Two China Dolls and a Prince!

This blog chronicles the story of 2 of our adoptions, both older children when they came home. It begins in 2008 and will continue in the hopes we can be of encouragement and information to anyone thinking of older child adoption.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall Fun...

The Incredible Flying Jazmin

The Incredible Flying Judi

Truly precious gems

August 2013 - during a "peak"


As is usual, all good things usually have an end, and so did Ning's "turnaround". The last two weeks have not been a good time, but we are definitely getting used to the peaks and valleys. Why? Without going into too much detail, after a recent visit away from home, Ning has decided rules at home do not apply to him, especially one particular rule. It is not a harsh rule, or unreasonable, or even a big one, yet the absence of this rule greatly affects his ability to interact with life in general. He simply doesn't think he should have to follow it because he doesn't WANT to, period. Never mind that the other children all have the same rules and are expected to behave which they all find relatively easy to do, EVEN (gasp) older brother. While we know that he had no family rules and no "normal" parental governance of his life for basically 8 years and this is a learning process, it is also a CHOICE. It is a CHOICE of his to refuse to say good morning, goodnight, please or thank you, or even Hello to us; while in public, he does all this just fine. He told his tutor he has no desire to say these things to us or talk to us at any length. Why? We have quit asking that because there are really no answers. And honestly, HOW many teens these days are WONDEFUL kids in public, but go home and treat their families like crap? His teachers like him and expound on how social he is...and talks to them, is polite, respectful of the rules, etc. This is great, because it means he will be able to function in society just fine as a grown-up. BUT, will he be able to form a close, meaningful, emotional attachment to any one single person in his life? Maybe or maybe not. He is a perfect example of what happens to a child that is taken care of physically, but not nurtured, shaped, led, loved, wind up with emotional bankruptcy. Would attachment therapy help? Probably....but one can't force a 15-year old into a car to see a "head" doctor if they don't want the help. For myself, I have stopped asking why in general. Having deep discussions don't work, since he himself doesn't even understand why he acts the way he does. So we are giving him space, lots of space. Saturday we did lots of activities to which he wasn't taken along because we wanted to enjoy ourselves freely without a sour face. Sunday we had church and time at grandparents to which he was expected to come. At church, he fell asleep quite obviously, so when we were done, we left our seats and conversed with friends (close by) until he finally came awake and realized he was the only one still sitting...and sleeping. Because of the way he treats us, it has caused us to question our very family unit, our values, the way we do things, the rules we have, and you know what? We came to the conclusion that we are nowhere near perfect, but we are a GOOD family. We have LOTS of love, LOTS of fun, and we LOVE God and what He's done with our lives (ok, a little more money would be nice, but can't have it all, I guess!). God put Ning into our lives for a purpose. Perhaps we were only meant to be a safe haven from which he can go on and make a better life. And we are certain and satisfied with ONE thing overall. Even if he returns to China at 18 and we never see him again, for at LEAST 4 years of his life, he WILL have known love, even if he doesn't understand it or want it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

14 months since Ning walked into our lives.........

What a ride it has been!  The last 14 months have been probably the most challenging of our lives.  In the last 3 months alone, our emotions have run the gamut from frustration to despair to hope to sheer joy and back through it all again.  It reminds me of a country dance, the 2-step.  In tandem with your partner, you take two steps forward, one step back, two forward, one back, but always moving in a forward direction.
Watching Ning emerge little by little from his self-imposed cocoon is a tremendous thing to watch.  This boy who had been essentially ignored by the adults around him in China is finally realizing that, for the first time in his life, there are people who genuinely CARE about him and who he becomes.  And not just us, his family.  Our friends the Sanders and Verhulsts, his friends at school, his teachers, his tutors....a whole wealth of people invested in his future where before there were none.  There have been times when we wondered if we did the right thing bringing him home (even if it was his choice) because of his slow, sometimes difficult adjustment.  But lately, we have seen more and more signs of the sweet, funny boy Ning really is.........just in the last few weeks, we have seen more smiles and heard more laughs than in the entire first year.  He seems to have turned a corner in his own mind and perhaps is finally beginning to believe us when we say he is loved and here to stay for as long as he needs and wants.

