Monday, June 30, 2008

Otherwise Entertained... or NOT!

This is currently my life:

Notice the "USA" written on everything... We are really going home!!!! I might just get the movers to pack Joe in a box and then everything would be PERFECT!!!

I'll post more at the end of the week once all this is done! The truck pulls away with all of our things on Friday...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pack Out and New Fashion Finds

The movers came yesterday for a "look see" at all that we will be shipping to the US. Joe will keep enough to survive (comfortably) for a year and we will move everything else. So we are thinking that we will have a little under 10,000lbs for this move. 6 movers will be at our house Monday morning at 8:30 am to begin the chaos that is known as "Pack Out". It should take 3 days to pack and 1 day to load in the wooden crates for shipping. I never like this part of moving... NEVER!

In preparation, we always clean! Clean in the sense that I don't want one thing that is meant for a garbage can to show up on the other side of the move. The kids are working fast and furious in their rooms as I told them they could not be "social" this weekend unless their rooms were ready for packout. They all have way too many plans to be stuck at home cleaning under their beds... so they have been very busy!
Lilli has a new "fashion find" from all the cleaning! She found Joey's wrap that he used on his leg after the cast came off last year. She; however, does not choose to wrap her leg... it is the "IN" in new headwear for Lilli. She has been happily wearing it around the house for 2 days. Of course, I have convinced her to allow me to switch it to a bow when we leave the house... but she is loving this head wrap!

As for Miss Abby, we had her immigration visa medical yesterday. For those in the adoption world reading this... Abby is qualifying for American Citizenship under the 2 year custody overseas rule. Indonesia is a country that did not allow for instant citizenship and as we were never in the US long enough for a readoption, the two year rule was the way the Embassy suggested we go. So, funny enough, I am filling out all the same paperwork for Abby now that I filled out in Guangzhou for Lilli in March. Abby passed her medical with flying colors! We follow up with our Consulate Appointment next week and will receive the "Big Brown Sealed Envelope" that needs to be handed into Immigration when we hit US soil! I am so excited that my girls will become American Citizens together!!!
Other than that... we are all a bit sick! Colds enough for everyone! The whole Judge clan is taking some type of cold medicine. We have so many Kleenex boxes around that the girls are building Kleenex box towers. Too cute!
We had our coldest day yesterday... 4 degrees.... It was very chilly! To think we will all be in summer clothes in about 2 weeks! We are so pasty white... we had better find a pool soon and get some sun!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My Social Butterfly

Holly is my social butterfly ~ always has been! Tonight she celebrated her birthday with 20 of her best friends!

As 20 parents came in between 10:30 and 11:00pm t collect their daughters, they all said the same thing.... "You are very brave to have 20 teenage girls in your house at one time"! As I told them all, these are great girls and it was our pleasure!

The theme of Holly's party was a movie premiere. We wanted to pick a movie that not one of her friends had seen... so we went back to my high school days and selected Can't Buy Me Love. I do believe this was McDreamy's first role... Patrick Dempsey as a teenage nerd in love with the most popular girl in school. It is a cute movie. All of Holly's friends loved it. They made several comments about the clothes and hairstyles... so 80's... but the message still rings true! Don't put people in categories ... nerds, jocks, cheerleaders, smart kids, skaters... they all are great kids! Give each other a chance in High School and you will find out that you are all the same!

After the movie, the girls enjoyed pizza and smores! Smores are not an International delicacy... so Holly had to explain to all of her friends just how to build a smore. After everyone enjoyed this very American sweet, they played a very Australian party game... Pass the Parcel! If you are reading this and have never heard of this game, Google it before your child's next birthday party! It is a great little game!

The girls finished out the night with cake and lots of singing and dancing! They departed with a party bag and a modern version of the "mixed tape". Holly worked pretty hard to produce a CD for everyone with her 15 favorite songs... 15 ~ 4 ~ 15. Fifteen songs for fifteen years.
I think everyone had a great night...

Friday, June 20, 2008

To The Moon and Back....

