Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Festival of Lights

About eight years ago, my husband told me he had received a job offer from a university in South Dakota. My immediate thought was, "uhhhhh... where?" You see, at the time we lived in sunny San Diego, California, and "small town U.S.A." seemed very far away from where we were at that point in time, and honestly sounded a little bleak. However, we took the time to visit the school, the city, and the surrounding area, and we knew this place in middle America was right where we wanted to settle down. Don't get me wrong, I loved living in San Diego, but I was ready to make the move to a smaller city (town) and a slower pace.

Jump ahead eight years and I love where we live, though many people who have lived here do question our sanity and motives. A very close friend has often joked, "Who the heck would move from San Diego TO South Dakota? Only thing I can think of is someone who is part of the Witness Protection program... yup, that is the answer!" No, we are not part of the W.P.P., and as a matter of fact moving to one of the coldest states in the U.S. really was a conscious choice, REALLY!

Honestly, we love it here. Not having to plan our days around traffic is an absolute blessing. And, all of the little things that we took for granted in a big city are things that we cherish here. One example is the annual Festival of Lights Parade that the city has hosted since 1998. In the early evening hours on the weekend following Thanksgiving, local businesses and organizations make their way to Main Street on a personalized, lighted float. Despite the often cold temperatures, we love the event because of the small-town camaraderie, lively music, and wonderfully creative, lighted floats.

The Ladybug and Butterfly boogying during the parade.

This year marked the first year the Butterfly was given the opportunity to enjoy the event (I still find it hard to believe that she has only been home with us from China for just over four months). Being a wee-one barely a year and a half, she had no clue what was going on when we left the house all bundled up (thankfully, Daddy had just purchased a nice, warm, thick, winter coat that provided the much-needed warmth for the Bug).  Then when we arrived downtown and decided to plant ourselves on the edge of the street, out in the cold no less.  The poor thing really seemed concerned because we weren't moving on. Fortunately, to keep us warm we brought a couple blankets, hats, mittens, and some nice and warm apple cider. Though the cider helped to divert the Bug's attention from the cold for a bit, what made all the difference in her ambivalence toward the evening was the moment she saw and heard the first float.

Daddy and the Ladybug enjoying the parade... with angel 3-D glasses!

We all thoroughly enjoyed our evening together as a family, watching each of the fun, silly, creative, and beautiful lighted floats pass by. Whenever a float passed with some fun, upbeat music, the Baby Bug started boogying and rocking out in her stroller. She was quite a sight with so much enthusiasm.  The baby Bug had a great time all evening... she loved it! I am thoroughly looking forward to the coning years as we continue this tradition of enjoying the Festival of Lights.

The Butterfly rocking out to the great music.
A fun entry this year... believe it or not, singing toilets.  A total fan hit!

The Ladybug and daddy enjoying the parade.

Some of our local nurses enjoying their time away from the hospital.

Our favorite entry from our local Air Force base.  One of the airmen actually sang with the float, what an amazing voice.  So happy to have these men and women serve our country.

Although we adopted our girls internationally, this float asking for support for local foster and adoptive families really touched my heart.  We are all part of a special family.

Members of the fire department provided lots of lights and music for all.

A fun "Shop Early" float, with perfectly timed lights and music, from UPS.

The local HOG (Harley Owners Group), leading the way for Santa.

Santa, enjoying the crowd on the last float of the parade.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this spectacular parade and helped to make this wonderful city a great place to live.


Sunday, November 28, 2010


'Tis the season... for sisters!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Pigtails and A Snow Princess

Two very different things happened this week...
1. The Butterfly's hair is finally long enough to put her hair into adorable little pigtails.
2. It started snowing and the Ladybug is so excited to play in the snow again.

The Butterfly just four months ago.

