30 July 2007

County Fair

Here it is!!! Julia has a corn dog! And loving it, by the way.

Julia on the bee ride and she rode at least 4 times. For the first time, we bought a wrist band for a kid that allowed Julia to ride all the rides she wanted to. She made good use of this treat.

This ride made Julia feel like she was flying and she talked about flying for days afterwards.

The best ride of the day. A girl and her horse!
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29 July 2007


Comments can now be made to this blog. I had to change the settings and only found them last week. I do miss a comment now and then. If you are stopping by, leave a few words.

U Trucks

The moon is full and peaking through parched leaves. I wonder when the moon will move from the top of our street to the middle of our closest lake. I did not know the pleasure of walking by a lake until Chicago. I did not know that my time near the great lake of Chicago was a preview of our Madison time. Walking Latkah at night this summer is a rare pleasure.

Last weekend, the three of us went to the Dane County Fair. Another thing in Madison that is relatively close by our house. We saw all the usual state fair displays – horses, pigs, chickens, bunnies, cows, llamas, and sheep. We saw some judging and some young riders practicing their dressage. We saw tractors and farm equipment, soy beans and corn. Then we went to the amusement part and the fun began. We bought Julia a wrist band that allowed her to ride all the rides she wanted to. She rode the little dragon roller coaster 5 times and the bumble bees 4 time and plenty of other rides 2 or three times. Julia was not incredibly crazy when she and I rode the big Ferris wheel, but looked longingly at the spinning, upside down, much too fast adult rides. However, her favorite ride was a small horse carousel where she could ride a horse round and round with no one holding her on. We had lunch at the fair and Julia had her first corn dog! I guess she is a mid-westerner now.

We have been working during the week on letters and numbers in a very informal way. I get out the big dry erase board and we draw pictures and I write the first letters of things we are drawing. Julia was not necessarily interested in what I was doing at first. She is now repeating letters, their sounds, and the words with those sounds. We make letters out of clay and the J or K or W join forces with the dinosaurs and long eared rabbits and sleep on clay beds or ride on clay carriages. Two days ago we were at a rest stop as we were traveling and she saw a U-Haul advertizement in which a large U was on the back of a flat bed truck. Julia pointed to the picture and said, "Mommy, U truck." It was the first time she noticed a letter. Break through?

Julia’s world expands slowly. We worry at times that it is too slowly. She has learned most of her colors but doesn’t understand why we count. She likes to be read to and to make up songs to melodies she knows but she has not memorized our simple Madeline grace or learned to answer "yes, mommy" when I ask if she is all right where she is. Most of the time, I see the progress that she is making and how she works at her life. Sometimes I can step back and worry just a bit.

Julia and I traveled to Indianapolis this weekend to visit Marcia and Matthew and to attend FTIA (our adoption agency)’s reunion picnic. It was great to stay with Marcia and Matthew and eat and swim and talk together. Matthew bought a new Harry Potter video game that looked like quite a lot of fun – not that he was ready to let the controls out of his hands. Maybe next time I can cast a spell or two.

The picnic was wonderful to go to. Last year we went and met some of our travel mates and saw children! This year I bought Julia. I cannot quite describe, or describe well, the scene of children from China, Vietnam, Russia, South and Central America with parent who so wanted this kids that they traveled the world to find them. So many beautiful children; so many happy families. It was so much fun meeting children whose pictures I’ve seen on the internet and whose parents I’ve corresponded with through yahoo groups and email. What a thrill to have someone see Julia or read the name tag that was on her back and say in surprise, "Julia Bai Bai. And you must be Suzanne."

23 July 2007

Pictures from a concert

I am usually behind the camera getting shots of my girl, but about two weeks ago, we went to the concert on the square and David got hold of our camera. Julia and I had a great time that night listening to Russian music with a great accordian player.

Inspiring sound!

And here is a little bit of mature interchange.
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20 July 2007

Happy Friday

Julia and I were home all day today. I was gardening in the front beds and Julia played around in and out of the house, on the porch, in the backyard. She loves her horses (maybe we will be vacationing one day on the Virginia farm) and her wings, of course.

