Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our 1st Anniversary of Gotcha Day

One year ago today, our family of three became a family of four. This is our one-year anniversary of “Gotcha Day”. Because a year’s time can fade one’s memory, I reread my blog entry about Gotcha Day this morning. How blessed we were to have a very happy, relaxing, and fun day. Not all Gotcha Days go so well, as often the child is scared or sad about leaving all that they know.

We got Shaling at the Civil Affairs office in Guangzhou, China (the capital of her province). Normally, the adoptive family arrives first and completes their paperwork and then waits for the child to arrive. However, things went in a bit of a different order for us. Shaling and her friend Natalie (Ma Meixin) arrived at the Civil Affairs office earlier than expected and were actually waiting for us to arrive. We and Natalie’s new family (the Reichenbachs) exited the elevator onto the 8th floor and quickly spotted two giggly little girls with curiously wide eyes excitedly watching as we entered the foyer. They were quickly ushered back into a little play area behind a curtain, but their giggles continued to be audible.

Our guide, Connie, instructed us to sit on some couches, where we filled out the customary paperwork. She then escorted our girls out, one by one. Here is the first picture I ever took of Shaling:

Though we couldn’t understand a word she was saying, Shaling was full of smiles and sweet talk. She was eager to share with us the few belongings she was able to bring with her. One of those items was the photo album we had sent her. In it were several pictures we went to her and a few that she’d added herself (or her foster family added for her). She was especially proud to show us this family picture we had sent to her, in which she took the liberty of adding herself in animé:

We were pleasantly surprised that she had a gift (shorts and a Chinese t-shirt) for Preston. I’m guessing her foster family helped her purchase that.

This is their first hug:

Preston shows her all about a DSi:

Future Illinoisan Shaling Reynolds & Future Floridian Natalie Reichenbach:

We had our first taste of how much Shaling loves to take pictures, as she grabbed my camera and took numerous pictures. She had obviously been taught the English phrase, “thank you”, as she said it over and over and over – when we handed her items, as she opened gifts, etc. She was immediately clingy and affectionate…holding our hands and hugging all of us.

As we rode in the van back to our hotel, she was as mesmerized watching the landscape and sights as we were. She pointed at me and said “Mother” and pointed at Brock and said “Father”. I pointed at Preston and said “Brother”. She immediately went on a mission and began digging through her backpack. She eventually found a Berenstein Bears book written in both English and Chinese. She quickly flipped through the pages until she found one with English paragraphs. She pointed at the words “Brother Bear”, wanting to prove to us that she recognized and knew the word “brother”. She also used one of her new colored scented pens to copy some English words from a package. She wanted us to see how hard she was working to learn her new language.

That evening we ate at a restaurant popular with adopting families, Lucy’s. It has a very extensive menu with a variety of cuisines. Because our guide, Connie, had strongly advised us to give Shaling lots of rice, we planned to order her a Chinese dish. However, after browsing through the menu, Shaling enthusiastically pointed at a picture and said, “pizza”. We were both surprised and confused. We asked the waitress to please explain to her that she could have whatever she wanted, but she still insisted on pizza. It was her first meal with us, so we weren’t going to argue. She was super slow eating the pizza, but she ate every bit of it. We would soon discover that she ordered the pizza simply to impress us, because it took months back in the United States before she would eat it again (and it’s still not something she particularly likes).

After letting the kids run off some energy at a nearby playground, we walked back to our hotel. As we walked, Shaling grabbed for our hands a lot. Despite the enormous language barrier, we immediately loved our little girl. We were so overwhelmed by her desire to impress us, her constant smiles, and her happy-go-lucky attitude. In retrospect, I am still amazed at (and proud of) her courage to simply walk out the door with people that she had never met and with whom she could not speak, knowing it was forever. Not only did she do so, but she seemed to fully embrace it. Gotcha Day was the first day of a “honeymoon phase” that did eventually end, but not until we had been home for a period of time. Gotcha Day provided us with a full range of emotional memories we’ll always treasure.

Friday, December 23, 2011

We left for China one year ago today!