Over the last four months our baby Butterfly has changed in so many different ways, not the least of which is physically. She has gained weight, gotten a bit taller, and her hair has finally grown. Now, the last is my favorite because I can now put her hair into pigtails. Yup, you guessed it, I love having a girly-girl. I have on in my beautiful Ladybug who loves to dress up in frilly dresses, play princess, and wear make-up (when I let her!). She is the epitome of a girly-girl. What was awesome (for me anyway) was that when we brought her home at just 8 months, she already had tons of hair that I could play with. And, boy did I play! As a matter of fact, her nick-name in China happened to be "Baby-Big-Hair," she had THAT much hair!

The Ladybug at 13 months.
The Butterfly, on the other hand, had very little hair when we brought her home at 14 months old. I was able to put a little bow in her hair, which inevitably fell out just a short time later. I did what I could by adding bows just to make sure that my little girl looked like a girl. But, there was no way that I could make any ponytails with her thin, whispy hair. It just wasn't going to happen.

Move ahead four months and I am now finally able to do a few fun things with her hair. We often do the "Palmtree," as we call it, with one pony on top of her head. And, finally this week I was finally able to pull her hair into two pigtails on either side of her head. Now, you must understand, this is my favorite hairdo on my baby Butterfly... and in fact, it was my favorite hairdo on the Ladybug as well. I am guessing that it has something to do with the fact that one of my favorite Pixar movies of all time is Monster's Inc, and when the girls have their hair in those cute pigtails, I am reminded of one of the main characters, Boo. That little girl from the movie just warms my heart, so it is no wonder that when I see either of my girls with little pig tails, I get a very warm and content feeling inside. Ahhhhh.

Boo from Monster's Inc.

The Butterfly, and her adorable crooked smile... (just like her sister!).

Now, onto the other thing that happened this week... winter finally arrived. As a matter of fact, winter arrived with a vengeance. Just two weeks ago we were enjoy some unseasonably warm weather in the mid-seventies. And trust me, we were loving it. Now, just two weeks later, the temperatures have dropped to single digits and we are all in shock! I know, we should have expected this, but it happened so quickly that we are all just not quite acclimated yet. Seriously, this weather sucks! But, not all is bad, for at least one member of our family anyway. The Ladybug is thrilled with the weather and so excited that she can now finally play out in the snow. So, this afternoon when she and Daddy arrived home from school, she put all of her snow gear on, bundled from head to toe, and headed outside to play.
The Ladybug, just in from "playing" in the snow.
What the Ladybug wasn't expecting was that Daddy (with his snow blower) was ready to play too. The first couple times that he "threw" snow in her direction she laughed and continued to play, but soon her playful demeanor waned and she realized that it was actually pretty cold outside (single digit temperatures will do that to you), and the snow all over her made it even worse. She eventually made her way back to the house, knocked on the door, and this is what I saw...

A Ladybug who has had too much "fun."

 My happier and warmer Bug.

Poor thing. I guess that Daddy played a little too rough. Don't worry though because just seconds later, after defrosting a bit in the warmth of the house, she was able to smile from ear to ear just thinking about how much fun she will have in the coming days.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Evolution of Emotion

I recently took Christmas photos of the girls, which included some photos of the girls together as well as apart. The photo shoot proved to be a bit difficult for the Baby Bug... she just doesn't enjoy professional photo shoots, even if they are being done by mommy. Don't get me wrong, she loves getting her picture taken and always hams it up as soon as I pull out my camera. However, she hates being posed, and quickly gets frustrated when she is posed for photos. So, my time with the little one was minimal, but I was still able to get some nice shots.

What was fun to see was a full gamut of emotions: happy, exuberant, sad, serious, frustrated, and more. My favorite photo is one that looks like the Baby Bug is in "Time-out," pouting." Truth be told, she isn't, but I like to think that I got a great shot of my kiddo in trouble.

The Ladybug was just the opposite of her sister. She loves the camera, and is such a natural. I love having a little model in her and thoroughly enjoy clicking photos.