I'm sure you all know the book. "How much do you love me?" asks the little rabbit. "To the moon and back", replies the mother.
I have read this book to Abby since before she had a clue about what it meant. She always tells me that she loves me to the moon and back ~ 5 times!
Last night I was tucking the girls in and Abby asked for a hug and kiss. Then Lilli asked for a hug and kiss and when I bent down to give her one, she told me that she loved me to the moon and back! Good thing... cause that sent me over the moon!!! Today she has told me about 6 more times... when she woke up, when she got dressed, after lunch, in the car on the way to school to pick up Abby, in the KFC drive thru and tonight at bedtime again! I am a happy mommy!

~ Things I have Learned about Lilli so far ~

1) She loves protein and spinach.... she is a self made Atkins girl... she goes for the protein!!! Chicken and Fish and Lamb and Beef and Pork... she will take it anyway it comes... but "Where's the Beef" should be her catch phrase!

2) She loves stickers. Must have them anywhere she goes. Today at the Post Office, I gave her a piece of packing tape and she was so excited because it was a sticker! Easy to please this girl!!!

3) She must have music! No riding in the car with silence for us anymore... not that we did that often anyway! Lilli tells us which song, how loud, how often... she is the boss of the stereo system in our vehicle. Her favorite songs right now... "Hey There Delilah", "Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me", "I Miss You" by Hannah Montana... Lilli calls this the Sha NaNaNa Song. Seriously, she is musical and can pick up the words to most songs hearing them just a few times. She loves her music!

4) Lilli is the keeper of the flashlights at our house. Don't know where this comes from... but when you need a flashlight, ask Lilli. She knows where each and every one is at all times... and can produce one in the matter of a few seconds. She will let me know when the batteries need changing... because she has had it on too long. She asks for 2 minutes with a flashlight as a "prize" like other kids ask for candy... she has a thing for flashlights! Wonder if I buy a few little ones if they can keep her busy for 14 hours on an International flight from Sydney to Los Angeles???? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm it is a thought!

5) She likes Nick Jr and does not understand why we ever turn the TV off or why anyone else would ever want to watch anything else. I hear the shrieks of pain when Daniel and Joey get home from school and immediately switch the TV to ESPN. Watch out future husband... you will have no chance to control the remote with Lilli in the house.

6) If you want to teach someone a foreign language, do it when they are 3! Lilli's big sentence yesterday was, "I like this dress mommy, because it is beautiful and twirly ~ I don't like that one. It is blue and not twirly. " Even her grammar is improving by leaps and bounds. When she talks fast... which she does a lot as the "Princess of TalksAlot"... we still have to listen very carefully; however, the majority of the time, we know just what she is saying and it is good stuff!

7) Lilli is a rules girl and wants everyone following the same rules. If we tell her not to run... everyone that runs is going to get it. Napkins in your lap at dinner... don't even try to take a bite of food before your linen is in your lap... nope, Lilli won't have it. Everything must be exact and even and fair for everyone.... sure wish she ran the world!!! It would be a better place!

8) She is loving and sweet and funny!

9) Crocs are not shoes. They are Crocs. Don't call Lilli's Crocs shoes... you will be corrected. And, Crocs in our house are fine for winter wear... with thick socks. They are her favorite.... usually in a combination of 1 pink and 1 brown. She does love lots of colors.

10) If Lilli does not know you or does not want to know you... nothing you can do will make her acknowledge you. She has the ability to tune anyone out... She does this to strangers that are "drawn" to her everywhere... she looks through them... I wonder if it was a coping mechanism? She is not big on strangers... this is a good thing!

11) Abby loves Lilli! Abby told Lilli for the first time ~ in the bath last night ~ that she loved her. Then she told me... "Mommy, I do love Lilli!"

I could go on for days.... can you tell that I am smitten???? She really is a wonder!

It's Official....

The kids and I will depart early July.

The first major part of our trip will happen pretty quickly. The littles will become American Citizens together... upon our arrival into Los Angeles! This will be a thrilling event.... I am certain I will have an emotional outburst that will cause everyone in the immigration lines to squirm.... they will just have to get over it! We have been waiting for this moment for Abby for over 4.5 years. I have all the special "red, white and blue" clothes just ready to go! Changing a 3 and 4 year old in the lavatory on a 747 during the end of a 14 hour flight... sounds FUN!!!

Now... Joe and I have been working with an agent in Huntsville and spending hours with thousands of MLS listings from the Huntsville area. These are our favorite 3 houses at the moment...

