Last year was a little traumatic in terms of getting a picture with Santa. Emma didn't want to do it and I convinced myself she would be fine as long as she was promised some chocolate. The proverbial egg was on my face though because she did in fact see Santa, just lots of tears during the process. She walked off sobbing asking for her chocolate! Silly me, I had promised the chocolate on the condition she take a picture with Santa, I just didn't qualify it with "no tears".
This year I decided to forego the mall experience (and long line) and just take them out to the local animal/farm supply place instead. We had no more walked in when Emma spotted Santa and declared in a rather loud voice "I don't want him to touch me!" - did I mention she said this loudly and repeated it several times! We all assured her she could sit across from him and would not have to be touched. She marched right up, stuck out her little hand, shook hands with Santa and said "how ya' doin'?" ... it was really cute and funny. She ended up talking to him quite a while and he was very patient and kind!
After finally getting over the fear of Santa she then wanted to talk to every Santa we saw during the shopping season!
There are 5 mascots with each one representing a color from the 5 olympic rings. The Chinese have historically used signs and symbols to spread good wishes. Nini is one of the mascots in particular that is meaningful to me because there is a tie in to part of Emma's Chinese name, Yan. Here's an excerpt from the article linked above regarding Nini:
"Every spring and summer, the children of Beijing have flown beautiful kites on the currents of wind that blow through the capital. Among the kite designs, the golden-winged swallow is traditionally one of the most popular. Nini's figure is drawn from this grand tradition of flying designs. Her golden wings symbolize the infinite sky and spread good-luck as a blessing wherever she flies. Swallow is also pronounced "yan" in Chinese, and Yanjing is what Beijing was called as an ancient capital city. Among Fuwa, Nini is as innocent and joyful as a swallow. She is strong in gymnastics and represents the green Olympic ring."
A fellow adoptive parent & friend of mine was in China recently to adopt her daughter and she brought back the Nini doll for Emma. The package arrived yesterday & Emma is beyond thrilled about her new friend "Nini"! Thank you Amy!!! You made Emma's day! She slept with Nini last night and carried her into our room this a.m. when she woke up and also brought her to daycare.
The CCAA (Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs) has updated their website to reflect that they are through reviewing dossiers logged in through October 31st, 2006. The sad thing is though, that referrals are almost a year behind that. The last batch of referrals only covered through 12/14/05. There are days where I think it's going to be years before we get our next child :-( In my head I know that God's timing is perfect, but my heart sees and feels a family that so much wants another child. Emma continues to ask about her sister but at this rate she will be in kindergarten or older before little sis joins our family.
I'll preface this with, we really did put up the tree earlier than today!
What a fun night we had putting up the tree. I'll have to admit that I get most of my enjoyment getting the ornaments out and discussing the what, when & where we obtained them, who bought us which on and also discussing the which year was which on the ones we've bought for the kids. When you consider Ryan is almost 10, you can understand why he has several more than Emma does and each time he would make some reference to one being his - she would stick her hand in the box and come out with one saying it was hers! Again this year there were several that she broke, not trying to, she was just so excited about the ornaments that she just handled them a little rougher than she should.
I'm just a tad behind on blogging about the happenings of our happy little Hunter clan!
We visited the Missouri State Capitol on our way home from Thanksgiving in Oklahoma and even though we were worn out from being gone a week, we still enjoyed the tour and spending some time in the Missouri Museum as well. A few things stood out in particular about this visit. Inside the rotunda, the inscriptions were inspiring with one reading "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" and another one "Lord God of Hosts be with us yet - lest we forget". There were also some really neat artwork, I think he called it 3 perspective (I may have that term wrong), but basically the painting would seemingly change as you walked past it. The bridge in one appeared to be going one direction but as you passed by it looked like it was curving back and heading another direction.
7 down - 43 left to go. Ryan may have to finish this goal as an adult!
While we were in Oklahoma, we let the kiddos go ahead and open their presents that they exchange with their cousins, (my sisters children). It was so fun watching them together. Ryan & Chance are only 6 months apart in age and they had great fun playing together. Cortney was really excited about getting to play with Emma but I think there was a little bit of the green-eyed monster thing going on. She was great w/ Emma at first but quickly cooled after my sister spent some time playing with Emma. One evening at dinner, she didn't even want Emma to sit next to her!