One year ago today, Preston, Brock, & I took off on a trip of a lifetime & brought home the best Christmas present ever. However, the first few days of that trip were considerably less than smooth. We flew out of Springfield just before 10:00 a.m. & arrived at O’Hare just after 10:30 a.m. We were supposed to have a two-hour layover, but it ended up being closer to a five-hour layover as the airline decided to put a new battery in our airplane. On top of that, when they went to fill it with fuel, there was an issue with the fuel line & it pumped excruciatingly slow. Our flight to Hong Kong took off around 3:00 p.m.

I was recently reviewing my blog posts from last December & found myself surprised by how horrible our last evening at home played out. Preston had been home sick from school for 2 days, but had seemed to be feeling alright most of that day. However, he suddenly got pukey again that evening & I had to call Brock home early from basketball to run to the pharmacy to get some Emetrol, as well as Dramamine for the trip. It didn’t help my mood any that my beloved Illini lost the annual Bragging Rights game in disgusting fashion that night. Our cats, apparently angry over our impending departure, decided to show it by first puking on our bed & then later peeing on clean clothes I had just folded & brought up from the basement. I ended up sleeping in Preston’s room with him, while Brock slept on the couch. Full of anticipation & worry about forgetting something important, I woke up around 4:00 a.m. & never went back to sleep.

The flight from Chicago to Hong Kong lasted around 14 ½ hours. Thanks to time zone changes, we went over the North Pole on Christmas Eve. I looked out the window, but never saw reindeer pulling a sleigh. We alternately slept, watched television, followed our progress on a world map, ate (the plane food was actually quite good), read, & played games. Going through immigration was relatively painless, but I got in trouble for taking pictures while we were in line (didn’t realize it wasn’t allowed). We spent Christmas Eve night at the Hong Kong Marriott near the airport. Here are some pictures of Preston in & around the hotel:

Christmas morning, we took a horrifying fascinating 30-minute taxi cab ride to a train station. The trunk wasn’t large enough to hold our luggage, so the driver left the lid up. Brock & I were just certain something was going to fall out. The drive spoke NO English & the car (like many in China) had no seat belts. I was mesmerized by how quickly the buildings would change from looking like a high-dollar business area to dilapidated projects & then back again.

At the train station (which is bigger than some airports), we had a challenging time figuring out where to go. Additionally, the public restrooms (like most of China) were just holes in the ground. We were also quickly learning that in China, there is no “personal space” or right-of-way. People simple push & shove their way around. It is not considered rude; it’s just how they operate. Once we found the entryway to the platform, we discovered we had to go through immigration again.

Our train ride was right at 2 hours long. Preston slept for almost all of it. As we approached our stop, we woke Preston up & then followed the crowd to the tiny little bunk shelves where the luggage was stored. We had to stand on a tiny stairwell right next to the bunk shelves. It was rather stressful, as I can’t begin to tell you the sheer number of people crowding into a terrificly cramped space. Preston began complaining of a sick stomach, but we quickly dismissed it, as he hadn’t puked in a couple of days at this point. We erroneously assumed he was simply being impatient because he’d just been woken up. Oh, boy…he proved us wrong by vomiting once twice three times four times, with increasing quantity.

I have never felt so helplessly trapped in all my life. There was nothing nearby to grab to use to clean it up, it was right where everyone needed to be in order to grab their luggage & exit the train, we were the only Americans on the train & couldn’t clearly communicate just how sorry we were to all of the other passengers, & there really wasn’t room to bend over & deal with it anyway. As I ridiculously pleaded with Preston to wait until we got outside (as if somehow that was going to make it all go away), another passenger took pity on Brock & handed him some newspaper. Finally, a gloved & masked train employee showed up to clean it up. To his credit, Preston never cried.

Once we were able to disembark the train, we found ourselves amidst chaos. People were literally climbing all over each other to get out of there. As we got smashed in the crowd, trying desperately to stay together, we took a left & realized we had to go up 5 flights of stairs – Preston with a backpack & small suitcase, me with two large suitcases & a backpack, Brock with two extra large suitcases & a carry-on. There was no stopping at any of the levels for a breather, either, or we would have gotten trampled. By the last flight, I was crying out to Brock that I was not going to make it…not that he could do anything about it. For the last 2/3 of the last flight of stairs, a kind woman grabbed one of my suitcases and carried it the last of the way for me. When we reached the top, we squeezed ourselves up against a wall and tried to catch our breath. My heart was pounding & I was gasping for air. Brock was in similar shape. Once most of the crowd had dispersed, we noticed an escalator further over that would have made things much easier on us, but we had no way of seeing it through the sea of people earlier. Then, we had to go through immigration AGAIN (this was our 3rd time).

