Settling in

January 9th, 2013

First, I want to say thank you so much for all the emails we’ve been getting from friends and family at home. Although we may not respond immediately, it’s meant so much to us to wake up each morning to a new batch. Our first stop each morning is the lobby for wifi! We feel so lucky to have so much love and support! Baby Amara is already loved by so many…as are we!

Things here are going really well. Amara is transitioning smoothly (knock on wood) and we are all getting to know each other. It’s rather amazing how much you can learn in 48 hours, especially from someone that can’t communicate verbally with you. I think Mark and I both feel like we know here a bunch already. We can distinguish the various grunts and accurately predict what she’s going to want or need. We know there’s tons to learn still, but it’s also kind of amazing how quickly the familiarity came.

We’ve settled into a nice routine here in Changsha. We eat breakfast in the hotel to start the day. Its included, its a buffet, and its HUGE!! So we gorge ourselves and then usually skip lunch. At 10 we meet our fantastic guide Sarah and head out on a morning adventure. Today we went to an old Academy in the middle of the university here. Its hundreds of years old (parts are even thousands of years old) and was beautiful. Then a quick trip to Walmart for some clothes for Amara (yes, you read that right…Walmart :) and then back to the hotel. Amara usually sleeps through half the morning outing. The afternoon is spent napping (until today I seemed to be falling asleep in my tracks at random moments throughout the day) and playing in the children’s playroom in the hotel. Finally we meet Sarah again at 5:30 to go out to dinner. We’ve tried a new restaurant each night and the food has been fantastic!! I think Sarah likes that we have wanted nothing to do with Western food and have been thrilled with every dish she has ordered for us.

Best of all, we got to Skype with Bine this morning. Although my mom has been sending updates daily and I know Bine has been doing great, nothing compares with seeing her actual face and watching her jabber away from the comfort of my mom’s lap. It certainly warmed Mark’s and my hearts!
image image


January 8th, 2013

The last 24 hours has been a rollercoaster ride.

When Sabine was born you had pretty much 3 things to worry about: food, sleep, and dirty diapers. As she got older she communicated new things to us: I want a blanket, I want up, I want Mommy or Daddy, I want some new shiny thing. Every week we would say to ourselves, “Did you see she’s doing this” or “Did you know when she makes that particular sound it means this”. 3.5 years later she just tells us what she wants. We can reason with her ( most of the time), she makes up stories and songs, pretends to go to work, and she even catches us doing things we tell her not to do. As Courtney wrote to us, “she seems to have turned into a little 13 year old over night”.



Amara definitely has a little mind of her own, but she can’t communicate in a way we are used to. It’s both amazing for us when we discover new things she can communicate and overwhelming when you aren’t sure what she wants. She is very alert and many things catch her eyes. Interesting sounds cause her to turn her head to find the source. She likes to keep an eye on us whenever we leave her side. Or when Bebeth was the more scary one, she definitely kept an eye on her to make sure she didn’t sneak up. She can point to things she wants, she’s great a copying things we do, she doesn’t like to be tickled and doesn’t like certain types of touching, e.g. if I tickle her knee she reaches over and forcibly removes my hand, or if I put my hand on her back, she’ll reach around and remove it from her back. When you’ve ignored her pointing for something she’ll raise both hands and drop them to her lap while making an emphatic sound, she seems to rub her ears as well as her eyes when she get’s tired, she can shake her head no when you keep handing something to her doesn’t want (about half the time she’ll just throw it on the ground), she loves to cruise around the room, and will grasp your fingers when she wants to head off somewhere.

Last night around 9:30 the challenges seemed to tip towards overwhelming: Bebeth and I were both tired, my back is hurting a lot, I was worried that Amara was only going to let me hold her for the next 8 days, I thought I was getting some stomach problems, Amara seemed to getting her second wind, and I was missing Sabine. Sitting on the floor I thought to myself, “What did we get ourselves into? Was life so easy that we though we needed this big of a challenge?”. But a little after 10 pm Amara fell asleep, she slept until 7am, Bebeth and I both slept until about 6ish, she seems to have no problem letting either Bebeth or I hold her or carry her in the carrier, we were able to head out today and go for a nice walk around the city, my back seems to be better, and I did not get any lasting stomach issues, life seems so much better already. I still wish we were heading home sooner than later, but everything seems much more manageable now, hence the roller coaster ride.


Amara after her bath

Baby Amara is here!

January 7th, 2013

Today was the day. It was a whirlwind…both wonderful and exhausting. We walked into the civil affairs office at 9:30 am and became parents again. Amara is baby 001, meaning she is the first child to be adopted out of Hunan Province in 2013, a lucky number we were told. We were the first family there, so it was very quiet, not at all what I had expected. Although by the time we left there were 6-7 families and plenty of noise, it was silent while we waited. Eventually they brought her in and handed over our beautiful girl. She was so bundled up, she looked huge. Later we learned that almost no one has heat in the province, so she wears everything they have for her! We were extraordinarily grateful that she took an immediate liking to Mark which meant he was able to keep her happy for most of the time we were there. We got to ask the orphanage director a bunch of questions about her and processed a bunch of paperwork. It was all sort of a blur, but eventually we were able to leave and head back to the hotel for a bit.

