Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A New Year

As a new year approaches I think it's pretty natural for all of us to reflect back on the old one. There have been years for me that have been difficult and sad and very hard to get through. There are a fair amount of folks who can say 2008 wasn't great, in fact it was pretty bad. Some years seem to pass by uneventfully. And there are years of great joy. It's obvious that this has been one of those for our family. I originally wanted to post some pics that summarized our year, but instead decided to simplify and choose one. The above photograph of me and our funny, sweet and loving little boy sums it all so well. Happy New Year! May it bring you great joy! I hope 2009 is good to you.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Weekend in Chicago

Looking south down North Michigan Avenue, the 700 block. It was quite foggy on Friday night.

Pretty lights on many of the trees.

Horse drawn carriage.

Chicago's Old Water Tower lit at night.

The Museum of Science and Industry.

We spent 3 days in Chicago and had a really lovely time and stayed at the Allerton Hotel which is on the 700 block of North Michigan Ave. We'd never stayed there before, it was built in the 1920's and was fairly recently rehabbed. If you've read my blog before you know Chicago is quite near and dear to our hearts and we never tire of visiting our favorite city. Friday night we walked down to the old Water Tower and Grace and William were fascinated with the lights, the people and many horse drawn carriages on the street. Saturday we spent a large part of the day at the Museum of Science and Industry, William loved the trains, airplanes and race cars. Grace loved the great tree in the main hallway, the Christmas tree decorated in a Chinese theme and the Fairy Castle. Dan and I loved it all because we've been going to this museum since we were young children. William took a nap that afternoon and I got some alone time with Grace at the American Girl Store where we did a little clothes shopping for her 2 new dolls and Grace got a new dress that matched one of the doll dresses. Later we had dinner and checked out a few more stores on North Michigan Avenue. On Sunday we visited friends from Grace's travel group and spent the afternoon. Grace is staying there now with her best friend Julia for 2 days while the 3 of us are back at home. Will keeps asking me where his Jie Jie is. This is Dan's last week home with us as he starts his new job next Monday and it's been so great for Will(and me) to have him around for these 2 months. :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas eve and day...and taking a break

Miss Grace on Christmas eve.

Christmas Eve. Our grown son Nick reading a book to Will, Grace opening a gift and me with my 2 littles.

William on Christmas day waiting for Grandma and Grandpa and his Uncle Phil to arrive.

Some pics of our Christmas morning and day, Will's first look at his train table, Grace with her 2 new dolls, Grace and Will playing with his racetrack and Will blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.

And silly boy William this morning with a bowl on his head!

Christmas eve we went to an early church service and after that we celebrated in the Swedish tradition(since I'm half Swedish) of opening some gifts on Christmas eve. This one was very special to me because it was just us...Dan and I and our 3 children. I really felt like the best gift for me was seeing my 2 young children playing happily with their big brother Nick.
Grace woke up at 7:00am wanting to see what Santa had brought and William woke up shortly after that. The look on William's face was precious and of absolute surprise...when he saw that Santa had brought him a train table and train set, he looked upward and said, "Thank you Santa!" His thank you was so genuine and sweet. Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Phil came over for the day so there were more gifts exchanged. Dan and I made a huge Christmas dinner which I'll brag a little and say was quite a success. William found another best bud with his Uncle Phil (my youngest brother) who's a kid at heart. Later in the afternoon we celebrated Will's 3rd birthday with a cake.
Now as I write this on the day after Christmas it's almost hard to believe that it's come and gone, my house looks like an explosion of toys and we have cookies and cake and food to last weeks I think. LOL. Later today we leave for a trip to stay in downtown Chicago for a few days to see the decorated store windows of Macy's(former Marshall Field's), go to the Museum of Science and Industry, check out the American Girl store with Grace and visit some dear friends. I hope your Christmas was beautiful and very special...I'll be back next week. :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours, we wish you the most wonderful holiday!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our Christmas Miracle