We finally met up with our guide, Connie, who navigated us through a bunch of foot traffic. We eventually found our driver & jumped in a mini-van for a 45-minute ride to our hotel. The traffic was very intimidating. There is a lot of honking over here. And for anyone that thinks I’m a tailgater – you ain’t seen nothin’! OH, my, gosh. The merging & braking & cutting off & honking & bicycles & pedestrians & you-name-it. It was nuts! We found ourselves quite relieved to arrive at our new temporary “home”, The Victory Hotel. Here is a picture of Brock & Preston standing in front of it:

Thanks to the incredible outcome of our trip, my memories of all of these troubles are as faded as a yellowed-out antique photo. I wouldn’t trade it for anything & would easily do it all over again. That being said, I’m looking forward to an incredibly more relaxed Christmas weekend this year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Day of Concerts: Pictures & Videos

This past Saturday, Preston was a busy percussionist. He performed with the Rochester 6th grade jazz band at 11:00 a.m. and with the Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony (SVYS) Concert Band at 1:30 p.m.

The morning concert was held at White Oaks Mall. I wasn't sure what to expect, thinking it might be part of a string of performances and perhaps only a couple of songs long. However, the jazz band played 6 or 7 songs and they were the only featured group. They were quite festive, playing all Christmas songs and wearing Santa hats.

The afternoon concert was held at the University of Illinois Springfield's Sangamon Auditorium. Last year, this concert was impressively amazing. I remember bursting with pride watching Preston confidently play alongside students 2, 3, & 4 years older than himself. I won't "air the dirty laundry" here in the blog, but let's just say that there was a change in directors and this year's experience paled greatly in comparison.

Jazz Band Pictures

Dad was in charge of video while I was in charge of still photos. Shaling likes to be in charge of it all.

SVYS Concert Orchestra

Jazz Band Videos
Preston plays drum set on "Jingle Bell Rock".

Preston plays the bells during "Frosty the Snowman". As an added bonus, Shaling chimes in with some singing during a brief period of the song.

Preston plays drum set during "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" (or at least, that's what I think it is).

Preston plays the bells during "Jingle Bells".

Preston plays the bells during "Holly Jolly Christmas".

SVYS Concert Orchestra
Preston plays the tympani (the kettle drums) on "Marche Militaire Francais".

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pierced Ears & Visit W/Santa

As I mentioned in the post about our visit with Dr. Huang, Shaling has been begging for months to get her ears pierced, but I made her wait for clearance that her eardrum is healed. Well, Wednesday night, we finally went to get it done! She chose ladybugs for her first earrings. Here are the promised pictures of the event:

This is her grimace BEFORE the first earring was put in. Her anticipation was worse than the actual pain when it occurred.

This is AFTER the first was already done. As you can tell from her smile, it didn't phase her a bit. She was insistent that it did not hurt at all.

A couple of pictures of the final product.

After the ear piercing, she spotted the mall Santa. She stared at him with curiosity, telling me that she didn't think that was Santa. When I quizzed her as to why not, she indicated that his beard was too short. I suggested that maybe he had just cut it. She kept inching closer, so I asked her if she wanted her picture taken with him. She did. What I didn't anticipate was the enthusiasm with which she repeatedly told Santa that she wants a dog for Christmas. She is certain now that she will be getting a dog, because she told Santa that's what she wanted. I guess this will be her first lesson in regards to Santa not bringing EVERYTHING on your list.

Here is Shaling's first ever picture with Santa:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Photo Card

2011 was a year replete with blessings for the Reynolds family. May 2012 bring an abundance of blessings to ALL of our family and friends. Merry Christmas to all!

Pictures Galore Christmas
To view our unique Christmas card designs, click here.
View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A 4-Month Reprieve

Shaling went to see Dr. Huang (the E.N.T.) today for yet another follow-up check on her ear drum surgery (which was in September). We've gone to see him approximately 5 or 6 times since the surgery. After examining her ear today (and cleaning out a nasty-looking scab), he told me it looked clean and healed well. She doesn't have to return to see him until April, when he'll run a full hearing test on her to see what percentage of her hearing has returned in her right ear.

