Sunday, August 7, 2011

Maybe going to school!

Well, we have been sort of hesitant to post anything about Ying's school situation, but we have been told that all our contracts were signed and now we are waiting to hear back from the school, hopefully this week. Heck, we may even get to start this week! After everything is delivered and rubber-stamped I'll post the whole saga.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

School meetings

Well, this week we meet with our local Special Education school people to find out about getting Ying enrolled into a school for the hearing impaired. We have been at such a loss as to what to do about Ying's speech that one day a few months ago we decided to go to a school that specialized in teaching speech to children with hearing loss of all levels. Basically we had seen the school while driving around town and just called and made an appointment to get a tour of the place. It was great! 5 days a week, 8-3-ish type schedule, and it was all geared around teaching speech and listening skills. The director told us that in many cases the local school systems would pay for the contract for the children too, so it would be at no cost for us. We were already doing 1 hour a week at the local elementary school, but that wasn't really enough, and she wasn't particularly getting the attention she needed, we feel its because she wasn't a full-time student. We assumed that it would be easy enough to find out one way or the other if they would pay for Ying's contract, but we were WRONG. I've never had any bad experiences with 'the system' I suppose, although I've never had to deal with it on any level I particularly cared about. When this whole process started we thought it would be fairly smooth and simple, but just getting people on the phone or returning emails is almost impossible. It got to the point that we were sending emails and/or calling our contact person everyday for about a month and wouldn't hear ANYTHING. AND we knew she was actually in the office, physically sitting in her office BTW, because her admin would confirm it for us when we called. We finally contacted the school superintendent and he responded back promptly, and let us know someone would work on it. Wouldn't you know it, within 2 days we had a letter in the mail from the school with an appointment setup. This still irritated us a bit for a few reasons. They are supposed to contact us and work out a time when we can do the meeting, but instead the just sent us a letter with a date on it. Oh yea! It also didn't have a time listed, and had grammatical errors all over it. Everything we ask about usually is dodged or responded to with a very vague and uncommitted response. Us: "Can Ying get a paid contract to go to this special school for children with hearing loss?", School: "Yes, Ying qualifies for speech" <--------WTF, that is not what I asked. I can ask a cashier at Walmart to talk to her and they can confirm that she qualifies for speech. At this point I'm under the belief that maybe the Special Education department in my school district is in fact run by mentally handicapped people, maybe some kind of equal opportunity employment thing, I dunno.

So we have a meeting Thursday that we THINK is going to confirm if we get to send  Ying to the private school. They also invited the director from the private school to the meeting, so we are assuming that means we are going to be going over enrolling her there, but there is no telling with these people.  I'm hoping all goes well, otherwise I may be flipping tables and threatening legal action. Robyn will probably have to send me out of the room so I don't get too crazy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jump starting this rig

I've been a bad bad blog person. I've been doing what I call 'The Great Upload', the last few weeks. I'm attempting to upload ALL of our digital pics/video to Flickr. We have the 'Pro' account, which is unlimited storage for pics/videos, and its re-re-re-redundant, I would assume anyways. So no worries about failing hard drives, or losing discs etc etc.

We have some trips and events coming up, and I'd hate to forget any of the intricacies of them all, so I'm going to start blogging again. Probably once a week or so just to clear my brain, :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