Now for just a few updates on our summer events...........August 8 was our one-year with Ning.  Even then, let's just say it was NOT the joyous occasion it was with our girls, simply because the celebrant still wasn't sure he was happy about his decision to come here.  We kept it very low-key; went to Chinese, and I wrote him a letter about the miracle of how he happened to be in our family and close to his friends.  Then just the other day, Ning and I had the occasion to have a long conversation about many things.  He admitted having a good relationship with his foster parents, but mainly because by his own admission, they never bothered him about school, and imposed no rules or expectations on him.  They provided a place to sleep and food to eat and that was pretty much it.  He said the hardest thing for him besides learning English was getting used to the way we Americans "teach" our children by assigning consequences to actions.  This was a totally foreign concept for Ning, but once I explained WHY we are involved in school (because we care about his future) and WHY we discipline (because we care about WHO he becomes), he just seemed "lighter" somehow.

Then on August 18th, we hit another milestone........we sent our oldest, Jessica, off to college.  We all went to move her in to her dorm room, and we couldn't believe our first baby was all grown up.  Ning seemed particularly interested in the goings on, and Jazmin said she couldn't wait to go to college!  Thankfully, as I'd hoped, Jessica has settled in well, made many friends, is doing fine with her grades, and overall enjoying her freedom.

School has started for the rest of the kiddos (I will post school pics soon); James is a junior (gasp), Ning is an official high-schooler, Jaz is in 5th grade, and Judi's a big 3rd-grader. All the kids are doing well, though James is chomping at the bit to get to graduation already.  How do you tell your kids to slow down, to not want to grow up so fast?    Ning continues in his ESL program, and we have him in extra tutoring 4 additional hours a week.  Some of it is through our college's Speech clinic and he is making amazing progress.  He has even, finally, begun to use English in sentences and spontaneously answer questions; you can tell it makes a huge difference in his attitude to be able to communicate even that little amount. He has gone from just learning phonics during the summer to 2nd grade level stories and books already!  And the most amazing thing is that he has begun working extra hard on his English at HOME; that has made so much difference in his progress and his ability to interact with us.

Other news is that we got a "real" piano just this last weekend!  Ning didn't like our 20-year old keyboard for some reason, and I have to admit I love having a piano......I have always wanted one, a childhood dream of mine.  And the bonus is......Ning has practiced every day without me saying a word; yahoo!
Between piano, dance, and basketball, the kids keep us running.  James will start varsity basketball in early November and then things will really get interesting!  And I'm already looking forward to Spring baseball and both my boys playing; that will be fun to watch them both play on the same team.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Catching Up.....'s amazing how time gets away from you as each day unfolds. A ton has happened since May 8.  Our oldest daughter has graduated, NingNing graduated from 8th grade, Jazmin and Judi had their dance recital,  we went on our first family vacation, somehow fit baseball and tutoring (NingNing), basketball (James), a job (Jessica), and softball (Jaz and Judi), and our 1-year Gotcha Day is only a month away!  NingNing found out our lives get busier in May and beyond but now we're done with all sports for a few weeks or until October unless James plays football.

So what's been going on with Ning after almost a year?  Well, I'd have to say he's still settling in.  For the most part, he's comfortable and relaxed with us and most places we go.  He occasionally has bouts of moodiness and stubbornness when he doesn't feel he needs to follow all the rules.  Don't most teens??  But when reminded that it is a very simple thing to adhere to certain expectations of behavior or lose his beloved iPod, he settles back down.  Overall, he is a really good kid who is taking a bit longer to adjust to his new life.  We still try to find things he will enjoy with us as a family, but he was so used to NOT doing things "together", and being solitary when not with his friends; those are hard habits to break when they are so ingrained.

We went on our first family vacation and we just didn't know how it would go; we didn't know if we'd have issues with limiting the electronics or not; we wanted to have fun with Ning and not lay down a bunch of rules.  So we just let what would happen.....happen.  And you know what?  He did great!  We went to Gatlinburg, TN, and met up with Jazmin's adoption group; a group of the most outstanding people we've ever been privileged to call friends.  More than friends; they are truly our extended family, and they enfolded NingNing just as they did Judi.
Ning proceeded to have a great time, surprising us all!  He played pool, swam in a lake (discovered he needs swimming lessons!), went river-tubing, messed around with the other teens, swam in a pool, ate everything, and (gasp!) met a GIRL!  I won't go into details, but it was the sweetest thing, as Ning wasn't quite sure how to handle her attentions; he still doesn't believe he is handsome and cute.
Once we got home, he did withdraw from us a little again, but i think after vacation, our house must have seemed boring! 

