Archive for June, 2007

The “Hike”

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

I learned an important lesson on Sunday afternoon.  When you are considering participating in a physical activity, and all of the other participants are at least 10-12 years younger than you, you should probably think long and hard before agreeing to go along.  :lol: 

We had a church outing planned to climb Spruce Mountain, outside of Plainfield, Vermont.  Joe and I thought we were not ill-prepared for such a venture, having lost so much weight, and done a bit of exercising.  We bought a frame back pack in which to tote Anna, and we joined the crowd.  Well, we made it.  That’s all I can say.  It was a nice view from the top.  My knee replacements were probably moved up about 10 years as a result of this adventure, but that’s OK. 

Anna was a real trooper, and even walked part of the way.  It was a rocky ascent, definitely a “boot-wearing” hike, for those who might be interested in trying it.  Round trip was 4.4 miles.  I had to get one photo of me wearing the back pack, even though I’m not very attractive in it (perturbs me to think that’s probably what I look like all the time), because I didn’t wear it very much.  It was enough for me just to haul my own bulk up the mountain!  Joe did yeoman’s work carrying himself and Anna up.

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6-27-07-3.jpg Anna and Taylor Schulz

6-27-07-7.jpg Anna and Tristan Schulz (she’s a terrible little flirt already!)

6-27-07-6.jpg A view of the White Mountains (NH) from the top of the mountain

6-27-07-8.jpg 6-27-07-11.jpg 6-27-07-9.jpg My little mountain goat, who really REALLY wanted to climb that observation tower!

6-27-07-10.jpg This is for my mom, who has never gotten to see a moose on any of her trips up here yet.  It was twilight, so the photo is a bit fuzzy, but there he was, looking at us as we drove home Sunday evening.  No antlers yet.

Mama’s shoes

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

I am shamelessly pirating a line from my good friend Ralph’s blog when I say I hope Anna never has to fill her mama’s size 10 sneakers. 

By the way, we learned that chocolate ice cream following a lovely Italian dinner of tortellini in marinara sauce is quite the treat (courtesy of Nonno!)

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And yes, I know she has my shoes on the wrong feet.  I didn’t put them on her.  It doesn’t seem to matter to her much at this point which shoe is on which foot, even her own.  A few weeks ago, she was wearing her “puddle boots” at band rehearsal, and she had taken them off and put them back on the wrong feet.  One of my colleagues told me after rehearsal that her grandson is always wearing his shoes on the wrong feet, so she decided to try it one day with her own shoes.  And she found out that it really wasn’t all that bad.  Maybe these kids are on to something!

And just because …

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

… you can never have too many videos to watch, here’s one of Anna playing ball with me in the front yard. I won’t let her pick any flowers besides dandelions, so she has a ball collecting those for me. I don’t know if she realizes that there are other flowers. Which is fine with me.


Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Anna is trying desperately to get the dogs to pay attention to her, but I don’t think they quite understand her yet. She hears her baba talking to Chippewa-wa-wa, and spent quite a while a week or so ago trying to get him to come from the other side of the yard. “Chip! Where are you, Chip?!” Unbeknownst to her, we believe that Chip is getting a bit deaf in his older age, so he often doesn’t hear us when we call him, either. We’ll have to teach her to call one of the other dogs!

Anna survives day care

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Anna had her first “official” day care experience today.  Baba is teaching an intensive all-day microbiology class for one of his community college sites this summer, which began today.  It conflicts with my schedule of seeing appointments at the clinic on Tuesday mornings, so he had to find someone to watch Anna for us.  Our good friend Diane offered to look after her as she is also baby-sitting her granddaughter this summer.  Anna and I have been visiting her house weekly trying to get her accustomed to the location, etc.  She is very excited about going to see Diane and the baby every week.  I did not get to drop her off today, but Joe said it went very smoothly, and when I went to pick her up, she was playing away happily.  Diane reports that they read books, played outdoors, threw the frisbee, ate raisins and cheerios, played with the barrel of monkeys, and lots of other things.  Apparently, Anna refused to eat any egg salad, even though she dearly loves eggs.  Guess she was bothered by all the other stuff in there.  She had so much fun that she fell asleep on the way home, and slept for 3 hours!  She did eat an awesome supper tonight, so I guess she was a bit hungry.  She will probably be disappointed tomorrow when she doesn’t get to go visiting!  The photos below were taken at Diane’s house a week ago; she has a wonderful yard for little ones to play in; not like ours, which is really suitable only for mountain goats.  Fortunately, our dogs all have legs that are longer on one side than the other, enabling them to stand level in our back yard! :wink:

6-19-07-1.jpg 6-19-07-2.jpg 6-19-07-3.jpg 6-19-07-4.jpg

(There isn’t any sound on the video – no need to adjust your volume!)

Happy Baba’s Day!

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Yes, a bit belated, I know, but the pictures are still cute!

