Saturday, December 27, 2008

Slumber Party!

Lillian had a sleepover at Lauren and Jaylen's house last night. Then, in the morning, she celebrated the Austin family Christmas with Grandpa, Grammie, Aunt Megan, Uncle Rich, Uncle Adam, Aunt Victoria, Mommy, Daddy, and her two first cousins. (Uncle Adam got the tickle treatment, as pictured here!)

We have one more extended family gathering next weekend -- Lillian is going to think that Christmas never ends around here!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lillian's photo blog

Lillian's main Christmas present today was her Vtech camera. Once she figured out which way to point the camera (not at her eyes), she got some good shots.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Christmas together

We are really enjoying our first Christmas with Lillian. She has taken immediately to decorations, outdoor lighting displays, Christmas music, present-wrapping, and the various TV specials of the season, particularly versions of the Nutcracker ballet, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph is a lifelong favorite of Mommy's too, but Daddy has always thought it was too sad for little kids. He's probably right, but Lillian and Mommy love it anyway. We even made a display of various Rudolph characters on the landing, including the scary Abominable Snow Monster.

Lillian loves to say "Christmas lights," which she pronounces with accentuation of every syllable: "Oh, look, Mommy! Christ-Mas-Light!" She also knows whose birth Christmas celebrates and expects to put coins in the Salvation Army bucket in front of every store so she can "share."

We are so blessed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday.

Today is Lillian's 3rd birthday, and the first she's celebrated with us, American-style. She had a wonderful family-and-friends birthday luncheon in Abilene, Kansas, at the Brookville Hotel, a regionally famous chicken restaurant once supplied by her Grandpa's family's hatchery, Austin Fryers. But that was a long time ago, when Grandpa was a kid. This weekend it was all about being a birthday princess. We had 30 people, including 8 kids 4 and under, in an event room. Good thing, too, because once the balloon-punching balls came out of the party favor bags, it was a pretty loud room! (The photo is of Lillian and second-cousin Gavin Austin hugging farewell.)

Last night we made strawberry cupcakes for Lillian's preschool class, wearing our matching aprons Grammie made us. Her class serenaded her with "Happy Birthday" this morning. Tonight, after work and preschool, she gets to open her presents from Mommy and Daddy.

I'm not sure whether she fully comprehends the birthday concept (we've been working on saying "three" instead of "two" when she's asked how old she is, but so far it's just "two, birthday, tee!"), but she is very satisfied with the idea of birthday cakes, birthday sundaes, tiaras, and blowing out candles.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Our ballerina doll

Lillian had a full day yesterday. Her preschool asked if she could come to school on Friday (she usually is just there Monday-Thursday) to celebrate the fall festival. She had a blast in her tie-dyed orange pumpkin T-shirt, which she and the other toddlers had made a couple weeks before. They all got to go "trick or treating" around the building, to each other and all the other classes. Every kid brought 40 treats and shared one with every other kid. She was delighted with her personal haul!

After coming home and getting a good nap in, Lillian got ready to dress up for the evening. We had talked about her dressing as a Chiefs cheerleader (jokingly, we'd said with a paper bag over her head) or an Olympic gymnast. But when the time came to get dressed, she wanted to wear her dress-up tutu with anything, so we improvised and called her a ballerina doll.

Since she'd already done her trick-or-treating for the day, we went out as a family for the evening and did some early Christmas shopping and ate at Winstead's. We left candy in a bowl on our front porch with a sign inviting kids to take 2 each. Amazingly, when we got home, there actually were a few pieces left!

Lillian turns 3 in a couple weeks, and at that time, she'll be moving up to the full-scale preschool room. She loves it when she gets to go up to the bigger kids' classroom now on occasion, as the school prepares her for the transition. Many of her original classmates have already graduated to upstairs. It will be great for her, but I know she will miss spending time with her current teachers.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Family trip

I did not get these photos posted a few weeks ago, when I'd intended to. They're from our trip to Omaha by way of Sparta, Missouri (near Springfield -- and yes, we know it's not on the way!). The fun started with a Holt Family Picnic for other adoptive families in Kansas and Missouri. We spent a few days with Brent's sister and her family in Sparta, then headed back north to Omaha, visiting the botanical gardens, Boy's Town, the Omaha Children's Museum, the Durham Western History Museum, and finally, on our last day, the fantastic Henry Doorly Zoo.