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Luke 2:10
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Luke 1:37
Three years ago on an early Christmas morning in China, a baby was born. I imagine he had swaddling clothes and came from humble beginnings. I do know his mother left him in a place where he could be found and this little boy had a large cleft palate and lip which made it extremely difficult to feed him. He was placed into the hands of those who could help him and they did. They not only saved his life but provided him a loving and nurturing home. On the same day of his birth, on the opposite side of the world, a family celebrated their first Christmas in Wisconsin. Their lives had changed so much in the prior two years with the adoption of their daughter, changing jobs and moving. They never dreamed that 3 years later, the baby boy born on the other side of the world....so fragile and innocent...would be celebrating in their home as part of their family. Lives are weaved from many threads.
His name traces his journey. The first name given to him was You Sheng which means "from heaven." His foster parents named him Michael after the archangel - whom God sends to fight against evil. We named him William and call him "Will" because he came to us by the "will of God," just as our daughter Grace came to us by the "grace of God." When you start on the adoption journey, you never know the final destination or the path that will be woven before you. I can guarantee that it will have hills and valleys but can't offer insight to their height/depth and duration.
The first verse above refers to the "Christmas Miracle" and is an invitation to the world to open their hearts to peace, love and kindness. We hope the invitation is accepted. Giving (which is sharing what we have with others) is really what Christmas is all about. No greater gift can we give than ourselves...our time, our love, our heads, our hearts and for an orphan child...a family. Our Christmas miracle is our family. We all took different paths to get here but we are all here now. We combine our threads and weave the path forward...together.
This Christmas we joyfully celebrate the birth of Christ, and the 3rd birthday of our son, William Michael Yousheng as we celebrate his first Christmas with us as a family. Merry Christmas! May you find the blessings of Christmas - peace, love and kindness...today and everyday.
Gail, Dan, Nick, Grace and William Michael Yousheng

Friday, December 19, 2008

5 months!

Today we've been with William Michael for 5 months. It's seems hard to believe in many ways...he's come so very far. We all have as a family. We've had a busy month of December getting ready for Christmas, Grace's school activities and several appointments for Will. He's been screened for speech through our school district and will most likely qualify(we'll find out in January). Will had his 3 year well check up with our pediatrician on Wednesday and he's gained 1.25 lbs. and grown an inch in height! Our pediatrician was extremely pleased with how he's doing attachment wise and we are too. William even gave his doctor a kiss and a hug goodbye as we left.I love this little boy so much...he brings so much joy to our family!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Recipe for a Christmas Memory

~ Take 4 dozen cut-out sugar cookies.
~ Ice them with yummy Royal Icing made by Mommy and Grace.
~ Add to that...Mommy letting Grace have free reign with cookie design and sprinkles.
~ Put in a pinch of patience on Mommy's part.
~ Add a dash of Grace's 2(almost 3!) year old brother.
~ Throw in lot's of licking of little fingers.
Yields: Endless smiles, great fun and some delicious tasting cookies!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We tried...

An attempt to get a picture by the Christmas tree was made on Sunday after church. I thought....hey, we're dressed pretty nicely...maybe we can get a picture of me with Grace and William. Here are a couple of our attempts. Dan took something like over 30 pictures. LOL. First one, Grace and I trying to get William over near us and he would have none of that. He's giving Dan 'the look.' Note that he's already asked to get out of his corduroy pants into pajamas bottoms and I complied, so that's why he's got the blue bottoms on. 2nd one is William in his Spiderman costume with both of us...because this was the only way he'd be in the picture with the 2 of us. Sometimes pictures like this are the best, because that's what life really is like! I love Grace popping out behind me. :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some little boy cuteness

We've been having some frigid temperatures here...and I mean frigid. The temperature is 0 degrees with a minus 18-20 wind chill and that's during the daytime! So we aren't going outside much. This morning William was running as he seems to do a fair amount, and fell and hit the edge of his mouth on a low table in our family room. He cried and cried...poor guy and has an abrasion there now and a slightly swollen cheek. Half an hour later he decides that mommy's leopard print shoes might be fun to walk around the house in...he is such a cutie.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A tree full of memories

I wrote about this Santa on a rocket last year. He is very typical of a 1960's Santa and it was given to me by my parents when I was a little girl. My sister has one just like it.
An ornament I won from Sophie's World recently, it looks so much like the Teng Wang Pavilion in Nanchang. We spent a week in Nanchang when we adopted Grace in 2003.