Regarding school and English.......he graduated from 8th grade just fine, and ended up with all A's the classes he got grades in.  He's now all signed up for 9th grade, which makes me nervous as more will be expected of him.
The problem is he STILL wasn't speaking English.  We finally found a Mandarin professor who wanted to help tutor him and began some sessions with her, but then she decided on a last-minute six week trip to China!  I wasn't sure what more we could do to help Ning's English, and then we heard about a Communications Disorders clinic at our local college.  We sent in paperwork, got him accepted, and he's now gone 4 times for 2 hours each time.  It is called "language camp".  He spends one hour conversing with other kids and learning social norms of communication and the next hour is one-on-one with a therapist who works on vocab, phonics, light reading.  She is amazing and he's already shown great progress with this program; I am so happy we found is just what he needed......and I feel better knowing we're doing our best to find ways to help him adjust and communicate.
I will say one's not always easy to have a kid who's not used to giving or receiving affection or feeling much for other people.  He is doing much, much better accepting affection, but ONLY mine.  The girls are next in line; affection from anyone else is slightly "rebuffed", but in a good way.  Something in me needs to be loved, needed, wanted; I'm fulfilled by the love of my children, so understanding and accepting his reluctance to show that emotion has been a huge growth area for me.  A child this age cannot be forced to love, nor can they be expected to just fall in love with people like a little one would.  It's like moving in with a roommate you don't know and never met; if you want it to work out, you have to work at it, and accept each other as is, but each side also has to change a little.  That means the teen also has to accept his/her family as is.  People in the adoption community talk about adoptive parents adjusting their expectations of their new child but what if the new family doesn't meet the child's expectations and the child themselves can't adjust?  What then? What if the child comes with hopes and fantasies of the way life will be or someone has filled their heads with delusions of grandeur?  Getting along and living together is a two-way street, and while I'm sure Ning doesn't REALLY care to live on 22 "buggy" acres, and doesn't always like our "noisiness", he does seem to be accepting us more and more, just as we continue to learn to accept and love him the way he is, while opening his mind to new and different things.
Now for some pictures!.....................
Jessica's graduation May 2013...our firstborn baby girl!

Jessica and Grandpa

NingNing being recognized for his hard work; he was NOT comfortable being up in front of everyone

NingNing and his English teacher - I love this picture.  A rare, genuine smile from NingNing captured on film.

Tried to swim in the lake; he thought he didn't need a life vest.  He relaxed in the boat the rest of the day :). We had rented a pontoon boat and spent the day swimming and flying kites.

Jazmin, Judi, and one of our friends
Working on his "tan", lol
The "crew"...everyone had such a great time on vacation!
NingNing and a "friend"
All the children in our 2013 Holt Guangxi Adoption Group Reunion vacation
Judi - enjoying our nature walk

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Piano and baseball!

Piano Recital was April 28, 2013.  NingNing has been playing only since January and he memorized his piece.  He was so nervous, but pulled through like a champ!
I didn't notice til later watching the video he was sitting with his legs crossed!

Getting ready to head for 3rd base...May 7, 2013

James was helping Ning's team at their first game.  James has about 13 years experience playing baseball.

Ning had thrown the ball to first base too high..he was waving his hand as if to wave that throw away!

First time up to bat in a baseball game....EVER!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Poem For Our Son

To encourage not only ourselves, but hopefully others experiencing struggles with their children, these words came to me.

Our love stands strong,
        in the face of your tears.

Our love stands strong,
       in the emergence of your fears.

Our love won't end,
       when you run from it.

Our love won't end,
      when your built-up dreams plummet.

Our love will always be,
      waiting for when you're ready.

Our love will always be,
      strong and steady.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Easter and other happenings

It's been awhile since posting...March and April have been BUSY!  Easter was a good time.  We changed our usual plans and went to a Chinese church for Easter service.  Our good friends the Sanders came too, so the boys, Seth and NingNing, could listen and really understand the true meaning of Easter.  It's so heartwarming to see them pay attention and have found a way to share the love of God and Jesus with these boys.  Even if they don't choose to accept Jesus into their lives, we will do what we can to provide them with enough knowledge to make the decision for themselves.  After church, we went to my Dad's house and had an Easter Egg hunt.  We weren't sure if the boys would do it, but when they saw James start running around grabbing eggs, they jumped right in, and then started stealing from each other's baskets!  It was a great time spent with wonderful friends and fellowship.  Enjoy the pictures and video.
There is a little more blogging after the photos :).

checking out the candy haul

getting a push from Jayden

James and NingNing playing "catch me if you can"

Hmmm....any more eggs?