We are blessed that, so far at least, Lillian is a road warrior. She is very well behaved in the car, and enjoys watching the world go by while listening to songs on the radio -- when she isn't being lulled to sleep by the road noise. So a long, circuitous road trip is a snap for her.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Summer reflections

The other day I thought I'd do a compare-and-contrast with two photos of Lillian: one from the day we met her in Nanjing in January, and one from this month. She's changed a little, hasn't she?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Our new home

Lillian (and Mommy and Daddy) have a new home in Shawnee, Kansas. We sold our house and 3 acres in Leavenworth County to get a bit closer to our jobs and to Lillian's preschool/daycare. She, the dogs and the cat all love the new house. The dogs love getting taken for walks, the cat loves exploring his new castle, and Lillian seems to like the whole setup better -- especially the proximity of the neighborhood swimming pool.

Mommy and Daddy like it too. Brent likes the shorter commute and the relative quiet, and Kari likes the fact that we still have green space around us, even if not much of it is ours. There is a horse pasture across the road behind our house, and Lillian is always on the lookout for the horses.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One way to help

If you have been following coverage of the earthquake in central China, you have seen the devastation of thousands of families, communities, and institutions.

Lillian spent much of the first two years of her life in the Changzhou City Children's Welfare Institute in Jiangsu Province. While she was there, the Half the Sky Foundation sponsored a foster grandmother to come in and spend one-on-one time with her. The individual attention helped her development, and it also provided us with the treasure of a 49-page memory book of her early years. We will always be grateful.

While Lillian's CWI was not among those close to the epicenter, there are literally hundreds of other schools and orphanages that were damaged or destroyed. Sadly, there are also thousands of orphaned and displaced children who lost family members in the quake. The Half the Sky Foundation has established a Children's Earthquake Fund to provide emergency and long-term relief to children in Sichuan affected by the quake. Please consider giving if you are so led.

A Fine and Fancy Ramble to the Zoo

We made our first trip as a family to the Kansas City Zoo on Memorial Day weekend. We were there just 2 hours, which was not really long enough. We will plan a return trip this summer, so we can visit the animals we missed.

Lillian was very interested in all the animals. We had a sea lion right in front of us for much of the sea lion show. She liked to say "Cheetah!" while watching three fellow 2 1/2 year olds (cheetah sisters) eat raw meat. We got even closer to the gorilla pictured in the photo a bit further down the path, but the photo didn't turn out as well as the one here.

We also saw and were interested in the tigers, a leopard, orangutans, a variety of monkeys and birds, warthogs, red pandas, river otters, deer, llamas, alpacas, and of course, elephants, among others. We didn't go through the Australia area of the Zoo, and we only had time for about 1/3 of the African exhibits, so we missed the kangaroos, lions, chimps, hippos, giraffes, and rhinos. Next time!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Great Outdoors

Lillian enjoys playing outside just about as much as anything. Her preferred way of playing outside at home is to lug some toys or a ball out the front door, around the picket fence, and back to the concrete slab/half basketball court behind the house.

This particular toy is a stuffed-animal bowling set, which is among her favorites.

These photos are from a couple weeks ago. This weekend, most of our time was spent house-hunting. We have an offer on our home, and have made an offer on one in Shawnee. Our goal is to get in a little closer to our work, so that Lillian is not in the car as long on the four days a week Mommy and Daddy are both at work. Plus, she'll be closer to cousins, aunts and uncles.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

And hello, Jaylen!