Another new ornament this year, bought from Pier 1. It's a 'Li Bien' or 'painted inside' ornament that is made in China. When we were there this summer we saw many similar ones(but not quite like this one) in Guangzhou.

Little Grace at age 2 in a frame, we used this picture in our Christmas card 4 years ago.

A Chinese Lantern which is new and William's 'Forever Family 2008' ornament.

Our Christmas tree is really a history of our life, our marriage, places where we've lived, visited, our children growing up and handmade ornaments. Evidently I've been a good little girl this year because Santa dropped off an early gift for me of a new camera. In my spare time (which I don't have much of right now), I've been practicing a bit, and took some pictures of favorite ornaments on our tree. I was also able to take a few of our Christmas angel in her dress right before we left for her school pageant on Friday. I'm new to this DSLR and a novice so the learning curve is steep. Subjects like ornaments and a serene sitting Grace are okay for me to photograph, it's the continuous moving target( William )that will be harder for me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yee Haw!....it's Friday!

{ Both of these were taken yesterday}
Yee...haw! It's Friday and my Momma says I'm a pistol...but I think I'm a cowboy. This week I got to decorate the Christmas tree, was evaluated for speech, and it snowed a whole lot one day so Jie Jie was home all day with me. This morning, Mommy, Daddy and I went to Jie Jie's school to see her in the Holiday Pageant. She had on a pretty dress and sang, danced and even played a few instruments. After that we went to her classroom and I ran around, played with stuff and ate a cookie or two. I've had a really fun week. My Mommy and I hope you are enjoying this beautiful season.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hey...there's a tree in our house!

Earlier this week we brought the Christmas tree inside and you should have seen Will's first look at it in the family room. He wasn't sure about the whole thing...aren't trees supposed to be outside? He really did enjoy decorating the tree with his Jie Jie and has a new Lightning McQueen ornament.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Snow Day!

We got 10+ inches of snow today...so there was no school. And the no school part doesn't happen very often around here. We made the most of our day together by making cookies and of course going out to play in the snow. Molly is a snow lovin' dog and could stay outside all day in it....and so could Grace. Mr. Will stayed warm and toasty inside and took a nap this afternoon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Me and my young son

"The best conversations with mothers take place in silence, when only the heart speaks."

~ Carrie Latet

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In search of the perfect tree

All my life I've had a live tree at Christmas and it remains a tradition in my own family to have one too. There is nothing like the smell of fresh pine to bring back memories of Christmas' past. Today we went out in the very brisk cold to cut down a tree at this charming little farm about 15 minutes east of where we live. This is the 3rd year in a row that it's snowed when we got our tree and we couldn't have asked for a more 'Christmas-y' setting in the hills of southern Wisconsin. Will was not digging the cold so there weren't many smiles outside. He was happy to feed the reindeer some carrots and part of an apple and even more happy to go back in the warm car with me while we waited for Daddy and Gracie to walk back. He had a big smile on his face when I handed him a Christmas cookie with red sprinkles on it to eat. This is our first Christmas with Will and it feels so right.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

8 hours with a friend

Here I'm modeling my new UGGS that I love.

Horse drawn carriage in front of the Chicago Water Tower.

Some of the American Girl store. The picture doesn't do it justice.

Lunch at Tavern on Rush Street.

