a Thanksgiving platter. Someone must have forewarned the sheep about Tenley, because as we entered the main area they all took off in the opposite direction. The goats just ignored us and happily went about nibbling their alfalfa. There was also a Canadian goose with a mangled wing that had feathers and shafts sticking out in all directions. He promptly greeted the visitors by hissing at us all impartially, just to let us know he wasn't there to be pet. He then proceeded to follow us and the caretakers around honking happily. We inquired about the rather painful looking wing, and they explained that he was born with a twisted tendon- it didn't cause him any pain, and he had never known any different, but he would never be able to fly so he was brought to the farm to be raised and live in safety. Finally I carrried Tenley over to a friendly looking mid-size goat and showed her how to scratch the goat's head. Ten was unimpressed. She headed off to one of the buildings to view the crowing poultry. She chased to roosters, pet the burro and the bunnies, and could have cared less about the reptiles.

As we re-entered the main area, I felt something nudging me in the butt. It was the previously mentioned goat. Apparently, the goat rememberd me and my fingernails, and she was back for some attention. Her name was Traka and she may well have been half cat: she stood there and bunted my hands if I stopped scratching, and moved her body around to whichever location was itchy. She stuck out her neck and closed her eyes with her tail swishing in pleasure as I worked her chin bones. Such odd behaviour for a goat!

We said our good byes to the animals and mosied off in the direction of Beaver Lake to search out some geese to gift with the stale bread we had brought. I guess the whole thing had exausted Tenley, because she passed out in the stroller as we were getting close. I was sorry she slept through the path to the lake, not that she would have admired it the way Jeff and I did: it was exactly the sort of wooded place you wanted near your house to play in as a kid. You could just imagine a group of little ones pretending to be Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, for it looked just as you would expect Neverland to be. There was a tiny stream that wound through the trees and bushes that I'm certain my Bryer model horses or Meg's Barbies would have loved. We fed the geese and did a lap around the lake before we decided to leave the park and walk to Robson St. in search of lunch.

Robson is the main shopping drag in Vancouver, and is covered with everything from high-end stores to niche boutiques and all manner of dining options. It was on a corner of Robson that I had the best hot dog I have ever had in my life, and I was sorely disappointed that my snap-dog vendor wasn't there this time.

Tenley woke up during our lunch at a tapas place, and was rarin' to go by the end of our meal. We weren't sure she'd eaten enough, so we stopped in a little Chinese market and got her some snacks and apple juice on our way to Lush and Roots.

I love Lush. (www.lush.com) If you're not familliar with it, it's a UK based company that makes hand made fresh bath and personal care products. Their stuff is as pure and natural as possible, and is only tested on humans. Tenley's skin is so dry that I started using their Butterball bath bombs in her bath to help moisturize her. The nice girls looked at her dry legs and also recommended their Dream Cream (made with oats, rose water, lavender and chamomile oils, and cocobutter) for her, which I have to say has been doing a marvelous job. I also grabbed some Karma bubble bars for me.

Roots was our next stop, and while I love their t-shirts, my only purchase on this trip was an oversize blue leather wristlet. I think wristlets are great, but I can never get all the stuff I want in them... this one is perfect- it's still small enough to go into a diaper bag but big enough to hold my card case, cell, keys, and a full size lipstick. Tenely insisted on carrying the bag.

It was at this moment that Jeff and I lost our minds. We were standing there on the corner of Robson and Granville...and we decided to walk back to the Island. Now Yahoo Maps Canada tells me that it's only 2 miles and change from Roots to our hotel. But what it doesn't mention is that you will a) walk through a slightly seedy area of town, b) that 90% of that 2 miles is going to be up a very very steep freeway bridge that goes over False Creek, and c) that you will actually have to cross traffic doing 60+ mph several times before you reach your destination. We will not be making that mistake again.

