Tuesday, September 23, 2008

See You on the Other Side (and Win a Contest, Too!)

As I mentioned before, Rebecca has worked tirelessly to create a new blog for our family. She patiently withstood my persnickitiness and turned out a final product that is truly gorgeous. Thanks, Rebecca!

In a shameless attempt to drag as many of our readers over to the new site as possible, I'm giving away the following items: a hardcover copy of Chinese Children's Favorite Stories and a softbound edition of A Mother for Choco. Even better, a $50.00 donation will be given on the winner's behalf to the Morning Light Home, a home in Taiwan for children in need. Hop on over to our new blog, Anatomy of a Family, check out the new site, and enter the contest.

And now, dear readers, we come to an end. This is PHL to TPE's final post before I shut down the blog. Please do join us at our new site. You'll still get all the adoption-related stuff and more pictures of William than you shake a stick at. But you'll also get a peek into the lives of the rest of our family.

It's life's unpredictable twists and turns, the beautiful moments mixed in with the pratfalls. Come along on a new journey as Craig, Judy, Andrew, and William take on the world.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Who, Moi?

I've won an award! Sara/Sofa, Milana's mom, has graciously bestowed upon me the following purple thing:



Hold up! Before the orchestra interrupts my 10.5 seconds of fame, I want to first and foremost thank my Savior, Jesus Christ, my husband, who is the epitome of the nice boy next door, my two beautiful sons, Andrew and William, the Mars Company for all the M&Ms, and... doh!

I think there was a mistake. If you read the qualifications for the award, you'll see the problem. Surely Sara/Sofa meant some other Judy. The one I know is unfailingly puffy-eyed, tired, and ever locked in a heightened state of PMS, pre- and post.

In case you're wondering, here are the Smile Award rules:
1. The recipient must link back the the award's creator
2. You must post these rules if you receive the award.
3. You must choose 5 people to receive the award after receiving it yourself.
4. You must fit the characteristics of the recipient of the award.
5. You must post the characteristics of a recipient.
6. You must create a post sharing your win with others.
7. You must thank your giver.

Characteristics for the Smile Award:
1. Must display a cheerful attitude (not necessarily at all times--we are all human).
2. Must love one another.
3. Must make mistakes.
4. Must learn from others.
5. Must be a positive contributor to blog world.
6. Must love life.
7. Must love kids.

On the contrary, here are 5 people who actually do deserve to win the award:

A. over at Occupation: Mommy. Yeah, I have a teaching degree, too, but do I actually put it to use with my children like she does with hers? It would never occur to me do routine Montessori lessons with my child under 2. No wonder her three girls are brilliant. Besides being a top-notch educator/parent, A. always impresses me with her gentle spirit and easy going nature. (Please Sir, may I have some of that?) Oh, and the girl can sang...

D. at The Years Are Short. What I appreciate most about D. is her transparency. Not many people have the honesty to admit publicly that they get frustrated when their 4 year-old has difficulty recognizing letters of the alphabet (admit it, we've all been there in one way or another - but how many of us would say so?) Still, D. has the ability to make tending to lots of children, whether hers or others, look easy. Oh, and did I also mention that she is one fierce cook? I think I'll pretend to be gravely ill just so she can bring us by some more of her Thai Chicken Salad.

Tiffanie at Blessed with Sweet Peas. Tiffanie should win the award for Miss Congeniality among Taiwanese adoptive bloggers. The girl has sweetness oozing out of her. She always finds a way to see the proverbial glass as half-full. I've appreciated the honesty with which she has shared her recent experience meeting her new daughter, Gracyn. Her continual reliance upon Christ both inspires and challenges, and it definitely shines through in her recounting.

Heather at The Journey to Olivia. The most organized lady I know is also one of the friendliest people I've met in a long time. Even a stuck-in-the-rut introvert like me finds my tongue suddenly loosened when chatting with her. Also, most people wouldn't freely give up their weekends to take in a young girl so her widowed father could have a break. However, she does this every month. Hmm... does she love children? What do you think? Olivia, whoever you are (please make yourself known soon!), you will be very well-loved. You already are.

