Saturday, August 21, 2010

Update for non-Facebook users

We've migrated most of our updates to Facebook, so for anyone who is not on or objects to Facebook, here's a recent family photo. Rachel is turning 4 next week and wants two specific things for her birthday: A Tinkerbell watch and Spiderman flip-flops. The Tinkerbell-Spiderman dichotomy is like Rachel in a nutshell -- cute, petite and girly, but also rough-and-tumble and ready to climb some walls!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Rachel behind the camera

The Bruffett girls took a day trip to the KU Museum of Natural History, and Rachel took about 130 photos using Lily's camera. Lily and Mommy took a few too, but the youngest of us wanted to take pictures of everything she saw. She even knew on her own to turn the camera 90 degrees to better frame some of her shots.

I include a posed photo with the Jayhawk in front of the student union, which Lily hugged lovingly but Rachel regarded with disregard -- disdain, even? A Wildcat in the making, perhaps...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

First week of preschool

Rachel had a trial half-day of preschool last week, but this week she's started in earnest, in preparation for Mommy's return to work. She had a great first full day. Her teachers are being really great about working with her one-on-one to ascertain the kind of schoolwork (preschoolwork?) she's ready for. We've been having Mommy and Daddy school at home, so we brought in examples of what we've been doing. Her teachers said she whipped through what they'd prepared for her yesterday. Rachel still vastly prefers to say things in Mandarin, but she understands so much English that she's been able to follow along with what her teachers are working on with her. Mainly, though, she's enjoying the chance to play with a big group of kids her age. Yesterday was very warm here, so the class got to play outside quite a bit.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feeling at Home

Rachel is settling in very well. She and Lillian are great buddies. Mommy takes Lillian to preschool on weekday mornings while Daddy gets Rachel started in our home preschool. Rachel is working on numbers, letters, colors, basic English, and beginning writing skills. She has great pencil skills, and she tends to be most engaged when she's got a pencil or crayon in her hand.

When Lillian comes home in the afternoon, Phase II of Rachel School starts, as Rachel tends to follow Lillian and repeat what she says. Her longest English sentence to date: "You can't find us!" (shouted in a successful attempt to get Mommy to play hide-and-seek with the girls). Their play right now tends to be pretty rowdy -- lots of giggling, running around, tickling, and wrestling. Two kids are definitely louder than one!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


We made it home last night! I tried to post from the Hong Kong airport, but apparently that didn't get transmitted. Will try to retropost that later.

Lillian, Grammie and Grandpa, cousins Lauren, Jaylen, LaDereyon, CeNea and LeJean, and Aunts/Uncles Megan, Victoria and Adam were at the KC airport to greet us on our only slightly delayed arrival. It was so emotional again to realize we were really home. Thank you all for being there, and sorry we were so bleary!

Lillian was very excited to see us and to meet Rachel. We missed her so much, and it seems like she's grown up noticeably in just 16 days. Rachel was a bit cautious at the airport, but by the time the girls were buckled into the van and trading sunglasses back and forth (and back and forth, back and forth...) they were giggly buddies. It was cute to watch Rachel, who is a total omnivore, start picking pieces of chicken out of her chicken noodles as she watched Lillian pick through hers. And then seeing Rachel in a bathtub -- not screaming, but laughing -- was proof of the power of sisterly influence.

The girls went to bed a little before 9 last night, and Rachel joined Mommy, Daddy and Lillian in our pre-bedtime snuggling ritual. She crawled right into her bed after watching Lillian get in hers, and as of 6:21 a.m., they're both still in there, fast asleep. Not a bad first night!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hello from Hong Kong

Yesterday was a very difficult travel day, but it was probably just preparation for today's long flight. The train ride from Guangzhou to Hong Kong was actually interesting, but the process to get to it -- awaiting Rachel Guanglan's visa package (a long wait in the Consulate lobby), waiting for the train -- was exhausting and a little scattered. But we made it to the hotel airport in Hong Kong last night, and Rachel went right to sleep while Mommy and Daddy took turns exploring the terminal and finding real Diet Coke!

Internet service was down in the hotel, but it's working here at the gate. Don't know if it's fast enough to Skype with, but we're going to try if anyone is online.

Please pray for us, and the other families on our flight, as we prepare for the 14-hour flight. Boarding begins in less than an hour.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pearl River Cruise

Last night, our last night in Guangzhou, we took a 2-hour cruise on the Pearl River with some of the other Holt families. It was drizzling and cool, but it was a lovely way to end our stay here. Rachel enjoyed it, and even though it seemed to wind her up, she had no problem hitting the sack when we got back to the hotel. This afternoon we'll pick up her visa packet, then board the train for Hong Kong with 16 other families. Most of us are a little uncertain about how it's going to work, but we're in it together! Tomorrow at about this time, we'll be preparing to board the flight from Hong Kong to Chicago. We're almost home...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Xiangjiang Safari Park

Today's main activity was a trip to the Xiangjiang Safari Park ( We spent late morning through mid-afternoon walking around China's leading animal park/zoo. We saw close to a dozen pandas, and Rachel got to feed a giraffe. Others in our group got to feed a baby white tiger and hold tucans. Rachel did a great job, even though the last part of the excursion was concurrent with her normal naptime. She walked quite a bit herself, although she hitched rides on Mommy's hip and Daddy's shoulders along the way. The park was beautiful, and the weather was perfect, if a bit humid for us Kansas folks.

