Saturday, December 31, 2011

Parent Training Completed

I finished my parent training today.  And when I finished, my husband decided to take the courses.  He just finished too. 

We got another check marked item off our list.  Our parent training is completed!  Yay!!

Gold star to us!

It's so nice to have our Hague accredited parent training all wrapped up by 2011.  I like clean numbers. 

Today I skyped with Ms. M and family in Finland.  Yesterday they got their Christmas packages.  So they opened them up today with us watching.  My goddaughter, little Ms. S loved her piggy bank I got her, but enjoyed the packing peanuts more.  She would throw them up in the air like it was snow.  Their cat loved the packing box.  It was fun to see the family enjoy the simple things.  But Ms. M and Mr. A loved their gifts.  I just wish we were there in person to celebrate all this with them.  I do miss them terribly.

It's New Year's Eve, and I know many people make their New Year's Resolutions.  But I feel like I daily, monthly... continually make resolutions.  To work out more, to be more proactive, to start this or that... So I don't fret to much or demand more of myself this time of year.  I just enjoy the extra day off!

But I do wonder where we will be in the adoption process, this time next year.  Will we still be waiting or at least have a picture of our little girl's face?  I know we'll be waiting... but meaning waiting for a match.  We could have a match and then wait another year until we get her... or we could wait two years for a match.  Who knows?  But there is at least a promise of a LID next year.  And that I am grateful for.  I can't wait to post about my Log In Date. 

So to the promise of next year!  And it too begins with a small step.  Happy New Year everyone!
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Friday, December 30, 2011

Parent Training

I just started taking my Hague-Accredited Parent Training.  I'm very lucky I get online courses.

The course selection is:
  1. Overview of the China Adoption Program
  2. Grief & Loss in Adoption
  3. Talking to Your Child About Adoption
  4. Attachment 101
  5. Attachment 102
  6. Assisting in Your Child's Development - Part One
  7. Assisting in Your Child's Development - Part Two
  8. Assisting in Your Child's Development - Part Three
  9. Being a Multicultural Family
  10. Chinese Culture - Part One
  11. Chinese Culture - Part Two
So far, I've taken and passed the first 4 courses.  I feel like I'm a 1/3 the way through.  I feel very good about myself getting through it.  I'm hoping I can focus on it this weekend and get it done.  Then I'll feel like a graduate with my certificate of accreditation.

What I was slightly surprised at is that during one of the courses, they used the Red Thread Proverb.  They were talking how these classes were shortening that thread and helping it untangle.  It felt like a little validation.  I liked it.

I would have continued on and gotten more courses under my belt, but you have to print out the packet that goes with each course, and our ink in our printer just ran out.  I will have to get some more before I can continue on.

My husband hasn't taken any of the courses yet.  He probably will once I am done.

Again, small steps closer, but steps none the less.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Name Stamped Across My Heart

Merry Christmas to me!  Yes, it's late, but I've been eyeing this for sometime and it's not for Ashton, it's for me.

I've found a website months ago called csymbol.com, that translated Ashton's name into Chinese.  It's really awesome and I encourage anyone to use it.  They have a Chinese name index and you use it to find your name in Chinese.



You can have jewelry and stone chops made from the names.  It's really cool.  They have some nice stuff.

Anyhow, I saved the name to my PC, as I've been wanting to use it to put a decal or paint the characters of her name in her room.  Currently her room is still a hodge-podge.  But we are cleaning it out and trying to get it ready for her.  It was a guest room, but we took all that furniture out and are thinking of ripping up the carpet and laying down dark wood.  My husband wants to raise the ceiling!  I think that's going overboard, but if that is his way of nesting, then so be it.  He is such the handyman.  He can do anything to the house!

Got off track, point is I've saved the name for her room possibly one day.  And I may use that site one day to get something cool!

On Etsy, there's a store called Specially For U.  They make personalized jewelry, specializing in Korean and Chinese lettering/characters.  They do English as well.  Anyhow, they had this amazing Chinese name necklace.  It reminded me so much of the Carrie necklace from "Sex In the City".