I separated a big lavendar plant into 9 smaller plants which one day will be a lanvendar hedge. I planted out the hostas that I brought from Indy. I weeded and later watered. We've had no rain in more than a week and so I watered. In between my tasks, Julia and I had lunch and snacks, talked to Babja, and made lots of blue clay dinosaurs.

After I finished most of my garden work, MJ, the old owner, stopped over to give me some gardening pointers, to offer some mulch, and to ask to divide some of the perenials. Had I been a "younger" gardener, I could have been intimidated by her manner, but she is having a bit of a time letting go of this garden. And she didn't do all that she wanted to before she left and she hasn't taken me up on my invitation to take what she wants. I am not sure how to make it easier for her.

The last Harry Potter book comes out tonight. This is the first one time that a book will not be in our house the first day that it is out. Ah, Cheshire. I miss her staying up all night to read the book.
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18 July 2007

More about the house

There is so much out there on the web about historic houses and I love researching this stuff. Especially because we are planning to do our bath and kitchen, I thought I'd find out about this new house. We know that it was built during the 20's and I found a book of old house plans. Although I did not find our present house or our Indy house in the plans, there were a number of plans that I am sure I’ve seen in Meridian Kessler, and there was information about housing types of the 20's.

Our Madison house is a Shingled Style house:
The Shingle style house plan falls under the family of Victorian home plans. The name itself describes the dominating finish veneer found in the style of home. The shingle style do not place emphasizes on elaborate detailing around the doors, windows, cornice, and other design elements as commonly seen in Victorian homes; rather, it focus on the design of complex shapes and unifying the uncommon with a smooth veneer finish (the shingles).

A typical shingle style design has an asymmetrical facade with multi-level eaves. Walls are finished in shingles with no interruption of corner boards. Roofs in general are steeply pitched and have intersecting cross gables. Large porches are common but, a porch may be omitted or small in scale.
We have a very small Shingle Style House but it does fit the description. Too bad we don't have a tower or turret. Cheshire and I always dreamed of a turret house.

Oh my Julia

Julia had a rough day today. 'This morning she stuffed her new tooth brush (has nothing to do with it being new) down the sink drain. I still have to get that out. And then, after our breakfast on the porch, she brought three little pottery figures that we brought from China onto the porch and she threw two of them onto the driveway to see them break. She had great fun picking up the pieces and I grabbed the third figure – a little elephant – before she had a chance to chuck it over the porch rail.

Is this stress? Moving blues? Is she renouncing her Chinese identify? Is she just being a bad girl? I have no idea.

No, she is just 6 and testing, but not at all easy on the mom.

On the up side, she has a decent pitching arm. And she has learned most of her colors and shouts them out all of the time. Nothing like driving down the street with "Mommy, Red", "Blue", Mommy, mommy, Green," ringing out from the back of the car.

14 July 2007

House and garden report

Garden report:

Taking over a garden is a delicate thing, especially if the new owner is a gardener. If the new owner is not a gardener, then the old owner and their friends pass by and click their tongues and mourn the passing of a good garden. Really, anything the new owner does will be critized and if plants languish and die, eyebrows will be raised in an ‘i told you so gesture’ to their walking mates. If the new owner is a gardener, she must proceed with caution. To plunge in and change everything is probably not very neighborly. To ask for advice and many questions may be preferred – give the old owner a sense of importance and of pride in what they have handed over.

But then there is the reality of the garden. Take the compost. There is a three-bin set up here that was here when the old owners moved in 15 years ago. I have never worked with a three-bin set up and for my lazy gardener’s way of making compost, two tall bins were very sufficient. There is also a big black plastic compost maker. One of those containers that is supposed to do speedy compost. I found a mouse in there one night so I don't think there is much compost being made quickly or otherwise. An animal might visit and eat what is on top, but if compost is being made the bin or pile is too hot for little critters to move in. Mine was usually even hot in the middle of the winter.