Our baby girl, Judi

Our Family...Easter 2013...doesn't Ning look just thrilled to be having his picture taken??

It's been a time of ups and downs for NingNing, but we think of it as a mountain we and he are climbing.  Little step by little step, we are inching toward the summitt, with an occasional backslide.  He seems to have a much easier time doing things outside his comfort zone, like an upcoming piano recital.  He doesn't REALLY want to do it, but is not refusing like he did with the Christmas concert.   He's still not using English much, but we've done some things to figure out whether it's a physical or psychological issue, or just his unique personality.  It's becoming pretty obvious it's more personality and he is just a very quiet, shy, introverted person (total opposite of his description from China) who doesn't have a lot to say (his own words translated).  We did have the opportunity recently to talk with him through a translator and told him that it was fine to be quiet sometimes, but as he grew, he would need to speak up for himself, as others would make choices for him if he didn't, and he might not like those choices.   So yesterday, we were at McDonalds...I asked what he wanted, expecting to have to run through the choices until he nodded, as usual.  To my utter amazement, he piped right up and said "Number 2, no cheese!".   Now, to most people, I'm sure it's like.....uh, what's the big deal?  For our son, this was HUGE!  For him to not only respond that ENGLISH...and voice a specific desire....IS a big deal, for him and us.
Also, NingNing has chosen to play baseball, something else that indicates he's coming out of his shell little by little.  He has NEVER to start at the 8th grade level, at something he's not done before, just amazed us!  He is enjoying it so much, and interacts so well with the other boys, his friends from school.  I just worry he will get hit by a stray ball; he has no meat on his bones to absorb it!  However, other than a little hesitation when the ball is pitched or hit very hard to him, he is really doing well.....and it looks like he's got enough natural talent he might be playing second base.  We are so proud of him getting out there and trying it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Miss Judi's 4-year Gotcha Day today!

To remember how far we and Miss Judi have come, here is our original Gotcha Day post from March 1, 2009:

NOW - the shorter one :)
Sunday, March 1, 2009Gotcha!

It's 9:30 and do you know what I'm listening to??!! My new daughter laughing at my husband's antics in the bedroom when she's supposed to be sleeping. This is a miracle, guys, because up to now she's been one terrified kid! This was our day: we got to Kunming at about 11:35 am and met Jerry. He told us we would get Judi at 2:30 and that (get this!) they were bringing her to our hotel room! Then we discovered we needed the government fees in 4700 RMB so we had to rush to the bank and then went to eat at the BlueBird Cafe (it's great by the way!). We had a good lunch for about 200 RMB and it's right outside the hotel.

At 2:25 Jr and I looked at each other and couldn't remember if they said to meet in the lobby or they were coming to the room; I was so nervous I couldn't sit still! Finally, a little after 2:30 Dad went downstairs and sure enough here comes a knock on the door. They walked in with Judi; she is absolutely precious! She came in very nervous, remember we were told she knew we were coming and was ready??!! I don't think so! She sat on our couch but wouldn't let me or anyone touch her. She played with the stuff we gave her, but when the first lady left she started crying. She stopped again and kept playing but wouldn't maintain eye contact. Finally, we all came over to the desk and signed some stuff and the last lady and our guide slipped out. Judi didn't notice at first, but THEN she did. What ensued next was the temper tantrum of all eternity! She threw herself at the door, screaming and crying. She was also reaching for the door knob and the thing that locks the door. I stayed next to her, but she tried to slap and kick me away; I said "bu" at this point and she stopped trying to do that, but didn't stop screaming. Finally, about 30 minutes later, she wound down and settled back on the couch. Everything we gave her, she stuffed in that one corner of the couch and put a pillow over it. She's got a cold, too, and is on some kind of Chinese herbal medicine and guess what, amoxicillin!

After a while, she lay down, but suddenly popped up and looked at the window. She crawled up over the couch, laid across it and the window sill (we're on the 12th floor) and screamed for her nanny. I can safely say there appears to be nothing wrong with her intelligence! The things she can do are amazing! She does everything herself, even made up and took her own medicine; but she finally did let me put her water bottle top back on.