One Year Anniversary Extravaganza

Well, it seems strange to be posting this, it simply doesn't seem like a year has gone by, but it has. On November 23rd 2009 a bus full of us were on our way to to meet our new children for the first time. We had been touring Beijing and socializing with many of the families in the group, but this was the day that everyone was here for. We had heard many stories about how the process went as far as getting the children. Sometimes they have all the families wait and go through each child one at a time calling names. I wasn't excited about that, as it would have been just an additional nervous step to wait through. The thing about Chinese adoptions is that none of them are the same. The guides didn't even really know how it was going to happen, so they just give you some vague idea of what to expect. When our bus pulled up, we could see nannies and children already inside, and one of the parents recognized her child before we even got off the bus. It was almost like a dream getting off and walking into the building thinking, "I'm about to see my new child". Honestly I don't remember the specifics, but I do recall a team of people walking in with Ying, and Robyn and I saw her and knew it was her. There was no formal name calling or lines, I think we just went up and asked if this was 'Dang Ying'. At that point the caretakers started pulling out the picture books and showing her our pictures and saying and pointing 'mama' and 'baba'. Ying couldn't care less. I remember, she had a big rice crispie treat that she was eating and was just looking around a bit. The caretakers has bags full of things for us, food, snacks, clothes, blankets, and even a scrapbook they had put together. I don't think she even cried. I swung her in my arms a little bit and got a smile. Her caretakers hung around, and we spoke to them a bit about her, finding out what she was called, and ate, and activities, etc. Our Chinese was horrible, and we were nervous/excited, but we got the basics. I didn't get upset until I saw the nannies crying as they were trying to leave. They were huddled around the corner by the hallway they had entered from, peaking around and watching us. We felt so bad for them because we knew that this was their little baby. They had cared for her for 2 years, since she was a tiny infant, and now she was leaving them to go with her new family.

We hung around a while, finishing some paperwork/signatures, and meeting some of the other families kids, its all such a blur. We finally got on the bus, and Ying fell asleep. She was SO good, it was amazing. We expected the worst, and got the best. We knew she would grieve eventually, but that first day was great. Some of the other families had it much much worse than we did. One family had a little girl that cried for, what seemed like, a week straight. I never saw the poor kid when she wasn't just balling her eyes out. Ying cried when she woke up mostly. She did have a few points where she would just break down and cry, and it was terrible, but it was expected and we were happy that she was doing it. She initially didn't want to have anything to do with mommy. At first I liked it, I got to play, cuddle, etc. Eventually it got really annoying that I couldn't go do anything alone. Ying would simply FLIP OUT if I wasn't around, or if mommy even so much as pushed her stroller. I remember she would pitch a fit and wave her hand 'no' when Robyn would do anything for her. 

We spent 2009 Thanksgiving at an Italian restaurant in a Chinese hotel. Yea, take that 'tradition'! I kept having flashes of the 'A Christmas Story' movie while we were eating. Our family actually had a Thanksgiving celebration before we left, so we weren't totally cheated, but it was still strange to do the actual holiday in China. The hotel made a turkey dinner for all the Americans, but it still had quite a twist to it. 

Overall, its been an amazing journey. We started this process expecting that we wouldn't actually be adopting until 2010 or 2011, and our kids would be spaced out a bit more than 5 months. Here is a quick timeline.

02-15-08 : Submitted application to adoption agency
04-10-09 : We get our application logged into China
04-13-09 : We enroll in the special needs program
06-04-09 : We got Ying's referral 
11-18-09 : Leave for China
12-04-09 : Come home

We had to wait until 08/2008 before we could finalize paperwork, because we had to all be 30 years old to submit the packet, and the paperwork takes forever, but we still flew through the process. The special needs program doesn't take as long, and its a great GREAT thing to be involved in. Many people shy away from it because of what it could involve. Its not an easy choice at all, you have to be ready to expect anything, but it was completely worth it. If you have questions, or friends/family with question about the process or anything feel free to refer them to us. We are pretty straight forward about the whole process, :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A year already??

Well, this time last year we were freaking the eff out packing bags and getting ready to go to China. The whole thing still seems insane to me to be honest. Fly around the world to pick up a child you've only seen pictures, very few pictures, and have some documents that could, or could not be completely accurate. If you ever need to be involved in a process that is extremely long, stressful, and surreal, go through a Chinese adoption. Honestly you kind of feel like you are on drugs during the process. There are so many highs and lows that you wait for, and every step is a more stressful step/wait with a bigger rush when you hit your progression marks. I'll write up more about the adoption next week, as that will be our 1 year 'Gotcha Day' mark.

We have our social worker come out this week for our 1 year review, hoping that goes quickly. I think we get back some deposit from our adoption agency after that is all done, and money is always good to get!

