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15 posts from July 2008

July 29, 2008

3rd Anniversary of Gwen's Referral

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(click for larger view)

Three years ago today, I sat in my house and waited for the FedEx guy to show up with the envelope containing the precious photos and paperwork of the child we'd been referred a day earlier.  Every time I heard anything remotely sounding like a FedEx truck, I jumped up and ran to the door!   By 5PM, I'd responded to several false alarms:  the trash truck, the #31 City Transit bus, the yard trimmings collection truck, and the mailman - but no FedEx guy.   

Fedex_guy_2When he did finally arrive, I ran to the door just in time to see the envelope at my feet and the FedEx truck pulling away from the curb.  I actually chased this nice FedEx guy down and made him back up the truck and get out and pose for this picture! I told him he was "delivering" our baby girl (in that envelope) and he needed to pose for a photo!  He seemed very happy to play a part in this wonderful journey.

I carried the envelope into the room of our house that we used as our home office and sat down at my desk. I turned the FedEx envelope over in my hands and thought about how much our life would change as soon as I opened it. I was so excited to meet our daughter!  To finally put a face with the child we'd dreamed about for so long! 

I carefully peeled the strip off the back of the envelope to expose the contents. I saw a little peek of some white papers inside so I drew a deep breath and reached in and pulled out the forms.

The three photographs you see in the photo collage at the top of this post were clipped to the front of the papers I held.

I'll never forget that moment! I looked at my Gwenny's lovely little face and a little gasp involuntarily left my lips. She was SO darling!   I smiled and my eyes welled up with happy tears because this baby was the most precious little girl I'd ever seen!

Daddy_meets_gwenI carried her picture upstairs and showed Michael his new little sister then I scanned the photographs and emailed them to Daddy at work. He was also very excited to see his Gwenny!

I called Daddy so I could be with him on the phone when the photos loaded and he saw our girl for the first time.   He was so thrilled! He said "She's beautiful!"

It sounds cliche but we really were in love from that first moment.  We could hardly wait to travel to Guangzhou and scoop her up!

That was three years ago and look how much our baby has changed!    She's 14 inches taller,  28 pounds heavier and just look at all that hair!   

Gwen has a really special personality.  Here are some cute things we've noticed about her:

  • She used to call ketchup "kchepy" and it sounded so sweet that we still call it that even though she can now pronounce it correctly.
  • When she sees something miniature, she always puts on a really sweet baby voice and says "That's sooo cute!"  She learned this from Mommy who loves baby things but she thinks this affection should also be applied to anything that is smaller than usual.  Last night, she noticed a Diet Pepsi bottle that was small and picked it up and hugged it close to her cheek and said "Look Mommy!  It's soooo cute!"
  • She just turned four last month and she's absolutely brilliant but she'll only perform a task if it's on her terms.  No amount of guilt or reward or threat will change this!  She knows all her ABC's and phonics and can sound out words (read!) but she staunchly refuses to put her own shoes on.
  • She loves beige colored food:  Chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, chow mien noodles, popcorn, bananas, pancakes, pop tarts.  She won't eat anything else unless it's been squished through the juicer and mixed with something in her sippy cup.  Fortunately, she'll happily accept anything she can slurp through her sippy cup (as long as she can't see what she's drinking).
  • She'll let me decorate her gorgeous hair with anything I want but won't wear makeup, face paint, or jewelry of any sort.    Unlike her sister Madeline, she's not picky about her clothes.
  • She has only three bottom front teeth where everyone else has four.   This is just the way God made her.  There's a really good chance that her birth-mom or birth-dad was this way too.  There's a 65% chance that she'll also be missing the corresponding permanent tooth.   Either way, this isn't a big deal as it's not noticeable at all.
  • She's extremely coordinated and will climb and jump from every surface possible.  She never falls.
  • Almost from the first moment we met her, she's been obsessed with sticks.  She seeks them out everywhere we go and has incredible "stick radar" to immediately locate anything even remotely matching the characteristics of a stick.   
  • She loves to cuddle and will mournfully complain to me each morning that she has "no Mommy loves" when I attempt to sneak away and take a shower.  She puts on her best/most irresistible sad face for this performance and it's impossible not to jump back into bed for five more minutes of snuggling.
  • She loves to help even though her help is usually not very helpful.  But the desire comes from a good place in her heart.   Ironically, that good place is also a really messy place.

July 25, 2008

Gwen's Hearing Test

Hearing_testWe had Gwenny's hearing checked today.  Not that we suspected a problem but just because of her heavy ear wax problem.  As suspected, she passed with flying colors.  Seriously, this child can hear the crinkle of a candy wrapper from another room!   Her hearing has never been in question.

It was interesting how they administered the hearing test.  First, they confirmed that she was "developmentally on target" and able to follow simple instructions.  I laughed when I heard that because I wasn't sure how to answer!   Gwen is BRILLIANT but usually completely unwilling to follow instructions -- unless she wants to.   And she usually doesn't want to.  For example, she won't dress herself because she wants me to do it.  If I don't do it, she's perfectly happy to stay in her PJ's (or run nekkid) all day long.    No amount of brow-beating will change this.  She's just not interested in performing this task.  Period.  Can she?  Yes.  Will she?  No.

So how would she do on the hearing test?  Would she agree to wear the head-phones?  Would she be frustrated that the tones weren't entertaining enough?  Would she be willing to demonstrate that she was hearing a tone?  Would she be willing to do it dozens of times?  I was really skeptical!  But these folks are professionals!  They made the test into a fun game that she was excited to play.   