The highlight for Emma was a short little shopping trip that Charlotte, Emma and I tookd with my mom. Emma spotted a light purple western styled belt that had sparkly things on it and she was HOOKED! Charlotte bought it for her and Emma has been wearing it a lot - even if it doesn't match what she has on! It's been a while since I've been in a western store type atmosphere and didn't realize the cowboy world has added some "bling"! Emma LOVES sparkly so it fit her personality to a T!
Our Thanksgiving break included spending a few days in Texas with some old friends and some time visiting some of our favorite places. We even drove past the old house where we lived when we were first married. For 6 years I have craved a certain dish from my favorite Mexican restaurant in Ft Worth. You can only imagine my disappointment when I found that they no longer serve it. On a good note though, they still serve warm, hand made flour tortillas! We also went by my favorite bakery so Ryan could have a "Texas Best Cinnamon Roll" ... they had cinnamon rolls, but no longer had the big ones they used to serve. After we had driven by our old house, we stopped in the park behind it and let the kids play for a long time and I couldn't help but think about all the times I pushed Ryan around that park in his stroller and then watching him ride his little tricycle around it when he was 2 or so.
What we did find good though is that our old friends are still the same and we enjoyed every minute we had visiting with them. We spent one evening with friends who are also Ryan's god-parents. On another evening we had dinner with the pastor who married us, his wife and some friends from our old church. What an enjoyable evening! Seeing people like that and just picking right back up where you left off is just wonderful! It sure made me miss our time back in Texas.
On our way up to Oklahoma we stopped in Denton and went by the little chapel where were married over 12 years ago. We couldn't find a parking place but I took the kids on a short little tour of it while Brian drove around. What a happy day remembering some of the milestones in our life.
Here are some pictures of the little chapel where we were married. It is located on the campus of the Texas Women's University and it was chosen mainly because of it being centrally located between us and our family in Oklahoma. But, it is a beautiful stone building with fabulous stained glass windows. I still remember Janet playing the piano before the ceremony started and singing the song that has "Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. I can feel His mighty power and His Grace. I can feel the touch of angel's wings - I see glory on each face. Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place". Now that I'm tearing up ... it's time to post the pix.
We spent the Thanksgiving holiday by visiting a couple of more state Capitols for Ryan and also visiting with old friends in Texas & then were blessed to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Oklahoma.
We visited the Arkansas State Capitol on November 17th & they already had it decorated for Christmas. There weren't any formal tours being given but we were given a guide book and were able to tour it at our own speed. It was interesting to read that even back in the late 1800's that there was already political shenanigans. There were issues with contractor kickbacks and such and it took a while for the building to be completed. One of the things I read noted that "this project was conceived in sin"! I need to go back and read through the brochure but I think it took 15 or 16 years to complete. Another item to note, it was built as a replica of the US Capitol.
He's now visited the following State Capitols, we have a lot more to go to reach his goal! Alabama Arkansas Illinois Indiana Kentucky Missouri (we visited this one on the way home) Oklahoma
I've had writer's block lately & w/ some other things going on - just haven't gotten around to updating our blog. Hopefully after Thanksgiving I'll have some cute/funny stories to share on the munchkins.
Until then, I want to share something that I ran across while we were in the process of adopting Emma. We had experienced some issues where our paperwork was lost by the local USCIS office not just once - but twice and I had been worried about getting everything found and back on track. I'm not sure who wrote this because it was posted on one of the many adoption groups that I read so my apologies for not being able to quote the author. I've updated the name though with Emma's name because it fits so well.
"Shortly after Emma's first birthday, God granted her the unspoken wish of every orphan's heart; a loving family. It is the Father's intent that these children be entwined within the limbs of a family tree. He holds the hand of each lone child, while reaching with the other to families around the world. If it is in the purpose of God's work to join your hand to that of a child, He will be faithful to complete it. God's great faithfulness will be true as you step into the fields of the fatherless. Therefore, walk by faith, wait in hope.”