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This is the dress Grandma Winter sent her this week.  She loves to wear hats, so it was perfect.  No one at church can believe she’ll keep those hats on for a couple of hours at a time.  She’s definitely my daughter.  She loves clothes, and shoes particularly.  We’re going to have to add on to the house just so we’ll have room for all of our shoes!

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She was happy to help her baba open his Father’s Day gifts, although a bit disappointed with his CD and DVD.  His new battery-operated powered adjustable wrench was a big hit, though.  She spent every moment she could get her hands on it opening it and closing it, trying to catch hers or her father’s or mother’s finger in the jaws!

I do know that this child is 100% mine, and possibly genetically related to her grandmother, because it is amazing how many photos I have to take of her to get one where her mouth isn’t wide open, or her eyes aren’t closed, etc.  Her grandmother will understand what I’m talking about.  We call it the frog face in our family.  You’ll have to ask her for more details.  Thank heavens for the advent of digital photography.  You cannot even begin to imagine how much film my poor father has wasted over the last 40 some-odd years.

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Other than Father’s Day, we spent a pretty miserable weekend at my clinic, trying to strip 100 years worth of paint from the front door frame so we can repaint it.  Hand-scraping, chemical stripping, angle-grinding, plain old sanding – nothing worked.  24 man-hours, and we successfully stripped a grand total of 2 two-inch wide boards.  Yea!  I’m so excited at the prospect of spending the rest of our non-raining weekend days working on that job this summer!

Where Will is

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Will is from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in the north central region of China.  Like Anna’s home of Guangxi, Will’s is classified as an autonomous region rather than a province.  Autonomous regions (there are only 5 in all of China) are provinces that have been granted more legislative authority than other provinces because of their high population of a specific ethnic minority.  In Guangxi, that minority is the Zhuang; in Ningxia, it is the Hui.

china-map-blog.jpg ningxia.jpg 

Ningxia, or “peaceful summer”, was named by Genghis Khan in the 13th century when he conquered that area of China.  “Xia” is an ancient name for China, and in the 11th century, a Tangut king revived this name in an attempt to create an empire in this area to rival China itself.  Ningxia is on the banks of the Yellow River, about 600 miles west of Beijing.  Formed in 1958, it is a relatively small province, with only 5.3 million people (by contrast, Anna’s province of Guangxi has a population of about 41 million.)  Ningxia rates all of 10 pages in my big China guidebook of 980 pages.  The capital city of Yinchuan has a population somewhere between 700,000 and 1,400,000 depending on the internet source.  Here are some links to various travel-planning websites with information about Yinchuan.  We do not know what Will’s hometown is, but we know he was brought to the orphanage in Yinchuan on April 10, 2004.  There is only one government sponsored orphanage in the province: the Ningxia Children’s Welfare Institute.  In Chinese adoption lingo, we use the abbreviation SWI for orphanages, which stands for Social Welfare Institute.  I don’t know why Ningxia uses a slightly different terminology.

Most of the population of Ningxia are Han Chinese, but the 1/3 that are Hui are Chinese Muslim.  It will be interesting to see the influence that will have on things like architecture and food when we go.   The official language of Ningxia is Mandarin, thankfully, as the few Chinese words we know are in Mandarin.  The most famous handicraft of the region is the Ningxia carpet.  Unfortunately, I suspect they are not magic.

Ningxia is considered to be an arid, mountainous area, with very poor agriculture.  It is hot and dry in the summer, and has long, cold winters (although average temps are not as low as Vermont!)  The Helan Mountains are the most prominent geographical feature, and there are a number of interesting pagodas, mosques and tombs in the Yinchuan area, so if the kiddos are cooperative, we may get to see some interesting things.  A blog from a family who adopted from Ningxia last summer described a ride across the desert on camels!  What a treat!  I’m going to put in a request to do that!  There is even an isolated portion of the Great Wall about 50 miles south of Yinchuan.   There is a recently published book compiled from 3 small notebooks given to a French journalist in Ningxia by a young woman in a Muslim headscarf in 2001.  They were her diaries, written while she was 13 years old, detailing her attempts to complete her education in a poverty-stricken area.  It is called The Diary of Ma Yan.  I have not read it yet, but it’s supposed to be an eye-opening read about the struggles of day-to-day life in a third-world region.  I think it will be a fascinating look at modern history in my son’s homeland.

The World Weather Information Service shows this temperature table for Yinchuan:


Mean Temperature oF
Mean Total Rainfall (mm)
6.3 29.8 1
12.6 37.2 2
25.9 50.4 6
38.3 65.1 12
49.8 75.9 17
58.5 82.0 19
63.9 84.7 42
61.3 81.5 52
50.7 72.9 23
37.9 61.9 14
25.7 45.0 4
12.2 32.0 1

 The weather should be fairly pleasant during our projected travel time of September.  I was worried that we would be taking down jackets for the province and shorts for Guangzhou.  Looks like it will be easier than that.  GZ will still be very hot at that time of year (it was HOT in November!)  Note that the rainfall is in mm, not inches.  For September, that 23 mm is less than one inch.