What I love even more is that the two girls are becoming so much closer. When we were in China, the Baby Bug wanted nothing to do with her sister what-so-ever. She only wanted Daddy and I, which surprised us. We figured since the baby had lived in an orphanage for the first 14 months of her life, and because the Ladybug looks a little like the other children from the orphanage, that the Baby Bug would naturally gravitate to her new four year old sister. However, nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, it wasn't until this last month that the baby finally learned that her sister isn't half bad. And now, she seems to be making up for lost time... she follows her older sister around everywhere.

Both girls are so cute together, and always, usually, often, get along without whining, crying, or hair pulling. In all actuality, they really do like each other (most of the time) and enjoy playing together. I am so happy that the baby finally came around to see how awesome her sister is. I can only hope that they will stay close... though I know full-well that they will likely go through the normal ups and downs that most siblings do, so I am not holding my breath. Ahhhh, I am just happy that neither has put the other in the hospital yet!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Forever Family Day 2010!!!

Forever Family Day 2010

Wow how time flies by. It is so hard to believe that our little girl is now four and a half years old and that as of yesterday, she has been a member of our family for four years. This day is so special for us all on so many levels, it is the first time that we became a family, the first time that we met our daughter, the first time that the nanas got to meet their grand-daughter, and also the best birthday I have ever celebrated. Yes, as the fates would have it, my baby girl was handed to me on my birthday, the best present I have ever received in my life. Daddy even joked at one point during that first day while he was holding the Ladybug, "Little girl, you have now made it impossible for me to ever do anything extra special for your mother for her birthday, ever again. I will Never be able to top you!"

The Ladybug and her referral photo.
A Ladybug, then and now.

As with each previous year, we celebrated our special day by going to a wonderful Chinese restaurant. This year was different though, we are now a family of four! The Butterfly thoroughly enjoyed the evening. She loved the food, and enjoyed helping mommy open a couple presents (looks like she is going to have a Blast on Christmas!). Since the day is so special for the Ladybug, she also received a couple gifts, a new art kit for her never-ending love of all things artistic, and a Chinese dragon puppet that we brought home from China just four months ago. Her favorite gift was hands-down, the dragon. She walked all over the restaurant practicing her puppeteering skills with her new toy. My favorite gift... tickets to see the musical Grease next week when a touring Broadway production comes to town. Cannot wait!

The Butterfly at dinner.

The Ladybug getting ready to eat.

Silly faces!

After dinner I started to clean up the baby Bug so that we could open some presents.
I started by wiping her hands, her face, then lastly her bib.  As I was wiping it down, I came upon some things that had fallen into the pocket in the bottom.  This is a normal thing that I see whenever I clean her up, after all, she is a pretty voracious eater.  However, this evening there was something more... a spoon.  Apparently she was trying to take not only some left-overs home for later, but also a spoon to eat them with.  Hmmm, this story has a familiar ring to it... maybe Nana Shoo will remember!

Hmmm, leftovers and a spoon!

We did have another funny moment, this one was while we were waiting for our main meal to be brought to the table. The Ladybug was sipping her soup and savoring every slurp. Daddy leaned over to me and said, "Happy Birthday honey." I leaned toward him and gave him a really nice kiss. After a moment we kissed again, and while we were kissing the Ladybug looked up from her soup bowl and said, while rolling her eyes, "Mommy, since it is your birthday, you are allowed to kiss daddy. But only today!" Both Daddy and I laughed hysterically at the comment, then continued kissing. Apparently we just kiss too much! Oh well.
Forever Family Day, November 13, 2006

Forever Family Day, 2010

We took some photos after dinner of the family.  The photos above show my favorite original photo of us as a family in 2006.  I absolutely love how the Ladybug is looking at my necklace and gently touching me.  I also love how Daddy is so lovingly looking down at the Bug... finally a daddy, he could not stop looking at her.  The photo just below that one is the same pose, but taken last night after dinner.  Wow how things have changed, and yet how they have stayed the same.  Below you will see the transformation of our family over the last four years.