Anyway, I've been eyeing this necklace on and off for awhile.  But I kept telling myself I didn't need it, I had Christmas to do etc.  Well, I stopped waiting.  I couldn't think of a better way (other than the red bracelet my mother got me) to feel connected or have her "close by".

The finished product should look something like this.  But of course with the lettering of Ashton from above.  You can choose your length of chain, which is a nice touch.  I'm very excited about it! 

They even tell you what the meaning of each character means. They told me that Ashton's 3 characters in order, left to right, means "Dust", "Poem" and "Sincere".  Interesting, huh?

I can't wait to get it!  Now the necklace won't be hanging so low it will be over my heart.  But I couldn't resist the title!  It sounds nicer.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Holidays

The holidays were great.  This picture makes we want to decorate my tree next year in tiny paper lantern lights!!

I took Friday off, and my husband and I got last minute food shopping done.  Later that night we went to our church’s Christmas service and watched some TV. 


Then Christmas Eve was spent at my in-laws. They do presents on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.  It’s a German tradition of theirs.
Then on Christmas day, we Skyped with my best friend Ms. M and her daughter little Ms. S.  We were to open our Christmas gifts in front of one another; however our package got delayed from a flight problem.  (They were supposed to get it Thursday, and it is Tuesday, and they still don’t have it.) 
My Mom came over to our house for Christmas and she got Ashton lots of things!  She got books, a ladybug night light, more Mulan dolls, Mulan clothing… Ashton got more than I did!  I’ll never have to shop for birthdays or Christmases.  I’ll have a stock pile for her!
Mother got me a couple of DVDs about China adoption.  We watched them that night. They were both older, I think done in 2006 or so, but still very informational.
The day after Christmas was spent at my Grandmother’s house.  After dinner and all the gifts we were peppered with questions about China and adoption.  My cousin Ms. S, said I could have all her hand me downs from her baby girl, who will be 2 next February.  I thought that was so sweet!
Today is back to the grindstone at work.  I woke up to snow.  We’ve had some flurries before, but today will be about 1-2 inches I think.  Thank goodness the traffic was sparse.   Luckily, it will be a slow week at work this week.
My husband and I were so busy we did not have time to do the Hague Parenting Classes online like we hoped.  We’re going to try for this weekend.  But we won’t kill ourselves over it.
That’s all on the forefront for now.  It’s been good and hectic.  Now just looking forward to the new year.  We have a lot of paperchasing to do next year.  And we will kick off the new year with our Home Study on Friday the 6th.  I keep reminding myself it’s next week, not this Friday.  I guess I’m anxious.
Next year will be many milestones.  Most importantly LID!  I am doubting that I’ll be matched with my daughter, but you never know.  That would be amazing! 
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Lovie

I was thinking about what would keep Ashton cuddled, safe and warm.  A security blanket.

I really loved mine as a child and took it everywhere with me.  It was muted pastels with animals all over it with a light green border.  I have it still now, stitched up with holes and everything somewhere in my closet.  It was so loved all the animals are faded off and it's just a white blanket or cream with the green border.

I've looked off and on and found out I liked lovies the best.  Those are the ones with animals on the ends of the blanket.

The Internet had tons to choose from but none spoke to me.

Eventually, I found one I liked.  It's almost perfect.



I wasn't looking for a penguin.  But I was looking for muted colors, nothing loud and bold.  I was hoping for golds and creams, but that would get dirty quickly and you're very limited finding anything in those colors.  But this blanket was just too cute to pass up.

This is one-of-a-kind, which I love.  I found it on Etsy.  They took a stuffed animal (gave him a surgery) and turned him into a blanket.  His head makes a great pillow.  He's about 22" x 22".  Pretty large.  Most are around the 16" or smaller.  I wanted a large one.

The lovie came in yesterday and it's so soft and big!  I think she'll really love her lovie!  I can just hear her asking where her "wovie" is. 

I just love these blankets with animals on them.  Gives them character, literally. 

We may send this in one of her care packages to China while we wait, once we're matched up that is!  Or if not, we'll take it to China when we go get her.

