This blog chronicles the miracles and struggles of our daughters, Emily and Olivia. Emily was born 15 weeks early and had many complications, but she continues to amaze us! Olivia, born in China with heart complications, is also beating the odds. She joined her forever family (us!) when she was four years old and has been doing wonderfully! UPDATE: We started homeschooling August 2009 :)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Golfer girl

This summer Andy thought it'd be a good idea to come up with some fun Daddy-daughter activities to do with Emily. Since he loves golf, that was a natural avenue to pursue with her. She was excited about the idea, too, especially when it meant going shopping for her own golf bag and clubs! Over the last several weeks they've spent some time at the driving range having fun together. Here are some photos and a video from their outing Saturday morning. She's a great kid who's lucky to have such a thoughtful and involved dad. I really love that man!


When did the tide turn?

When Olivia first joined our family, she went by "Tan Tan" and was quick to correct us if we tried to call her Olivia. Then, for a while, we used both names interchangeably or combined. I'm not sure when she started wanting to be just "Olivia," but yesterday when I said, "Tan Tan, do you want more milk?" she gave me an exasperated look and said very emphatically, "Name's O-LIV-IA, NOT Tan Tan!" I have mixed feelings about that. While I'm glad she accepts her new name, I'd kind of hoped she wouldn't reject her Chinese name/identity in the process. I can't say I'm surprised because it's a common scenario shared amongst adoptive, but it's a little sad. Sad in that as she becomes Americanized, her Chinese-ness is rapidly disappearing. It was inevitable since she's no longer immersed in Chinese language or culture, but for four of her four and half years she was fully Chinese. Now her former identity is all but forgotten. Don't get me wrong, I firmly hope that her life will be better here with a family in the land of opportunities vs. an orphan in China. But unfortunately it cost her a lot. Her entire self identity.

Right now she doesn't seem to notice or mind, but later in life (pre-teen + years) many adoptees--especially trans racial adoptees who don't look like the rest of the family--struggle with identity. She may feel Caucasian on the inside with an exterior that doesn't match. Some adult adoptees describe feeling like they don't belong in either world since they identify with their Caucasian family, but the face in the mirror reminds them that they're not...and yet, they don't feel very Asian either, having grown up without the language or culture of their homeland. Therein lies a big challenge for trans racial adoptive families. We want to somehow strike a delicate balance between letting her be a normal American kid while still celebrating her heritage and culture so that she can retain some semblance of her Chinese identity. This has been reported to be a difficult proposition when they desperately just want to fit in--some just wishing they were blond-haired and blue-eyed. We, as her parents, need to maintain an interest in Chinese culture (without cramming it down her throat) to let her always know that her heritage is something to be proud of, not something to be obliterated from her life. She has had too much obliterated already.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My pic of the day

Olivia loves having her picture taken, but she also likes to play a giggling game of playing hard to get once I get the camera out! Here is a cute one (though slightly fuzzy) that I got this afternoon. I couldn't decide if I liked it better in color or black & white, so it was easier to just post both versions :)

BTW, I had the back of her hair trimmed last week to get rid of the mullet look and to let her sides and bangs catch up. I still prefer the "no bangs" look, but she'll be needing clips to achieve that look for quite a while!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Interpretive dance?

Olivia loves to dance and it's so to fun to watch her be so expressive! Yes, it really is her under the mop top--I'm trying to grow her hair out (bangs included) and this is what it looks like when the clips fall out! She loves pony tails, but I wasn't kidding when I said most of her hair doesn't reach!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Olivia's phrase of the week

"This [is] Olivia's, not yours. OK?" or a more adamant variation, "Mine! This [is] mine, not yours!"

Olivia claims quite a few things that aren't really hers, but fortunately Emily doesn't care most of the time. The funny thing is that Olivia also wants to stake her claim of things things that no one else would want, like her tooth brush, her spoon, or her cup. Not in a mean way, just an informative way that seeks reassurance, often with an "OK?" at the end. It's obvious that personal possessions and ownership are new concepts after life in a communal orphanage. Fortunately, the girls don't fight much over these objects, but watch out if anyone physically takes a toy or food away from her! Think wailing and screaming! The good thing is that this can usually be avoided because she, surprisingly, will willingly relinquish most anything when asked. The key is asking, not grabbing which is a good idea anyway. I'm just surprised by the difference in her reactions when the end result is the same--losing the item.

