Monday, June 27, 2016

VBS 2016

There was that week in June in which Serena was spent with her cousin Jo Jo at "Grandma Camp" going to VBS. It seems so long ago now. This long stretch of child free days was kind of hard to wrap our heads around! We made use of the time, though, trying to remember what to do without a little one around and knowing it would be the last such opportunity for a long time but also staying within a budget as many adoption expenses are on the horizon. Fortunately, living in Little Rock makes that pretty easy.

We discovered a new bike trail 

checked out a restaurant that had been on the list far too long and certainly worth the wait:
took a self guided pub crawl around downtown, taking a quick stop at our wedding reception site, the Terry House:

and lastly, drove down to Hot Springs Village because we missed our girl, and took a quick swim in a refreshing lake, soaking in the gorgeous AR sunset on the way home:

Serena had a great time at Grandma camp, brought home ALL THE VBS crafts along with a T shirt and DVD (VBS has stepped up its game since we were tikes) and it was good to have her home .again. 
L to the OA!

On June 13 we received the hard copy of our "Letter of Acceptance." This is China's approval of our adoption and signing it is one of the first of formal agreements to adopt Thomas. Our pens were ready!

We had just earlier received a few precious pictures of Thomas at the Chengdu Children's Welfare Institute (orphanage) anniversary celebration. He looks enthralled:

As soon as we signed, the document was heading back to San Francisco (our agency's location) and then on again to China. We also were able to send our I 800 application, which is the immigration application to adopt a specific child. Our next wait is for that approval.
In the meantime, Ben has painted Thomas's room and we picked up a couple pieces of furniture and will have it together soon!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

My darling growing girl

As we approached the end of May this year, Serena approached her final year in preschool. After our brief cocooning upon returning home from China, Serena went to a Chinese day care in St Paul. After a couple of rough starts, she soon found her place there, loved her Laoshi and made sweet friends. We knew there wouldn't be options for Chinese immersion in Little Rock but of course wanted to give her a rich experience that met with our values. We were delighted to find Urban Garden Montessori whose philosophy seemed to align well with our values, with a student led garden as well! Serena truly thrives with the Montessori model; she is able to be hands on and direct her learning. She has also continued to thrive socially. We are so proud. 

The last day of school was celebrated with a transition ceremony for the children rising to the next level. Serena will be in kindergarten but will have the same class and teacher, whom she adores. The following are a few captures from her last night: 

Monday, June 06, 2016

Holidays on a budget

First weekend of June found us bound for Silver Dollar City. In preparing for our trip to China, we are cutting back as much as possible so a summer that one could easily dream of spending in far more exotic locales, we chose to concentrate on a couple of spots that would bring 1. tremendous kid excitement and 2. not be exorbitant. Thanks to a gracious aunt of Ben's, our stay was practically free and thanks to Ben's mom, who secured discount tickets to SDC, this met both criteria. I had never been but it is very familiar territory to the Utter family, so I deferred to their experience.

Branson is not my favorite place for many reasons but the land is lush and beautiful. I had no expectations for the amusement park but was delighted to find it beautified on every corner, around every bend with flowers and fauna and wonderful shade! 

As my sister in law and I hoped, Serena and her cousin had an absolute blast in the way a 5 year old can. Serena shouted "Look out SDC, here I come!" They took turns getting soaking wet from rides, shared Dippin' Dots, held hands to stay together, and screamed with delight on very grown up roller coasters! I looked over at her face of pure joy on a ride and felt such deep happiness and so so blessed with this beautiful daughter of mine! 

We also spent a good bit of time waiting for all the reasons one does when traveling to a place that other people go as well. I was delighted to see how S entertained herself (pretty well, with a few minor exceptions) and thought it good practice for long airport lines. 

Southwest Missouri is really truly beautiful land I always find myself drawn to water, to stars, away from crowds and billboards and flashiness. We caught a few breaths of this type of Branson air. 

In the midst of the excitement, we learned that our dossier is through translation and in "the review room," which sounds like something out of a bad 80s movie but hopefully means LOA next week! 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

wanderlust wednesday

Serena touring two of our favorite places: Winston-Salem and Lake Superior, respectively. Once the hot weather settles in and begins to bake all the things, it will be time to head back up north for a breath of cool air. When the leaves begin to hint at turning to autumn, we will long for North Carolina, always the best during wine harvest season. Between Ben and I, there are daily daydreams of returning to Scotland, Maine, and Kauai. Just a few of our favorite mental escapes!