It's like I got her a little Christmas gift!  I hope she loves it like I hope she will!  I mean who can resist him?
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Monday, December 19, 2011

1 Home Study Down... 3 To Go

We had our first Home Study today at 9:30 a.m.  Both my husband and I took the day off.  We cleaned off and on all weekend.  We cleaned baseboards, the garage, the yard, dusted all the high areas, etc.   We cleaned places we usually don't clean.  I couldn't believe all the dust on the top and beneath of the refrigerator!!

Mr. T came about 10 minutes late.  The pups all greeted him.  We put the cats in the basement, just to keep it a little more controlled, though they are well behaved.

After the dogs wound down their greetings we sat at our kitchen table and started signing paperwork, just confidentially stuff and so forth.  Then we went over all the stuff we already turned in via paperwork.  We mentioned our birthplaces, where we lived, where we graduated, how we met, when we married and why we wanted to adopt and why from China.  Our community theater came up a bit.  But there was no drilling, no hard questions. 

After an hour, he left.  Our 2nd and 3rd Home Study appointments are our individual meetings.  He'll meet with my husband first, then with me.  It's set for the 6th of January, Friday night after work.

Once he left my husband and I were a little disappointed he didn't take a tour of the house and we were prepared to be drilled, but it was very light and informal.

I guess that's for next time.  But at least the house is all clean for then.  We can now just enjoy the holidays and work on our Hague Parenting classes.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birthday Card

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I have a few things planned to celebrate.  But I got this adorable card from my mother in the mail today.  Isn't it beautiful?  Let's hope tomorrow is a fun day!
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Home Study Scheduled

We just got a call tonight from our social worker (we'll call Mr. T) for our first home study appointment.  We will have our home study on Monday, the 19th.  It's so close and so far!

Mr. T sounds like a nice man, a very warm personality. 

I asked if he wanted the dogs and cats put up or if they could stay out.  He said he had dogs of his own at home, so they could stay out.  Mr. T will tour the house and ask us questions, it may take about 2 hours total.  It will be the first of several visits.  That's all he mentioned. 

Mr. T wanted to know if we had done our Hague training classes from our Adoption Agency.  I told him we have online classes available to us and we'll get get it all done for the Home Study.  We have 12 hours each to get done.  I was really excited to get it done early, but time slipped away.  Guess I'll have some Hague classes for Christmas!

We're very excited that we're moving forward.
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Monday, December 12, 2011

References

I’ve been contacted by a couple friends already about them being contacted via snail mail by our Home Study Agency.  They’re being asked to give write a letter and fill out a form about us.  It’s sort of exciting knowing my friends are pushing us along the paperchase path.  It’s sorta like a group effort now!  If only they could do some of the other adoption paperwork rather than it just be us.  Wouldn’t that be nice, but then I’d want to oversee it all to be sure they followed it to the letter.  Maybe it’s not such a good idea.  Regardless, currently we are in good hands.
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Friday, December 9, 2011

(Im)patient

This is the second of our adoption ornaments and so far, last ornament, I have bought.  I think it phrases where we are perfectly in this phase!

I found it on Etsy from Ethiopiadad's shop.  His shop says, "Your purchases are helping us bring our second child home from Ethiopia. We love Christmas, so we thought we would combine two of our passions - adoption and Christmas - to bring you some great ornaments. It's hard to find meaningful adoption ornaments - much less ones that help someone adopt.  These ornaments are made of 1/8 inch thick Russian birch plywood. It has been laser cut and then hand prepared by me. I have designed them all and they are copyright 2011."

I love that this helps adoption!  Just makes it more special.

I don't have my eye on any other Ashton ornaments this year.  I got the 2 that struck my eye weeks ago.  I'm very happy with them. 
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Impatient Husband

My husband has been asking everyday if our Home Study/Social Worker has called yet.  I keep telling him, "wouldn't I contact you if they did"?

For a man who took a LONG time to write his bio, he's pretty impatient about our Home Study beginning!

I read it'd take 2 weeks, which will come up tomorrow.  So I'd expect them to call first thing Monday, which I will follow up then.  But it's funny that my husband was thinking they're taking too long as of last Monday!