Another interesting sibling interaction happened today while Emily was at school. Olivia and I were the only ones in the room when she suddenly started tattling on her sister, saying, "Stop! I'm gonna tell mom... mahhhh-uuum....Emily's scratching me!" as she sat and scratched at her mosquito bites! Hmmm...I guess Emily's got really long arms! Makes me wonder how many times Emily is really not as guilty as it appears! On the flip side, Emily's got her own bit of sibling rivalry, often asking me whose art work is better or who is doing XY or Z better, wanting me to assure her that she is top dog. Ahh, the joys of having siblings! With one kid we didn't have any of this fun stuff!

On a lighter note, here's a video highlighting Olivia's special counting skills:

And, to end this post, I've attached a video of my skater girls. They had a fun time trying out our neighbors' skateboard and skating equipment this weekend. As you can see they're not going pro quite yet, but had fun trying! I love the first part of the video below where Emily is skating in the foreground and Olivia is walking with determination and a skateboard tucked under her arm, as if she's been doing this for years. At the end, you'll hear Olivia abandon the board to go play with another neighbor, Mason. She's not shy or quiet :)

Monday, September 17, 2007

cute kids

Every day now Olivia brings me the hair accessories and nudges me with a plea, "'pone' tails, mom?" I took pictures the first time she had pony tails so now every time I do her hair she runs to get the camera! "Here, mom, pictures, please!" Emily, on the other hand, is a little more self conscious and not as eager to be photographed. Or around as much. My cute little first grader is now in school all day. Sigh.

Below the latest hair pix are two videos. The first one captured some of Olivia's giddiness over her pony tails and excitement about walking to get Emily from school. In the second one you can see her mothering her baby doll.

Olivia's pony tails

Olivia and baby doll

Friday, September 14, 2007

little gymnasts?

I just realized that I never posted these videos on the blog. I put them on YouTube a while ago with the intention of embedding them here, but somehow I guess that never happened. They are from August 14th, exactly one month ago today.


A long lost friend from Olivia's orphanage just visited us! BeiLee just turned two and has been in his new home one month now. He was in the area to visit Shriner's Hospital in Chicago so we got to meet him and his new family! It's hard to know if they remember each other, but I do have a group picture that they're both in. Today, when we shared photos given to us from the orphanage I noticed that some of his photos had the same back drops and were dated the same day as Olivia's (7/12/06). I also noticed that they shared some of the same clothes in different photos which isn't surprising since they're similar in size. It is so special to us to have another connection to our daughter's first "family."

Thursday, September 13, 2007


If you've ever had a rough time getting your kids to bed, maybe you can relate to this dad's song. I thought it was cute and you might too:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Olivia's been home SIX months!!

Wow! Six months has flown by. I've been neglecting this blog lately as we get into our new school routine, but we're doing fine. Here are some recent pix:

Emily's always looking for an excuse to throw a party... so we made rice crispy treats and invited the neighbor kids over to celebrate Chelsea's birthday! It's hard to believe our energetic pup is 13!! Aside from some apparent hearing loss, our little senior citizen still seems like a spry young girl. I wonder how long she'll be able to hide her age and dread the inevitable. Emily tried to put a party hat on her, but it didn't stay on for long!

Olivia's hair is slowly growing. I'm trying to let her bangs grow out with the rest, but this in between stage is hard to manage. She generally doesn't like clips in her hair, but for some reason will endure pain for pony tails! She gets giddy about them and points them out proudly to everyone saying, "see, 'pone' tails!" Not much of her hair actually reaches the pony tails, and most is just in clips, but she doesn't notice or care. I wonder if she knew she had a boys buzz cut and is excited to finally have hair and be girly??

Today she started a park district art class for four year olds and the teacher looked a bit skeptical when we walked in the door, asking if she was in the class. I assured her that although she's the size of a two year old, she's really four and a half. Then when I added that she's still learning English, having only been here six months, I detected a bit of concern. However, at the end of the hour, Olivia got a great report. She fit right in and did very well. In fact the teacher said she never would have never guessed anything out of the ordinary if I hadn't told her. It's amazing how well she's adjusted and picked up our language. I'll have to post another video of her talking to you can see her progress for yourself.