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.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Starting to Open Up About Life in China

Though I'm crazy with curiousity about Shaling's years of life B.F. (before family), I have been careful not to prod or push her to talk about it, especially since there is still a minor language barrier that appears when attempting to discuss anything deeply emotional or complex. However, I've been pleased to have her start showing signs of WANTING to share that life with me.

The first signs were the day she chose to let me know that she didn't know her birthmother. You may remember that from a September blog post, I Don't Know Whose Baby I Was. Considering she was found when she was roughly six weeks old, I was already aware of this, but she didn't know I knew. I was very touched that she felt it important to let me know that.

She has also shared a few rather casual pieces of information, such as the fact that her homework load in China was much bigger. She has indicated that she did some sewing in China. At her birthday party this week, she told me that she didn't roller skate in China, "nobody teach me."

She recently shared something a bit less casual with me. Shaling has a good-sized lesion on the back of her head. We discovered it shortly after arriving home. Due to

jet lag

being a new mother (at least to her)

sleep deprivation

my medical ignorance, I was concerned because I didn't know what it was. I asked the school nurse to please take a look at it and give me some feedback. She told me it was just a lesion in the skin and that it had obviously been there a long time. She assured me that I needn't be concerned.

Well, on Wednesday, Shaling shared with me that when she was a baby, someone dropped her on her head. She touched her head where the lesion is and told me that it was caused by that fall. Now, she didn't share with me who dropped her or how she knows, but I'm assuming that it was a caregiver at the old folks home where she lived until she was 2 1/2 and that one of her other caregivers told her about it. Of course, it's also entirely possible that a caregiver is assuming that is how she got the bump and simply told her that someone must have dropped her. Perhaps she had the bump before she was abandoned. However, she seemed a bit sobered by the idea that someone had dropped her. I shared with her that someone dropped me when I was a baby too. She asked me if I had a bump. I told her no, but that I was dropped.

On a more fun note, on Thursday she told me that she knew how to sing "Merry Christmas" in Chinese. She then asked me if I wanted to hear it. I told her no.


Of course I wanted to hear it! She then launched into singing to the tune of "Jingle Bells" with Mandarin words. She paused at one point, saying (in English), "I can't remember....oh, yeah", then continued on with the song. It was really cute. Hopefully I can get her to sing it again sometime, but in front of the video camera.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Party Videos

Normally I would have pored through these videos and selected my one or two favorites to share. However, for the sake of having all nine of them available for viewing in one place for the parents of the other youngsters that attended the party, I'm going to include all nine of them. As you'll be able to see from viewing one or two of them, I think everyone had a good time. I so appreciate all of the families that were willing to bring their kids out to go roller skating on a school night so that Shaling could celebrate ON her birthday.

P.S. Don't forget, if you receive the blog via email, you have to actually come out TO the blog to see the videos. For some reason, pictures show up in the emails, but the videos do not.

Shaling's 10th Birthday Party, Video 1 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling's 10th Birthday Party, Video 2 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling's 10th Birthday Party, Video 3 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling's 10th Birthday Party, Video 4 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling's 10th Birthday Party, Video 5 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling's 10th Birthday Party, Video 6 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling's 10th Birthday Party, Video 7 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling's 10th Birthday Party, Video 8 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Shaling's 10th Birthday Party, Video 9 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Party Pictures

Shaling had a fantastic birthday party, with lots of friends coming out to roller skate with her. She received quite a variety of presents, ate pizza & cake, & got to play "princess" for an evening. Here are pictures of the big event.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Happy 10th Birthday, Shaling!

Shaling was so excited about today being her birthday that she was walking around singing "Happy Birthday" to herself last night in anticipation. Just before bedtime, Dad & I gave her the present we bought her. We gave her a motorized scooter (like one Preston has) and we wanted her to be able to ride it when she got home from school today. We gave it to her early so it could be charged overnight and ready to go. Like most school days, I haven't seen her yet (I leave the house for work while everyone else is still sleeping), but Brock tells me she was riding it already this morning.

She doesn't know it yet, but I just set up a 4:30 hair appointment for her. There is a trend of wearing hair extensions made of feathers and I saw some hair extensions that were gems. I'm going to let her get a gem hair extension, as I think it will show up really well in her dark hair. Then, at 6:30, she has her roller skating party. I'm expecting 20 kids or so. I'm sure I'll pull all of my hair out remain sane. I'm also anxious to hear how she enjoyed her field trip to the Lincoln sites in New Salem today.

A brief pictorial reflection of her 10 years:

From roughly 2009, her referral photo (the first picture we saw of her):

Her name, Long Sha Ling, in Chinese characters.

Now she is Shaling Annabelle Reynolds

From roughly 2002 or 2003, pictures of the only baby pictures I've seen of her.

From roughly 2007, Shaling is in the front row, about four over from the left. Her head is turned and she is smiling. Her apron has a pink background and her Chinese character looks like a tilted T with an awareness ribbon next to it.

From roughly 2007, Shaling is in the pink t-shirt.

April 2010, about the time she was told she had a family coming to get her.

June 2010, the letter we received after sending her gifts and "introducing" ourselves.

October 2010, the letter we received after we sent her birthday gifts & cake.

November 2010, roughly one month before we got her. She is pictured with Ma HengXin (now Star Stowell).

December 27, 2010, "Gotcha Day" - the day we finally met her (with Ma MeiXin, now Natalie Reichenbach).

December 2010, our first family picture:

February 2011

May 2011, playing softball.

June 2011, at Camp CILCA.

September 2011, taking in her first Illini football game.