I waited until yesterday to touch the compost. MJ (previous owner), came over last weekend and emptied one of the bins for herself and left me with a couple of bucket of compost. I dug out another wheelbarrel full this morning. And then I transferred the dried garden waste from the top of the two other bins. And then watered the newly full bin. I think there is quite a bit of finsihed compost in the other two bins. The system needs more management that MJ has done.

Then those big big beds in the front. Indy must have really rubbed off on me. The messiness of the front beds disturbs me. I am sure that MJ has not had time to do much to the beds at this house because she moved more than a month before we bought the house. There are lots of weeds. I’ve been weeding little by little around the flowers, but there are also rows of weeds that would be easy to spray with Round Up. And so I did. I don’t know how PC it is to do that in this town – very natural place. Ummmm.

There are also no evergreens that are part of the landscape. I who once balked at any and all evergreens, now see them as an important design element. Some will go in, but not too quickly and not too many at the same time. I need to see what is planted here for the spring before I do much. A full garden cycle would be a good idea, but I don’t know if I can wait that long.

House report:

We spent the morning shopping for the house. AND we bought a bed. First time in our married lives (plus living together for a few years previously) to have a new mattress and box spring. They deliver it tomorrow. David insisted on a king and I found a lovely simple platform bed with a modern/Arts &Crafts type headboard.

We've slept on David's Nana's bed for years, and during the past few, we're both realized independently that those old, old mattresses were not comfortable. When you get a better night's sleep on the couch than on the bed, it is time to do something! So it's only taken us 18 months from realization to getting into a store. I did some web research and mattresses and headboard, and Julia and I went shopping last week. I picked out what I liked and then showed it to David. (Is this the way I should do all the house shopping?) I thought he would probably like the frame and then he tried a bunch of the mattresses and settled on my second choice. He is much more particular that I am about how firm/soft the mattress is, so I wanted him to make sure he liked it.

We also are starting the process to re-do the bath. Considering the size of the room (5'x11') there are only a few options -- no deluxe tub or separate shower or wall of glass blocks. I got a quote from the "best in town" guy last week and it was very high. I will talk to a few more places that plan the whole job, but I am thinking about being the general contractor and doing my own scheduling of workmen. I have to investigate it a bit more, but I don't see why I can't do it. Am I crazy?

We are thinking of a tube that is deeper and has jets but it will be the size of a regular bathtub because that is all that can be fit in that room. I am also thinking of white tile -- long rectangles called subway tile (Ah, NYC) with some chunky finish on the top. I saw the old octagon tile for the floor -- the traditional has 8 white octagons surrounding a black octagon. I am thinking of having grey centers instead of the black. The tile would come half way up the walls and the rest of the wall and the ceiling would be painted a dove grey -- very calming. If we want color, we can have it with towel, rug, etc.

Okay, that is all I can stand to talk about this stuff right now!

10 July 2007

Bathing Beauty with Mommy's Sunglasses

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Madison report

A new hair do at the pool.

Well, you know your are not in Indy anymore when the "Cheese Report" is featured on the radio! Who knew that California is the second biggest producer of cheese in the USA?? Of course, Wisconsin is the first, LOL, but Calif is gaining on us.

Lots to report from last weekend, but first, today. We found a long lost CD of Chinese music that Julia loved during her first couple of months home. It had changed cars and CD players so many times that it wound up in a packing box that went into storage. Obviously, it is my fault but . . . . Anyway, it is back and playing and my spicy dragon is dancing around the house.

We always wonder what Julia remembers of Chinese and if she recognizes words in both English and Chinese. When I asked her this morning whether she would like to hear her Chinese music, she said she wanted to hear the "cat and rabbit song." We know there is cat song because of the meows in a song, but I had no idea which is the rabbit song. In fact, I don’t think I ever pointed out the cat song in English. BUT Julia was able to point it out to me and the rabbit song as well, so at least there is some Chinese left in her.