They will probably all be scooped up in the next 2 weeks before I arrive... but I am hoping one of them remains... or 2... or all 3! We do have a list of 24 homes that would "suit us"... so I am going to be a very busy bee when I arrive in Alabama. This is so exciting... We have been living in someone else's home for so long... Embassy house after Embassy house after base house after rental. I am so ready to live in a home that Joe and I own ~ to plant flowers and trees and watch them grow.

We bought our first home in Atlanta in the early 90's. It was truly my dream house... I had to pinch myself more than once to make sure I was not dreaming. We had orders for a 4 year tour; however, 10 months into it, Uncle Sam changed his mind and we were off to the West Coast. The house sold in less than 2 weeks at a decent profit. The day I drove out of our driveway for the last time and paused for a second to look at my newly planted crepe myrtles and river birch trees, I could not help crying. I sure do hope the people who live in that house now love it as much as we did. And... they better be watering my garden!!!

House hunting back then was easy. We were a family of 4. Joey and Holly were my littles. They likes all the big empty houses... it was fun to run and jump and play while mom and dad were going over all the details of each house. Fast forward to now and we are house hunting for/with a family of seven. They all study the MLS information with us... "How big is my room?", "Does that neighborhood have a pool?", "I don't want that pink room!", "That is cool mom and dad... buy that house NOW!", "That is weird... I don't like that one!", etc. etc. etc. It should be a a real circus... oh.. I mean a real pleasure to house hunt with all 5 kids in tow!! Hope my real estate agent has ear plugs... and a big van!!!

It will be worse for Joe. Going from grand chaos to a huge house with no noise... no giggles... no arguing... no family dinners.... no family. I am sure he will spend most of his time at work... the govt. will get it's money's worth over the next year ~ as the govt. has for the last 29 years!

We are hoping he will get to the US maybe in September and again for Christmas and New Years. I can't wait already... : () )

Enough for now... wish me luck!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

At the Drop of a Hat....

At the Drop of a Hat... everything changes. Sometimes you don't ask for the change... sometimes you do. But with one phone call, all can be turned upside down.
After nearly 9 consecutive years overseas ( a total of 12) , Joe and I have decided that it is in the best interest of Joey's and Holly's educational goals, for us to get them back to the US as soon as possible. To do this, we have officially requested an Early Return of Dependents or ERD for short. This means that upon final approval by the US Government, I will depart Australia with the kids and return to the US. Joe will remain at the Embassy in Canberra until the first available date for him to join us... July 2009.
Our scheduled departure date is October 1, 2009. Joey does final testing and would graduate mid November 2009. Our first choice would have been to extend for 2 months in order for Joey to graduate from his current school; however, we recently learned that this is not an option. We could request a one-year extension. That would simply put us in the same exact boat in 2010 with Holly's graduation. After many late night and early morning and middle of the day conversations, we finally decided our course of action. What we feel is in the best interest of our children.
Once I receive the official orders, the kids and I will fly to Huntsville, Alabama and settle. This is not an easy process when the entire family is intact... I can't imagine doing it all without Joe. I will be buying a house and a car, getting the kids into school... etc etc etc! I know I can do it... but it is a bit scary! Anyone have any insight into Huntsville??? Leave me a comment!!!
So for now, I sit and wait for the official word that my life - my quiet little life - will be in chaos shortly. I am just sitting on the fence... knowing there is a small chance that our request could still be disapproved... sitting on the fence... knowing there are a million things that I should be doing in preparation!

As for life as we currently know it... we have gotten into quite the stable schedule. It has been cold and wet outside... so we have kept it low key for the last few weeks. Everyone is healthy and happy... and for that we are always thankful!!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lilli, Blogs, and Matilda Jane

Over the last year, I have followed many adoption/ family blogs. I have learned a lot ~ about adoption, bonding and attachment, medical conditions, the joy, the sadness, just about everything to do with family life. So many folks are surprisingly open and honest when they write about their experiences and it is such a benefit to those that will follow in their footsteps...