Several weeks ago we spent the afternoon at Joe Huber's (a family fun farm in IN) with a couple that was in the same travel group as us when we adopted Emma. The girls were in the same orphanage together. It was a lot of fun watching them play together and I was tickled at how brave they both were to go into this barn thing and go up a ladder and then down a long, long slide! The boys had fun playing with some contraptions that toss apples out into this big pond as well as another one that shot corn cobs - WAY up and out!
Today marks the anniversary of us being logged in for 16 months now for our next adoption. We would never in a million years dreamed that the adoption process could have slowed down so drastically. But still we wait and keep on waiting ...
In regards to paperwork for this adoption, our US approval to adopt from China expires at the end of this month so today I mailed in the necessary paperwork to secure a new approval.
The CCAA (Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs) updated their website on Sunday showing that the newest batch of referrals covers from 12/1/05 - 12/8/05. I can't help but wonder, just how long will it take to get through 7 more months of referrals? When will we see a picture of our baby's face? The only thing I know to do is just to keep on praying for our baby that if she is already born, that she is being cared for and loved and if she's not yet born, that her birth mother is taking care of herself and therefore of the baby.
One thing we've discovered with Emma is that the child LOVES to sing! The problem though is that she gets stuck on one song and wants to hear it over and over again. That's fine when it's just the two of us in the car but is more of an issue when it's all of us and 3 of us want to talk while 1 of us wants to sing. But, it's always a good thing to hear your children make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
Emma's "new" song is one we sing at church & also have on a cd, it's called "That's Why We Praise Him". The lyrics go along the lines of:
That's why we praise Him That's why we sing That's why we offer Him Our everything That's why we bow down and worship the King 'Cause He gave His everything
Anyway, it will absolutely bring tears to your eyes to listen to her singing from the heart. She'll be playing in the floor and just singing. Lately we've had a few problems with Brian's older boys and it seems like the last few days had been particularly trying. When Brian & I went to buckle her in her car seat the other morning she was singing this song as he and I were talking and as he closed the van door you could still see her little mouth singing and she just had a look of complete happiness on her. It's one of those moments you just want to hold on to and remember every time you have a bad day. It seems like it just hit us both at the same time how content she is and how trusting she is of the world around her. If only we could keep that outlook forever. Brian reminded me that that is what Jesus meant when he said the kingdom of heaven is as a little child.
It took some fancy talking but I finally convinced Ryan to forgo the typical Halloween costume & try something homemade for a change. I ran across this costume in the Family Fun magazine and it amused for me for some reason or another so we talked him into it. Making it was family effort with Brian doing the cutting, me doing the painting and Ryan keeping Emma from pulling everything off the counter trying to watch us make it. The annual "Howlin' Halloween" carnival was held at his school this past weekend and all of his buddies thought it was too cool. Even better - he won the costume contest in the "Most Creative" category.
The annual AWANA Camp In was held at church on the 19th. AWANA is the Sunday night children's program that blends bible teaching, scripture memorization and lots of fun and games too. This is Emma's first year and she's in what they call the "Cubbies" club. She's been to the evening festivities for the camp in before, but this was her first year to actually get to spend the night.
I couldn't help but smile though because throughout the evening, every time I looked up, one kid or another was packing Emma around. She was hanging out with all the big kids just like she was one of them. They even included her in their game time. The picture below was a tug of war between the boys and the girls, and there's Emma right in with them. It was really cute & entertaining to say the least.
Brian & I have commented before how that during the homestudy process of our adoption we were asked if our community would accept someone of a different race and we assured our social worker that she would most definitely be accepted. It hits us at times that not only is she accepted, but she is loved by everyone in our church and how much everyone seemingly enjoys her. What a blessing she is, and what a blessing our church family is!
I woke up early to find Emma snuggled right up against Ryan - sweetest site I'd seen in a while!