Lillian met her newest cousin on litte Jaylen's birthday Monday. That's three granddaughters for Papa and Grammie. Lillian was very interested in the baby and liked pointing at her and saying "Baby!" We even got her to say "Jaylen" once. That means she can say both of her cousins' names better than she can her own! ("Lily" usually comes out "Nini," at least so far.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Lillian and cousin Lauren (and their respective moms) met last Friday for a playdate in an indoor play area with inflatable slides, climbing systems, and the like. Lauren is bigger than Lillian and more coordinated, so she could do more climbing, but Lillian was mostly into sliding anyway, so she just required a little assistance to get to the tops of the slides. The taller, the better for our little daredevil.

Aunt Megan is due later this month, so soon there will be three little girl cousins in the metro area. Look out, Kansas City!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Had a Happy Easter

Lillian had a great four days surrounding Easter weekend. First, on Friday she and Kari met her cousin, Lauren, Aunt Megan, and grandparents for a shopping/lunch/playdate at Zona Rosa.

Sunday, she dressed up in her Easter dress and bonnet (later abandoned in favor of a coordinating ballcap, her favorite kind of headgear). After church, the same relatives, plus Uncle Adam and Aunt Victoria, came to visit for the afternoon. Then, her grandparents ("Papa" Eric and "Mimi" Pat -- although Lillian has not settled on her name for Grandma yet) stayed overnight Sunday and Monday. Lillian had a great time and was not at all excited about going back to school on Tuesday. While she likes her teachers and classmates, it doesn't compare to personalized attention from adoring grandparents!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Busy Saturday

Today we went to two great events. The first was a drop-in on the February session of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Excellence in Public Service Series, a women's political education group that Kari is involved in. Lillian got to meet many of the wonderful women who are on the board of the group and in this year's class.

We didn't get to stay that long, because we also were attending our adoption agency (Holt International Children's Services) family support group's annual February luncheon in honor of Chinese New Year. Lillian got to dress up in her traditional dress again, and again she got to say a big "no" to posing in a group photo with other kids, just like in Guangzhou! It was a fun event and included a dragon dance by the Chinese School of Greater Kansas City, lunch catered by a Chinese restaurant (Kin Lin), and lots of fellowship with other Holt families (mostly with kids adopted from China, but some were families with kids from Korea, India, etc., as well as families still in the waiting process). We'd guess there probably 40 or 50 families in attendance. We think Lillian was the most recent arrival of all the kids there, and one of the youngest as well. The group has monthly gatherings, with the big events being this event and a summer picnic.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy New Year

Today is Chinese New Year. It's the Year of the Rat. When we were in China, we saw many preparations for New Year celebrations, most featuring cartoon rats that looked more like Mickey Mouse (big ears, like the ones we saw being installed at Confucius' Temple in Nanjing) than your typical rat.

Nick Jr. debuted a new show today, Ni Hao Kai-lan!, a Dora-like animated show created by a Chinese-American young woman. It's aimed at a preschool audience and features a combination of life lessons (today's theme was what to do when you get angry), Chinese culture and basic Mandarin vocabulary. The New York Times ran a story on the creator, Karen Chau, last year. Ms. Chau says she was influenced by Hello Kitty, and you can tell it in her animation. The first episode is very promising.

We DVR'd it, and Lillian watched it with some interest this afternoon. Nick Jr. is running new episodes several days in a row to kick it off.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Christmas in February

The Stearns family Christmas get-together, postponed by weather in December, was this weekend. Lillian got to meet a whole slew of relatives, including four second cousins under the age of 3 (Koy, Kenzie, Kennedy, and Ian). First cousin Lauren was there too, so that meant the farmhouse in Jewell County hosted six kids all within about 2 1/2 years of each other in age. Add in all the bigger relatives, and it was one full house.

Lillian was shy at first, as she can be, but figured out quickly how fun the day was going to be and decided to join in the games. We were there for about 5 hours, and she and the other kids went pretty much non-stop the entire time. She did a great job on the car ride there and back, which amounted to another 8 hours roundtrip. She slept for about an hour and a half on the first leg, then about another 90 minutes on the way back. The rest of the time she kept herself entertained, particularly by bopping along (and sometimes singing along) with music. She loves a strong beat.