Monday, February 28, 2011

Chinese School, Battle of Wills & the Tooth Fairy

Shaling's English Language Learner teacher gave us a heads up on a church in Springfield those holds "Chinese School" on Sunday afternoons. She encouraged us to find a way for Shaling to expand her language knowledge in her native tongue. After emailing the church, we were invited to stop by on a Sunday afternoon to find out more about the program.

Brock & Shaling stopped by there yesterday. Shaling interacted with several people of her Chinese heritage. After talking to her in Mandarin, they informed Brock that Shaling is too advanced to obtain any benefit from their program. In fact, they informed him that she is able to write Chinese characters and use Chinese words that would be rare for a child of her age to know.

We've been told by many people that she is bright, starting with the caregivers at her orphanage, continuing with our guide Connie in China, etc. It's apparent by how quickly she learning English that she is bright as well. However, this was pretty amazing to be told by native Chinese speakers that her Chinese mastery is far above even their expectations.

Shaling is slowly coming out of the honeymoon period and/or becoming comfortable enough that she is testing just how much power she has over decisions we make. She repeatedly told us "Shaling, no eat" when we went to the Godfather's Buffet following church yesterday. She made it clear that she wanted us to go to a Chinese restaurant. We think we've been taking her to Chinese restaurants too often. The list of foods she is willing to eat has actually decreased, rather than increased.

We put a slice of pizza and 5 meatballs on her plate. I knew she would like the meatballs, but probably not the pizza. We just wanted her to try it. She was refusing to eat any of it. "Shaling, no eat!" Brock told her she had to have 3 bites of each (the pizza & the meatballs). She sat there stubbornly and let the tears flow. We chose not to make a scene and just continued eating. Brock eventually reminded her that:

No eat.

No tv.

No DSi.

No bicycle.

She still sat there, so we continued eating and talking. When Brock got up to go get another plate of food, Shaling stood up and walked over to another table, refusing to even sit at our table. After sternly telling her twice to sit down to no avail, I got up and firmly put her in her seat...oh, was she livid! As I walked back over to my seat, she popped right back up. I turned and glared at her, commanding her to sit down, which she quickly did, but shed some more tears.

After Preston, Brock, & I were done eating, we starting to grab our jackets to go. At this point, Shaling decided she'd go ahead and eat. She quickly ate all 5 meatballs, showing us the thumbs up sign and telling us they were good. However, after one bite of pizza, we got a thumbs down sign and a look of disgust. Figuring she'd had 6 bites, even if they weren't the exact 6 bites we requested, we told her she didn't have to eat anymore. She tumbled into the bathroom, where I followed. She was again her smiling, happy self. When we came out, she grabbed another plate and walked up to the buffet, but ultimately decided nothing looked appealing to her.

Last Monday, Brock & I both noticed a couple of loose teeth in Shaling's mouth. One in particular looked as if it might fall out THAT day. She wouldn't let us touch it or go anywhere near it. Brock tried to explain that concept of the tooth fairy to her. However, she looked at him like he was nuts and then asked me, "Mom, Dad - tooth, pillow, money?" I think she was stunned to hear me confirm such nonsense.

That tooth finally fell out on it's own. Yesterday. I was surprised it took so long. So, the tooth fairy came for the tooth and left $2 under Shaling's pillow. I'm impressed with the tooth fairy's flying skills that she was able to navigate through that wind & thunderstorm that hit last night. Shaling found the money during the night and came into our room to show it to me...still seeming quite confused as to how that worked.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Daddy Is Grounded

So, last week, Shaling was grounded one evening. She had been especially defiant at breakfast that morning, refusing to eat her cereal. In fact, she refused long enough that she missed the bus. We have a rule in our house that if you miss the bus and you miss it due to your own action (or inaction), you are grounded that evening.

No television.

No video games.

No friends.

No bicycle.

She did not particularly care for that evening, especially when her brother got to play with his DSI and she did not get to play with hers. In fact, though that evening was 8 days ago (last Tuesday), apparently it made a lasting impression on her.