I'm not concerned, as our house still isn't all decorated for Christmas yet.  We have one tree up, we're debating of putting up our smaller tree this year.  We haven't done the outside lights, but we were sick over Thanksgiving weekend, that we couldn't.  And with my husband doing overtime every weekend, there hasn't been time.  We haven't done the garland along the stairs, or the stockings, put out the kresh, or all the little Christmas knick nacks.  So until the house is Christmas-fied, I'm okay with them not calling.  We haven't had time to prepare the house.

I feel like we're always playing catch-up rather than being ahead.  I want to be ahead of the game.  Hopefully, we can soon.  Maybe this is just the "winter slump"... though winter isn't here officially until the 21st.  But I never like the cold days or long nights.  It's like everything is shortened and harder to do.

But I'm staying positive.  Everything will work out.  I hope that even though my husband is working late all nights and through the weekend, we'll have enough energy to get enough done and hopefully get a jump start on the dossier.

If we get going and see our progress maybe it will be like the domino effect and everything will just be in motion and the momentum will get us through the paper chase.

That's the plan.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My First Adoption Ornament

We have lots of fun decorations on our tree that have many different meanings and sentimental value.  I have ornaments my Nana made, my parents made and that I have had since childhood.  I have an ornament from Mackinac Island, where my husband proposed to me.  We have Donald and Daisy ornaments from our honeymoon in Disney World.  I have ornaments from Finland, where my best friend lives.

So of course I'd want Ashton ornaments.

On my 'Adoption Etiquette 101' page I have a picture that I love.  Seen here!  I just love something about this photo.  I always loved the stork idea then throw him in that hat!  Too adorable!  Then you add the little baby girl wrapped up in her flag being carried (with a bow on top)... it's so cute!!  I really love this picture.

Well, I put in on that page because it's a special picture to me.  I didn't just want it in a blog post, where it sorta just gets filed away.  It's on a page where it can be seen at the top of the webpage constantly. 

Anyhow, upon looking for ornaments I came across Mandy's Moon and found adoption ornaments.  There she has many versions of this beloved picture on ornaments!



So, I was thinking about ordering the China girl ornament.  It's very cute.  But then scrolling down her site to see her other adoption ornaments, I see she has some resin ornaments with the stork as well.  However, there are only 3 options left: a Korean girl stork ornament, a Vietnamese boy stork ornament, and a Vietnamese girl stork ornament.  I see no China girl stork ornament in the resin. 

Then I decide to write the owner of the shop to see if she would be making any China girl stork resin ornaments.  She wrote back, "Thanks for writing. I used to have the resin Chinese girl stork ornaments but they sold out years ago. Those resin ornaments were something I had specially made almost 10 years ago and don't have any way to get again, I only have the Vietnamese ones and a handful of Korean ones left, but you can get the personalized Chinese one which is the newer version."

I was disappointed.  I do like the other ornaments, but they aren't as unique as the resin.  So I decided that the Korean flag was close enough to the China flag that I'd go ahead and order it, since I like the resin version so much.  I think there has to be a way to add four little stars to it to make it a China flag.

Well, today when I came home from work, my order from Mandy's Moon came in.  It shipped fast!  I just ordered it on Sunday, and today is Wednesday.  I was very excited!  It was packaged very well.  It was very well protected, tons of bubble wrap and foam wrapped around the ornament.  I hung it on the tree immediately!

My husband is usually home before me, but wasn't today.  So I told him to search the tree when he came home.  And he found it after about a minute of searching.  He thought it was "really cute"!



I think so too!  I'm glad I got it, even though it's technically the wrong country.  We'll see if I can be inventive and add the remaining stars.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reason 2

After my LONG tribute to Tai-Pan, my next reason to love December 5th, seemed mute.  But I still wanted to share.  So here it is...

I gave my most improtant reason first.  Tai-Pan will always hold a special place in my heart.  But the second reason I love December 5th is becuase it's Christmas in Holland.

I used to live in Holland for a few years as a kid (before Tai-Pan).  I was an ARMY brat, and lived in many places.  December was very special month during that time.  I had my Holland Christmas then my birthday then Christmas.  It was like the entire month was one huge party!