KB at Standing on God's Promises. What a shame that she moved out of my vicinity before I even had a chance to meet her in person! KB strikes me as a down-to-earth woman, someone who is open about her joys and frustrations, open to new experiences, and most impressively, open to letting Christ have his way in her life, though the path has not always been easy. She is a woman with a big, selfless heart. For all those things, she has my deepest admiration.

So, you 5, consider yourself hereby simultaneously awarded and spammed. Congratulations!

Friday, September 19, 2008

14 Months Old

Happy 14 month-old birthday, Wonderchild.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chinese or Bust

If what I've been told is correct, children as young as William can learn a new word only after hearing it spoken 2-4 times. Children who are Andrew's age (4-6-ish) will need approximately 5-7 repetitions. Adults require a staggering 20-40 repetitions. If true, these figures present a compelling case to teach children a second language as early as possible.

For those who are interested in raising Mandarin-speaking children - or at the very least, kids who can pull off a decent Chinglish, here are some sites and resources to check out:

Language Immersion Camps:
The more I research these, the more I'm starting to rub my hands with glee at the thought of sending our boys to overnight camp when they're of age. They'll see see their Mandarin skills grow by leaps and bounds, make new friends, and... um, Mom and Dad finally get time to themselves for the first time in who knows how long.

Here are two that are look-worthy:

Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy in White River Junction, Vermont. This program is open to 7th through 12th graders for a few weeks in the summer. English is only allowed during certain parts of the day, so it's pretty much sink or swim when it comes to learning Mandarin.

Concordia Language Villages in Moorhead, Minnesota. This program sponsors weekend and full-week immersion programs for the whole family, as well as sleep-over camps for older children. Daytime immersion programs for children as young as 2 1/2 years old and up are also available.

Media Resources:
The Chinese school that the boys will be starting in this Saturday lists some Mandarin media resources on its website. There are links to children's DVDs, Chinese pop music CDs, online radio, and links to even get Chinese children's satellite television broadcast in your home. If you explore the site futher, you'll also see some useful links for learning Chinese and even typing it.

Local Chinese Schools:
This national directory lists schools in each state that have Chinese language programs. It is by no means comprehensive. You may do better to just Google "Chinese school - XYZ city" and see what you come up with. It's definitely worth visiting the school to make sure the curriculum, teachers, facility, and student population will be good matches for your child.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The End Is Near

Warning: Rebecca, the genius behind PHL to TPE's current blog design, is at it again. I've commissioned Her Artistic Highness to create a new blog that will focus on our entire family. I'm thinking that it's time to move on. Yes, Sir William is truly a rock star in his own right, but there is more to the K. family than its newest member and over the last year and a half, the stories of its other three members have largely gone untold.

By the way, if you're in the market for a stylish blogover, do check out Rebecca's site, Uptown Design Studio. You can get the design you've always wanted and in the process, help bring home her beautiful toddler, Owen, who is currently in an orphanage in China.

Custom blog makeovers by Rebecca

In the meantime, prepare to be hit with so much bloggy fabulosity sometime over the next several days that you won't know what to do with yourselves.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Overheard


Andrew to a fellow kindergartener: "Being a big brother is hard work."

Hey, no one said it would be easy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Learn to Speak Chinese, Volume II

As I mentioned in a previous post, we're trying our best to raise William to be as bilingual as my faltering Mandarin will allow. His comprehension, evidenced by his basic vocabulary and responses to our questions, shows that we're off to a good start. In the process, it has been really great to see how Andrew, who has been raised hearing English 95% of the time, has picked up pieces of the language.

However, I realize my limitations and know that a day will soon come when our conversations must move beyond, "Look, Mommy sees a big, white dog!" or "Who farted? Was it you?! It wasn't Mommy!" Since kids minds' are like sponges at this age, now is definitely the time to enroll the boys in Chinese school.

