Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

This picture below sums it up...


Just a fantastic Christmas celebrating with friends & family. We are so thankful to see a face like this on Christmas morning!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a very merry Christmas,

may your hearts be filled with joy, happiness & peace this coming year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Luke 2:7-14 as told by Shaoey

The birth of Jesus, told by Shaoey, Steven Curtis Chapman's daughter.

Thought I'd Share....

Mom got me Steven Curtis Chapman's new Christmas CD, "All I Really Want For Christmas". It's so sweet to see his precious three daughters, adopted from China, inside the jacket cover. They are all so adorable! And then on the CD, is the cutest little reading of the scripture of birth of Jesus from Shaoey, see the post above to hear.

Leah LOVES when I read to her Shaoey and Dot. It's a wonderfully illustrated book and is very sweet, there is a series of several other Shaoey and Dot adventures as well that I haven't purchased yet, but will soon.

I feel extremely fortunate that there are so many wonderful books out there related to adoption, there is just a wealth of resources for both the parents and the child.

As Leah grows older, I am buying the books that appeal to her age range, and she really enjoys these books.

I personally love them as well, they all have a sweet, simple story lines and great illustrations to explain how we came to be a family. Here's a few of her favorites:

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes

Another book that Leah is getting this Christmas will be "Motherbridge of Love" from Barefoot Books, it's a beautiful-written poem circulated within the adoption community with gorgeous illustrations depicting a little Chinese girl, and her Chinese birth mother and Caucasian adoptive mother.

As Leah begins to question things, this book will be a great jumping off point for discussion. It honors both the birth mother and adoptive mother, and ends on a positive note reassuring her that she is a part of both cultures. Be forewarned, it's a tear-jerker.

"Once there were two women who never knew each other.
The first you do not know. The other you call "mother."

Click here to view the book and reading by Amy Tan, best-selling author.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town...

But first, we get to celebrate a couple of our family birthday's this week. Have a wonderful & happy birthday, Uncle Day-Day, we love you! Leah wanted to pass on a "Boooo-yaaah!" to you.

Grammy Re...your next. :)

What would Christmas be without the picture in front of the tree?

Thanks for the gorgeous coat, Grammy Re!

These are just some random shots I took yesterday that were just too cute not to post.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Loves to sing, loves to dance...

Leah turned 2 1/2 years old yesterday! Since this blog serves as a scrapbook of her life with us, I thought I'd write a little about what she's been up to lately...

On Communication
She's downright hilarious with the things she says. Lately, Leah's saying "honey" before she requests something from us, i.e. "Honey, take your vitamins, it will make you stronger!" or another favorite, "Honey, come sit down and read to me".

She's a little parrot, pretty much non-stop chatter. It's gotten so now we'll hear from the backseat repeatively, "Where we going?", "Why are we going?", "Where's China?" and because we do it so much..."Are we going to go shopping?"

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On Style

She is a DIVA. She's very picky about what she wears, so much so I do not buy anything unless I get her seal of approval...and she's two! What am I going to do in a few years? One thing about her is that you always know what she wants, I give her that.

When she's not out and about, you can pretty much guarantee she's in her beloved "Belle" dress or her runner-up dresses--Minnie mouse, and sleeping beauty. It's the first thing she asks for in the morning. For Christmas, she's getting the remainder of the Disney princess dresses from Grammy Re and Santa. I can't even begin to tell you how excited she will be.

She loves to be told how pretty she is, but is quick to give out many compliments to you as well in return. I am frequently told I look "just like a princess"...ya gotta love the eyes of a 2 year old. :)

She's made the determination today that I look like Cinderella and she looks like Princess Mulan and Princess Jasmine.

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On Development
Leah is super smart, I tell her something once, and she just flat gets it. Colors, shapes..she's had down pat for almost a year and she can count up to 15 so far. Her preschool teacher told me the other day that they want to employ her as an assistant for the class.

She has her toddler moments, but they are rare, and more often than not, we just have a little girl who loves to laugh, play & sing, and the added bonus is she gives big, big hugs and is truly happiest when she gets to sit on your lap and snuggle. Oh, how I love her.

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On Sleep..or lack thereof
I am not one of the lucky moms that has a child that loves to sleep. My girl is a party animal. She prefers to stay up and sleep in...that's her style. Shawn likes to say that Leah does the sleep version of drinking someone under the table.

