Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve Parties

Subsets of our family attend not one, not two, but three different NYE parties-- and I got absolutely no pictures to document them.

Strider is attending the Campus Outreach New Year's Conference in Washington, DC with some friends this year, and according to the glimpses we get on Instagram and the quick little calls and texts,it sounds like he's having a great time.

The rest of us were invited to an Ohio State party with our former neighbors in the early evening, and a get-together with our new neighbors in the later hours.  We thought this was a perfect way to spend New Year's Eve -- the first half with our neighbors from the first half of 2016, and the second half with our neighbors from the second half of 2016!

Meanwhile, Colsen and Miles had the very earnest goal of finally staying up until midnight on NYE.  They INSISTED that they really must do this this year, so Pete and I complied.  We came home from our second party to find Colsen still wide awake but Miles crashed on the couch.  :)  Maybe next year, little guy.

Speaking of crashing....

For years now Miles has been crawling into Colsen's bed with him because he doesn't like sleeping alone. (Occasionally he'll try to come into our bed still, but he gets carried right back to his own bed.) Recently Colsen has finally become less than welcoming to his little buddy because inevitably Miles will take over Colsen's pillow and push him to the small corner of his own bed.

The other night Pete went in to check on the girls, and look who he found there:

I showed Miles this picture later and he says he doesn't even remember going into her room!  (This is quite plausible as he is our resident sleep-walker.)

I wonder how long she'll put up with this...

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dogwood Park Milestones

I wonder how long I'll measure Jinna's progress by visits to the park....

On her first visit to Dogwood Park, she was cheerful and happy -- and probably utterly confused, bewildered, and in some senses, oblivious.  It was her very first morning here in the United States, and after half a night's sleep, we introduced her to 7 new family members, and then we all traipsed over to the park for a walk.  She loved having her siblings follow her around.

On her second visit to Dogwood Park, she refused to walk.  She had been home for about 2 weeks and we had just dropped off the boys at Chess Club, and she and Rayna and I went to the park for some exercise.  Only, Jinna didn't want to exercise.  She didn't want to be there at all.  She threw herself down on the ground and whined.

On her third visit to Dogwood Park, a couple of weeks later, she squealed with delight as she got out of the car, recognizing the place, and wanted to walk all around the trails.  She knew some English words by this point, and liked playing the "Fast, fast, fast, slow, slow" game.

I'm not sure which visit number we're up to now, but yesterday we took the girls to the park again, while the boys were gone, and Jinna again was very excited to be there.  As we started down one of the paths, she spotted a bench and said, "Everybody sit down!"  Over the last few weeks she's been using more English sentences, but they're usually ones she hears others repeat as a whole -- "Stop touching it!"  "What's the matter?"  etc.  This was one of the first times that she constructed her own sentence.

It's so fun watching her grow and learn and experience things... Can't wait to see what happens during future park visits.  (We're going back this afternoon.  :) )


Our first Christmas in our new home was just how I would want it to be (not entirely coincidental, I realize, since I'm the one sort of in charge).  We opened a few gifts on Christmas Eve and the rest after church on Christmas Day, and they were all a lot of fun.

 Big gifts this year:  Strider - mountain bike (met with tepid enthusiasm); Rayna - drum set (met with extreme enthusiasm); Colsen - fly-tying kit (over the moon excitement); Miles - remote-control helicopter (much joy); Jinna Rai -"My Little Pony" items (much squealing).
These tricky Frank men -- juggling tricks, magic tricks, yo-yo tricks...

Afterwards we went to Nonna and Poppa's for the afternoon and evening.  Sadly, I got almost no pictures, which is a real shame, because the whole day and house were so pretty!  Mom and Dad prepared a big game for the adults to play to determine our Christmas gift for the year, and there was lots of gifts exchanged among everyone.  Of course there was all kinds of good food all day, too!

The weather was beautiful, so the kids spent a lot of time on the golf course, and even set off a bottle rocket thing.

The only thing we failed to do was read the very last installment of "Tabitha's Travels," which we've been reading all through Advent.  We're all in suspense and need to read the last page... although we're pretty sure we've heard the part about the famous baby being born...  But overall, it's been a beautiful, awesome Christmas!

Christmas Eve

This year we tried to keep Christmas a little low-key to not overwhelm Jinna Rai too much... not sure if we were entirely successful.  "Low-key" doesn't really exist in families with 17 cousins.  Even in the limited hours that we were all together, the sheer din and kaleidoscope of colors and experiences was surely crazy for her.  But she took it all in well, and seemed to enjoy herself.

Christmas Eve was spent at the Dreschers' house, where we had an appetizer contest (honors go to Dan and his 30-hour prep), a cookie contest (winner, winner, chicken dinner), a white elephant game, and some carolling. Oh, and a visit from Grandma Deuce.  I always do my best to forget that part.

A magical night!