Because the civil affairs office is busy the rest of the week, we had to go back again a few hours later to finish the paperwork that normally we would have done later in the week. Amara was so tired at this point that she promptly feel asleep in Mark’s arms in the van. Fortunately the second trip to the office was fast and we were all back in the hotel room quickly and ready for another nap. All three of us passed out and slept for over an hour.

Apparently a good nap was what she needed, b/c since waking up she’s been warming up to me and we’ve had some good play and cuddle time. We are extremely thankful that at least for today the transition has gone smoothly. We’ve already had a few smiles and squeaky laughs! Right now Mark and I are holding our eyelids open with toothpicks while we wait for her to be tired enough to put down.

It’s been an amazing and surreal day! Now we’re just counting down the days till she gets to meet the greatest big sister ever.

Are You Excited?

January 5th, 2013


It’s been interesting comparing the adoption process with other couples. Most of the other couples have gone through a different organization CCIA. There are lots of differences and ones that I certainly didn’t appreciate until now.

Part of the requirements for adopting is taking a certain number of educational courses. While I wasn’t a fan of taking up sunny weekends to go down to our adoption headquarters to take various adoption/parenting classes (though I was usually glad after the fact) I really appreciate that we were able to do it in person. A lot of these couples only had access to online training. While that seems convenient there is something nice about being in a room with lots of other couples going through the same thing, asking the same questions that you have in your head.

One couple we met here did not seem to have an outlet back home to really talk about what it’s like to go through this process. As we talked you could just see the relief of finally being able to talk with people that understood exactly what you are going through. One question that adoptive parents seem to get is the “Are you excited?” question. It’s a yes or no question, right? People just assume it’s yes. And how could you say “No I’m not excited.” But for me it’s always been a “sorta/maybe/kinda” answer. The amount of work, worry, frustration, money, preparation, stress, lack of information/updates, waiting, definitely consumes most of your excitement and as a protection from disappointment I definitely kept myself from getting too excited. There are just so many unknowns. So next time you meet someone going through the process of adopting, don’t ask them are you excited. I’m sure they are as excited as they can be, but probably not as excited as you expect them to be.

Though if you were to ask me now if I’m excited, I can truly say that I am. Having a few days to get on your feet, beautiful weather, and seeing/experiencing China has really let me get prepared for tomorrow. It IS exciting to think that we will be holding Amara aka Baby Eagle, in our arms soon. That all of our waiting and hard work will pay off. Yes we’ll have more challenges ahead, but I have the best partner to go through this with, the best family and friends to support us, and the best ambien to get a good night sleep …

Truly Excited From China, Mark

The Great Wall

January 5th, 2013

Yesterday we went to the Great Wall. This was one of the main reasons we chose to do our 2 days of sightseeing in Beijing. We’ve seen pictures of it in the summer, and its packed with people. Having done it once now, I can’t imagine doing it with so many people. Granted, it was FREEZING yesterday, but the lack of people was an ok tradeoff in my mind. They bring you to one main parking lot and from there you can access the wall and choose a couple of different directions. All of them essentially head straight up…stair after stair after stair. They are steep, uneven, and the steps vary greatly in height. Regularly I found myself having to lift one foot above the knee of my other leg. And the railing was really short, so you found yourself hunched over very awkwardly. I never wanted to let go of the railing as I was quite sure if I fell, I wouldn’t stop moving until I hit the bottom. We were given 1.5 hours, so we walked straight up for 45 minutes and then back down. Down was clearly worse than up. But the views were amazing and the wall really a feat. Someday it would be cool to return and do a long stretch of it, ideally when the wind was a little less strong. There were moments when we thought we might actually get blown down the mountain!

Otherwise we’ve been eating yummy food (we did laugh at the tourist lunch stop where we were served french fries in addition to the Chinese food….not a single french fry got eaten….the duck was scarfed up though!) and meeting other families in the hotel. So far no one from Seattle, but we’ve made friends from Dallas and Denver, and soon Chicago. It’s been interesting to hear about everyone else’s process…we’ve all had our own quirky experiences.
IMG_0068 IMG_0040 IMG_0009

We’re here!

January 4th, 2013
Sunrise in Beijing

Sunrise in Beijing

Well we’re here. We just finished breakfast which was a mix of western/Chinese food. I had wonton soup and french toast, mmmm. Now we’re killing some time as we wait to meet our guide George. We woke up around 5am Beijing time, went down for an early breakfast, and then came back up to the room to be greeted by this beautiful sunrise.

We left Seattle yesterday at 7:30 and arrived in Beijing at around 11:30pm their time. It was a 11 hour plane ride. We both were able to get some sleep on the plane, though Bebeth’s movie player freaked out and sat in a continual loop rebooting.