Before she even got out of the examination chair, she started shrieking, "so I can get my ears pierced?" She has been wanting that for months and months, but I had told her we weren't touching those ears until we were done seeing Dr. Huang about her surgery. I looked to him for advice in response to her shrieking. He said she should be fine. So, I guess we're going to mall tonight. I'll have to post pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Scars - Ankle & Heart

Last night, while lying in bed reading, Shaling pointed out about a 1/2-inch scar on her ankle and began to tell me about it. She said, "yesterday, yesterday, yesterday, last week when I was in China. I was 8 or 7 or 6 or 5..." Apparently she saw one of her "dads" (I don't know if it was a foster dad or one of the government caregivers that she called dad) shaving and later grabbed his razor. She tried it out on her ankle to see what it did. She says she said, "ow" and someone gave her a napkin and she said "ow" again.

She then went on to tell us that that mom & dad eventually didn't want her anymore. She indicated that the next mom & dad didn't want her anymore either. She described a chain of rejection. Bewildered, I asked her how many moms & dads she had. She carefully thought about it, "well, first my mom doesn't want me when I'm a baby...", then she stared at the ceiling while counting in her head. She said "seven". Then she pointed at us and said, "eight". She kept saying that she had moms & dads that "doesn't want me". Yet, as heartbreaking as that phrase is (and trust me, I'm overwhelmed with sadness for her), she just uttered it as a matter-of-fact part of her life; no tears; no obvious depression.

I told her that we weren't going to go anywhere and that we'd always be here. She told me no, that some day we would die. I told her yes, but that we were always going to want her and that we were going to be her last mom & dad, that we would be Mom & Dad forever. She asked why and I said because we love you. She smiled, but had a quizzical look on her face. Brock told her similar things and I interjected again, telling her that sometimes we were going to be mad at her when she broke rules, but that we were still going to love her.

I know it sounds bizarre, but I got the idea that the conversation was more emotionally charged for me than her. She ended it by telling me that she really wished the owie on her ankle would go away. I explained to her that it was something called a scar and it would always be there to remind her when she got hurt. As for me, I would prefer she didn't have to deal with those owies on her heart.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I've been reviewing some of our posts from last December, as we were getting ready to travel about this time last year. I came across this post:


It includes a very meaningful video that I hadn't viewed in a long time. In the video, Shaling is told that her Mom will be coming soon. She timidly smiles. Her "big sister", Yu Bei (Francine) is in the video as well, as are a couple of little boys that have since been adopted. It's pretty amazing how much Shaling has changed since then.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Reconnection & a Flag Performance

When we brought Shaling home last January, she brought with her a folded up letter from her "big sister" at the orphanage, Yu Bei. It was obvious that Yu Bei is pretty special to Shaling, because she would open up and re-read that letter often. I knew that Yu Bei was going to be adopted, because I had met her parents at an older child adoption training seminar in June, 2010. I told Shaling that Yu Bei would be coming to Illinois to live, but a couple of hours away (I believe she is in Mendota).

Over the last 11 months, Shaling would ask me from time to time if Yu Bei was with her family yet. I was in occasional email contact with Yu Bei's mother. Their process took longer than ours, partially because they decided to get two girls at once and they were from two entirely different provinces. Last I heard, Yu Bei was going to be coming home in October or November 2011. Apparently she DID make it home, because yesterday I got an email from her mother asking for our phone number so Francine (as Yu Bei is now called) could call Shaling. I told Shaling she was going to be getting a surprise phone call and she was very intrigued, though she never correctly guessed who it was going to be. As you can see from the glow in the picture below, she was thrilled with the chat.

Shaling participated in a flag camp this week. It was run by the high school flag corps and culminated in a half-time performance at the JV girls basketball game last night. Though it may not be obvious in the video (below), she really did enjoy it and expressed disappointment to me that she was only going to get to perform once. She was all smiles during the rehearsals, but not so much at the performance because she was distracted by the fact that a certain boy was there watching her (I think it made her nervous).