We had Dad and Jr go out and bring back food and I got her to eat a little; she kept going back to our couch and laying down. Then about 8pm we had a breakthrough! I got our Jazzy and her's matching pajamas out; it took a while, but she finally chose to change. She came to us in beautiful clothes, but 4 layers! She took all her own clothes off, but let me help put the jammies on (Yeah!!!). THen we laid the girls down in their sleeping bags. I got on the computer and all of a sudden I heard something incredible; she was laughing! She hadn't even smiled up to then! I snuck in and Jr was making her laugh by pretending to snore funny. Then they got into a pillow fight, Jazzy woke up, and now it's 10:30pm and we're all playing! She's still a little leery of me, but that will come; she appears to be a Daddy's girl right now. We're going to try to get these firecrackers to bed cause we're wiped; a long, emotional, up and down day! By the way, Judi's got the cutest little voice!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snow Balls and Sunshine

Today was one of those days you want to etch in your memory.  Figuring out activities that everyone enjoys AND that Jaxon (NingNing) might enjoy as well as promoting bonding and attachment with us has proved one of the biggest challenges thus far. Last week, we got 10 inches of snow and school was out Thursday and Friday.

We visited one of Jaxon's friends yesterday and the other dad took some of the kids sledding while Jr and I went to Judi's basketball tourney.  The two boys, Zane and Jaxon, decided not to go.  Granted, it was pretty cold, but the other kids had a great time.  The boys spent their time "together" on their individual Ipods!  Like when kids are sitting next to each other, but text instead of talk.....

Then today, it warmed up very nicely, into the 40s.  On our way home from church, Jaz wanted a FSF, or Family Snow Fight.  So when we got there, Ning headed for his room, but everyone encouraged him and wheedled for him to come out, for "just a little bit", and he DID!  I thought he might, as he really does seem to enjoy playing in the snow, as long as it's not too cold.  He and I had fun slinging snowballs at each other (I was happy to show him my fun, silly side).  Then Jax and James built a "wall" of snow with shields and Dad and I pelted them from above.  Jaxon decided to be tough and shed his coat with all the activity, but did opt for gloves :).

Then all the kids decided to bury James in snow......and I grabbed the camera, as it is still so rare to snag a photo of Jaxon. After a couple hours, we all came in to warm up with a steaming cup of hot cocoa, something else we've found Jaxon loves!

Jax and Jaz

James was getting a little cold by this time!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Six Months!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!  or Happy Chinese New Year to all!
Goodness, time has flown...I didn't realize it'd been so long since I posted last.  January was a month of roller coaster emotions and events and on February 8th, we celebrated SIX months with NingNing!  We finally realized a lot of NingNing's issues this month is control....or the loss of it in particular.  There, other than going to school, and checking in with his foster family once in awhile, Ning (and friends) were pretty much allowed free rein.  They could do what they wanted, when they wanted for the most part. Here, we have control over every single aspect of his life.  Here, teachers email the parents with issues.  Here, we tell him when to go to bed, when to get up, when to brush teeth, where he is every minute of every day.  I know if I were suddenly thrust into this kind of situation, I would feel somewhat resentful and rebellious too! 
NingNing did start piano lessons, something he's asked for since coming home.  He seems to be enjoying it thoroughly and picking it up very quickly.

James continues to play varsity basketball; their team has an excellent record for a team with almost all sophomore starters.  We so enjoy watching him play and the whole team improve as the season winds down.  A couple games this week and we're off to Districts!

Jessica was nominated for Homecoming Queen in this, her senior year!  She did not win, but she looked beautiful in her royal blue dress.  She was extremely nervous, but carried it off like a champ.  This semester she's taking two college credit courses and is all set to head off to college in the fall, except that Mom still has tons of paperwork to fill out!

NingNing continues to be the most bonded with our little ones, Jaz and Judi.  He's really begun to enjoy doing things with Jazmin more as time goes on...she's so mature for her age and is a tomboy with a girly edge, so I think their personalities mesh well.  It's funny to watch them mess with each other and then to see them cuddled close on the couch together or the girls will drape themselves on NingNing and he never seems to mind very much.  Lately, he's also been making small gestures of affection to Jr, which is tremendous....he's not initiated any physical contact up to this point.

On Jan. 27th, we went to the Sanders' church and, with others, spoke on the topic of adoption.  We heard many wonderful testimonies about the different ways families can be built.  We let Ning spend the night with his friend (a gamble considering his recent difficulties), but afterwards he seemed to have a brighter outlook (at least until we had to get into some homework issues) and was trying more, though that is also when we reached out for attachment advice and support.