I wasn't allowed to stay in the soundproof booth with her but could watch and listen from just outside the booth.  There was a window so Gwen could see me.  I heard the Doctor (a nice lady in her 40's with small children of her own) explain the game to Gwen.  She gave her an empty puzzle tray and handed her one piece of the puzzle that fit into a slot on the tray.  The rules of the game were simple:  Put the piece in the puzzle only when you hear the tone

In the picture above, she's holding a pink circle and waiting for the tone so she can put it in the correct slot.  Initially, she was unsure what to do but the Doctor was really friendly and consistently repeated the rules of the game at least a dozen times.  A few times, she forgot that she was supposed to wait for the tone and the Doctor had to confirm with her that she really heard something.  Eventually, she settled into a routine of hearing the tone and quickly looking at the Doctor and and smiling enthusiastically in anticipation.    The Doctor read her response (the smile) and got the information she needed for the test.  Brilliant! 

July 23, 2008

Yee Haw, Cowgirl!

Pony_pics

The Pony Picture People came to Gwen and Maddy's preschool last week and spent the day dressing up and hauling little kids up and down and all around this pony.  Then they came back a few days later with photos for sale.  There was a three picture minimum per kid ($50) but you take one look at your smiling child (in chaps!) sitting on this adorable pony and it's impossible to keep your checkbook closed.   I just hope they feed this horse premium pony chow because he sure earned it!

July 21, 2008

You saved my life, Mom!

Gwen_maddy_fight_sm_2

I should probably add that Maddy is also a silly, sweet, funny girl!  She tries extra hard to always do what is expected of her and gets frustrated when she fails and we have to correct her.   She has a very big heart and immediately felt really bad that she kicked her sister.  It was a crime of passion and not something she would have done if she'd taken even 1 extra second to think about it.    She didn't have to sit in time-out for very long.   

Blog to Book?

I've been asked about this twice this week so I thought I'd dig up this old blog post and feature at the top of the blog for a while. :)

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For the last several years, my blog has been my sanity saving hobby but that changed last summer when I discovered www.blurb.com.    I still love my blog but now I can also preserve these special memories for our family in book form. 

It's not effortless to convert your blog into a beautiful high quality book but it IS totally possible.  Blurb provides the quality and you provide the content.  And I think it's incredibly rewarding and even...  fun!   

I've completed four years of blog-inspired books and I'm incredibly proud of the results.    These are books my family will enjoy for a lifetime (plus the lifetimes of generations to come).  With the possible exception of my overcooked Pot Roast, I can't give my family a gift likely to last as long.

Blog_to_book

Blurb lets you "slurp" your blog right into their software.  It grabs everything with your dates and headings and text in the right order.  It also imports your blog photos but I've replaced the photos it imports with original, higher resolution, photos from my computer. 

Why do this?  Most of the photos on our blog are usually resized so they'll load quicker for viewers.  Even though they look good on the computer, they're reduced in size and will print very small.  Small photos are less satisfying to look at in a book and not really worth to $$ to print them.  So I replaced all the photos.  It was a pretty big task but here's how I did it:

I uploaded my entire blog into one book (all four years!).  I picked size 11 by 13 and did a little bit of clean up.  Then I immediately made four copies of this draft and re-named each to correspond with only one year.  For example

"T_ _ _ _ Family Album (2004)" 
"T_ _ _ _ Family Album (2005)"
"T_ _ _ _ Family Album (2006)"
"T_ _ _ _ Family Album (2007)"

Then I went back into the 2004 draft and deleted everything that wasn't a blog entry from 2004.  I did the same with all of the other books/years too.  That gave me four smaller projects to work on at my leisure.  The task was much less overwhelming when it was broken down this way.

To replace the photos (and add others I had but didn't put on the blog), I took all the photos on my computer, copied them then put them in one folder and sorted them by date taken.  Then I divided them into folders according to date.  This made it easy to find and replace (or add) a photo just by dragging and dropping it into the free Blurb software.

You'll have to clean up the formatting of your book before it's totally ready to send to print.  They have dozens of different ways to combine photos and text and you'll be able to mix and match your pages to make the most of each page.    It's not hard and I found that it was really fun and very personally rewarding since I was making a record of something that would be special to my whole family for all the years to come.
 
I was also preserving our priceless photos so they wouldn't be totally gone if something should happen to our computers or if our house burned down.  I can't tell you how much I worried about losing our irreplaceable photos.  Once you print your Blurb book, they store the digital copy forever and you can always go back and print another copy if you need to. 

The 11 x 13 size worked best for me because most of our photos are large enough to print beautifully as an 8 x 10 (or larger).  This gave me plenty of room to have my blog text and still have a big gorgeous photo on the same page.    But other size books are available and they're also very nice (I've created Lifebooks for both girls in size 8 by 10).    Before you do anything,  I recommend that you first look at the public Blurb books that others have made just to get some ideas about what layouts, size and formats are available.  Once you pick a book size, you can't change it without starting over from scratch -- so pick carefully!  Also remember that larger books are more expensive.    We didn't plan to print more than one copy of our yearly albums so it was okay that they were big and more expensive.  But they still averaged out to less than .50 cents per page!  That's an 11x13 full color page for less than .50 cents!

Sorry this got so long but I'm pretty excited about our yearly album.  Our 2008 book is already in progress and now all I do I simply add to it as I go along.  When I post something to the blog, I copy and paste it to the book too (and add all the extra pics I want).  Then, when the year ends, I'll be able to add the last few pictures then upload it and it'll arrive a couple of weeks later!
   
The initial (huge) time investment is over and now it's just a little bit of maintenance to keep the current book updated.  I've also been able to include text and photos that I'd never put in our public blog (personal emails about the birth of our niece, etc) but it's wonderful to have a permanent record of events that are significant to our family.  Even if they're not part of our blog.

Before I started printing our blog this way, NONE of our digital photos were in physical printed form in any album in our home.  Seriously, we had no album since our wedding album in 2001!

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