Because of the proximity to Beijing, we will likely use that as our port city this time.  We should have an opportunity to see the Great Wall, and perhaps some of the preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympics!  We’ll then fly to Yinchuan, and spend about a week in the province, completing the adoption and getting Will’s Chinese passport.  Then on to Guangzhou again, hopefully to stay at the White Swan, for another week or so.  I say hopefully because the White Swan will be closing in December for extensive renovations.  The scuttlebutt is that it will be changing its focus more to business travelers, and may not be so adoption-friendly in the future.  It was always very convenient for American adoptive families because the US Consulate was also located on Shamian Island; however, the Consulate relocated into town a couple of years ago.  I suspect that American adoption agencies will probably choose a hotel closer to the Consulate in the future.  That will be a sad day; the White Swan holds many magical memories for thousands of families.


Welcome, Will!

Friday, June 8th, 2007

I am proud to introduce the young man who is to become a part of our family sometime this fall!


Shang Guan Pan Pan (to become William Joseph Winter Casciari) was born on 1/1/2004, and was brought to the Ningxia Children’s Welfare Institute on 4/10/2004.  He had a 3rd degree cleft lip, which was repaired in April of 2005.  His medical reports continue to assert that there is no palate involvement from the congenital cleft. 

We knew we always wanted to have 2 children, and we hoped that our children would be able to share their ethnicity and cultural heritage.   We approached our agency about adopting a second child, and the Waiting Child Department at CCAI knew just what we were looking for!  Pan Pan was a youngster whose file was sent to them in early 2006.  He had been matched previously, but his family had been unable to complete the adoption process due to personal reasons.  In addition to being abandoned by his birth mother, he had now lost a family he never even knew, and had to spend another year in the orphanage.  We were sent the picture above, and suddenly knew that if China was willing to let us adopt the two absolute cutest children in the country, who were we to complain?!

We sent in our Letter of Intent to Adopt (LOI) on February 5, 2007.  The CCAA took their own sweet time in issuing our Pre-Approval (PA), which means they accept us as a suitable match for this child, assuming nothing too weird shows up in our dossier.  That came on March 23.  After that, we were free to begin the “paperchase,” or the process of collecting all the identifying and financial documents required by the Chinese government to process an adoption.  The paperchase usually takes upwards of 3 months, but we live in a small state, and things go quickly here, so we had all of our documents certified by the Vermont Secretary of State, authenticated by the Chinese Consulate in NYC, and sent to our agency on May 17.  There was one minor issue with a couple of documents involving a government official who failed to sign them in the appropriate location, which delayed us by a week, and took a number of threatening phone calls to resolve, but our completed dossier took wing for China on 6/1/07, and was logged in on 6/6/07.  If you remember the process with Anna, the Log-In Date (LID) is the important date from which you can begin your countdown.  Of course, we don’t know exactly where the countdown ends, but for the past 6 months, it has been averaging about 90 days to Travel Approval, or TA.  TAs are issued by the CCAA when they have approved the adoption completely, and have given you permission to travel to China to pick up your child.

If we follow the current average, our TA would arrive early in September, and we would possibly be traveling in mid-late September or early October.  These are only estimates; if it arrives a bit later, we likely wouldn’t travel until November, because there is a huge trade fair in Guangzhou the second half of October, and hotels are doubled in price and airline tickets are more expensive.  Agencies try to avoid having their families in Guangzhou at that time if possible. 

I will be posting more info about Will soon, but here a few current stats on him (as of March 28, 2007):

Weight: 28.6 pounds; Height: 35.4 inches; Feet: 6 inches; and he has 20 teeth (2 ahead of Anna)!

A few more pictures (I have a number of them from people who have traveled to Ningxia in the past year!):

will1.jpg This is from May of 2006

These are current pictures, taken May 11, 2007!

will2.jpg will3.jpg will5.jpg

My daughter, the prodigy

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Yes, I know Mozart was composing symphonies by the age of 3, so we’re probably not going to hit that milestone. But she entertained herself at my piano for about half an hour this afternoon. That’s an activity I’m definitely going to encourage!

Eat more chik’n

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

Isn’t that what those cows say in the commercial?

Our little one does love her chicken, especially when it’s a big, greasy chicken leg.  Umm umm good.

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It’s finally gotten warm enough to wear some of our summer attire, so today we got to model our entire ensemble from Aunt Myrtis.  Of course, it could only be completed with our beloved cowboy boots!

6-3-07-2.jpg 6-3-07-4.jpg 6-3-07-3.jpg She was trying to figure out how to tie the rope from her pull toy to her little book suitcase so she could carry it more easily while pulling her animals.  She never did figure it out, but it was good for a couple of minutes of entertainment!