Forever Family Day, November 13, 2006

Forever Family Day, 2007
Forever Family Day 2008

Forever Family Day 2009

Forever Family Day 2010

When I look at my baby girl, I am amazed at how much she has changed.  The Ladybug is growing into creative, sassy, silly, intelligent little girl who lights up a room as soon as she walk in. She is caring, loving, and always concerned about how others are feeling.  I am so proud to call her my daughter, and I feel so lucky that I was the person chosen to be her mommy.  

Forever Family Day 2010
A Family of Four!

Thank you little girl for making me a mommy.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Learning to Talk

As can be seen by my lack of posts over the past week, I haven't been at my computer very much to blog and keep you all up to date. But, my lack of computer time has been for good reason. I have either been out of the state at the NCTM regional conference in New Orleans, or I've been working 13 hour days, at meetings, and involved in parent-teacher conferences. But, now that my schedule is pretty much back to normal, I should be able to update more often. Baby I'm back!

I wanted to share with you what has been going on around our house recently... the Butterfly is trying to talk. Just tonight I walked in the door from very long day at work and the Baby Bug met me at the door with a squeal, and a ton of smiles and hugs. As soon as she saw me she started gleefully saying, "Momma, momma, momma, momma, momma..." As can be imagined, despite a very long day, I ended up with a huge smile. Seriously, wouldn't everyone want to be greeted this way when they arrive home?

I grabbed our video camera and was able to capture the Baby Bug and her older sister, the Ladybug, hanging out on the couch together, talking. The Ladybug is finding it a little tough to share camera time, but she is a great big sister who adores her little sibling... especially now that the Baby Bug knows how to say "sister."

Enjoy the video. Just think, this baby girl has only been home with us for four months. What an amazing transformation.

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing


Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween ~ AKA Photos Galore!

Halloween has come and gone this year, and the girls had a wonderful time. I was out of town for a conference for the days leading up to the day (I will post about my great time in New Orleans soon, but for now I will keep focused on the girls!), so I missed a couple of fun parties that the girls (and daddy) attended, but I did arrive home just in time to take the girls Trick-or-Treating around the neighborhood. 

While I was away, Daddy took the girls, in their matching Halloween t-shirts, to the park to play. I was so excited because he grabbed my camera and took some great photos (thanks honey!). Below are some of the cute photos of the girls while they played together.

Following the fun at the park, Daddy and the girls went to a couple parties.  The Butterfly dressed as a Bumble Bee, with her hair sticking straight up as antennas.  The Ladybug went as a sassy Dorothy Gale with sequined red tennies.  The girls had a great time playing with friends, bobbing for apples, and laughing and singing the night away.

I finally made it home from New Orleans late Saturday, so I rested up on Sunday, and then it was time to take the girls trick-or-treating.  We had an adorable outfit for our Butterfly... keeping with the bug theme she dressed as a Bumble Bee, antenna and all.  To finish off the cute outfit, we put some fun little ladybug squeakie shoes on her feet.  Yup, a Butterfly dressed as a bumble bee, wearing ladybug squeakie shoes.  Gotta love bugs!  The Ladybug kept her "cool" by dressing as an Ice Princess, and sparkled her way around the neighborhood the whole night.  She looked magical.

Since the Butterfly had never experienced Halloween, she wasn't quite sure what was going on when we started.  We walked her up to the path of the first house, then let her sister walk her to the door.  As soon as she started walking, the squeakies started squeaking, and people started oohing and aahing.  She started grinning from ear to ear, especially when she realized that people were giving her things at each house we visited.  She LOVED it!

The Ladybug, of course, also loved her time trick-or-treating, but what made the evening more enjoyable for all of us was watching the Butterfly "float" from house to house.  We stayed out for about an hour and then had to call it quits as the baby soon tired herself out with all of the fun.

All in all it was a great night for the family.  It will be fun to see what will happen next year.

(As you can tell, this is my favorite photo from our fun evening.)