We were a little slower to get out and about on this day because we were all pretty tired. We also lost some time because I somehow read the bus sign wrong & the bus that ran out to the Museum of Science & History only runs something like through Labor Day - others go that way too, just the one we waited an hour for - well - we would have been waiting until next May! Add to that, I asked a cab driver how much it would cost to take us out there, he tells me $5 - we all crawl in, kids, coats, stroller, camera bag and he says "oh, you said ..." - well, that would be $15 - $20. I couldn't help but feel like he didn't misundersand me to begin with and it being the whole principal of the thing, so out we climbed. We have no business navigating around a big city!
We finally made it, via the bus but I think we were all too tired to really enjoy it as much as we should. We ended up cutting out right after lunch and heading to China Town and then back up closer to our hotel and out to eat at the Big Bowl. The weather finally turned off a little cooler than what we had been experiencing - finally felt like fall.
Our big day 2 in Chicago started off with a trip to the sky deck at Sear's Tower. One word comes to mind when I think of that view - WOW! I also couldn't get over how quickly that elevator gets you up to the top! I know, I know - the things in life that amaze us. After a picnic lunch we headed over to the Navy Pier and spent some time riding the rides and also taking the munchkins to the children's museum. Emma was in button pushing heaven and I was enjoying buttons other than my own being pushed :-) If/when we ever get to return, I would really like to take them back there and let them spend all day. I think both of them could have easily spent 2 hours or more just in the water play area.
We rounded out the afternoon with an achitectural tour via boat where we heard all about the history of the buildings in that area and how the current of the river had been changed, etc. For dinner we had Chicago style pizza at Giordano's - YUM, YUM, YUM! Before heading back to the room we did some window shopping on Michigan Avenue and then bought some chocolate at the Hershey's store. Lots of fun, but tired - tired feet!
Our vacation this year was spent in Chicago over fall break. I'm just now getting a chance to write about it.
Day 1 in Chicago: Shedd Aquarium Adler Planetarium Buckingham Fountain Greek Town The Lego Store One VERY tired family!
The thing that comes to mind when I think back to our first day is all the walking we did! Brian jokingly told me I had them on a forced march. Figuring out the public transportation system was a little fuzzy for me the first day too but we quickly caught on. That's one thing I quickly discovered about Chicago - you better know where you want to go and it's best to just ask the same person ONCE. Had we traveled to Chicago back when we lived in the Dallas area I probably would not have thought the people were abrupt. Howver, after living in KY for 6 years we've grown accustomed to the slower pace of life. It was fun though, but we were very tired at the end of the day! We couldn't have asked for better weather for our trip and we couldn't have asked for better behavior for the kids either. They were quite the little troopers. Of course it helped with Emma that she was in the stroller!
About a year and a half ago Ryan decided that one of his goals is to visit all 50 State Capitols. Now, I'm not quite sure how we're going to get that done by the time he is 15, especially those on the west coast but slowly we are trying to get in a few. So far we have taken him to see the Capitols in Alabama (last summer), Indiana (back in January for his birthday), Kentucky (we've been there a couple of different times since moving here) and Oklahoma (in 2001 so he probably doesn't remember much about that one). We made a little side trip to Springfield, IL on our way to Chicago so that he could see the IL one. At this rate he's going to have to finish this goal after he graduates!
Anyway, we enjoyed touring the Capitol and Ryan asked the guide several questions. It is a beautiful building and has lots of intricate details such as paintings in the ceiling. I especially enjoyed the rotunda and looking up at the beautiful stained glass! But most of all, it really tickles me when he is so interested in things like that. We also toured Abraham Lincoln's home he lived in when he was elected president and we also had an opportunity to visit the Lincoln Museum which was QUITE impressive.
Not too long ago I was flipping through the channels and stopped at the Gaither Hour show and listened for a while to a lady named Lynda Randle. Not only did I like her songs, but really liked hearing her being interviewed. I later downloaded one of her cd's and Emma and I have been listening to it during our commute. The funny thing is, Emma asks almost daily to listen to it and she always wants to hear this one song. She loves to sing along with it and really belts out the tune - I tell you, there's nothing quite like a little 3 year old Chinese girl belting out a southern gospel song!