Today was also the visa appointment, but we didn't have to be there in person. We will have to be present at the Consulate for the oath-taking ceremony tomorrow afternoon, but unfortunately the U.S. Consulate seems to be the only place we've been in China to which you can't bring cameras, so no pictures from that ceremony!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Medicals and Red Couch day

Rachel was a trooper this morning at her medical exam. We were there for about 2 1/2 hours altogether. In addition to the same exam Lillian had two years ago, Rachel had her TB test read and had the privilege of getting SEVEN immunization shots, all at the same time. She cried and, after two shots, began to tell the nurses she didn't want any more shots. Unfortunately, even her insistent tone of voice didn't help. The nurses did a great job, but the waiting was difficult for all the kids. Four of the kids in our group had positive TB skin test readings (not Rachel), so those four also got X-rays. All four X-rays were negative, though, so it was a good outcome for all.

We had the traditional red coach photo this afternoon, which this year was a little crazier than usual because of the number of kids in this group. Holt even broke us up into two groups, but still there were 15-16 kids vying for a spot on or near the couch our group shared. Rachel did very well. She sat in the exact spot Lillian did two years ago, but she just sat pensively through the whole process. Some of Rachel's friends reacted more like Lillian had, but who could blame them after such a stressful day?

The afternoon ended with a buffet in the White Swan restaurant. Rachel ate pizza, dumplings, sticky rice, watermelon, chicken wings, biscotti dipped in a chocolate fountain, and an ice cream cone, She had been a bit droopy after waking up from her nap, possibly because of all the immunizations this morning, but some children's Tylenol and a big buffet have done wonders for her energy and attitude!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fun in the afternoon and evening

We had a good day today. After Rachel's nap, we walked over to the market across the highway via pedestrian overpass. It was a bit of a walk, especially as Rachel has decided she likes to be carried quite a bit, even when safety doesn't demand it. The market was booth after booth of dried foods and spices. The most common items, in booth after booth, were roots and tubers of all varieties, mushrooms and other fungi, starfish, seahorses, and dried fruits we did not recognize. Many merchants were drying their goods on the streets then bagging them for bulk sale. It was an interesting area to walk around.

We ate at La Dolce Vita, and the pizza was quite good. Rachel ate 2 1/2 pieces herself, so she fits in well in our family! Fruit juice is very good here. The apple juice in the tall glasses in the photo was fresh, something like a cross between cider and the apple juice we're used to.

On the way back from supper, we stopped at the playground so the kids could wear themselves out. Rachel would probably still be there if she hadn't needed to find a restroom. She's asleep now. Her medical exam and immunizations are early tomorrow morning. We're praying that goes well; it can be an anxious experience.

Church on Shamian Island

We went to the Anglican church on Shamian Island this morning. The later service of the day, at 11 a.m., is in both Mandarin and English. Rachel hung in there for the hymns and prayer, but she became restless during the sermon, especially after a young Chinese woman came in late with two rowdy boys and sat down next to us. Mommy and Rachel went out into the courtyard, where the sermon was playing over loudspeakers, before Rachel started squirming even more. Daddy stayed for the duration and said it was a well-done and scripturally based service, Mommy and Rachel missed the youth choir that sang at the end of the service.

Rachel is napping now, and when she gets up, the three of us are going on an expedition to a market area a short distance for the island, accessible via a pedestrian overpass. Most of the other Holt families are going to the jade and pearl markets this afternoon, but as we did that 2 years ago, we thought we'd try something else this time.

Mommy is working with one useful eye now. I think some dust or debris got in behind one of my contacts and may have scratched my eye a little. I have backup contacts, but they didn't make a difference, so I just took one out and am hoping the eye will heal itself over the next day or two. At first I thought maybe I was just tearing up with allergies (it's very green and humid here in Guangzhou), but the way it's reacting to light points to a little scratch. The first order of business for our expedition today is getting some cheap sunglasses.

Tonight, conditions permitting, we are planning to eat at a local pizzaria with the other Kansas family in the White Swan, the Schmidts from Hutchinson.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

First day in Guangzhou

We had a good flight to Guangzhou last night, and Rachel Guanglan did great, at least until the long busride from the airport to the White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island. She was so tired (we got in after 10 p.m.) that she was almost deliriously giggly. She was as happy as can be but way too loud for 15 minutes or so. Once we got up to the room, she protested a bit before falling asleep. She had a great day today, although she didn't take a nap, so she went to bed just a short while ago, at about 8 p.m. here.

Guangzhou feels like we're halfway home. In terms of the length of our stay, we are halfway through our time in China. But more than that, it feels more like home, partly because we're reunited with so many other families, and partly because we had such a great experience here two years ago. So far, so good this time around too. Rachel had her visa photo taken and her TB skin test administered. She didn't even squirm, let alone cry, when the nurse stuck the needle in. She just watched with great curiosity.

Afterwards, she played for a while in the outdoor playground on the island, mostly with Chinese locals. She started out shy and ended up taking over the operation of the tornado slide, being a bit bossy in instructing other kids how to play correctly and enforcing a rule about not climbing up the slide. Mommy was approached by two 12-year-olds on school break and their moms, who encouraged them to practice their English on me. I got to try out some more Mandarin and was given a passing grade. (Cantonese is more common here.) Frankly, even modest attempts to speak Chinese are appreciated. People are so polite that they compliment your pronunciation when you tell them "I understand very little Mandarin."

Photos here include Rachel and Mommy on the plane, Daddy looking on as Rachel plays with her Barbie and Chinese baby doll (Mattel sponsors a playroom here and gives Barbies to all the kids), Rachel at Starbucks and in the park, and finally by the waterfall and pool in the White Swan, If she looks like she is sweetly appreciating the fish, you need to know that the moment after the photo was taken, she leaned over, said "Psssshhhh!" and spit into the pond.