Labor Day Weekend

Seems like I only post once per week now.  The kids are older and easier to manage and I have more free time than I've had in over 5 years but I can still barely keep up this blog.  How is that possible?

Anyway....

Three day weekends are hard to come by so we really felt like we needed to make the most of it and get away.   We spent Saturday in Palo Alto and wandered around Stanford University with some old friends.  This is Zsa-Zsa (what Gwen and Maddy call her).  The Daddies grew up together and have been friends since 2nd grade.  She's six months old now and so incredibly cute!  I love how she has little fat rolls in the middle of her forearm!   She's such a sweet, happy girl!  And beautiful too!  Her Mama is Chinese and her Daddy is Hungarian - two ethnicities that are very near and dear to me!

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Sunday morning, we went to Stanford Shopping Center and I snapped a couple of pics of some of their beautiful landscaping.  The most amazing flowers were blooming in flowerbeds everywhere!

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I'm still trying to figure out depth-of-field (aperture).  I like how the tip of the leaf on the far right (in the photo above) is in focus but the base isn't.

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It was such a perfect day!

After the shopping center, we headed into San Francisco where we picked up Michael and Kelsey before heading to our hotel. 

Jenga, anyone?

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I took photos of every single moment of the game but still managed to miss the exact moment when the tower fell.  Dang it! 

Pizza and ice cream for dinner and then back to the hotel for more snacks and movies and silly fun times.   I bought some footsy pj's for the girls and they were so cute (sorry, forgot to take pics).  They were all giggles for the longest time before finally falling asleep on the sofa bed in the other half of our room.   After that, I was able to pull out my computer and log in and get Joannah's fantastic news.   Then off to happy dreamland!

The next day, we walked all over China Town and Union Square before packing up and heading home.  It was the perfect weekend! 

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For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday

Black & White Wednesday: Reunion

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When I took this photo of Maddy, the colors were so delicious that I almost didn't notice how fun and interesting the patterns were.  This is exactly the type of photo I love best in black and white!  Just look at those circles and stripes and that milky white complexion and jet black hair! 

I used Pioneer Woman's free B&W action but it was a bit too cold so I tried Shana's Florabella/Luxe Mink action but it was too brown (warm) for this photo -- so I blended both of them together to get this perfect result.  I love it.

But you have to see the color version too.  I processed this with the Luxe action, Musette.

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I took this photo in the lobby of our hotel in Pismo Beach this weekend.  We were there for our 5th reunion of our China adoption travel group.  In early September of 2005, 38 families from our agency flew to China to bring home their babies.  39 Children in all:

35 girls (including twins)
4 boys

We came from all over the USA and many different walks of life but we had this one thing in common and we've come together each year since then to celebrate it:  Our adopted child(ren).

This is the first year that the kids have been old enough to remember that they know one another.  They played together for hours which finally gave their parents some time to relax and chat.  These reunions are certain to only get better and better every year! Here's a pic of a bunch of the kids right after the Pinata burst.

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Several of the families visited Avila Farm and took the hay ride into the orchards to pick gala apples.  This is our third year doing this and the kids love it! 

20100828IMG_1184pismo beach apples Maddy gets some help from Daddy to reach the apples at the top of the trees.

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The weather was crisp and cool.  It seems like Fall is in the air.   I even found a pretty leaf on the ground at Avila Farm.   

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I picked a special new outfit for the girls to wear this weekend.  Gwen was really excited about dressing up - surprising since she's never cared about that sort of thing before.   It's possible that she's going to be a girly-girl after all!  :)

20100828IMG_1125pismo beach ambrosia 

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For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday

A pretty day (but almost my last)

Every day, while the girls are at school, I upload my favorite podcast onto my iphone and head to the park where I stick headphones in my ears and let myself relax into a nice 4 mph walking pace.  And I keep that up for about an hour and a half.  It's my 90 minutes of sweaty zen.

Today, I was totally into that happy place when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up just in time to see a large white dog charging straight at me at full speed.  In the time it took for my brain to register that I was about to be viciously attacked, the dog had closed much of the gap between us and was less than 3 feet away and looked to be about to lunge.  With no time at all to react, all I could do was cover my neck with my hands and brace for the impact -- and scream.  So that's what I did.

But instead of attacking me, the dog did something really weird...  It caught a ball.

Huh?

Relieved but bewildered, I watched the dog trot off with the ball in its mouth then heard a distant voice calling out an apology (several times).   I found the source of the voice and all of the pieces quickly fell into place.   Obviously, it was a guy throwing a ball for his dog and the ball and the dog and I just happened to arrive at the exact same place at exactly the same time.  Of course, the dog always knew the ball was his target but my thumping heart was absolutely certain that the target was me.  It doesn't matter if the threat is real or fake.  If you believe it, then it's real to you!  It took about 10 minutes for my heart rate to get back to normal!  

After school, I brought the girls back to this park.   We've had temps in the 100's this week and today was much more mild.  It was an incredibly beautiful day and I got some really nice photos:

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While the girls played in the sand, I looked up through the canopy of trees above us and saw this lovely sight.  I've never tried to capture a sun flare on camera so this is my first attempt.  It seems unnatural (and medically risky) to look directly into the sun -- even through the lens of the camera.  Why doesn't it damage the camera or the photographer?  Anyone know?

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The park has a beautiful one mile loop of shaded paths like this.  See why I love to walk here?

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Maddy collects sand while Gwen searches for branches...

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Gwen made several trips with armloads of branches/strips of tree bark.  What could they be building?

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Ummm...... I'm still not sure what it is but they sure were proud of it!

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Maddy loves to pose for me now.    I have to work to keep the photo sessions genuinely interesting for her or she'll give me a really corny fake smile.  This is a real smile though (above). 

Gwen can fake a smile - or really ANY expression - better than anyone I know.  The camera loves her almost as much as I do (and that's a lot!).

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Isn't she gorgeous?

Here's Gwen climbing a rock wall.

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And here's Maddy at the TOP of that same wall!  I heard her call to me and looked over and she was up there for the very first time!  A huge accomplishment for my very very cautious girl!

Just behind her is the spot where I thought I was going to die this morning.  What a strange - but happy! - turn of events!

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When Daddy came home from work this evening, we had lots to share with him about our day!  :)

4th Gotcha Anniversary!

Mink 4 year gotchaversary

Four years ago, our daughter - Madeline - was placed in our arms.  It was a beautiful day in our life and a little bit more special because Aug 23rd was my mother's birthday.    What a blessing Maddy is to us! 

Today, she posed for some photos and we spent time together all snuggled up on the sofa looking at our photo album of her adoption.  It was a sweet and special time and I think we'll make this a tradition on this special day each year.     

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For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday

Love grows in the sand

Gwenny loves to pick flowers for me.  She gleefully presents them as little tokens of her love and I happily accept them as the beautiful gifts that they are!  But, recently, I've started explaining that flowers die when we pick them and I've gently suggested that we leave them attached to their "family" plant so they can thrive and help the bees do their job and, generally, make our world a more colorful and beautiful place.

She seems to understand this but still had a bit of trouble resisting the temptation to pluck a pretty daisy as we entered a new park in Palo Alto today.  I reminded her about how important it is that we leave the flowers in the ground so they can get nourishment and water and live a longer, more healthy, life.   Without missing a beat, she raced over to the playground and re-planted the flower!

That's my girl!

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