For months, Chris and I have been looking forward to today. Not just because it's Hannah's 18 month birthday. But it's what many adoptive parents call the "magic birthday." Magic because today is the day when Hannah has been with us longer than she wasn't. She spent a day shy of 9 months in China, bouncing between the orphanage and foster care (and who knows how many foster families). And she has spent 9 months and a day with us. Her family. I can't believe it. It's a very strange feeling. At the same time it feels like she has always been a part of our lives and that it was just yesterday we were in China. I am constantly amazed at how far she has come. She was so teeny tiny when we got her - I remember freaking out a little bit the first time I dressed her at how big the 6-9 month onesies and pants were on her. And she couldn't sit up on her own or feed herself. She was happy to be with us - relieved, almost - but still unsure. Today? Today she is a funny funny kid. She is full of personality - she loves to tease us, laugh, joke, tickle, "sneak up" on us, play hide-and-seek and tag, and laugh some more. She's much bigger now - her 18 month clothes fit her perfectly (if not starting to get a little thing that has not changed is that she LOVES to eat).

How did we spend the day? Chris took a few days off this week (combining 3 days of leave with the holidays has meant nearly 1 1/2 weeks home) and we met the Sauters for lunch. The Sauters (or, as some of you know them, Henry's family) are the family we traveled to China with 9 months ago. Even though Hannah and Henry have regular playdates, it's been awhile since all 7 of us have been together. It is such a blessing that they live close by, and they are so much more than friends. Henry and Hannah ate their weight in french fries, fed themselves lunch, and were very excited to get balloons on the way out. And when we spotted a red bench outside of the restaurant, we knew we had to take a picture. Love how Hannah has a look on her face like she's saying to Henry "dude...I think they're going to do this for the rest of our lives". Yup. :)

(December 30 in Virginia)
(April 8 in Guangzhou, China)

First Snow

Even though we spent most of last winter digging out from record storms, Hannah had never seen snow before. Kunming is in southwest China and is known for being the "city of eternal spring" - it's warm and sunny year-round. So this is Hannah's first winter, and she is not pleased. We've had record setting low temperatures the past two weeks, and while she normally begs to go play outside, even when it's raining, she decided this week that it was just too cold. But today? Today there was snow. She didn't really know what to make of it. She watched it snow from the warmth of our living room for awhile, and when Chris got home (because yes, in Northern Virginia, 2 inches of snow is cause to come home early and work from home...) we all got bundled up to go outside and play. It was so much fun watching her walk in the snow and play with her Hannah-sized shovel (she really liked helping us shovel the walk, and because the snow was so light and fluffy she could actually move the snow herself!). She wouldn't wear her mittens at first...until she picked up a handful of snow and gave me a look to say "ok, I'm ready for those mittens now Mommy!". Walking was also a lot of fun , even though she was a giant puffball in her snowsuit. And yes, it took me longer to get her dressed to go outside than we spent out in the snow! :)

Happy Hanukkah!

Many Memories Menorah Hanukkah Card
Make a statement with custom holiday cards at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.
Happy Hanukkah! We have had a wonderful time celebrating Hannah's first Hanukkah. She started slow...the first few nights she liked helping us light the candles but was very upset that she wasn't allowed to touch the lit candles. By the weekend she was still annoyed, but starting to accept, and last night she didn't even ask. :) She also has her own stuffed menorah that she puts a new little stuffed candle in every night that she really likes. It was also great to be able to light candles with Bubbe and Zaide for three of the nights and celebrating with friends over the weekend.

Opening presents did not get off to a slow start. Hannah LOVES to tear the off the wrapping paper (handing it to us in teeny tiny pieces) - she unwrapped everyone's presents this year. She probably likes opening presents more than the presents themselves - it's supposed to be horribly cold next week, so perhaps one of our activities will be wrapping and opening all of her books. Presents aren't the focus of the holiday, but she is pretty pleased with all of her new books and stuffed animals. She especially loves the Fisher Price Barnyard from Bubbe & Zaide and Barkers the Dog from Grandmother and Grandfather.