Not much else going on, its started to get cold here finally, so a soup meal felt appropriate. Every so often I will ask the kids what they want for dinner, and the answer isn't fast food, or chicken nuggets. Last week they opted for soup. Matt loves Bacon Bean soup, and since mixing the contents of the can with a can of water are not what I consider cooking, I also made grilled cheese. I love to experiment with the kids to see what they will go for.

Here they are, awaiting the 'ok' to start eating. We had 3 different recipes we went with. 1st was regular bread buttered with cheese. 2nd, we went with that, plus almond/peanut butter. 3rd, we went with a cheese, apple, cinnamon and sugar combo. I just grilled them in the skillet for a few mins each to seal them up. Matt liked the regular one, and the apple one, but he kind of freaked out about the almond butter one. I tried it, it was pretty tasty, but he wouldn't touch it after the initial micro-bite. Ying liked the regular one, and I think after that she tried some of the apple one, but mainly focused on the soup. They were all 3 pretty good, but I'm sure my attempts to expose them to something a bit different were lost on my audience. At least it wasn't chicken nuggets, :P

Thursday, November 11, 2010

*The* Long Update

So I've been putting off the update here for no good reason, but I need to do one now, because after the holidays crank up, I doubt I will get any in. So here we goooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Last post we had done the Disney on Ice thing, and that was just the pre-Disney treat. I didn't post when we were going on here, drives me crazy when people post things on blogs or facebook with specific times that they will be gone. "Please rob my house between these dates, k thanks!'

So we did Disney in October. This was Ying's first trip, and Matt's 2nd. We are Disney freaks, and go almost every year. We will be back next year in Oct/Nov more than likely, so come and join us! We stayed at the Beach Club Villas which I love. We go during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and you can walk from our resort to Epcot in about 5-10 minutes. Basically Epcot has several stands setup serving foods from different countries. Its a really awesome way to get to taste some foods you may not have the chance to try, or maybe you don't want to take the gamble on an entire meal that you may not like. The serving sizes are small, but sufficient to get a good taste. We went the same time last year, and didn't stop at any of the stands because we had a few toddlers with us, and I was totally kicking myself for it. So this year I made a point of it, and mapped out the countries I wanted to hit up. I got to try some escargot in France,  and it was really good, and New Zealand had an amazing lamb slider, but I think the lobster roll was my top pick. They also do desert and beer/wine/cocktails for most countries too, so I got to try lots of beer!

We flew in on a Sunday and just relaxed the first day for the most part. We had a decent size group that was assembling for this trip, so we basically hung out at the resort and got the room setup while we waited for the rest of our party to arrive. The first night there we had reservations at Chef Mickeys. We've done this meal before, its pretty nice. The food is a buffet, and the basic Disney characters come around to each table and do the meet and greet thing. Ying wasn't real sure about it intilally, but when she saw Mickey she yelled "MOUSE!!" and it was all over from there. She loved it! She got to see all the characters, and even started getting down from her chair and getting hugs and pictures taken on her own.

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It was a good way to start the trip, and we were happy that she wasn't scared of the characters. She was definitely on Mickey Mouse overload the rest of the trip.