Tonight, we ate soup & bbq at Rochester United Methodist Church. Brock offered to get Shaling a second bowl of soup and she said yes, but pinched her fingers together and said "little". He came back with a full bowl and she glared at him and huffed to show her disgust. He said he'd help her eat it. So, she took a little (very little), mostly picking out the biggest chunks of beef she could find. Brock ate some of it too, but not all of it. Therefore, about half a bowl of soup was still sitting there.

She indicated that Brock should eat it and he told her no. (In his defense, he's playing basketball tonight, so he didn't want to overeat)

She again indicated he should eat it and he again said no.

So she told him,


"No TV"

"No DSI"

"No bicycle"

"No driver" (her way of saying he wasn't allowed to drive the car)

He asked her if he could play basketball and she told him no. He pouted and said, "please?"

She said,


"Shaling - please?" (and imitated herself pouting & pleading with him last Tuesday)

"Dad - No!"

"So, Shaling - No!"

I guess that's her way of saying what goes around comes around.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hot Tea, Soup & Friends

We continue to be amazed by Shaling's adjustment. Though things aren't perfect, she is a mostly happy girl. At lunch today, we ate at the Chinese restaurant in Carlinville. It is a buffet. Besides a plate of rice and other items, she had 7 bowls of soup and would have had more if Mom & Dad hadn't grown too impatient to stick around. She told her dad "10 soup" & then "100 soup" & then "200 soup" & then "1000 soup". The girl LOVES her soup...any kind...chicken noodle, vegetable, spicy, etc.

She has opened up recently to some waitresses in a couple of Chinese restaurants that we frequent. Previously, we had introduced her to a Chinese friend of ours, James, but she didn't seem to take advantage of having such a close, ready-made translator. We'd also introduced her to a couple of acquaintances that spoke Chinese, but no dice there either. However, she must have suddenly wanted to let us know a few things that she hadn't been able to convey to us, because she told these waitresses that:

#1: She wants to drink hot tea more often.
#2: She wants more friends.

We have several kids in the neighborhood that like to play with her, but I'm guessing she misses that orphanage atmosphere of having LOTS & LOTS of kids around. We are sending a note to the school with our contact information for her to give to a friend. We are hoping that "Jessica" has her parents contact us to set up a play date.

She will also be starting volleyball practices soon. Perhaps that will help as well. She is MUCH more of a social butterfly than Preston is. In a few weeks (perhaps closer to April?) she will be playing softball too.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Our Little Cheerleader

Saturday, Shaling participated in a 3-hour cheerleading camp at Lincoln Land Community College. She learned some cheers and a dance routine. Then, she performed at half-time of the women's basketball game in the afternoon. She did absolutely great! She seemed to really enjoy herself. She also made a new friend, Kelsey.

Here is the video of her performance:

Shaling Cheerleading at Lincoln Land Community College from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Definitely Mommy's Daughter

Shaling & I went to the community center last night to register her for softball. As we exited the building, she spotted a Ford Mustang in the parking lot. It was dark out, but I believe it was white with black stripes. She started pointing excitedly. I thought she was probably impressed with the detailing on the car, so I asked her if she liked it. She enthusiastically said yes, then made a racing motion with her hand while emphatically saying "zoom, zoom!" Ah, yes, I think she's inherited my lead foot.

We've had a couple of days of unseasonably warm weather and Shaling has absolutely taken full advantage. She & Preston have spent a lot of time on the trampoline and she has been practicing her bicycle riding. She even fell enough that she's got holes in her jeans at the knees. She was proudly displaying them to me last night.

Tonight we are going to the Springfield Junior Blues hockey game along with some friends who have not met Shaling yet. We are very excited for them to meet her. This will, of course, be her first hockey game as well. I can't wait to see what she thinks of it.

For those of you who live close to us, we would love it if you could join us at a trivia night April 1 for Joshua & James. Those are Shaling's two "big brothers" from her orphanage that will be coming to live in Rochester very soon. I am writing the questions and Brock is emceeing as we do what we can to help the Stengel family (who is adopting Joshua & James) offset their monumental adoption expenses. The trivia night will be at the Rochester Christian Church, 325 S. Walnut. A silent auction, television raffle & 50/50 drawing will accompany the trivia. Plus, there will be baked goods & soft drinks for sale.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Doctor, Doctor, Doctor...