The other Hanukkah traditions have been fun to share with Hannah too. Bubbe made latkes on Thursday, and our friend Marcie made them on Saturday - Hannah is not a huge fan (though Mommy was more than happy to eat Hannah's!) - we think that they are too greasy for her. (if it were up to her, she would eat cheese and fruit at every meal!) And Hannah's favorite part is playing dreidel. She laughs every time we spin one for her - she now has four, including one from Israel. It's so funny to watch her try to spin her dreidel herself - she can't quite figure out why they don't spin when she throws them on the floor.

So Very Thankful

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. There is something so perfect about a holiday where we get together with family and friends, eat way too much, and give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. There's no fighting (well, unless you count the annual arguments over the charades rules), no presents, no commercialism, no tv (in our family) - just time spent together. I officially start counting down to Thanksgiving right after the pools close for the summer. Unofficially? There are 363 days until next year's celebration.

This year's Thanksgiving was maybe the best one ever, because we finally had Hannah to celebrate it with. It was five years ago when we were working on our application and the four celebrations after that had a few moments of "what is happening with your adoption?" updates. But this year? This year we had Hannah. We weren't sure how she would handle the holiday. She gets overwhelmed easily, and with so many new people (there were 19 of us at my cousin's house this year!), we were prepared to only stay for a little bit. But once Hannah settled in, she decided that she likes Thanksgiving almost as much as her Mommy. The highlight for her was Valentine - our friends' chocolate lab puppy. Hannah loves dogs, and she spent most of the day saying hello to Valentine, playing with Valentine, helping to take Valentine for a walk, and letting us all know that there was a dog out on the porch. Watching Valentine eat treats out of Hannah's hand was pretty amazing.
Another highlight? Watching her play the piano with my cousin Steve. Steve is a musician and a music teacher and Hannah had never seen a piano before. The two of them playing together made it very hard for me not to break down in happy tears. Such a beautiful perfect moment.

And, of course, there was the food. No real surprise that Hannah liked Thanksgiving food. (I mean, it is one of the reasons it's my favorite holiday - no holiday has better food!) But the amount that she ate? Wow. After she polished off her turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, and green beans, she started in on mine. Mashed potatoes and gravy, especially when they are Mommy's, are very yummy.

We even made it to charades. Our tradition is to play charades in between dinner and dessert. We've been playing for years (decades?), it's men vs. women, and it's hard core. There is trash talking. There is a rules committee. There are medals. It's phenomenal. The men won this year, and while Hannah didn't really understand what was going on, she loved clapping for each performance. (by the second round, she was running around in the kitchen while we played, but had to come back to clap every time she heard the applause). And, of course, she wore Daddy's medal proudly - even the next day.

Countdown to Turkey

It's November, which, in our house, means we start the official countdown to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is absolutely my favorite holiday (which always confuses my could my favorite holiday be one without presents?) and we have so much to be thankful for this year. Sharing all of our wacky Thanksgiving traditions (what, you don't have a collection of Thanksgiving charades medals?) with Hannah is going to be amazing.

Along with counting down to turkey day, the big development here is that Hannah has really figured out the walking thing. In typical Hannah fashion, now that she can walk she doesn't really stop. She loves to be able to get around outside on her own. The playground has become a lot more fun and we've spent the last two days running around in the leaves at Bubbe & Zaide's house. Hannah also went to her first Bar Mitzvah a couple of weeks ago - our cousin Robert's - and was a party animal. Between cousins to dance with, the light show from the DJ, and a glow stick, she was in heaven. We literally could not get her off of the dance floor.

grab your wand...bring your wings...