From the very beginning we had serious sleep issues where she was absolutely terrified to go to sleep in her room. Some nights, it would take over 4 hours to calm her into sleeping..and she only spent one night in her beautiful crib, she hated that thing. It was exhausting time in our life! I firmly believe she suffered from post traumatic stress from her days at the orphanage and still does to smaller degree.

After a while, we gave up and just let her sleep with us, she fell asleep much faster and it was a calmer, more peaceful rest...for everyone. Over time, we've been able to get her into her room again but it still takes a substantial amount of negotiating to get her to fall asleep on her own...we hear, "Maybe you can rub my belly?" with her hopeful grin, to the more desperate "Please don't leave me!"

She does go to bed much better with me than she does Shawn, because she knows she can play him like a fine fiddle. No matter what, she always ends up in our bed by 4:00 in the morning, it's like clockwork. We are so tired, we could care less.

On becoming a big sister
A few people have asked me how well Leah would adjust with a newbie in the family, since our world just revolves around her. I actually think she will do great. She talks about baby Kate quite a bit and promises me she'll be a good big sister and that baby Kate will love her. It's really cute. It could be her age, but Leah is a bossy little thing, so I think she already fits the bill of a big sister nicely.

Leah's personality just shines. She frequently gives high fives to patrons in restaurants, she loves her family and friends, and she has a fun, generous, appreciative spirit about her. We are just so blessed to have her in our lives.

Happy half birthday little one! We love you so very much!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Charming Movie....

Just an adorable it. It's especially sad knowing the writer, director and supporting actor in the film, Adrienne Shelly, was tragically murdered before the public got to see her creation.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It's Getting Festive...

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The holiday party season is in full swing, I've been to two this week! Got too many planned? Check out the holiday party excuse generator if you trying to come up with an excuse to avoid a party. Ehhh...not that I've ever used it or anything. I'm just merely passing it along in case you find yourself overbooked.

Here's some pictures from my "Bunco Babes" holiday party...this is a group of wonderful women that know how to have a good time. I love each one of them to death, they are all so unique and bring so much to the table with their personalities and life experiences.

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The Bunco Babes holding our ornaments from the "Dirty Santa" exchange

This group includes my best friend, Shannon, she's one of the most special people in the world to me...not only are we just like to peas in a pod, she played the ever important role as matchmaker between Shawn and me years ago. She was great friends with Shawn long before she even met me..funny how life works out. She is, and always will be, an integral part of both our lives.
I bought her a card not long ago that summarized her best..."You're the person that people who haven't even met you love just from the stories they've heard". She's the sister I never had and I am so fortunate to have this funny, sweet and sassy girl in my life.

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My buddy, mi amigo, my pal

A Little Christmas Jingle....

Click here for some Santa cheer.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's Cold! Time to Break Out the Comfort Food Recipes...

cheddar corn chowder
Originally uploaded by monavano
Barefoot Contessa's Cheddar Corn Chowder

8 oz. bacon, chopped
¼ c. good olive oil
6 c. chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 T. butter
½ c. all-purpose flour
2 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
½ t. ground turmeric
12 c. chicken stock
6 c. medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 lbs.)
10 c. frozen corn kernels (3 lbs.)
2 c. half-and half
½ lb. Sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated

In a large stockpot on medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and Cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon. Serves 10 to 12.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Asian Influence

One of my major projects I've been working on recently is to incorporate Asian influence into my traditional-style home. I've found some great wallpaper for our bathroom, accents for throughout the house and bedding from pottery barn kids that is soooooooooo cute for Leah's big girl room which will be soon underway.

I've been searching for some cool Ansel Adams style photographs of Chongqing, where Leah was born, to have on the walls. I came across an Asian amateur photographer on flickr that graciously sent me his photos at no charge in hopes of giving Leah a glimpse into her heritage along with the wish that she would learn chinese as well. I could not be more grateful for his generosity. I can't wait to matte & frame these!

Scenes of Chongqing

Three Gorges of the Yangtze River

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My little monkey...

Leah's started a winter session of gymnastics tonight and it is safe to say she loves it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Would Die for That.

This is an absolutely beautiful song and moving video by Kelley Coffey. It feels like that road was a million miles ago, but it will always be close to my heart.

"I wuv you, Mommy." I am so appreciative to get to hear those words from my baby girl. She's my dream come true.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cinema Saturday

Something about fall & Thanksgiving makes me think of 80's movies. Here's a few classic movies clips that will leave you smiling.