Jinna Rai's first Christmas

I'll post more Christmas pictures later, but this video pretty much sums up how Jinna felt about it all:

"Thank you!!"  "All for Jinna?"  "All for Jinna!"

Friday, December 23, 2016

Birthday dinner

Loved having Mor-Mor and Mom and Dad for my birthday dinner this year.  I'm so blessed to have celebrated with them almost every year!  Pete made a big turkey dinner for us all (he's been itching to do that since Thanksgiving), and we enjoyed a cozy fire.  The kids were so excited to give me their gifts... Great birthday!

Hide and Seek

Christmas break started off with some Hide and Seek around here.... Looks like Jinna Rai is figuring it out just fine:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hiding it in their hearts

This semester the kids have been memorizing Psalm 27.... Here is their recitation today:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rayna's "Holly Dance"

Look how pretty Rayna is, heading out the door for her Cotillion dance!

Rayna said it was a lot of fun.... She received a prize (I think it was from a drawing they do for everyone who completes their homework for the month), and when she ran out to greet me when I picked her up, she announced, "I won all the dances!"

Yes, she definitely had a good time.  :)


Pete took Miles out for some Christmas shopping today and while they were driving, Miles asked,
"Dad, do you ever just worry about everything?"
Pete told him he might worry about things sometimes, but not usually everything.  Then he asked Miles if he was worried about everything.
Miles said, "Yeah, I'm just not sure what I'm going to be when I grow up."
Then he paused and said,
"But I guess I could always just live with Colsen."

And, in other news, he's missing a couple teeth (lost one more today, after this picture was taken):

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

St. Nicholas Day

This year's celebration included all of the fun elements -- giving, "caning," and STOCKINGS.

Well, almost all of the fun elements.... We had plans to have a couple of other families over for dinner, but had to cancel when Strider got sick.  (He made a very swift recovery, but we wanted to be cautious and not share the germs.)

Still, we had a fun couple of days...  The women in our church baked a bunch of chocolate chip cookies, and Colsen, Rayna, and Miles had the fun task of assembling them into care packages for the college students that attend our church.  They start their final exams today so we wanted to get the cookies to them as an encouragement and energy boost!
Look at all these cookies!

 I decided to make it a Poplar Streams holiday -- no school at all!  The kids spent most of the day playing with their loot from the stockings. At one point I found a tab open on my computer where someone had been looking for videos of "Yoyo eksperts," so at least one of the gifts is getting a lot of use.

Strider, meanwhile, got out of his sickbed to announce that he had a major paper due the next day (which he had not started)-- as well as a final exam for his college course, and a quiz in Spanish.  Oh-- and he had to work for 5 hours of the day.  So, for Strider it was not a holiday.

After dinner, the gang went out to candy cane a couple homes... and my sd card was not in my camera so I have no pictures at all.  :(

So now, once again, our Santa celebrations are over, and we move on to celebrating the birth of the Christ child!

Church Christmas Program

This year the children at church did another good job putting on a little pageant for us after a potluck dinner.  Once again Colsen reprised his role as King Herod (third year in a row!), and once again, garnered laughter and applause with his dramatic portrayal of the king's anger-- and death.

Miles had his debut this year as a character with lines.  (He was so excited.... "Last year I was just a little kid; I had to just be an animal!")  It was very fitting that he played the role of Caesar Augustus, and he sounded very authoritative when he told everyone to go their hometowns to be counted.

Cousin Kai was one of Herod's bodyguards, and Colsen seemed to take a little too much delight in pushing and pulling his guards around.  Next year may bring some repayment...

Tonight's conversations

Colsen got uncharacteristically angry tonight...   This was the conversation:

Colsen:  Can we have eggnog right now?
Pete:  No, not yet.

Pete:  Colsen, the eggnog has been in the house for 30 minutes.

The boy likes his 'nog.

Then I had this conversation with Strider, who has a major paper due tomorrow and was starting it TONIGHT...

Me: How's that paper coming?
Strider:  Ok, I guess.
Me:  It's probably hard to write a paper on "Frankenstein," since you've never actually read the book.
Strider:  I'm just not going to talk about the book much.  The assignment is to talk about how I FEEL about the book.
Me: Well, I'd still recommend using some portion of the book at some point.
Strider:  I guess I could say something like, "I'm not sure what page it's on, but according to 'SparkNotes,' in chapter 3...."
Me:  I wouldn't recommend writing that.

And then there was this...

Miles:  What size is Strider's bed?  And what's yours?
Me:  Strider's is called a Full size, and ours is Queen.
Miles:  So does that mean mine is a Knight-size?  (He's been really into chess lately.  :) )

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Cole and Milo continue to be best friends, and I love watching and hearing them.  Recently they took me out in the backyard and showed me their new trails they made in the woods.  They chattered away like crazy, talking over each other in their excitement...  Here are some of the snippets:

"Colsen is the worker and I am the owner."
"Now THIS trail has a lot of historical significance.  Let me tell you about it."
"This log is called the Bridge of Expectation."
"Miles, can I be the boss now and YOU be the worker?" ("No.")