The way Holland Celebrated Christmas was very fun!  Yes, they did have a Santa Claus, but he was called Sinterklaas.  Basically meaning, Saint Nick.  But that is the only similarity.  Everything else is different.

First he looks a lot different.  He is in red, but holds a Sheppard's hook and wears robes and a bishop's alb.  He also doesn't have reindeer.  This Sinterklaas rides a beautiful white horse.  And instead of elves, Sinterklaas has a companion, Zwarte Piet.  Meaning Black Peter.  He is dressed as if he stepped out of a Shakespeare play.  He has the bloomers and tights and feathered cap and a huge sack.  I assume it's the sack with all the presents, but how I remembered it was he carried the sticks and coal for all the naughty children.  But I don't remember Sinterklaas carrying a sack, so it must have been a sack for both.

Basically, I put out one of my wooden clogs out by the fireplace.  (No I never wore wooden shoes, though some locals did (with very thick socks), but I had some just for this holiday.)   I'd fill it up with carrots for Sinterklaas to feed to his horse.  Then the next morning I'd wake up to tiny presents in my shoe, something like paper dolls, candy, marbles etc.  I'd always be scared that Zwarte Piet was going to give me sticks to be spanked with.  But it never happened.

I remember singing Dutch songs about Sinterklaas and enjoying the Christmas celebrations.  Now, I'm sure there is the "real" version or politically correct version of how/why Sinterklaas came and Zwarte Piet.  However, if I missed something big about this holiday or where he came (I don't think it was the North Pole) I was too young to remember and I'm retelling from a childhood of my skewed vision from long ago.  I know I can look it all up on Wikipedia, but I don't want to take away the magic of the day. 

I only got to celebrate the Holland Christmas while in Holland, much to my disappointment, Sinterklaas didn't come to America.  But I always looked back on this day with fond memories of celebrating a different kind of Christmas.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Reason 1

Today is a special day for me.  Why?  Two reasons.  Reason 1 I'll tell today, but as it is a long post I'll tell reason 2 tomorrow...

Reason 1:
Today was the day my Tai-Pan was born.  Now who is Tai-Pan, you ask?  He was my first dog.  I had many family dogs before him.  I even had my own guinea pigs.  But he was my fist love.  He was amazing!

I turned 14 and did a report for school about animal cruelty or spaying or adopting strays. I don’t really remember. I just remember going to a shelter to learn some stuff for my report.
There I found a Pekingese girl that was hit by a car and only had 3 legs. She had these big soulful eyes.  She looked pitiful.  I wanted to take her home with me. Mom wouldn’t let me, she had biting problems and wasn’t good with kids. (I have a younger brother.) I was devastated and begged for her. This went on for some time.

My mom decided I was old enough for my own puppy. I did nothing, Mom did all the searching. I was too young, I guess.

Soon she found some peek-a-poo (Pekingese and Poodle mix) puppies for sale. I cant' remember how many were in the litter, but they were all black and all friendly and happy.  After spending some time there, maybe an hour or so, I picked one out. Mom was writing the check when she stopped and just paused.  I didn't know what was going on.  It was like time froze.  Mom then tore up the check, made me give up the puppy and we left.

I cried my eyes out going “why?” She said that God told her no. She felt a force beyond her to just not do it. I didn’t care, I wanted a puppy! But I didn't force the issue with THAT dog, just that I wanted a dog, and I mentioned again the 3 legged Pekingese.

A week later Mom saw an ad for 2 Pekes for sale. Apparently, their Mom was pregnant for the first time and died giving birth. The breeder tried taking care of the 2 brothers but their Daddy tried to eat them. (That’s what I heard, but am skeptic to believe. Maybe kill, but “eat"?)

Anyway, so the breeder gave the two pups to a breeder-friend who raised boxers. So this lady was trying to sell them. Because they had no mother, they were very good with people, being "raised" by humans. So Mom wanted me to check them out.

We went to visit them right away. Mom and I went to the kitchen and there was a plastic kid pool on the middle of the floor holding two puppies. One was distinctly more handsome than his brother; he had a better looking coat. (The price even reflected it.) Well, the handsome one was peeing on his foot when I went to compare the two. So for quick reference sake we called them “Wet Paw” and “Dry Paw”.