***Remember, the video shows up on my blog, but not in the emails that some of you receive.

Quick update on my cousin Joanna - she was able to come home from the hospital on Wednesday, but is currently on a liquid diet until her bolster is removed (which I think may happen on Monday). She is already uttering some words and though they took more tongue than they planned (found more cancer), it is not going to be as obvious as I thought. I'm convinced she'll be able to return to teaching quicker than I originally expected. Thanks for the prayers!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grieving for China

Shaling has been "missing" China a lot lately. She wants to go visit her old school; she talks about what things are/aren't also in China; etc. It's a natural grieving type of thing that I can't really make better, which of course makes me feel helpless as a parent. The good news is that she doesn't seem too terribly down about it, but I know she misses several people she cared about. I'm sure food, language, and other things are a part of it as well.

Wednesday will mark 11 months here in the United States. Perhaps the fact that we're so close to the one year mark is part of it. Perhaps the holidays are part of it. I'm not sure what all is factoring in. However, tonight, she and Preston dug out some DVDs that we brought home from China. They are cartoon episodes of the Happy Lamb, a popular cartoon in China. They are in Chinese, but Preston giggles away right with Shaling when they watch them. I've been enjoying sitting here listening to their bursts of laughter. We've had a particular stressful week around here and the sounds of enjoyment they are emitting are a wonderful respite.

On an entirely different note, I would appreciate any and all of my blog followers that are believers saying a prayer for my cousin Joanna tonight and/or tomorrow. In the morning, she'll be having surgery to remove cancer from her tongue. At 37-years-old, this is her third go-around with mouth cancer. They did run a CAT scan that showed it hasn't spread anywhere else (thank God), but she will be losing a significant portion of her tongue. I love her dearly so I would appreciate it if you would lift her, her fiance Mike, and her daughter Maggie all up in prayer.

Monday, November 28, 2011

ThanksChristmasGiving 2011

Brock & I have been celebrating Christmas on Thanksgiving with his family since 1991. At that time, his parents were both still teaching, but had purchased a condo in Florida. They wanted to use their Christmas break each year to spend time at the condo, so the Reynolds (or at that time, the Devall) ThanksChristmasGiving was born. We would celebrate Christmas & Thanksgiving all in one, with both the traditional turkey dinner AND exchanging Christmas gifts. For years, we did this at Great Grandma Devall's house in Effingham, complete with Uncle Bob & Aunt Deb, Matt & Mark, Uncle Dave & Aunt Penny, Dave, Michael, Barbara, Rob, & Teresa.

Since then, spouses have been added and 6 great grandchildren have been born or adopted. In addition, Great Grandma Devall's health has declined. We no longer celebrate as an extended family. However, the three generations of Reynolds still get together, now in Mokena at Brock's brother Scott's house. Preston & Shaling had a great time playing with cousins Cooper & Chase, as well as opening gifts from Uncle Scott & Aunt Michelle and Grandma & Grandpa.

Preston & Shaling pose in front of the Christmas tree.

Chase selects a gift to open.

Cooper thinks about which gift to open next.

Shaling smiles for the camera.

Preston smiles for the camera.

Shaling shows off her new roller skates.

Preston shows off his Diary of a Wimpy Kid puzzle.

Brock & Scott show off their Cubs stocking hats.

The Reynolds clan - Bill & Nancy, Brock & Amy, Scott & Michelle, Preston, Shaling, Cooper, Chase

Dad & Shaling chill out.

Videos (don't forget, these don't show up via email -- come out to the blog to view them):

Shaling opens a present.

Preston opens a present.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Decorating for Shaling's 1st Christmas in the USA (Videos)

As I told my Facebook friends late last night, I typically have a severe aversion to Christmas decorating. Not the decorations, which I love to look at, but the act of putting them up and the act of putting them away. It's one area of our lives in which Brock typically spoils me and does it with little or no help from me. However, this year is different. We brought the boxes up from the basement yesterday evening and Shaling immediately lit up like a Hollywood spotlight.

She helped fluff out the branches and inserted them in the appropriate parts of the tree. She excitedly dug through the boxes of Christmas statues, teddy bears, and trinkets, oohing and aahing at each one. She sat by in anxious anticipation as I unveiled each ornament to be hung on the tree. She put Santa hats on each and every one of us. She danced; she sang; she repeatedly exclaimed, "I love Christmas"! Her attitude was so contagious that it was impossible to be a grinch.

She (in her Barbie pajamas) & Preston (in his Spongebob pajamas) have starring roles in the following 5 brief videos. Reminder -- if you get my blog via email, the videos are not included; you have to come out to the blog to see them.