I am finding a rhythm in the house. I seem to work hard for a few days and then need a day or two break. Today, I am putting up books on the shelves we put in the living and dining room. I hope to full the shelves and put up a bit of art today. Yesterday morning, I spent so-o-o long making phone calls to contractors, fence companies, handypersons, etc., that the morning was gone before I knew it. In the afternoon, Julia and I went shopping for window treatments! ME. Not much for shopping or curtains, I have been researching on the web and also emailing my friend, Jeannette (who appears to be an expert). I settled on going to JC Penny to look at their accordion shades for the living and dining room, and roman shades for my bedroom. I wound up with the custom shades of both kinds. They cost more than I had planned on spending but they should look good.

Julia never ceases to surprise and last night, Julia asked to read the Dr. Suess ABC book and a dinosaur number book. She listened to the number book but she did a lot of talking and repeating during the ABC book. Maybe, just maybe, she will get to reading in the next year or so.

Julia has been working with a Jump Start computer program for kindergarten. It has learning games and adventures. Julia has worked through most of the first level math games but is having a hard time with the reading games. She does play with it every day and I am working with her on the games. I am hoping that by letting her do the fun stuff and working with her on the harder lessons that sooner or later she will pick it up for herself. I laugh at myself for worrying. I need more faith and still more patience.

I am becoming very peaceful here. In this house. A picture, a bookcase, a soft bed, the porch. This may become a place of good stillness.

I am getting the first batch of emails from my Indy bookclub as they try to figure a meeting date (We tend to go through this every month), and wow, I feel so far away. I knew I was going to miss them, and the chatter that goes on. I have patience right now that it will take awhile to find friends up here but there are times I want to jump people I think I might like and drag them to the house for dinner.

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07 July 2007

Fourth of July rides

It was a very cheesy little fair with very cheesy rides and games of chance, but there were lights and music and the gay laughter of happy of so many people. We could not have gone to such a gathering six months ago but Julia was able to take in all the excitement and noise and to control herself.

The dragon ride! She is still talking about this one. The dragon went up and down and round and round.

What a driver!

Here she is on a kiddy roller coaster. I am afraid we have a daredevil on our hands -- as if we didn't know that already!

But it is always nice to come back to a steadfast pony that goes up and down. This particular merry-go-round went very fast and having a Daddy nearby was not such a bad thing. We had a great night!
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06 July 2007

Julia update

I alternately worry about Julia’s progress and feel like she is learning and growing every day. The worries are about being ready for kindergarten this fall and her behavior. This morning we went through the 4 inch stack of word cards that we have. These are two series of cards to communicate with an older adopted child and common words for a non-English speaking child to learn. I was happy that Julia knows more than half of these cards and many of the words she doesn’t know have not been our experience. She also sat on the floor cross-legged for a bit more than 20 minutes as we worked through these cards and was patient saying those that she knew.
We’ve had to get out our naughty chair this past weekend and Julia has needed to sit in it at least once a day. She still makes a good deal of noise sitting down and will almost fight with the chair for about 10 minutes or so, but she does calm down faster and is willing to apologize as soon as she is calm.

Julia has kept up a morning montra that she is "not going to schoola". She usually says/asks me this when she first wakes up. I answer that this is summer and she doesn’t have to go to school but in the fall, she will go to school because that is her work. We also pass her school regularly when we drive around and I point it out. Just yesterday, I say that the school library is open two days a week. I will try to get there next week to see if we can go into the school. I hope that eventually she likes school, right now, I am hoping that I can get her into the building without a major tantrum.

This Fourth of July was Julia’s first and we had a full day. We went to a picnic that the neighborhood held and met some of our neighbors. Some very nice folks who I look forward to getting to know. Lots of kids and some interesting families. Generally, people were welcoming and felt that we had come to a much better town that we left.

After lunch, we went swimming and Julia and I went down the big slide a few times. Then we went home and mellowed out for a bit. We had some supper and went over to Monona, about a 15 minute drive, to see their fireworks. We were early enough to walk through the "fair" and put Julia on a few rides. Yes, she will be our daredevil! She loved the little roller coaster – went on it twice and the second time seemed to know that she should sit on the back for the "best" ride. There was a dragon ride going up and down in a circle (I remember this same ride as having air planes), cars and trucks in a circle, and the merry-go-round. Julia did want to go on the wild adult rides, and I hope that she has some good friends when she is ready for those rides.