The next day we hit up the Magic Kingdom because we had breakfast reservations. Our reservations were before the park actually opened, which is awesome because you can get in and see the castle and Main street with VERY few people. So we walked in and got to see the castle, which Matt 'showed' to Ying. They were both very excited about it.
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Our breakfast was at the Crystal Palace, and its a character meal with Winnie the Pooh and friends. The breakfast was actually pretty good, a buffet of course, but it had a very good variety to choose from. Although we don't watch much Winnie the pooh, the kids seemed to like it, and Ying was hopping down for hugs and pictures, while Matt had to be nudged a bit.
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After breakfast, we wandered a bit, and ended up at the Haunted Mansion. I took Ying, and she totally flipped out the whole ride. "MAAAAA MAAAAA!!!" Apparently she isn't find of the dark rides, which constitutes about 80% of the kids rides, as most of them are a bit dark with the black lights. So after we properly traumatized her we hit up some of the more friendly rides. They both LOVE the Dumbo rides, and the flying carpets. Matt was tall enough this year that he could go on some of the 'big boy' rides, and boy did he. He rode Splash Mt, and Thunder Railroad, and Test Track. He saw Tower of Terror the first day we went to Hollywood Studios, and begged to go on it. We tried to explain to him what it was, and that it was a bit scary. He still wanted to go, and continued to ask about it, reciting the things we had told him about it, and that it was 'scary, but fun'. So we decided to let him go on it for the very last part of the trip. The last day we were there, we asked again, and he was still adamant about going on it. He got measured a couple of times to ensure he met the height requirements, and then we got on the ride. There wasn't much of a wait, just the walk up to the ride. I tried to explain to him that there was a little show/story before the ride, and that I would be with him in case he got scared. As soon as we went up and got dropped I was expecting him to panic a bit, but he just sat there, taking it in. He loved it, and was very excited that he finally got to do it.

We had a decent size group with us, so we didn't have a ton of dining reservations, but the few we had were pretty good. We did a princess breakfast in Epcot this year, opting out of the Cinderella castle breakfast. The princesses weren't so great t obe honest. We were all a bit underwhelmed, but the breakfast was pretty good.  We also got to eat at Le Cellier in Epcot. This place is amazing, its the Canada restaurant, and they have a cheddar cheese soup that is amazing. Its one of my favorite items to eat at the parks, but the place is almost impossible to get reservations at. Our good friend Erica managed to get a spot for us, randomly checking for availability, YAY! This was the night we decided to ditch our kids in the resorts play center. I was a little worried about dropping them off, but they gave us a pager, and we were within walking distance to get back should we need to. The meal was great, and we got back to the kids and they were still awake and eating a snack. They had the kids do some little crafts, and do some coloring. I was surprised that they didn't just leave them in the room to play with toys and not burn the place down.

We also did a Grand Gathering event, which is for larger parties of 10+ people. The food was pretty blah, but they had a little singing and dancing thing for the kids, and even had some characters come out too.

We did get a nice private viewing area for the fireworks show too, which I thought was pretty nice. The kids enjoyed the fireworks, and we didn't have to camp out an hour in advance to get a good spot.

A bad highlight of the trip was my knee.

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It doesn't look so horrible here, but it was really pretty bad considering it started at a bug bite of some sort. I got to the point where I could barely walk on it because the wound was right over my joint, and REALLY swollen, and for a couple of nights I couldn't sleep because every time I would move I would wake up. The redness and swelling started moving down my leg to my ankle and I gave up and decided I needed to do something. We had a nurse in our party, and she basically said I needed to get some antibiotics. I ended up having a Doctor come out to the resort and meet me in the room. It wasn't cheap, but the service sent a Doctor out to the room at 10am one morning to take a look at me. It was actually pretty cool, he had a big case with him he brought in, that opened up like a tool box. It reminded me of the old west doctors who came in with their doctors bag. He hooked me up with some antibiotics pills that he prescribed right there in the room, as well as some bandages and ointment. It was really convenient and worth the price(~300 bucks), mainly because I didn't have to get a taxi to take me to an office or ER and wait for hours on end. I think money-wise I came out ahead. They also gave me all the paperwork to submit back to my insurance company to get reimbursed. Within 48 hours of taking the meds, I felt much much better, although I STILL have a band-aide on my knee, its almost all gone now.

Overall it was a pretty good trip, and our group had a good time. We even got to hookup with one of the families that we hungout with in China. It was REALLY awesome to get to see them and their son. Their son is younger, but he is also really small for his age like Ying. With our two toddlers, and their infant and toddler combination our schedules were hard to coordinate, since kids dictate that so heavily, but it was really cool to see another Henan kid again! It was strange being in China and finding another young family that were DVC(Disney Vacation Club) members. I told Robyn that it was odd how they have the same look about them. Yes, I know, both Chinese, but skin tones, and features are different based on region! :) They were also both cleft lip/palate babies, so it was interesting to compare notes on how they were doing.