In video 1, Preston & Shaling are being goofy & belly laughing as they hang toys from Frosty's hat (Frosty dances & sings).

I filmed video 2 because the kids suddenly realized I had been videoing and asked me to video again. They continue to be nonsensical, dancing & jumping around as Brock puts up the tree.

In video 3, Preston & Shaling wish you a "Merry Christmas" and jingle bells. Shaling puts Dad's santa hat back on his head. Preston practices to be a Salvation Army bell ringer. Mom comments on her messy living room.

Video 4 features Shaling dancing & singing with a Christmas teddy bear. Braxtina, our 17-year-old cat, surveys the situation.

In video 5, Shaling treats us to "Jingle Bells", as sung in Chinese (Mandarin).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Preston: 6th Grade Band & Jazz Band

This is a post all about Preston. He had his school fall concert on Tuesday night. He played 3 songs with the 6th grade band and 1 song with the jazz band (he has to split drum set time with another student, so they each got to do 1 song).

For 6th grade band, he played bass drum during "Celebration Overture":

Rochester 6th Grade Band: Celebration Overture from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

He played snare drum during "Amazing Grace":

He played bells during "Armed Forces On Parade":

Rochester 6th Grade Band: Celebration Overture from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

For 6th Grade Jazz Band, he played the drum set during "Early Bird" (his cohort got to play drum set for the "James Bond Theme").

Rochester 6th Grade Band: Celebration Overture from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Medical Update: Teeth & Ear

Shaling had orthodontic surgery this Tuesday. Dr. Milner took out three of her teeth - two permanent teeth & one baby tooth - to make room for teeth underneath to come up. She didn't care for the Novocaine shots, but handled the post-op soreness like a champ. She will eventually need braces, but we don't see the orthodontist again until next August or September.

She had yet another post-op visit with Dr. Huang (E.N.T.) today. He thought the ear looked much better. In fact, he said we could stop giving her the ear drops now. After pouting through some of the appointment, she smiled broadly when she heard that. She does, however, still have a small scab on her eardrum, so he wants to see her again on December 14. He predicts that we'll do a follow-up hearing test in about 5 months.

She continues to stay busy - has a basketball game at 8:30 tonight, stayed at her friend Katie's house last night, is still taking trumpet lessons, etc. Tomorrow we are giving an adoption testimonial at a "Chinese Thanksgiving" to raise money to buy coal for orphanages in China.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thoughts on Sports, by Shaling

Our little athlete has some opinions and she likes to share them (hmmm...I wonder where she gets that from). She shared opinions with me at three different sporting events this weekend: the Rochester Rocket 7th grade girls basketball game, the Rochester Rocket playoff varsity football game, and at her own 4th grade girls basketball game at The Gym.

First, at the 7th grade girls game, she watched for awhile, then gave me an unprovoked, but rather accurate analysis: "really good passes". She was also spot-on with calling double dribbles or traveling calls before the referees even signaled them.

Next, at the football game, she told me that she wants to play football; "it's really fun". After expressing a touch of surprise, I told her that she'd have to get used to people knocking her down. She ignored the idea that she'd get knocked down confidently told me that she likes knocking people down and that she'd knock her best friend down.

Finally, at her own game, she told me that when the girls play basketball, the boys should dance. Oh, and to be clear, by "dance", she meant cheerlead.

Though I'm still not sure where she gets off being so opinionated (ahem), I like the way she thinks!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween & Basketball

Got a Halloween pictures and some basketball videos for you today. Shaling enjoyed her first Halloween, taking in a big haul. She chose to dress up as Wonder Woman (her belt was just a WEE bit big). Preston is Tron.

She also played her first regular season basketball game on Sunday (with Dad as her coach). She didn't make any buckets, but she had several steals and rebounds. She hustles all over the court and makes it her mission to get the basketball.

Here are several extremely brief video clips from her game:

In this video, Shaling shoots the ball (misses), hustles on defense, gets a steal, then turns the ball over.

In this one, Shaling brings the ball up the court, then turns it over.

Shaling gets a steal, then a breakway shot at the basket (but misses it).

Shaling gets a steal, then shoots (and misses).

In this video, Shaling hustles and plays "help defense".

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ten Months...