Minutes before the firework display began, we found a spot on a great lawn to put our blanket down. We sat amidst a large crowd of people and Julia was pretty good about sitting and waiting. After a hot dog and a visit to the bathroom, the fireworks began. Julia sat in one of our laps the entire time. She held on for dear life and squealed and screeched at the noise; she buried her head in our shoulders at times, but I think she enjoyed them. She named colors and shapes at they exploded in the sky.

Like our celebrations of other holidays with Julia, we did not make a big deal of the name or the meaning of the day. I feel that will come, I hope that curiosity for that will come. I will post pictures later today.

03 July 2007

A lovely day

We had to stop at Michael's custard and get ice cream this afternoon. Julia demonstated some very professional cone technique. She is her father's daughter.

There is much to do in the house to be totally unpack, but . . . but there are no boxes in the living room. The bathroom is unpacked and our frig, stove, washer and drier are all installed and working. These installations were hard won. The frig is too wide for the space and door molding had to be taken off to fit it in. Another reason to re-do the kitchen soon. The stove, washer, and drier had to be installed by a plumber and that fine craftsman spent a long time here yesterday. I could worry what it is going to cost but I am so happy to have my own appliances I almost don’t care. Who knew I could care that much about a stove?

Julia had a good weekend and a few days. Last Friday, I let her go on the big slides at the community pool. She had been begging to go down the JCC slides but she was too short. At the Madison community pool, Julia is tall enough and she swimming is fine for using the slides. She was fearless going down the open slide and then went down the closed tube. There she hit her head somewhere and when she landed in the water she informed the lifeguard that she wanted to see her mommy. I was right there, of course, and Julia was done with the slide and done with the swimming for the day. She told Daddy that night "no more pool" and complained about the bad slide. After a few days, I was concerned that she would be scared of the pool, so on Sunday, we all went over and Julia played for a long time in the pool and then, she and I, separately as per the rules, when down one of the slides.

The sun has been out since we’ve been in Madison. Did we move to Wisconsin or California? However, last night it rained, it was gray all day to day and rained again tonight. The weather here has been pretty nice. A few days of heat and good for the pool, and lots of rather cool days. I feel pretty hesitant about the weather here – okay, it is nice today, it was nice yesterday, but what about . . .
I am beginning to be in this house without comparing it to our Indy house. It is beginning to feel like home.
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More silly faces

With a good view of those missing teeth

And just look at that big tongue!
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Garden pictures

A few sweet, pretty, and quiet pictures of my spicy dragon.

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Silly faces at the gardens

Julia and I spent time at the botanical gardens today. Just a little while before the rain came. She wanted to make believe and to be silly. Here are some of her silly poses.

Julia loves to spin around and take in the whole world.
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Julia's clay work

Here are two examples of Julia's work with clay. She had made much more complex little animals and scenes but they are hard for me to take pictures of. These two were pretty straight forward although I had trouble taking a clear picture of the dragon.

The first is a dinosaur coming out of an egg and the second is a dragon with wings. She worked very hard on the toes and tips of the winds of the dragon. She also put teeth inside the mouth of the dragon but then closed the mouth to finish the dragon.

Julia has no desire to save this work which is interesting. She makes her animals, plays with them, and then puts them away and usually makes something new when she plays again.
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01 July 2007

Not quite a year and forever

In the midst of the moving in, we've missed our 10 months aniversary with Julia. No matter though, we fall more in love every day.

Sometimes I look at my spicy dragon and my heart hurts for the mother that felt the need to give her up. Just this last year she has missed hugs and kisses, learning about dinosaurs, eating Dora ice pops, watching the otter do flips at the zoo, praising incredible clay animals fashioned by little fingers and hands, cleaning blue clay out of fingernail (every night!), swimming, swimming, swimming, and looking back with big eyes for permission to do or eat something. Our Julia is such an incredible individual, so stubborn and sure of herself, invincible in the face of big dogs and terrified of little bugs, and so scared and vulnerable. Did her birth mother have any idea that she was giving such a gift to strangers? And I am both grateful and completely humbled.