And... it is also just fun! I have learned a lot of plain old fun stuff also! Like where to get the best hair bows... where I want to go on my first vacation when I get back to the US.... and all about Matilda Jane ~ the unpredictable clothing company. I am so "gone" over these amazing children's clothes. I can't get them overseas... so when I return to the US, I am going to host a trunk show and buy everything myself. I'm not even going to invite anyone else... : () )

I have bid on dozens of Matilda Jane things on ebay... I am determined to get a knot dress; however, while I sleep ~ my maximum bid is always surpassed at the last second ~ and by tons of $$$$! It is amazing that these clothes sell for more on ebay than they do brand new!

I was successful in the purchase of one beautiful peasant blouse... it is a size 6 so I figured Abby would wear it first. One look from Abby when I opened the box and I knew she did not share my fascination with the Matilda Jane label... Lilli on the other hand ~ well, her eyes got big and she touched the shirt ever so softly and said "Oh Mommy, it is beautiful". It is now hers! She wore it today and looked way cute!

She asked me to take pictures and send them to Sandy, an Australian lady who meant a lot to Lilli in China. These are the 4 that I sent:

Now don't you all go and bid against me on size 4 and size 6 knot dresses!!! : )

Monday, June 2, 2008

From Barbies and Board Games to Perfume and Lip Gloss

Holly's taste has changed. The Little Mermaid and Cinderella posters have long been replaced with glossy shots of the High School Musical cast and Joe Jonas pics cut out of magazines... her Hello Kitty CD player has been replaced by a lime green ipod with attached speakers. Her Johnson's no tear shampoo gone and the space in her shower reserved for Aveeda products only. Her princess toothbrush holder is nowhere to be seen... now sitting in it's place on the vanity is a blowdryer and a hair straightener. She no longer asks for Barbies and Board Games ~ she asks for Perfume and Lip Gloss.... my baby is not a baby... she is 15!

Holly gave me a huge hug this morning at 7:30 ~ exactly 15 years from the moment she was born. I told her she owed me a lot more than a hug... she hurt me bad!!! : ) She hugged me again - chuckled as she appologized and reminded me not to forget her meal request for the day ~ lasagna.

I really can't believe that she is 15! We pulled her birth certificate out of the file cabinet last night and chuckled at the grimace on her face in her first picture(she still makes that exact face when she is not happy... exact face!!!) ! We read over her "stats"... having to depend on the English translation as my Thai is so rusty it is pretty much gone!

What an experience Holly's birth was - a c-section in Bangkok, Thailand. My second in 19 months. I was not sick a day during my pregnancy with Holly and the birth was much easier... I was a bit older and knew what to expect the second time around. But 9 days in a Thai hospital with the only American baby... it was an experience trying to get my daughter from the nurses!
From day 1, Holly was the easiest baby. She ate and slept and quietly explored her world ... she didn't cry. She was adored by her big brother (wonder when that disappeared????) and "made over" where ever we went ~ strangers would stop us to comment on her. It was her eyes. They were/are magnificent blue, large and expressive!

She is her father's daughter - she is a social butterfly. While tonight, we will have a quiet family dinner in celebration of her special day, on the 21st she will have a grand night with her 21 best friends! They will watch a movie, eat pizza, and learn the art and enjoyment of the American delicacy... the smore! Yes... we are introducing 21 teenage girls - from an array of foreign countries - to the ever tasty, ever classic ~ smore! All authentic ingredients are on the way from the US as I type... thank you!!! I think we might have found the secret to world peace.... :) The SMORE!!!!

The theme is a "Movie Premiere" with a bit of Rock-n-Roll on the side. Holly is making mixed CDs for party favorites... 15 for 15... her favorite 15 songs from the first 15 years of her life! The movie... Can't Buy Me Love... a classic teenage American movie... from the 1980's.... think McDreamy's first movie!!! It is definitely an Australian premiere for this movie!

Should be a great night for Holly and her friends!

I still can't believe she is 15 and I am wrapping big-girl presents! It does seem like last week when I was setting up the Little Tykes kitchen for her 3rd birthday! I sure do wish I could slow down time and keep her a while longer.... While some children cautiously go forward keeping mom and dad close by as they grow ~ Holly leaps and flies! Her future is made up of grand plans and distant lands. As much as I want to clip her wings to keep her grounded (and close to home) , I admire her desire to strive toward such enormous goals!

She might be ready for this growing up stuff.... but I'm certainly not!

****We just had a great little "party" for Holly! Here are some pictures from our little celebration....