Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saved from an untimely demise

We have an ugly bathroom.  When we moved in nearly 7 years ago, we knew that our bathroom needed attention, but the master bathroom is easy to ignore.  Obviously.

With my nesting instincts kicking in as of late, I decided it was time.  The first thing that had to change was the paint.  I have no doubt that the previous owners had many gifts and talents, but painting was not one of them.  Maybe they had compromised eyesight, possibly poor lighting, but whatever the original issue, the stenciling didn't make it all better.  

As I was prepping the room for new paint, I looked at the laundry chute and decided it had to go.  I've never used it and the fact that a small child could fit down it has always made me a tad nervous.  
We live in a three story house, so it would be a treacherous trip to the laundry room.

Lyle was out running errands when I told the kids that the laundry chute was going bye-bye.  Their jaws dropped and weeping and wailing ensued.  I explained my safety concerns and the fact that the laundry chute was taking up precious real estate that could be used for cabinetry.  
They literally stood in front of the chute, shielding it from the sledge hammer with their bodies.  
"It's sentimental!" they screamed.  They each shared happy laundry chute memories.  "Do you remember the troll who went down the laundry chute?" asked Rose.  "Yeah," said Lucy, "followed by the toy search party?  That was great."  The stories went on and on, all told with pleading eyes.
I'd let their dad decide, I told them, quite confident that he'd agree with me.

The kids prepared for his arrival.  "Childhood or cabinet", said Rose's sign.  
Seriously, the drama level is strong in this one.  
And "You're 'chute'ing yourself in the foot" was obviously a Bruder creation.

The protestors met Lyle at the door chanting this little number created by Lucy: "One, two, three, four, kick the hammer out the door!  Five, six, seven, eight, the laundry chute is really great!  
Nine, ten, eleven, twelve, you don't need no extra shelves!"

Lyle listened to the mob, when frankly, I would have tear gassed them and sent in the riot police.  I still can't believe it, but Lyle sided with the protestors.  For now.  He just doesn't want to tackle the floor and ceiling issues now.  But the laundry chute's days are numbered, oh yes they are. 
 I will get my cabinets, childhood be darned.

Friday, January 28, 2011

On the Adoption Front

This photo is of a serious-looking Yun Xi learning the high-five with an American visitor to the orphanage.  He was two years old at the time and had such an adorable amount of toddler chub.  Seriously, those have got to be the most kissable cheeks I've ever seen.

He's so much more grown-up in the most recent photos I have, the ones I've carried around in my purse for nearly 7 months now.  Those pictures will be nine months old by the time we meet him.  He'll have grown and changed again.  Cholita's referral pictures were taken when she was five months old and she was nearly eleven months old when we finally laid eyes on her in China.  When I saw her, I knew those eyes and that mouth, but her hair was longer and crazier, she was thinner, she was tanner, and as weird as it sounds, just the fact that she was a three-dimensional, living, breathing, moving person completely blew me away.  It was like those rare occasions when you have a celebrity sighting.  That person you've only seen in pictures is now standing in front of you and you recognize them and almost blurt out, "Hey, I know you!", but you realize that you don't really know them and that they definitely don't know you.  And they just look different because now they're real, whereas before they were just an image.  Right now,  I know and love the Yun Xi image.  I can't wait to know and love the Yun Xi person.

I digress.  On the adoption front, things are clipping along.  Our paperwork is at the American Embassy in China waiting on the Article 5--something to do with citizenship.  That will be picked up on February 10th and then the only thing we're missing is our Travel Approval!  That's running about three weeks right now, so we're expecting to be able to buy plane tickets in the beginning of March.  I'm feeling fairly confident now that we'll be able to go over Spring Break.  And we're completely crazy and have decided to bring the whole clan.  

If I were to buy tickets today, I think we'd leave on Thursday March 24th, get to Kunming on the 25th and have our Gotcha' Day on March 28th.  At the end of our week in Kunming, Lyle will fly back home with Bruder and Cholita.  Bruder can get back to school and Lyle can deal with one of the little ones on the flight home, saving the other little for me.  I'll fly to Guangzhou with Lucy and Rose and Yun Xi and we'll stay there a week, probably coming home on April 8th.

Someone asked me yesterday how long this adoption was taking.  By the time we meet Yun Xi, the whole process will have been almost exactly nine months--a reasonable time-frame to expect a baby (or a nearly four year-old).  In that light, I'm well into the last trimester.  Thankfully nesting is a little easier without the big belly and today Lyle and I are building the Yun Xi bed.  Well, he's building, I'm supporting.

We can't wait to get our baby-of-the family home!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beware: Woman with pruning shears....or hedge trimmer

Pruning has always been a bit of a mystery to me.  I know I'm supposed to do it and that it's good for my plants, but in my confusion, I've opted to just randomly whack off branches here and there and hope for the best.

Over the summer, it was clear that our Autumn Sunset climbing rose was overgrowing its bounds.  I consider it the focal point of our front garden and since the flowering last summer was only so-so compared to previous years, I decided to cut out the oldest cane.....

.......this bad boy, which seriously could be used as a weapon.
What I didn't realize was that this bad boy pretty much held up the whole top of the rose.  

I stepped back from the massacre and went, "oops".  Charlie has a look on his face like, "I had nothing to do with this.  I'm completely innocent."

I did find a vacant nest, a testament to some very brave birds.

Lyle came home that day, looked at our lopsided entry, and asked a very good question, "Why NOW?"  Massive pruning during the summer is not a good idea and not recommended by anyone who knows an iota about gardening.  It was just a bad spur-of-the-moment decision O.K.?   And I should mention that at the time, Bruder was refusing to get a haircut.