Well, I think Shaling is starting to think that our family doctor (Dr. Western) is a close member of the family. She's been in America five weeks and today was her third time visiting him. Add in that she's been to the dentist and the eye doctor as well and she must be thinking it's no wonder the cost of medical care in America is so high; all we ever do is go to the doctor. The bad news is that her ear infection is back. We are on our second round of (stronger) antibiotics. If this doesn't clear up the infection permanently, we will have to see an ear, nose & throat doctor and perhaps get some tubes.

Before I got the email from her teacher that her ear was looking pretty yucky, I had called a local candy maker and ordered chocolate covered strawberries. I picked them up on the way to the doctor and Shaling & I partook of them while waiting. She loves them.

I get her school announcements in a daily email. There was a note in there about the local community college having a cheerleading camp. I asked her teacher to send home a flyer about it so I could learn more. It is this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and then the participants will perform during half-time of the college women's basketball game (approximately 1:45) that afternoon. All participants get a t-shirt. I showed her the flyer, which had the picture of a cheerleader on it, and asked her if she wanted to do it. She started mimicking cheerleader moves, swinging her arms as if she were holding poms and jumping. She nodded and told me yes. This will be a new one for Mom.

I get to brag on Preston a little bit. For those of you who are Facebook friends with me, this will be redundant. Preston qualified to participate in the school-wide spelling bee (two kids from each class were selected, based on their performance in their classroom spelling bees). There are 8 fifth grade classrooms, so 16 kids were in the school-wide spelling bee. Preston came in fifth (or tied for fourth if you take into consideration that the next person eliminated was eliminated during the same round as Preston). The top two kids are in the regional spelling bee next week, so he finished just 3 out of getting to do that. Spelling doesn't come naturally for Preston. He has to work at it; so we are so very proud of him. He correctly spelled pester, pioneer, system and fiesta. He missed apricot.

Preston also had a mini-concert Tuesday night at the University of Illinois-Springfield. He is in the Sangamon Valley Youth Symphony Concert Orchestra. His orchestra was asked to perform as part of the kick-off to a week-long celebration of reading. He plays the drums. There are only two percussionists in the orchestra and his responsibility is the tympani. Back in August when this began, he had taken drum lessons for two years, but had never been part of an ensemble. He'd never counted rests, seen repeats or codas, or had to follow a director's tempo. Most of the other kids in the orchestra are in 7th & 8th grade, so he also is behind socially and in maturity. He has come a long way, baby. As we watched him perform with confidence last night, keeping his eyes on the director and playing with style, Brock & I both beamed with pride. Shaling got a kick out of it too.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Open House

Yesterday, we had a "Come Meet Shaling" open house in Carlinville. The open house was family only --- giving some aunts & uncles & cousins who hadn't had the opportunity to meet Shaling yet the opportunity to do so. Overall, it went very well. We all enjoyed the chance to see relatives that we don't see so often anymore. Though we had asked for no gifts, there were a few brought anyway...and a couple of people were even delightfully thoughtful in remembering Preston as well.

We did have one incident that may have been caused by Shaling feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of people there. However, Mom (me) isn't so convinced of that. Mom is convinced it is because she got told no by Mom. She is a 9-year-old girl that would rather play than socialize with adults, plus she has not yet mastered English enough to do so anyway. On the other hand, people had come from some pretty far away places to come see her.

After corralling her out of a back bedroom a couple of times, I set up Chutes & Ladders in the middle of the floor of the room where most people were sitting. She & Preston and two of my nieces were playing. I think she may have moved out of turn, because I heard Preston say "one minute, Shaling". I was thrilled to hear him say it calmly, as he tends to be very hyper. He then put her piece where it was supposed to be. She stomped off and told me "Shaling NO!" That is her way of saying she no longer wanted to play with Preston.

Within the last week, she has begun to occasionally wanting to exclude Preston -- not wanting to sit by him or ride in the car with him...not wanting him to be a part of fun activities, etc. I pointed and told her she had to play with him. She went to a back corner of the room. I gave her a minute with my cousin, who was trying to talk to her, but then I told her she didn't get to hide over there. At that point, there were tears in her eyes. I took her to a back bedroom to talk about it. I told her that she had to be nice to Preston, that he was a good Ge-Ge (big brother) and that he loves her. This made her pout even more.