Today we had an amazing day for Chinese New Year!  We found a Chinese Christian church through some professor friends at UCM in our town and attended today.  It is a home church, but you could feel the faith of the people was SO strong and they spend a great deal of time studying the Bible in depth. It was a great environment to teach NingNing more about Christianity in an atmosphere he could understand.  We were made very welcome and they had a potluck afterwards with "authentic" Chinese was incredible and I think NingNing appreciated some real "home" food. We also hoped it would allow him some comfort to be around his own language (and we got a taste of how Ning must feel every day - being the "different" ones) and open up a little more.  After eating, several college students from UCM showed up and we did a gift exchange and played Jenga.  I was happy to see NingNing participate willingly in all this and just have a good time.  They have this church once a month, and I think our professor friends will be terrific mentors and role models for NingNing.

Our school has arranged additional tutoring for NingNing after schools starting tomorrow to continue working on English, perhaps homework, cultural issues, and anything else they can think of.  It will make for a long day for him, but we're happy the school continues to work so hard in helping NingNing have the support he needs to be successful in school, something he didn't get in China.

This is my favorite picture so far!

James-to the left of #22 (facing you)

NingNing waiting for the game to be over so he can go home!

Our #20!
Ont eh

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Emotions and Grieving

It is the hardest thing for a mom to see her children in pain, whether that pain be internal or external.  Perhaps, though, internal is worse, because you can't put a bandaid and ointment on it, give them a kiss, and make it all better.  And when you have NO IDEA of the inner turmoil an adopted child is experiencing, it is heartwrenching.  As NingNing works through some grieving issues (to protect his privacy, I won't go into intimate details), we struggle to understand and sympathize with him.

NingNing has the hardest time letting his emotions show.  For the first 4 and a half months, he did everything he could to NOT rock the boat.  He let us make all the choices for him, haul him hither and yon, put him in school, and generally didn't make waves.  And around Thanksgiving time, the "maintaining" started to crack a little, then a little more, and then a little more, until some real emotions finally pushed their way to the surface last Friday night.

It was a quiet breakthrough, but a breakthrough nonetheless.  No tantruming, no raging; his way is to shut the world and everyone in it...out.  We attempted to help him say how he was feeling, but I imagine that type of overwhelming emotion that is so strong you can't hold it in, simply cannot be put into simple words. We let him know we loved him, and were sorry he was sad, but that it was ok to have those feelings and miss parts of his China life. So many new things for him, new experiences, new everything.  And while we think it is all good and so much better than he had in China, to him it may not be.  People sometimes say these kids, especially the older ones, should be grateful.  Why??  Even if it is their decision to sign those papers, it is still a choice they make because they HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE.  So is that really a choice at all then?  And they don't get to choose their family; they have no say in who adopts them.  They have the ability to refuse to sign the adoptions papers in China, but when you've known someone for less than 24 hours, that's not exactly the basis for an "informed" decision.

We think he's done a remarkable job at finding his place in our family and figuring out all the dynamics involving a large family, navigating school, dealing with more rules than he's ever had in his whole life, and learning a whole new culture and language.  In the meantime, we'll just keep on loving him and have the "bandaids" handy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Happenings 2012

Handsome boy!
NingNing's first Christmas Day was amazing.  Christmas Eve we all went to church, then to Applebee's for dinner.  Everyone was dressed up, even NingNing.  I managed to get a side shot, but that's all he allowed.

Christmas Day was even better. NingNing enjoyed all his gifts very much, especially the Ipod Touch, which he kissed upon opening.  We even got real kisses and hugs for that!  Another neat thing is we got him a K'nex set and he and Jr built this huge thing from it, but now won't let anyone take it apart to make anything else!

Christmas Eve Angry Bird pajamas!
The K'nex masterpiece!
He spoke a lot of English on Christmas Day, so now we know it's in there, he's just choosing when and where to use it.  At one point, he smacked his finger on one of his presents and mock moaned and groaned and said "oh my beautiful finger!!".  That cracked us all up and he and James could not look at each other without laughing.
Jessica got her Nook!

My "Mom" pin from NingNing
We finished up the holiday by spending the night in the city while our kids spent the night with friends (NingNing and James stayed with Seth's family) for our anniversary.  Had a quiet New Year's Eve at home with the kids; NingNing is going through a melancholy stage of post-Christmas letdown, missing his friends, boredom, and lack of sleep.  Also think he had some sensory overload from the busy days we had before New Year's, so he's been staying in his room more to get some quiet.  School starts back tomorrow, so it will be nice to get everyone back in the swing of things.  We also found a piano teacher for NingNing and he starts on the 8th of January; he is looking forward to that!  Hope everyone's holiday was wonderful; our first Christmas with NingNing truly couldn't have been better and he has decided he likes Christmas VERY much!