Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree

The title of this post needs to be said with some exasperation, the way my aunt Minnie used to say, 'Oh, Jackie' when she just didn't know what to think about something I had just said or done.

That's because this was the state of our pre-lit Christmas tree when it came out of the box on Saturday for it's fourth season.

Pretty, isn't it? I wish the picture had come out better. But if you look hard, you'll notice that only about a sixth of the tree is actually lit up. Thankfully, I anticipated having to light it up myself - again - this year, it's final year. We figure at this point, it doesn't owe us anything, since we bought it on clearance after Christmas when we decided to go artificial several years ago.

Doesn't that sound like we went 'green' for Christmas? Well, after spending too many holiday seasons feeling sick from allergies, I thought it might be the tree. One year, when we dragged out our live tree and I felt better within 24 hours, I figured I was on to something. So, we do the fake thing now, and, truthfully, I don't miss the mess of needles. I miss the smell of the tree, but I can buy that in a box.

In buying the artificial, I even made a big change, going from the colored lights to white lights. When we went to the store to buy the tree, the colors of the colored lights were so vibrant and obnoxious. To me, anyway. I had grown up with these lovely, faded kind of colored lights. I even still had boxes of them that I had collected during the after-Christmas sales for years. I was always ready with a new strand when one or two of the old ones were bound and determined not to light each year. (I still can't figure out how that happens. They were working when they came off the tree, got wrapped up and put into the box. Then, they come out the next year and are dead.) So, we skipped the bright, nearly fluorescent colored lit trees and went for white.

Our first Christmas with the tree was very cool. I was so tickled to pull four parts out of a box, snap the posts together, spread the branches and plug it in. Beautiful. The white lights really highlighted all the ornaments.

The next year was a little touchy. The first time everything got plugged in, one section didn't light. A little jiggling took care of that. Then, last year, things got ugly. About 1/3 of the tree didn't light. I was livid. I ended up running lights all over the tree - colored lights, mind you, because that's all I've ever owned. After I calmed down, I got to the point where I could find amusement in the tree and it's crazy lighting.

This year, we knew what we were up against before the tree even came down from the attic. Zelda and I ran out to the store Saturday morning while Ron and Annalee put the tree together. I came home, walked into the living room and just laughed. Then, I turned around, went into the garage and found the Christmas box labeled 'Lights.' And, I got to it. Wouldn't you know it? Three strands from last year didn't work this year. Go figure.

The girls and I also put all the ornaments on. Well, truthfully, we started to do the ornaments, went to take a break for lunch and got distracted when Zelda bit Annalee in the waist, so then we stopped. I ended up finishing the tree in the afternoon when Zelda was napping and Annalee was at a birthday party. I was so at peace.

Here is where it ended up:

I love it. I even put all our new Chinese zodiac ornaments on the tree. Each one of the 12 has long red tassles.I'm still working on taking a picture that really shows the lights in all their glory.

So, now, when I walk through the living room, I say, 'oh, Christmas tree!' with a bit of excitement - and a little pat on my back - and I feel a sense of admiration, joy and wonder. Perfect for the season.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More Than Thankful

As we celebrate this country's national holiday, we at our house have so much to be thankful for. Topping our list is that we are a complete family - and that is all that we have prayed for these past many years.

So, today, we wish our family and friends near and far - and on a plane to China, too! - a very happy, blessed and safe Thanksgiving day, weekend and holiday season!

NOTE: Birthday wishes to Aimee, April and Darlene today!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Shots and Tears

I took Annalee and Zelda for the first of their A/H1N1 vaccine shots today. I knew Annalee was panicked, as she hates shots and starts complaining about going to the doctor long before a routine check-up appointment simply for fear over getting a shot. I figured if I prepped her well enough yesterday, we might get through it with minimal trauma. I talked with her about relaxing her arm to help it not hurt so much. We sort of practiced it.

I had no clue how Zelda would handle it. The only clue I had was that she didn't make a sound when the nurse pricked her finger earlier this week for a lead test at the pediatrician's office.

So, we worked our way through the maze at the county health department building this morning and were finally ushered to a table. The nurse suggested that Annalee go first. Maybe she figured Zelda would freak out if she got her shot and then that would freak out Annalee.

Annalee sat on one of my legs while I held Zelda on the other. Gigi helped block Annalee's view of the needle while I talked to her about relaxing her arm. Before you know it, the shot was done. I think Annalee was in shock that it was over, too. She just sat there. No tears, nothing. At least from her.