The fact that she pouted even more after being told to be nice to Preston, combined with the fact that the only other tears we've seen have been when she's been disciplined, leads me to believe she was more upset about not getting her way than she was upset by the sheer number of people there, but I don't know for sure. I mean she was being asked to say Hello to a lot of people as well.

Anyway, at that point, I decided we would work on the be nice to big brother thing later, and that I needed her to get happy again, so we let her open her presents. She warmed up a little, but really started warming up as the crowd dwindled at the end (lending credence to the theory that she was overwhelmed).

No matter what it was, she harbored no me my hug & "I love you" good night last night & bounding into my room to give me a good morning hug this morning.

Oh, and as far as the be nice to brother thing...they shared a bag of popcorn at the theater this afternoon, despite her initial complaint about him pouring extra butter on it. AND, as I type this blog entry, they are both belly laughing as they play a Mario game on the Wii.

Here are some random photos from the open house:

Shaling with all 3 sets of her grandparents: Reynolds, Coonrod & Barkley

Uncle Scott & Aunt Barbara Coonrod, Grandma & Grandpa Coonrod, Mom & Dad, Shaling & Preston

Kayden really wanted her picture taken too; here she is with Aunt Amy.

Shaling Annabelle Reynolds with her Great Great Aunt Annabelle Griffin

The Reynolds family - front row: Preston, Cooper & Chase; middle row: Nancy, Amy & Michelle; back row: Bill, Brock, Shaling & Scott

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pictures From a Special Visit

Tonight, Tim Stowell brought his kids Tian, Yu-Hsuan & Star over for a visit. You may remember that Star (formerly Ma Heng Xin) was from the same orphanage as Shaling. She arrived in her new home about a month before Shaling did. Tim is in Springfield for the weekend to visit his parents. While he is in town, we wanted the girls to get together. Tim had been here in October too, so Preston already knew Tian & Yu-Hsuan.

We ate supper at Cara Mongolian BBQ and then the kids came back to the house to play. Here are a few pictures of the kids:

Yu-Hsuan, Preston, Tian, Star & Shaling

the obligatory goofy picture

Star & Shaling

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"No Ear"

Brock took Shaling to her follow-up doctor visit yesterday (in regard to her ear infection detected on January 18). Apparently, there is still a lot of excess fluid in her ear...enough that the doctor says she probably isn't hearing out of that ear at all. I can only imagine how much more challenging that has made her initial time here. She is trying so hard to emulate the words we say in order to learn her English. Only hearing those words with half of her possible hearing I'm sure doesn't help. She now has another follow-up visit on March 8.

Brock called me at work to tell me about the visit, but last night, Shaling was trying to tell me about it herself. She kept pointing at her right ear and saying, "no ear, no ear".

I took her to Wal-Mart last night to get her Valentines for the class party. I'm positive she had no idea why or what we were buying, but I pointed at the variety of boxes and she eventually chose one that had a variety of cats & dogs picture. Each card also has a temporary tattoo. Either tonight or tomorrow, we'll sit and fill them out. I thought I'd encourage her to sign her name with Chinese characters. I thought the other kids might enjoy that.

She will actually miss the class Valentine's Day party because it is this Friday. She has a mid-morning dentist appointment and I'm going to keep her home for the afternoon as well, because Grandma & Grandpa Reynolds will be arriving sometime in the wee morning (1:00 or 2:00?) Friday and then heading back to Florida on Sunday. With their time here so short and this being the first time she'll meet them, I'm taking advantage of the dentist appointment as a way to keep her home all day and spend some special time with them.

Tonight, Shaling will attend her first volleyball game. Her cousins Maggie Nicholson & McKenzie Michaelis will both be playing on the 7th grade Carlinville Warriors team here in Springfield tonight versus Grant Middle School. Shaling & Mom will go to the game while Dad takes Preston to his Concert Orchestra rehearsal.

Shaling recently received a sketch pad as a gift. She has been drawing pictures of Mrs. Collins, Father, Mother, the Cubs logo, a Cardinals 2006 World Series logo and more. We are enjoying watching what she creates with her pencil & paper.