When I started this blog almost 18 months ago, I had no idea where it would take me. I thought it might be a way to support others by being honest and positive about adoption and how it's changed my life, talk about my family and post some pictures. I had no idea that I would be making lifelong friends and being supported on my own journey with adoption. Yesterday I had the great pleasure of spending the day with my friend Lea. If you don't know this already, I live in the Madison, Wisconsin area and Lea lives in Toronto, Canada. She traveled to Chicago this week and I drove down to Chicago's Loop to see her. We had never met in person but have gotten to know each other through this little world and culture of blogging. What I knew about Lea was through her blog and written words, pictures and emails. She has become a good friend and support to me. What did we do yesterday on Chicago's Magnificent Mile? Shopped at the amazing American Girl store on North Michigan Avenue at Water Tower Place. Lea bought some Christmas gifts for her Granddaughter and I bought for Miss Grace. I think Lea and I enjoyed the store as much or more than Grace and Rory would have! We walked up Rush Street for some lunch where we sat and talked and stayed warm. After that we found an amazing UGGS store and of course had to buy boots. I would have liked one of each style I think. And we did some more shopping. Lea and I have a great deal in common...we talked about our grown children and the joys and frustrations sometimes with raising them, our husbands, family, our addiction to blogging and adopting from China. What did I learn about her that I didn't already know? She is very funny and makes me laugh, has a beautiful soft Canadian accent and her name is pronounced 'Lee'. I was saying it Lee-ah. Thank you Lea for spending the day with me. I loved everything about the day and honestly had so much fun! We talked continuously for those 8 hours spent together and could have talked more I'm sure. And I meant to take more pictures but I was too busy talking! LOL. I know we'll get together again. Next time with Bill and Dan.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Our fireplace with stockings already hung.

Stockings handmade by my mother who is a gifted knitter and needle worker. These have a Scandinavian look which I love because I'm half Swedish.
Armoire in our family room.
{Photo collage of different parts of my home that are in the festive spirit of the season.}
Christmas is my favorite holiday and time of the year. As I write this post, it's looking even more like Christmas in southern Wisconsin as we're getting 5 inches of snow and it's our second snow in a week. If you know me well, I love to decorate my house and change it up every year. Not that I buy a lot of new things, I move stuff around and use old and new as my taste is quite eclectic. Our house doesn't have a certain style and has many antiques(family pieces and things we just love), contemporary and Asian pieces...you name it....it's here if I love it and 'it looks right' to me. Christmas is all about family and home. I have wonderful memories of Christmas' past growing up in the Midwest. My mother always made it special for us and I hope I'm doing the same for my children too. This is William's first Christmas with us and I'm not sure what he's thinking about it all. He loves the lights I do know that and when we hung the big wreath over the fireplace, he actually said outloud, "Wow, Mommy!" And as I'm in the Christmas spirit, it will be carried on this week when I travel to meet my good friend Lea(Ohmy6) who is from Toronto, in Chicago on Wednesday! We are meeting for the first time in person and I can't wait! I truly hope she loves my favorite city as much as I do. We will shop, eat lunch, take in the beautiful sights and I'm sure talk and laugh a lot! Enjoy this time of the year.

Some random pics of our last week

Miss Grace ready for school, dressed as a scarecrow.
Some of the scarecrows getting ready to eat at their Kindergarten 'Harvestfest.'

Thanksgiving Day at Grandma and Grandpa's house in Illinois...playing with their 12 year old cousin Matthew(who is extremely patient and great fun to play with!)

Me and my BFF, my sister Betsy. We are 1 year apart in age.

Superman and WonderWoman playing with their space guns, or as Will calls them "Buzz Lightyear guns."

Will opening some early birthday gifts.

Getting ready to blow out candles on his Spiderman cupcakes.

Miss Grace modeling her beautiful new pink coat and hat on the way to church this morning.

Well we've had a crazy busy week like most folks have lately. On Tuesday, Grace's school had a Harvest Fest to celebrate Thanksgiving. I was fortunate to be able to come to school and help the class put on makeup and straw(made of yarn) to become scarecrows for the day. The kids made most of the food and learned about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day the 5 of us drove down to my parent's house in northern Illinois and spent the day with Grandma and Grandpa, my 2 brothers and brother-in-law, my sister and 12 year old nephew. William and Grace had a blast with their cousin Matthew. Will's 3rd birthday is Christmas Day, so since we had the entire family together we had a family party for him and celebrated his special day a little early. We'll be celebrating his bday on Christmas too!

© Aging with Grace and strong Will
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