Wet Paw was a rascal. He wanted everything he couldn’t have. He ran to the stove and barked at the dishtowel hanging there, because he wanted it. He loved to play tug of war. He had tons of energy and would run over his brother.

Dry Paw was shy and sweet. And I felt sorry for him. And he was cheaper of the two. So I told my Mom I wanted him. My Mom said, “Don’t worry about price. Get the dog that will be your fit. When they get older they will calm down more, so Dry Paw may become even more reserved. Wet Paw should calm some, but still be active. So do you want a calm dog or lively dog?”

I was worried about price, so I did what my Mom said and didn’t think of that. I was also afraid that the shy dog would become boring when it grew up. So I had Mom buy the handsome dog, “Wet Paw” whom I named Tai-Pan. I never regretted it for a moment.

We were bonded from day one!  I think Tai-Pan thought he was a large dog too. He carried himself as such.  I celebrated his birthday with a doggy hat and dog bone every year. He protected me from my brother. Tai-Pan would bark if my brother was pushing me around, then Tai would mock bite him then lick him to death. He slept on my bed with me. He’d sell his soul for cheese or tomatoes. He'd get so excited about his food, when we told him to "speak" he sneezed instead. So he learned "sneeze" instead. He just got too excited when food was around to learn to "speak". But sneeze he had down pat. There wasn’t a food he didn’t like, except for popcorn. He had the longest tongue I ever knew! He could touch the top of his forehead!  Up to his dying day, he begged for food mercilessly. I catered to his every food whims, since I got him when I was young. Now I know better, but he got away with it all his life. He even had a donut as his last meal.

I tear up any time I think about his death. He was diagnosed with degenerative mylopathy. His spine was atrophying. He was in a wheelchair the last 3 years of his life; roughly the last 3 years right after I graduated college. His spine couldn’t support his back legs.

Tai-Pan was an amazing dog and I tried explaining the situation of his condition and wheels in casual conversation. I always felt like I had to defend him. It spooked some people; they didn't understand. But as long as he had quality of life, I didn’t care he had the wheels. His wheels got stuck around corners of the walls often. Tai didn't like his wheels much, but he tolerated them. He preferred me to carry him around or to pull himself around like a seal.


I was told by a vet specialist that Tai-Pan was the first small breed ever diagnosed with this before. I don't know if that's true.  I did everything I could for that boy. He was my heart, and the reason behind my character. 

Tai-Pan had a stroke while I was at work and I knew that he wasn't the same.  I was contemplating if I should take him to the vet or not to be put down, when he just passed like a sleeping babe in my arms.  Like he waited for me to hold him for him to be let go.

He died October 27th at 12:37 PM; I know because for some reason my watch stopped that moment he died. I never put a battery in that watch again.

He’s buried with his favorite toy, under a willow tree in my mother’s yard. I feel as he lives on in that tree. His favorite toy was a stuffed white cat made by Russ called Twinkie. He knew it by name... in fact all his toys were "twinkies". We'd say, "where's your twinkie", and if he couldn't find his white cat he'd bring another squeaky toy, usually the squeeky duck. That was his second favorite.

He loved his squeeky toys. We would play tug all the time with them. Whenever you’d ask him where I was he’d scour the house looking for me, though he rarely left me alone. He was my shadow, my constant companion. My teddy bear and confidant. I see him now as the angel that watches over my furbabies now.

I never knew a more devoted dog. No animal adored me as much as Tai-Pan. We were inseparable. I see him running again and happy as he always was. He always seemed to be smiling. Though he’s gone, I feel as he hasn’t left me. I feel him with me all the time.
Every December 5th I think of him and remember him fondly.  He was a beautiful soul!
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

College Strategy?

I found this SAD article at
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/03/2529811/some-asians-college-strategy-dont.html
but I'm pasting it all here, as I want to be able to see this long after the link is gone.  Whether my child thinks she is white, or Asian or both, I don't care.  But that she feels that she can or cannot check a box so that she has better chances getting into college... sad.  This just adds to the "where do I fit in" mentality.  I just want her to be proud.