I was the one who began crying. I had been so worried about her fear of the shot. And, then she was so brave. So, I cried for her. The nurse was so sweet; she told me I wasn't the first mom to cry instead of her children. She made me feel much better for it.

Then, it was Zelda's turn. My second brave daughter. Not a peep; not a flinch. No tears, nothin'.

Given their display of bravado, I gave Annalee her pick for lunch. She called for a Happy Meal. Chicken nuggets all around.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Peace at Last

The peace of the house is around me. Zelda fell asleep after I realized her screaming fit meant that she wanted her belly filled with rice cereal before she could get in her crib. Annalee just finished reading her book, and her light is out. Ron turned in early.

Earlier tonight, Annalee was taking a bath while Zelda looked on. We thought Zelda seemed interested (she hasn't been keen on a full-blown bath to date), so we encouraged her. Off came her clothes, and in she went. The two of them had a laugh fest lightly splashing water on each other and on me (I was not laughing). When they were out of the tub, I held both of them on my lap wrapped up in their towels. Annalee always liked 'to be held like a baby,' and I think she was pleased that we could still do that with Zelda now, too.

That fun was followed by a dinner in which both of my children (how cool is that to say!) ate everything on their plates. Annalee always eats well, so no surprise there. But, Zelda even ate everything I gave her. As I was preparing dinner, I just thought to myself that kids need exposure to the same food several times over before they may like it. So, I pushed on and put this stuff she has declined numerous times on her plate. Next thing I know, her plate was clean!

As if all that wasn't enough to make my evening, Annalee, Zelda and I hung out on the twin bed in Zelda's room and read books together. Zelda was busy kissing Annalee and me while we were trying to read. Annalee's still not thrilled about the kisses, but she went along as best as possible. Zelda really seems to come alive in the evenings, shouting all sorts of sounds and giggles. So, we had lots of laughs together.

The real high came when Annalee took Zelda in her arms and sat in the rocker and sang 'Annalee's song' to Zelda. Annalee's song is 'You Are My Sunshine;' I have sung that song to her since I first held her in my arms. Before we left for China, I asked her if I could sing it to Zelda or if I needed to find something different. Annalee told me I needed to find something else, because that was her song. So, tonight, when she began rocking and was talking about singing, I told her I had never sung her song to Zelda but had sung other songs. And, then Annalee just started singing it to her little sister. I, of course, had to hold back the tears. The scene will forever be in my heart.

We have waited so long to complete our family. After tonight, I know everything is exactly as it should be. That's what I call peace.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

5-Year Family Day

When I learned the dates of our trip to China to adopt Zelda, I was relieved to know we would be home in time to celebrate Annalee's five-year family day.

Five years ago today, Ron and I were in Changsha, Hunan province, China with seven other families from our travel group to adopt Annalee. She cried and cried when put into our arms. It was our first joy of parenthood.

We have remembered that day in 2004 and the days in China that followed often during the past two weeks as we were in China again to adopt Zelda.

While we celebrate Annalee's family day today, Nov. 15, and will celebrate Zelda's future family days on Nov. 1, we celebrate our family of four every day.

Here are the girls together this morning, playing dress up. What you can't see is me behind the camera with the very large clownish Ringling Bros. circus hat on my head, tulle bow on my waist, sheer pink butterfly wings on my back and silver sequined shoes on my feet. You're better off.

Home Safe and Sound

We are home from China safe and sound with our little Zelda. It was a wonderful, meaningful trip of a lifetime. I'll post more very soon.

It is 2 a.m., Sunday, and Zelda and I are both awake. So, I will put this out there for friends and family...feel free to contact us via e-mail, but please refrain from using the phone. Given our wacky sleep schedules that I have dreaded for months, I don't know how soon we'll get ourselves turned around to be awake during the day and asleep during the night. I was hopeful for tonight, as we didn't go to sleep until after 8 p.m. yesterday (Saturday) after being up since 1:45 p.m. central time on Friday. But, Zelda woke up hungry and I felt a little awake too. So here we are making a post.

I'll leave you with a few pictures from our trip:

This second one is us at the Stone Forest, the first wonder of the world, outside Kunming, Yunnan. This image shows just one tiny part of the park.

This last one was taken at Yun Tai Garden in Guangzhou.