We are looking forward to this Saturday when Shaling will get to meet many more of her new family members. We are having an open house at Grandma & Grandpa Coonrod's house in Carlinville. It is also being hosted by Grandma & Grandpa Barkley and Grandma & Grandpa Reynolds. It is for aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. that are within a reasonable driving distance to stop by & meet Shaling. We are looking forward to seeing everyone.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow, DSI, & Kissing

For a girl who had never endured temperatures lower than the 50s, Shaling has certainly experienced quite the initiation this week. We had an ice storm, a blizzard, and well below zero wind chills. Our school had 3 snow days. She has enjoyed snowball fights, building a snowman, and hot chocolate. Brock & I had a “snow day” on Wednesday, but Tuesday & Thursday we split the day home with the kids. I worked in the mornings and he worked in the afternoons.

Yesterday afternoon, I was in my recliner (& playing on my laptop) while the kids were playing the Nintendo Wii on the television. Apparently, her character kept dying and she became quite frustrated and eventually quit. She is usually a very persistent little girl, so this is unusual. In fact, I have a sneaky suspicion that she thought somehow her brother Preston was to blame. Anyway, she began playing her DSI (handheld video game).

We have a rule that you cannot have the volume up on your DSI in the living room. You must play it in your bedroom or the basement playroom (or simply mute it). She had her volume up. Preston calmly told her to turn it down. This was a major step for him, as he sometimes has a tendency to get bossy with her in a hyper sort of way. She didn’t respond to him verbally and instead of turning it down, turned it UP. At this point I told her to turn it down. She stubbornly exclaimed, “No!” At that point, I gave her my death glare and told her sternly to turn it down. She sarcastically said, “OK”, but then closed her DSI and threw it on the ground.

I am now the proud owner of a pink DSI.

She’ll get it back when she proves she knows how to take care of things. When Brock got home, I told him about it. He went to her and said, “Mommy says you, DSI”, while pointing at her and then acting out throwing something on the ground. She dropped her head and ruefully said, “ok”. She knows she screwed up.

Honestly, though I have no regrets about how I handled the situation, as she has to learn this lesson, I believe part of the issue is that she’s never had toys that were HERS. They’ve always been community property. She’s not been in a situation that would foster a pride in ownership.


Whenever we watch a movie that has a kissing scene, whether it is actors or animated characters, Shaling giggles her heart out. She then uses her hands to mimic kissing lips while making smacking sounds with her lips, frequently saying, “Mom, Dad”. Last night, we were watching a movie at the neighbors’ house (Gary & Brenda). When she saw Charlize Theron & Bill Pullman kiss, she let her unique string of giggles, did her patented kissing gestures & sounds, then pointed at Gary & Brenda, saying “you, you”. Gary pointed back at her and said, “You”. She said, “No, no Shaling” and made her kissing sounds & gestures.

Let’s hope she remembers THAT in about 5 or 6 years.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Taking Care of Dad's Boo-Boo

A little while ago, Brock told me that this morning he showed Shaling an "owie" on his knee. He has a floor burn on each of his knees. He still loves to play pick-up basketball. He then showed Shaling his other knee. She proceeded to go upstairs and come down with two band-aids. He told her no, but she insisted. Eventually, she said "one" -- meaning "ok, I'll compromise -- just one." Before he could say no again, she opened up one of the band-aids, so he let her put it on. After he finished telling me the story, I asked him if he told her thank you. He said, "yes, but I wasn't saying thank you 20 minutes ago when I took it off, along with the hairs on my leg."

Telling the beginning of this story made me remember a recent Preston story that I'd also like to share. Apparently at school, they recently had a discussion on bullies. Preston piped up with this gem (based on a true story, but with some minor details a bit skewed):

"My dad says that even adults have bullies. He plays basketball and he's always the oldest one on the court. One time a really young guy was pushing him around {throwing elbows}, but my dad didn't react; he just kept ignoring him and ignoring him. Later the guy just gave up and stormed out of the gym."

Reminder: Some time soon, I will lose the bringshalinghome web address. Make sure you take note of the new site Both point to the same blog.