We were so exausted that we headed straight for my favourite Island eatery, The Cat's Meow (www.thecatsmeow.ca) for dinner, fearing that if we stopped moving we might collapse and then starve to death while in an exaustion induced coma.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sunday in Vancouver

Ok, ok...we're a little behind. Alright, we're alot behind! I'll try to catch us up:

Sunday began with a cough and a sniffle from Jeff. Uh-oh. Whatever it was, I didn't need it and I really didn't need Tenley getting it, so it would have to be nipped in the bud.

With the help of the standard issue hotel room phone book and Yahoo Maps Canada, I located a drugstore only a mile away. I was going to make this journey on my own, but Jeff decided he was up for it, so we loaded Ten in her Combi Savvy Soho (worth every one of it's $100 on this trip alone) and headed out. Yahoo Maps didn't lie, if we had had a car we could have been there in about 2 minutes. But we were on foot, it was uphill, and one of us felt crappy so it was more like 45 minutes.

But the drugstore was right where it was supposed to be, and within 10 minutes we had drugs, a fresh supply of nose strips, baby nail clippers, a sippy cup for Ten, and a recommendation for a place for breakfast only a 10 minute walk away on 4th St. We never did actually find "Sophie's" but we instead found a crepe place that made some absoultely delicious sweet & savory crepes and made the whole walk worthwhile. Bonus: 4th St was much flatter and a more direct route back to the Island.

A more direct route back was good since we had to haul tail to get to the False Creek Ferry to take us to the HR MacMillian Space Center in time for the 12pm show of "Music With Marnie". I can already see the question mark appearing above your heads: Marnie is one of the leading children's entertainers in Canada, and she developed this show for tots & pre-shcoolers that is shown in the planetarium. Tenley enjoyed the show, as it's full of music and totally interactive so the characters get the kids to dance and sing along. Afterwards, we checked out the all the Space Center's exhibits. Jeff and Tenley played a touch screen game about the planets, and I tried the simulator to land the space shuttle (note: NASA will not be calling me anytime ever).

After we had goofed around in there for awhile, we noticed that the Vancouver Museum was attatched to the MacMillian so we decided to check it out. The first room was full of history, artifacts, and photographs of Vancouver. In the second room, was the special exhibit with which I was enthralled: No Place for a Lady: Tales of Adventurous Women Travellers it was so fascinating- the exhibit brings to life the experiences of 18th- to early-20th century women travellers as they explored new and distant lands. I'm so grateful Jeff distracted Tenley for me so I had the time to read and examine the articles featured. It was based on Barbara Hodgson's book of the same title, and it is now on the top of my reading list.

We hung out until 2pm when they were presenting Laser Pop Power in the planetarium- it's a whole lasarium show for the kiddie to tween set with clean lyric songs by artists like Kelly Clarkson, Avril Levine, Hillary Duff, etc. I had a feeling it would be right up Tenley's alley, and I was right. She loved it. She got up and started dancing during the first song, and then started falling over while dancing as she craned her head all the way back to see the lasers. Then she would bound into our laps, lean back, and point at the shapes and stars being projected on the dome before leaping back to the floor so she could jump up to try to catch them. It was hilarious. Needless to say, she was wiped out by the 5th song, and she climbed into my lap and fell immediately into a very deep sleep.

She actually slept all the way back to the Island, and Jeff and I decided to keep the evening low key; so I trotted off to the Grandville Island Market and picked up dinner and dessert to picnic with, and when Tenely woke up we walked to the park that's right there on the Island. She had a fine time climbing all over the play structure and sliding down the slides for the next couple hours. She met a nice doggy, and a couple of cute Canadian boys about her age. Jeff and I just sat nearby enjoying the beauty of the park, and seeing the copious numbers of families and couples that were walking their dogs, riding their bikes, walking, playing and generally just enjoying each other's company. Eventually it got dark, and we headed back to the hotel for our picnic on the bed, and some much needed rest for Jeff.