Happy Halloween! Hannah's first Halloween was quite the success. She started the day by helping Daddy to carve jack-o-lanterns out of the pumpkins she picked out last month at Cox Farms.She had her own spoon to help clean them out, which, of course, meant that she had her own spoon to eat the pumpkins with. Apparently raw pumpkin tastes pretty good...she ate quite a bit.
After a nap (eating all that pumpkin can wear you out), we went for trick-or-treating part 1 at Mara's parents' house. Hannah loves "Abby's Flying Fairy School", one of the segments on Sesame Street. She will grab whatever is nearby to wave along as they sing "grab your wand, bring your wings..." so she was THRILLED when she saw her very own set of fairy wings and a magic wand. A tutu rounded out her costume - thank goodness for Etsy! (did you know that during the first week of October, Target had NO fairy accessories but two aisles of Christmas stuff?) She wasn't too sure about what trick-or-treating was, but she was ready to wave her wand and fly next door.We also had an impromptu party with Dylan and Jordan. Mara grew up with their parents (they are cousins) - they had just as much fun playing as we used to on Halloween!Next, it was home for dinner and round two. Hannah was still unsure about the whole trick-or-treating thing, but it was fun to be outside at night with her wings and wand. She did a great job picking out a piece of candy and putting it in her pumpkin. She also picked out several leaves. You can probably guess which one she actually ate.
After trick-or-treating next door (yes, her first trick-or-treating consisted of three houses on Mara's parents' court and two houses on our street) Hannah helped to hand out candy to the big kids before heading to bed. What a great day!

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

We're big fans of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert here. We've been watching The Daily Show since the Craig Kilborn days (wow, that makes us sound old), and it's by far one of our absolute favorites. We used to never miss it - now, we're often asleep before the end (ok, more Mara than Chris), so we tivo it every day. And when The Colbert Report started (remember when it was a joke promo when Colbert was a Daily Show correspondent?) we added that to our daily routine too. So when Jon Stewart announced plans for the Rally to Restore Sanity, there really was no question that we would go. And it seemed like the perfect way to introduce Hannah, a proud American citizen, to politics before she helps Mommy and Daddy vote on Tuesday.

We knew that we wouldn't be able to stay for the entire Rally - Hannah gets overwhelmed easily, and she's not as into the satire as her parents. So we got down to the Mall just as the Mythbusters were doing their human experiments. (a highlight for Chris, as Mythbusters is one of his other favorites) I can't remember ever being on the Mall with so many people before. They are estimating the crowd somewhere between 215,000 and 250,000 - far more than the 60,000 they expected. We retreated back towards the Smithsonian Castle to give Hannah a little breathing room, though it was still packed all that way back. It was hard to hear, and we could barely see the screens, let alone the stage, but it didn't matter. As someone near us said, it was more about being there and taking in the crowd than anything else. And for a crowd of that size, people were remarkably nice and well behaved. Even when we were stuck in the middle of the crowd, everyone was nice, no one pushed, and most people stopped to say hello to Hannah. She enjoyed the music, ate her lunch on the Mall, and generally had a good time.

Yes, we fully appreciate the irony of restoring sanity by bringing a toddler to a rally on the Mall. But it was fun, and the message was an important one.

We're Going to the Zoo

Hannah is fascinated lately with animals. She loves looking at them in books, waves to them on television, and really loves to see them in person. She is totally in love with Colt, the puppy of two of our softball teammates, and she knows where all the dogs and cats live on our street (so that she can stop and wave hello as we're out on our daily walks). At the Fairfax Fall Festival she spent a lot of time saying hello to the animals in the petting zoo - in fact, she greeted each of the baby chicks individually. Since it was a beautiful day on Saturday, we took Hannah for her first trip to the National Zoo. No surprise - she LOVED it.
As soon as we walked into the zoo, she started excitedly pointing at the signs with pictures of the pandas. She LOVES bears, and we spent awhile watching the pandas enjoy their snack (plastic milk crates covered in honey).We then spent some time saying hello to the elephants. She kept waving at them and then turning to us as if to say "did you know that there are REAL ELEPHANTS there?!?". We said hello to the other animals on the Asia Trail as well...greeting animals is a lot of work.We finished our day with lunch. Hannah was not that excited about her sandwich, but was thrilled at all the birds who joined us for lunch.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Yes, I know I haven't blogged this month. It's been busy. :) But a picture is worth a thousand words...

The weather at the beginning of September was beautiful - perfect for going to the park. We've discovered lots of parks and playgrounds near our house, including two great parks in Fairfax City. Hannah loves climbing on the playground and watching the other kids. It is also, apparently, essential to collect your acorns.