With William, there is an added incentive to learn. Unlike most adoptees from China, there is a very real possibility that he may be able to reconnect with his Taiwanese family one day. I have been following the blog of a young lady named Meiling, who herself was adopted from Taiwan by a Canadian family. She has made contact with her biological family and experiences a great deal of anguish over not being able to communicate effectively with them. While she is working hard to learn Mandarin, she has found the language difficult to pick up as a young twenty-something. I'm saddened for her and am reminded this may very well be William's reality one day.

Thus, I've been researching Chinese language schools in our area. Thankfully, we're blessed to have a few different options from which to choose. In fact, there is one that meets just a mile away on Sunday afternoons. As easy as it would be to get there, I've already nixed that choice. We're trying our best to keep Sunday as a day of rest and going to school is anything but relaxing.

Plus, looking through the website and having spoken to a representative of the school, it strikes me as a very traditional program, much like the one I attended for about 7 years of my younger life. The children are predominantly first generation Chinese-American. Many of them have the advantage of speaking and/or understanding spoken Mandarin. The families all "match." Browsing through the photos on their website, it's hard to spot adoptees or any Hapa children. I don't want my kids feeling like anomalies. As it is, there are already too many threats against our children's self-esteem in the world. I don't need to pay for another one.

Another school that has caught my eye is located about 25 minutes away. Its student population seems to have a broader representation of adoptees, mixed-race children, and non-Asian kids. Its language immersion classes encourage parent participation so that the children aren't the only ones learning. The school also offers classes to children as young as one year-old, so both William and Andrew could attend.

However, the classes and homework stress the use of a lot of Mandarin DVD watching. Since William is not yet a big fan of television, I don't know how well this will go over. I don't want to force him to watch t.v. just so he can do his "homework." The school also meets on Saturday mornings, thereby obviating any possibility of Andrew joining any Saturday morning sports teams. Sorry, Andrew. I guess that's what middle school sports teams are for.

I figure we'll try out the latter school when it starts up two weekends from now. If it's not a good fit, we may consider rounding up some local families with adoptees and/or Hapa kids and hiring a tutor to teach them. I might look into some of the nearby universities to see if there are any students there who speak both English and Mandarin fluently (growing up, I found those Chinese teachers who couldn't speak English well to be less credible). I want a candidate whose experience includes working with young children, someone who is energetic and creative. Learning the language must be fun.

Whatever we opt to do, I know that we need to strike while the iron is still hot. By the time our kids become tweens, they may very well start to complain about giving up their free time to learn Mandarin. Who wants more homework, anyway? They may just want to "fit in" with everyone else and not have to sacrifice their weekends for something that stresses their differences.

But for now, while their minds are young and pliable, they are under Mommy's dictatorial thumb, and Mommy says it's off to Chinese school with them.

They Just Keep Coming

We went out to a local Chinese restaurant the other night. At the end of the meal, we cracked open our fortune cookies just for fun. I don't know about you, but I don't place much value in less-than-pithy messages that have been pre-fabbed by some bloke at a bakery. Still, I find it fun to read what's inside.

While Craig, Andrew, and I all received the generic message about good things coming to those who wait, William's cookie yielded the message to the left. Considering all the predictions made about him, I guess it's just par for the course. Ah well, it could have been worse.

Speaking of good things coming to those who wait, Lucy and Noah have now been united with their families. Congratulations to the M. and S. families!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Early Autumn

It's hard to believe that in the midst of a muggy, 85 degree September day, the leaves were already falling. It looks like my favorite season has arrived early.

While the boys manned the rakes and made a leaf pile (William's efforts lasted a valiant 25 seconds), I went nuts on the camera. Here are some photos from the afternoon:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

6 Months Home and Proud as Can Be

When Andrew first learned how to roll over as an infant, I swore the heavens would part and a dove would descend with an offer for a Fulbright scholarship grasped in its beak. On that day, I was so full of pride that I immediately emailed the grandparents to proclaim the good news. I would've shared it with more people if Andrew hadn't interrupted me with one of his colicky fits. Good thing it was because I'm sure I would have caused many folks to roll their eyes and snort behind my back.