Today marks 10 months since Gotcha Day, December 27, 2010. It feels like we've packed years of experiences, growth, and love into those 10 months. Although her grammar is far from perfect and she has an accent, Shaling's verbal English is abolutely incredible. Most people meeting her for the first time have no idea that she's only been in America for a short time. Her written English (& her reading) has a much longer trek ahead, but even those skills are quite impressive when you consider where she was just a year ago. She can read 1st grade level books and her printing is better than mine Preston's.

She has a long ways to go as far as learning to respect and follow the boundaries we set in our household, but she is typically eager to please, whether it comes to school work or household chores. She is currently playing on a basketball team (coached by her dad) and continually begs to play softball again (she still needs to learn about the four seasons). Her ear is healing, but she sees the E.N.T. again on November 11. Her orthodontic surgery is November 8. She'll have two permanent (& perhaps two baby) teeth removed.

She has formed a terrific circle of friends, which has led to Brock & I forming new friendships as well. I'm looking forward to seeing how she enjoys her first Halloween this Monday. She chose a Wonder Woman costume. Last night, we splurged on dinner at Red Lobster because it is currently "Shrimp Fest". She ate 82 shrimp!

We are definitely feeling like a typical family of four. We don't have "adoption issues"; we simply have ordinary parenting challenges, and of course, an abundance of parenting rewards.

Here is a current picture of her with our neighbor's Corgi, Lilo (to compare to pictures from 10 months ago, click on "Gotcha Day" up above):

(You can click the picture to make it bigger)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Parenting 101, Instructor Shaling Reynolds

We've had a busy week - besides the fact that Mom's favorite baseball team is in the World Series and Mom got to go to her first ever World Series game last Wednesday, we had a death on Dad's side of the family. We went to the visitation in Windsor, Illinois on Thursday night as a family of four. Grandpa Reynolds' cousin Barb passed away from cancer after entering hospice care a few weeks ago. While we are glad she is no longer suffering, it's never fun to say a permanent goodbye.

After the funeral on Friday, Grandma & Grandpa returned to Springfield to spend the weekend with us. At one point during the weekend, Grandpa was asked to mediate a sharing quarrel between Preston and Shaling. After both kids had told their side of the story and pleaded their cases, Grandpa asked them how they would handle this situation when they grow up and have kids of their own. Shaling quickly told him, "I would buy TWO of them." She's definitely got it figured out.

She had a check-up with the E.N.T. last Wednesday, but the ear still isn't fully healed. She goes back on Veteran's Day, November 11. Her Ortho surgery is scheduled for November 8, so that will be a busy week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

School Pictures

The kids got their school pictures last week. I always buy a CD with a copyright release. Therefore, I know it's ok for me to post them here.

Here is my big 6th grader:

And here is my big 4th grader:

Preston has discovered that the 6th grade homework loads are QUITE a bit bigger than 5th grade. This has been quite a leap. He is juggling that, plus drum lessons on Monday evenings, Concert Orchestra rehearsals on Tuesday evenings, Jazz Band rehearsals on Wednesday mornings, 6th grade band sectionals on Thursday mornings, and junior bowling league on Saturday mornings.

Shaling is enjoying 4th grade and is quite motivated, pushing her English Language Learning teacher for extra homework. She is juggling school, continuing to learn a new language, trumpet lessons on Tuesdays, a basketball league (her dad is her coach), medical appointments, and a busy social life. She is scheduled for dental surgery on November 8 and she sees the E.N.T. again this Wednesday.

While they both occasionally challenge my confidence and ability as a parent, they both continue to make me proud as well. God blessed me well in the child department.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Family Birthday Party Pictures

Yesterday, we had a simple cake birthday party for Shaling at Grandma & Grandpa's house. It was a chance for her relatives to give her her birthday gifts in person.

Shaling reads her cards to Grandma as she open gifts.

Shaling aims her new camera at me as Grandma, Great Aunt Ann, & Great Uncle Frank look on.

Grandma & Grandpa Barkley

Great Aunt Donna & Lynn

Grandpa Coonrod

Great Grandma Coonrod

In China, they put fruit on their cake (at least on the cakes that get sent to the orphanages, anyway). So, I asked my mom to try this for me. She made an angel food cake, iced it with dressing used for a grape salad, and used a variety of fruit. I think it turned out splendidly!

My mom also wanted a traditional family favorite, chocolate cake, to be present.