But I've learned my lesson (and mercifully Bruder has decided he looks better with short hair).  Last week I bought a big fat pruning book and religiously studied the section on climbing roses.  It suggested pruning in winter, when you can actually see the structure and know what you're doing.  What a novel idea!  I meticulously followed the instructions and after several hours of work, here is one side pruned and ready for a glorious summer:

I untied the whole rose and tied it all back on, spacing things out to evenly cover the trellis.

The other side obviously still needs some work and I'm debating on my method.  As I said, I followed the instructions for the first side: I angled my cuts, counting 2-5 buds from the beginning of each lateral. I cut out diseased or crossing branches and I thinned out the spindly growth.  But my favorite part of the pruning book, after literally pages of instruction, came in one little paragraph that left me laughing out loud (a rare thing in a pruning book).  It said:

"In recent years, the question has arisen as to whether using the traditional pruning method is worthwhile. Since 1990, a British program of pruning trials has been comparing traditional with quite revolutionary rose-pruning methods.  The most spectacular of the findings is that rose bushes that are simply cut down with a hedge trimmer flower as well, if not better, than those that are painstakingly pruned on traditional lines.  Hedge-trimmer pruning, with no attempt to remove dead wood, is, therefore now being recommended by some writers, though not by the body that hosted the trials, England's Royal National Rose Society."

So, you can spend literally hours measuring and angling each cut or you could just fire up the hedge trimmer and with a quick "NNNnnnRRRRrrrr" be done with it?  My past technique wasn't necessarily wrong, it was revolutionary!  Who knew?!  So, on the other side of my Autumn Sunsent I may just whack away with reckless abandon and see which side does better.  When I've finished my study, I'll present my findings at the next meeting of England's Royal National Rose Society.

I'm sure they'd like to know.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dinner and a Movie

I'm spoiled beyond words.  

With our trip to China on the near horizon, we've tried to plan special nights for each of the kids-- some one on one time before we add to the chaos.

On Friday, I had my night with Lucy.  She had previously decided that she wanted to stay home and watch a chick flick.  Lyle suggested that he could make dinner for us as well. 
 I should have known it would be quite a production.  

Lucy and I were instructed to stay out of the master bedroom until 5:30, when we were escorted up to "La Beck Restaurante Oo! La La!".

The ambiance was so cozy and inviting.  I'd even call it homey.

The menu was prominently displayed on a music stand as we entered.  I can understand why Lyle forbade Lucy from having an after school snack.  There would be plenty of food.

I could have made a complete meal just from the appetizers.  The artichoke dip was divine.

The service, from start to finish, was exceptional.  This lovely waitress, according to her nametag, was  "Chief of Recitations Dramatique".  Later in the evening she favored us with a poetry reading.

The salad was served by a handsome gentleman with a French accent......or maybe it was Russian, it was a bit muddled.

And the salad, oh my.

Fresh pepper from our ever-attentive server.

The Sous Chef, Mademoiselle Cholita, was so very excited about this event.  She "called" me on the phone earlier in the day to confirm our reservation.

In this photo, we're enjoying our soup.  You may notice Mademoiselle Cholita in the background sampling the bubbly, actually chug-a-lugging the bubbly.  We thought that was a tad unprofessional being that she was on-duty and all.  
The sparkling cider was an excellent vintage.

The main course did not disappoint.  The parmesan chicken and garlic green beans were fantastic.

And then we watched the movie....the only part of the evening that took some preparation on my part.  For some strange reason, I thought that "Gone with the Wind" would be the ideal chick flick.  It's probably been 20 years since I'd seen it and my memory did not serve me well.
Midway through this marathon movie, Lucy asked, "Does it get happier?"

Ummm, no not really.

If Rhett had only cooked a dinner like this for Scarlett, I think the ending would have been different. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

By Small and Simple Things.....

Are great things brought to pass

This scripture came to mind as my Rose started on a new instrument last week.  She chose the cello for several reasons.  First, because she knew a woman from church who gave cello lessons, second, because she liked the sound, and third (and maybe most importantly), because it's an instrument that Lucy and Bruder have never played and could therefore offer no advice.  So far, one week into it, Rose and the cello have been a love match.  However, I've been through enough beginning musicians to know that won't always be the case.

We've decided that Rose will practice the cello in the master bedroom and we've made her a little "cello corner".   None of our chairs allowed our petite Rose to sit with her feet firmly planted on the ground, so we've found that an overturned laundry basket is our best solution.  Her half sized cello still looks so big for her and when she carries her massive case on her back, I have to stifle a laugh. 

After supervising Rose's practice, I went downstairs and heard Lucy singing an Italian aria.  I haven't really stopped to listen to her sing in a long time.  It's just kind of background music to my day.  It struck me last night just how much she's improved over the past few years of voice lessons and that she sounds downright professional.  After she finished, she practiced the piano, something I haven't had to prompt her to do in years.  

Bruder brought his guitar down to the kitchen and we had an impromptu sing-along with him strumming songs from several different eras.  He was mostly self-taught and now with consistent lessons over the past several months, has improved by leaps and bounds.  He writes his own music and often surprises us with his compositions.   I never have to ask him to practice.  I often have to ask him to stop so I can hear myself think.  

So when Rose asked last night if I thought that her cello teacher had to start by plucking the strings just like she's doing now, I told her that I'm sure that she did.  If there's one thing I've learned as a parent over the past 16 years, it's that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.  Can't wait to hear our Rose in a few year's time.