Flight Path

Flight Path




It was interesting flying into Beijing. Huge freeways everywhere with very few cars. The freeways had lots of lights on them but surrounded by tracts of unlit land. I’m used to flying into Seattle where most of the ground is illuminated by houses and streelights.

We were met by our WACAP guide George. Who led us to a car that would drive us to our hotel. The view from the ground was very grey and desolate feeling. Huge freeway structures, but very little traffic. When we got more into the city, the streets were deserted, not much light.

When we got to the hotel, Qianmen Jianguo Hotel, most of the hotel shops and spaces were shutdown for the night, the lobby was half lit, it all contributed to feeling of desolation.

Well off to meet George for a day of sight seeing, more later!



January 4th, 2013

Leaving yesterday was crazy hard. Mark and I have left Bine numerous times for weekends away, but 2 weeks is another story. Bine, of course, was the stronger one in the situation. She kept telling me it would be fine. I knew she would be fine. My parents are staying with her and I can’t imagine anyone else that could make me more comfortable. There’s something just so comforting knowing that your child is with your own parents. I know she will feel exactly as I did growing up…totally loved. But it is me who is having a hard time. I miss having her around. I miss her hand on her hip giving me lip, I miss those crazy eyes she gives me, I miss her huge hugs, and I even miss those absurd dress-up dresses that she insists on wearing!

I long for Monday when we will finally meet Baby Eagle, or Amara as she will become. I know it will make this aching all worth it. But today I don’t know her and while I know the idea is worth it, I prefer to have the reality.

Mark and I survived the trip and even got to talk with Bine on the phone when we arrived last night. Now we’re about to spend the day touring around Beijing. Let the adventure begin!!!

And soon we will be 4

January 2nd, 2013

We haven’t really been blogging much recently…but we’re picking it back up as on January 3rd Mark and I will be leaving for China to pick up our little girl. We’ll be using the blog as a place to document our trip and update our friends and family while we’re gone. Although we could just send a group email, I have read countless blogs in preparation for our trips, so I’m hopeful that our experience might help someone else in their future adoption endeavors. If you end up here randomly, pardon our in-eloquence….but we hope you find some nugget of info helpful in your journeys.

Although Mark and I had been in line with Ethiopia, things slowed down drastically and in early 2012 we made the decision to switch to China’s special needs program. After a quick homestudy update and way too much paperwork to redo, we were officially added to the China list in June. In August we received a match which we accepted. It was for a little girl born 10/31/2011, who has a cleft lip and palate. We flew through the remaining bureaucratic obstacles (originally we were told to expect to travel in March) and instead are leaving on 1/3/2013 to go to China. We will spend 2 days in Beijing getting over jetlag and hopefully doing a little sightseeing. After that we’ll head to Changsha to meet and take custody of our little girl on 1/7. We’ll have our visa interview in Guangzhou on 1/14 and will fly home on 1/16.

So, we leave you with our final family photo of 2012. Next time we take one we’ll be 4!


Learn a fiddle tune: Old Dangerfield with backup tracks

December 20th, 2012

This is for anyone wanting to learn how to play Old Dangerfield, by Bill Monroe. Old Dangerfield is a modal instrumental. When I tried to look up info on this song, all I turned up was lots of speculation, but it seems like most people think the song is named after Bill Monroe’s dog.

Table of Contents

* * Fiddle

So I couldn’t find anyone showing how to play this on the fiddle slowly, so I did my own.

* * Mandolin

* * Banjo

* * Doboro

Tabs (I think it’s $10 for the tab):

* * Guitar
Sorry had trouble finding a guitar only version, let alone a slow version.

Tab (need tabledit)

* * Cello

Ok so this video is of Mike Block and Darol Anger playing this song, and while this video is nothing but awesome, it’s probably not  a video to learn this song from. So if you do find a good one, please leave it in the comments and I’ll add it:


* * Backup Tracks


* * Chord Chart


Learn a Fiddle Tune: St. Anne’s Reel with backup tracks

December 10th, 2012

So I recently compiled this for a bluegrass group I’m a part of, but I thought this is good info for lots of people. Hope this is useful for someone. The first tune I’ve compiled is called St. Anne’s Reel, a really fun tune in D.

Scroll down if you just want the backup tracks.

So here are 5 different videos for various instruments where someone
shows how to play St. Anne’s Reel. (People rock!)

* * Fiddle Version

If you are a fiddle player and like reading music (maybe classically
trained), Pete Martin (an amazing fiddle and mando player) has some
fiddle tune books he offers in PDF or off of Amazon. The PDFs are
offered on the honor system, so you can download for free and if you
like them you can buy them.

* * Guitar Version w/Tab

Get the tab here:

* * Banjo

* * Dobro

* *Mandolin

Here’s a link to 4 different backup tracks at various speeds (60bpm,
80, 100, 120). If someone wants different speeds let me know I can
easily create it.

Happy picking!