Stop and think for a moment: why is it that many of us get turned off by braggartly parents? To take pride in our children's accomplishments is only natural; after all, they are our kids and we delight in seeing them grow. We cheer with them when they succeed because we're madly in love with them. There's nothing wrong there.

On the other hand, the cynical side of me suspects that we sometimes take undue credit for their achievements. After all, our kids - at least the biological ones - bear our genetic imprint. It's so easy to flatter ourselves in light of their progress, even though their accomplishments have little to do with our parenting and everything to do with the grace of God. We can so easily wrap our identities and self-worth in what our children can and cannot do.

Considering William is of no blood relation to me, it's much easier for me to look at his development and to see the hand of God at work. Hubris doesn't - can't - get in the way. Looking back on the last 6 months William has been with us, God really has done a lot. And in that, I take great pride.

(Now say the following in your best, booming Charlton Heston voice:)

"Behold - the hand of God..."

Walking. Every day, William walks further and further. You can witness the difference for yourself in the video below. Compared to the video 3 posts ago, he's gaining more distance and now walks about 60% of the time, crawling the other 40%. Whenever he falls, he fusses, not because he hurt himself, but out of frustration. He wants so badly to walk well.

He is also getting proficient at turning as he walks and can even pull himself up to a standing position without support. What a far cry from the slithering baby we brought home 6 months ago.

video

Talking. To date, we've counted a vocabulary of 8 words: "Ma," Da," "Gege," "Andrew," "Gou" (dog), "Dien deng" (light), "truck," and "Elmo." I don't suppose that "woof!" counts as 9? I'm surprised William has picked up this many words at 13 months since we are trying our best to raise him bilingual. From what I've read, many children who are raised to speak two languages often experience delays in picking up any vocabulary simply because they have twice the number of words to learn.

Comprehension. In tandem with his newfound speaking ability, it has been wonderful to see William beginning to understand the things we tell him. From time to time, he still tries to bang on the television when Andrew is watching, but at least he now understands the meaning of "no." You can see the comprehension register in the thoughtful look on his face and the "Should I? or Shouldn't I?" glances back and forth at the t.v. Of course, this doesn't mean he always obeys but the fact that he often does is something to shout about.

In other news, William has learned to hold his own bottle. When he finally figured it out, he was so proud of himself. Weeks later, he still sets his bottle down just to cheer and clap for himself. He's also getting better at using a fork.

There's so much more to report but I'll save it for another time. I'm aware that even adoptive parents can begin to sound obnoxiously proud after a point. And anyhow, I think I hear the sound of fluttering bird wings descending from somewhere above. Excuse me while I go check.

Double the Warm Fuzzies

In the mood for some feel-good stories? Then follow along as Jackie and Tami travel to Taiwan tomorrow to get their children, Lucy and Noah. You may remember those two from earlier posts. Their families will meet at St. Lucy's on the same day. From that point on, life as they know it will never be the same.

I am simply delighted for these families. They have both waited so long and experienced so many emotional twists and turns. To witness the culmination of their waiting will be truly satisfying.

I am also thrilled for the children. While they may be in for some dramatic transitions after leaving St. Lucy's, nothing can beat the nurture of a families who've waited so long to receive them with open arms. They are so loved already.

Finally, I'm thrilled to report that, with Lucy's and Noah's departures, all of William's roommates who shared space with him from September 2007 through March 2008 will have gone home to their families. There may be others who are still there (I desperately hope not, but if their families are out there and haven't yet come across my radar, please leave a comment below; I'd love to get in touch).

Until then, it's of great solace and joy to me to witness the "graduation" of William's last two roommates. I wish them all the blessings and fullness of Christ.