Outside of the trip we are gearing up for the holidays. Halloween was good, and the kids got to dress up as Buzz and Jessie from Toy Story.

We only did a few houses, but they got more than enough candy. Our little town moved Halloween to Saturday, which in my opinion is stupid. We had a party that night, so we didn't participate anyways, but the next night, actual Halloween, we didn't have a single person come by. I was very surprised, and upset that I had an entire bucket of candy to get rid of.

We also start speech this week, FINALLY. We did several interviews and evaluations, and 2 months after we started she will finally get started. We are really pushing her to speak more, and try to put sentences together. She will attempt to cheat us many times, but we try to stay on her and make her use the words and sentences that she knows.

I think thats it, :) November will be busy and special for us. We are testing for a Chinese language certification in December, so I will be cramming Mandarin words and phrases for the next 3 weeks. I plan on failing, :( It will also mark our trip to China, and getting our little Ying monkey. We had Thanksgiving in China last year, which was REALLY REALLY strange to me. I'm going to try and get back on track as far as weekly updates go too. I had been avoiding this one because there was soooo much to put in, and I still skipped tons.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Disney appetizer and Dim Sum Sunday

We received an offer a couple months back from FedEx or our Visa card, I can't remember, but it was for Disney On Ice tickets. They were giving us a chance to 'BUY EARLY', which is funny, I fairly certain those shows don't sell out......ever. Anyways, I went ahead and confirmed with wifey and bought some tickets. We've never been to any type of kids show like this, and it would be a good pre-cursor to the D-world trip we will be taking in a few weeks. I hate Ticketmaster, and their website is pretty awful, but I ordered the tickets anyways. My wife hates it, but generally I pick things based on price. Highest price == BEST. So, thats what I bought, it said 'Rink-side' so I figured we'd go for that, and let the kids get a better view. We make our way downtown and get parked, its not too terribly busy, and we head into the Forum. We ask one of the ladies where our section is and she points us down a long stairway. We walk down and find the next lady, because we can't seem to find our seats. I initially thought we might be in the wrong section, but the usher flashed up down to her and took us down to the floor. When they said 'Rink Side' they weren't kidding. We literally sat on the floor, less than a foot from the ice. I was happy at this point, because I knew the characters would be right in our faces, and the kids would get a really good view. Matt was pretty mesmerized with it all, and enjoyed it. Ying on the other hand got scared during the first dance number, which was all the villains skating around. She started crying and wifey had to take her back behind our seats and let her calm down and talk to her a bit. After Minnie came out she was fine, so I'm hoping she won't freak out when we get to the parks and see the characters up close.  

Lighting wasn't so great, but you get the idea. She loved the ears, but they are kinda too big for her, :P

This weekend was pretty relaxed, and we hit up our new Chinese place for some Dim Sum. I wasn't sure how the kids would do with this, but they seemed to like it. Ying is pretty easy, if its not fried, she will likely try it out. She ate very well, and was asking for more things randomly. Waiters would run by with plates of things and ask if we wanted to try . We usually say yes, and our table its pretty full with random dishes by the time we leave. 

I was really surprised with Matt. The first thing they dropped off was some fried calamari. Usually when I get calamari is sort of like sliced rings, but these were pretty big, and appeared to be a small whole squid/octopus, or maybe it was just the tentacles. Either way, I told Matt what it was, and pulled off some of the batter so he could see the tentacles and suction cups. This is where being 3 years old kicks in, he basically said 'Oh, ok' and ate it. I was pretty amazed, as he is usually a bit picky. Now, it was fried and delicious, so I'm sure that helped, but he even asked for seconds. He did not care so much for the steamed dishes.

We sat right in front of the lobster/crab tank, so much of his meal was spent pointing at it and saying "Whats that in there daddy?"

Lastly, another 'being 3 years old' event. 
When she sleeps in her car seat, she always looks like a sniper has taken her out. This is her sleeping on her Disney Princess Something-that-makes-noise.