The Money Pit

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Accidental Tourist

Uncle Buck

I threw this scene in just for my Dad, it's a long running joke in our house. I sure do miss John Candy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fall Getaway

First off, can you believe it's almost Thanksgiving? I just can't believe it's time to stuff ourselves silly again. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, it encompasses all the things I, counting your blessings and "yum, yum in the tum" southern comfort food. Does it get any better?

After a couple of rough months of planning a large community event last week, I was pooped and wanted a little getaway. We spent a few days down in Tennessee this past week visiting my beloved little brother, Rich and his wife Rachel. We got to see the fun night life of Knoxville, their new house that they have been working so hard to fix up on (it's very cute!), and just spent a few days in scenic Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge for some Christmas shopping and of course, eating pancakes (that's a must down there).

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Shawn calls these type of pics "sorority chic poses", Leah and I call them "cushy faces"

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She just couldn't put the carmel corn's a bit addicting

Bring on the turkey!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

200 Days!

This weekend marks 200 days since we were logged in at the China Center for Adoption Affairs for Kate...we are starting to make a dent! How's that for a positive attitude? We went to Huber's Orchard today to see empty pumpkin patches (way to procrastinate...on our way to winning "Parents of the Year"). Next year we'll try to make it before Halloween. :)

Here's some cute pic winners and fun video of the day.
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"Look at the Ducks, Mommy!"

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Stylin' and Profilin'

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"Why are you making me stick my head through this hole?"

Thursday, November 1, 2007

"The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry"

If Leah had her druthers, she would have been "peanut butter" for Halloween, every time I asked her what she wanted to be, that's what she said. Since I couldn't think of a way to make her peanut butter and it didn't really fit my ideal costume choice(since I still have a say in the matter), I decided that a black kitty would be perfect choice this year.

I had an awesome kitty costume all ready for Leah. She had a black boa tail that I wired to curl up in the back and flounced when she walked. I made a black tutu with a sparkly overlay and little furry ears, a leotard, whiskers, a cute was going to be the bomb.

Well, Mommy's a dork and left half of Leah's costume in a bag that I gave to Grammy Re to take to her house the DAY before. Soooo....plan B, she was a princess. Life goes on.

Something interesting to check out, I found another really cool web site, about a couple that just got married and for their honeymoon they are traveling around the world for a year and doing several mission trips along the way. They are in China right now and just visited a orphanage...check it out at One Year on Earth.

Lastly, here's some pictures from a little mini photo shoot from this weekend. Leah was not in the mood for pictures so this is the picks of the litter...and one is even blurry! But I love it anyway.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fab Finds & Favorite Things...

Outside of huggin' and lovin' on Leah, I do have a life. A dinky one albeit, but it's still something. And it's not very deep either. I love Target, catalog season (it's here!!), decorating, cooking, bubble baths, shopping, salon visits and chatting it up with best buddies (Shawn & Mom too!).

I rarely watch TV, but I do have a can't miss show and lucky for me, it's coming back for a third season (Bravo, Nov. 6 10 p.m.)..."The Real Housewives of Orange County" Anyone ever watch? Shawn can't stand it, I LOVE it--it's decadent, on the other side of materialistic and plain fun to watch.

Also, just had to share just a few of some fun blogs from my "favorite things to do" list:

Unbelievably good cooking/party ideas: Mud Pie Gourmet, Your Heart Out

Hosting Parties/Home Decor: Hostess With the Mostess, Stephmodo, absolutely beautiful things, The Inspired Room, Bella Pink Cafe

Shopaholic Stuff: Holly's Plate, Design Mom, Slave To Target

That should get you started if you have any interest at all in this stuff.
So much to peruse through, so little time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I've been inspired...

For about 2 months now, I've been planning our meals for the week prior to going to the grocery store. It's been lots of fun, I don't have to think anymore and we buy only what we need at the grocery store, saving big time bucks on going out to eat and wasting food. I think we eat better too.

It all started from finding the organizing junkie blog site, it's a great source for ideas on how to keep organized and you can find some yummy recipes.

So get inspired with me and join the bandwagon! I would love to find new recipes and share my favorites with my blogging buddies...wanna join me?

Monday: Spaghetti, Garlic Bread and Salad

Tuesday: Beef Stew, Cornbread (Jiffy, of course!)