At night now that it's colder, Miles always wants to crawl in Colsen's bed.  Colsen puts up with it most of the time, although sometimes gets frustrated with Miles just takes over the whole space.  We often find them like this:

I wonder how long this will go on.  I hope their close friendship lasts forever!

Jinna's first 6 weeks here

So much happens everyday and so many times I think, "I should write this down," but I fail to.  Someone told me that adopted children often don't even remember the first year in their new home at all because it's all so overwhelming.  I'm beginning to think this might be the case for ME, too, and I really need to start documenting things so I don't forget.

We just passed the 6-week mark since Jinna Rai arrived in her our home, and each week seems to bring more and more joy.  All my thoughts on this are too jumbled to organize into nice coherent paragraphs, so I'm just going to be lazy and use bullet points...

  • A recent moment when I knew she was definitely MY daughter was when we were walking in the park and she stopped to pick up what she thought was a little stone.  It turned out to be a snail, and she immediately threw it down, squealing, "Yucky!  Yucky!"  She was so flustered and upset.  It made me laugh because I had JUST had that identical reaction the day before when I saw a snail!  She hadn't seen me do that -- but had the same reaction anyway.  Clearly we are linked somehow.  :)
  • Her language continues to increase at a rapid rate.  At this point she says several words (food, please, more, shower, pencil, towel, water, paper, banana, cookie, chocolate, window, leaves, book, teeth, hands, wash, shoes, hungry, hurt, most of the colors, and the numbers 1-15).  She has also in this last week started using all kinds of phrases.... What's the matter?  How are you? Don't do that!  Stop that! Don't touch!  It makes us laugh that she has so many bossy phrases.  I think that's due to both her personality type AND the fact that she's the youngest in a house full of kids.  She's establishing her boundaries well!
  • Her emotional state seems to have evened out a bit, too.  For the first weeks she was acting out quite a bit --- hitting, picking battles to have tantrums over, spitting, kicking, etc.  And while she was being disciplined (usually held on our laps with her hands held tight), she would alternately laugh and scream.  We began to see a pattern -- that she would choose one of these battles soon after something unusual had happened in our routine.  I think it's her way of recalibrating.  She continues to be very easy-going, happy to get in the car at any point to go off to the next adventure, happy to meet all kinds of strangers anytime.  She entertains people right when she meets them, probably feeling like she needs to "cover all her bases" and keep all the adults happy, but then after it's back to just us again, she gets mad at us.  Lately, though, that seems to be diminishing.
  • She is also getting much more affectionate.  She loves hugs and kisses from us, and wants to hold my hand while we're walking sometimes.  The first few weeks it felt like she was mad at me a lot for no apparent reasons, but now she seems to enjoy being with me.  :)
  • Her siblings all love her like crazy.  The younger ones want to always help her get her shoes on, get her food, guide her around.  Rayna loves to get her dressed every day.  Strider likes talking fake Chinese to her.  I'm not sure what she thinks when he does that, but she smiles anyway.  She is also good at getting that big lug to hug her!  I love seeing that.
  • She's getting much pickier when it comes to food.  When we were in China, she ate almost everything we put in front of her.  Here, though, each week she starts rejecting more foods.  The only fruits she'll eat usually are bananas. 

Ok, that's probably enough documenting for now.  The basic conclusion is that we love her like crazy and we can't believe how well she fits in our family.  She was made for us!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pretty from the outside anyway....

A couple nights ago I went to pick up Strider from work and when I came home, this was the scene.  I could see Pete back in the family room reading to the kids, probably "Tabitha's Travels," our Advent story for this year.

I paused, feeling the holiday glow, thinking about the apple crisp I had put in the oven right before I left, seeing the Advent wreath on the table that the kids and I had just made, happy we were all home in our new house.

Then I walked inside and was immediately barraged by little people asking me for things.  I could hear Pete in the other room yelling things like, "You guys are not doing a good job listening!  I'm not even going to read anymore if you can't be quieter!"  Strider was mad at me for an ongoing issue... and the apple crisp was completely missing!

Looks prettier from the outside sometimes...but life is happening on the inside.  These are still the days to remember!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jinna Rai's first Thanksgiving

Our first holiday as a family of 7 was as wonderful as we could have imagined.  We kept it simple, staying in town and going to Dan and Amy's house.  The Wray gang all assembled, and the weather was so nice that it wasn't overwhelming because everyone could be outside most of the time!

The best moment for me came when the whole family gathered to sing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."  Jinna's presence was a perfect testimony of that for me.

It was fun seeing her interact with her girl cousins, too.

 While Dan spent hours slaving over the hot grills to prepare the best turkey we've EVER had, the girls and I did a turkey craft inside.

A great day to be thankful on-- and for.