Here's the link, but I'll also attempt to post in the video
While we were in Chicago, Emma asked us to buy her a wallet like her brother has so we obliged and bought her a cute little pink "Hello Kitty" wallet. Of course she then wanted money so I placed some coins in the coin pouch but Emma wanted more, specifically she asked for "green money"! We added $2 to her wallet and she was as pleased as could be and just about everytime we were somewhere and were paying she would pull it out and tell us that she had money & that she would pay. It was really cute and oh so sweet!
On the way home she fussed about not wanting to go home and told us that she wanted to go back to Chicago. Finally Ryan got tired of hearing the same thing over and over so he told her that we were out of money & that we had to go home. She replied with "well, I have money. I have two monies". I asked her how long she thought the two monies would last us if we did go back to Chicago and she replied "2 DAYS!". Oh to be so innocent again!!!
We spent this past week in Chicago and boy am I worn out! Our typical vacation involves the beach and lots of laying around and not doing a whole lot. For some reason or another Brian had suggested we go try a city vacation complete with public transportation. We had a great time, saw several museums and went on a couple of tours - but I'm tired! It's going to take me a few days to get all of the pictures downloaded.
One of Ryan's goals is to visit all 50 State Capitols so we went to Springfield while we were in Illinois. So far he's been to: Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky & Oklahoma. We're going to detour through Arkansas on the way to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving so that will give him 6.
Last Sunday we attended the local FCC chapter's Autumn Moon Festival. The Autumn Moon Festival in China is along the same lines as our Thanksgiving. It's a time for families to be together and a time of giving thanks. The FCC event this year was a lot of fun for the children and adults alike. It was held at Gallrein Farms in Shelby County and some of the activities included a trip to the pumkin patch, corn maze, face painting and playing in the hay.
The evening ended with a send off of balloons with wishes attached for the birth families in China as well as lantern parade at dusk. The sending off of the balloons was very touching and is something we do each year on Emma's birthday, in honor of her birth parents. It gives us all time to pause and give thanks to those who gave birth to our children and also a time of wondering if during this same time of year, do they stop and think about the children they gave birth to.
We took over 200 pictures that day, so I'm just going to post a few for now and will try go put together a slide in the next few weeks.
When Brian & I started this past adoption process early last year, I truly felt it was an answer to prayer. Besides the fact of us believing in the spritual aspect of caring for "the least of these", we wanted Emma to have a sister who shared in her heritage. Our paperwork was officially logged into the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs last summer and that's when the wait basically began. We've been waiting now for almost 15 months and have no idea as to when our next daughter will join our family.
There has been a lot of angst in the adoption community over the extended wait times with the China program and for the most part I have remained positive that we will indeed one day have another daughter. However, there have been some weeks where the wait has gotten me down - just a little. But yesterday I received an update to a blog that I have subsribed to that is written by a lady who is from South Africa and runs a foster home in China for medically fragile children. Her story has really touched my heart and I hope that one day we will be able to financially support this mission. Anyway, as I read the post from yesterday my heart was once again touched and the desire for another child was strengthened. I again realize why we are doing that which we've set out to do. As I read the story and came to the part with the child with the red coat, I couldn't help but think of my little Emma bug and how precious she is and how much of a blessing she is to us, our friends at church and to several of her teachers at daycare. And to think that she could possibly have been that child with the red coat - it breaks my heart.
I shared with someone yesterday how that when we adopted the first time that it was really important to me that our child be as young as possible. There were several reasons for that - but now I realize that really wasn't important at all. What's important is that a child be placed into the loving arms of a family that will not only provide a home, but more importantly a forever family to love and cherish that child. Children truly are a blessing from God - they are his reward.
The story I'm referencing can be found at this link, it's the entry dated Wednesday, 9/26.
Simpsonville, Kentucky - According to Wikipedia, the area ia 1.3 miles (but yes, there is a stop light). As of 2000 the population was 1281. On another site I found that the estimated population for 2006 is 1,407 - which is probably about right and there are 4 churches in town. All of this helps put the parade pictures in perspective ...
"Fall Festival Parade" ...
A friend of ours from church invited Emma to ride with her in the parade.