Wednesday: Deluxe Potato Ham Bake, broccoli, applesauce and croissants

Thursday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits

Friday: Homemade pizza

Saturday: My Day Off

Sunday: Pork chops, Au gratin potatoes, peas

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cinema Saturday

I love to go to the movies. It's one of my favorite things to do. I love eating popcorn, getting a large coke, nestle in and taken away for two hours. I don't even care what I see either. I'd like it to be three stars because I believe heavily in the Roger Ebert star system, but I've been known to see some really pitiful "not even close to a star" movies because I'm married to Shawn.

Good news for me, Grammy Re and Pop Pop have recently moved within walking distance to a movie theater, I might have a chance of getting back to the movies on a more regular basis...who hoo!

I've decided I'm going to start sharing my love of the movies and post some favorite clips of movies. This clip is from one of my favorite love stories, critically acclaimed, "House of Flying Daggers". It's a gorgeous, haunting romance with beautiful costumes, dance and action scenes. The movie is in mandarin with English subtitles.

Mei (Zhang Ziyi),the lead character is blind, and in this scene she is performing a stunning dance. Rent this movie if you have not seen it. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Here's a another clip, if you are interested in seeing more (***warning, spoilers if you haven't seen it yet)....

Bring Me Hope

A little thing I do on the side is share our adoption story and educate families on adopting from China and my agency, CCAI, at information seminars across the state.

It has been a rewarding experience to share the joy adopting Leah has given us, and we've met some awesome people too. Since the wait has slowed to a crawl, I haven't done too much promoting lately but did present at a seminar this morning. I used this beautiful video during my presentation, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. If you haven't seen this...grab a kleenex. I've watched this video a bazillion times and I still blubber. It's mostly because this video is about bringing hope to a child in need, and now, as a parent to one of these children, I know it's THEM that bring hope to us. We rescue each other.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Potty Time!

As a first-time mom, this whole potty business was kind of daunting to think about. I just figured she would let me know when the time was right. We put out the Dora potty about 6 months ago to help her start understanding the concept, but I didn't feel she was ready for prime time yet.

But this past week, something's changed...a light bulb has gone off. With the help of Ariel underwear and the kitchen timer, I think Leah has got this one whipped.

Late last week, I put the timer on every thirty minutes and when the buzzer went off, I'd run her to the potty. She thought it was hilarious and went every time. A few days ago she's started just telling me when she has to go, so the timer went bye-bye. There's been dancing, singing and lots of high-five's and "Mama is so PROUD of you's" all week long. We just may have a potty-trained little chic on our hands. Shew, that was easy!

Tonight, I was baking cookies, and the timer went off. Leah ran from the living room and said "hurry, hurry, time to go potty!" Talk about Pavlov's Dog.

Second exciting (at least for me anyway) news is that in February, I get to host a Matilda Jane trunk show. I've never been a Tupperware or Pampered Chef party kind of girl. But this gets me going. I LOVE cute clothes for Leah, it's easily identified as my addiction.

Matilda Jane has just very cool, eclectic clothing for little girls and women. The owner travels around to art shows in the mid-west and only sells her unique,funky clothing at fairs or through trunk shows. The trunk show I will be hosting will offer her spring line. So, if you are interested in coming to my little shin-dig or ordering, stay tuned for the date.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

"C" is for Cute

The cheese wasn't the only thing that was grilled at lunch. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Daddy Day

Every other Monday, Shawn is able to stay home with Leah through flex-time at his job...pretty cool, huh? It's definitely comes in handy and really wonderful that they have that special time together where Shawn reverts back to bachelor days and it seems that no rules exist. It's kind of sickening and cute at the same time.

Want pizza for breakfast??....Why not?

Don't want to take a nap??.....You got it babe!

Watch 15 back-to-back episodes of Dora??...Anything for my girl!

Daddy day means ALL FUN, ALL THE TIME.

It's no secret that Leah has Daddy WRAPPED..and with no shame...he freely admits it. But do you blame him? She's pretty darn cute and awfully lovey-dovey.

Shawn and Leah have this little thing they do now...where in unison they both yell..."We're buddies, we're amigos...we're PALS!" And that they are.

On this rare occasion, I was invited to partake in a Daddy day and met them at the park on my lunch hour. And yes, Mamarazzi keeps a camera in my car for just such an occasion.