Hannah celebrated her first High Holidays this month. She did a great job at services for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. She was in awe of the shofar and sat through all of the Yom Kippur service to see the Torahs and hear the shofar blown again. And, of course, she loved our annual break fast at Auntie Shana & Uncle Stephen's house - so much that she got to stay up WAY past her bedtime!

Even though it was in the low 90s, we made our first trip to Cox Farms. They have a HUGE fall festival - so huge that we only got to see a small fraction of it. Hannah had to wave hello to all of the cows and she insisted on going down the huge slides over and over and over...

The end of September brought back the summer heat - lots of 90 degree days and more time to spend inside. Even though we missed going to the playground, we still had fun inside (especially when our diapers arrived last week in a huge box!)

It was so hot last week that Hannah got a few more chances to go for a swim - both in her pool in our backyard and in her pool at Bubbe & Zaide's house. She also discovered how much fun it is to play with the hose!

Over the weekend Hannah went to her first concert ever. She had lots of fun dancing with Emily as we rocked out to Rick Recht at temple.

September also means the return of music class! And yesterday we went to a music program at the library in Vienna - Hannah loved when the teacher played the ukulele and passed out ribbons to shake!

Goodbye Summer...

Five Months

It is hard to believe that five months ago today Hannah was placed in our arms. It seems like she has always been with us - I can't even remember what life was like without her. And it's amazing how far she has come. Five months ago she was a scared little bundle of tears, wrapped up in four layers (including a sweater and a fleece jacket, even though it was in the 70s).And today she is full of energy - always on the move, growing like a weed, and making our lives just wonderful. :)(Yes, she is sporting a new haircut. And her squeeky shoes from China. Nothing makes practicing walking better than the ability to be noisy while doing it.)

Bracha Chanah

You know how there are days you dream about? Saturday was one of those. I've been dreaming about Hannah's baby naming since we sent our paperwork to China four years ago. On Saturday, we celebrated Hannah's baby naming. Our amazing rabbis gave our family the gift of a beautiful service as they gave her the Hebrew name Bracha Chanah and officially welcomed her to Judaism. She shares her Hebrew name with Mara's grandmothers - Bracha was my grandma's Hebrew name and Chanah was my Nana's Hebrew name (which is why she is Hannah in English). I only cried a little (which is a pretty big feat) and we were lucky enough to celebrate surrounded by family and close friends. Hannah did a great job with the ceremony and discovered that she loves Bubbe's kugel (made with Grandma's recipe) just as much as her mommy does. :)
We only got a couple of pictures of the day, but we were lucky enough to have our first set of family portraits taken a few days before. The photographer is a college friend and sorority sister of Mara's, and she did a fantastic job of capturing Hannah's personality. She has a few pictures featured on her blog here. Enjoy the adorableness!

It's Hard Out Here for a Penguin

One of Hannah's favorite toys is Penguin Bowling. It was a birthday gift, and it's adorable - 6 plush penguins (wearing bowling shirts, of course) and a ball to knock them over with. That is, of course, unless you are Hannah. She loves it when I set the penguins up for her, but when I show her how to roll the ball towards the penguins, she always gives me the same look. "Silly Mommy, I can knock them over way faster myself." She then giggles and takes off towards the penguins. Whap. Whap. Whap. Penguins everywhere. She also likes to throw them. Or some good penguin on penguin violence (when she knocks the penguins down using another penguin). We are constantly finding penguins strewn about the house.

She also uses the penguins to help her walk. With a penguin in each hand, she can take three or four steps on her own. It's pretty incredible to watch her, especially since just a few months ago she couldn't even sit up on her own.

Do We Really Miss the Snow?

The Washington DC area averages 37 90+ degree days a year. It's July 22 and we have had 39. And it's supposed to hit triple digits again this weekend. With the daily heat advisories we have been spending most of our days inside. So what have we been doing?

We usually start the day by taking out every toy we own....
We have been to the play area at the mall...

We play inside with Bubbe & Zaide...

But the most fun has been our music class each week!(trying to figure out the bells...this was Hannah's second choice for her musical instrument this week. Her first choice? ONE cymbal.)

(singing along)

(her favorite part of each class - the parachute!)

About Us

We're Mara, Chris, & Hannah. These are our adventures.