Some Asians' college strategy: Don't check 'Asian'

By JESSE WASHINGTON

AP National Writer

Lanya Olmstead was born in Florida to a mother who immigrated from Taiwan and an American father of Norwegian ancestry. Ethnically, she considers herself half Taiwanese and half Norwegian. But when applying to Harvard, Olmstead checked only one box for her race: white.

"I didn't want to put 'Asian' down," Olmstead says, "because my mom told me there's discrimination against Asians in the application process."

For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it's harder for them to gain admission to the nation's top colleges.

Studies show that Asian-Americans meet these colleges' admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and that they often need test scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination.

The way it works, the critics believe, is that Asian-Americans are evaluated not as individuals, but against the thousands of other ultra-achieving Asians who are stereotyped as boring academic robots.

Now, an unknown number of students are responding to this concern by declining to identify themselves as Asian on their applications.

For those with only one Asian parent, whose names don't give away their heritage, that decision can be relatively easy. Harder are the questions that it raises: What's behind the admissions difficulties? What, exactly, is an Asian-American - and is being one a choice?

Olmstead is a freshman at Harvard and a member of HAPA, the Half-Asian People's Association. In high school she had a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and scored 2150 out of a possible 2400 on the SAT, which she calls "pretty low."

College applications ask for parent information, so Olmstead knows that admissions officers could figure out a student's background that way. She did write in the word "multiracial" on her own application.

Still, she would advise students with one Asian parent to "check whatever race is not Asian."

"Not to really generalize, but a lot of Asians, they have perfect SATs, perfect GPAs, ... so it's hard to let them all in," Olmstead says.

Amalia Halikias is a Yale freshman whose mother was born in America to Chinese immigrants; her father is a Greek immigrant. She also checked only the "white" box on her application.

"As someone who was applying with relatively strong scores, I didn't want to be grouped into that stereotype," Halikias says. "I didn't want to be written off as one of the 1.4 billion Asians that were applying."

Her mother was "extremely encouraging" of that decision, Halikias says, even though she places a high value on preserving their Chinese heritage.

"Asian-American is more a scale or a gradient than a discrete combination. I think it's a choice," Halikias says.

But leaving the Asian box blank felt wrong to Jodi Balfe, a Harvard freshman who was born in Korea and came here at age 3 with her Korean mother and white American father. She checked the box against the advice of her high school guidance counselor, teachers and friends.

"I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of trying to hide half of my ethnic background," Balfe says. "It's been a major influence on how I developed as a person. It felt like selling out, like selling too much of my soul."

"I thought admission wouldn't be worth it. It would be like only half of me was accepted."

Other students, however, feel no conflict between a strong Asian identity and their response to what they believe is injustice.

"If you know you're going to be discriminated against, it's absolutely justifiable to not check the Asian box," says Halikias.

Immigration from Asian countries was heavily restricted until laws were changed in 1965. When the gates finally opened, many Asian arrivals were well-educated, endured hardships to secure more opportunities for their families, and were determined to seize the American dream through effort and education.

These immigrants, and their descendants, often demanded that children work as hard as humanly possible to achieve. Parental respect is paramount in Asian culture, so many children have obeyed - and excelled.

"Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best," wrote Amy Chua, only half tongue-in-cheek, in her recent best-selling book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother."

"Chinese parents can say, 'You're lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you,'" Chua wrote. "By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they're not disappointed about how their kids turned out."

Of course, not all Asian-Americans fit this stereotype. They are not always obedient hard workers who get top marks. Some embrace American rather than Asian culture. Their economic status, ancestral countries and customs vary, and their forebears may have been rich or poor.

But compared with American society in general, Asian-Americans have developed a much stronger emphasis on intense academic preparation as a path to a handful of the very best schools.

"The whole Tiger Mom stereotype is grounded in truth," says Tao Tao Holmes, a Yale sophomore with a Chinese-born mother and white American father. She did not check "Asian" on her application.

"My math scores aren't high enough for the Asian box," she says. "I say it jokingly, but there is the underlying sentiment of, if I had emphasized myself as Asian, I would have (been expected to) excel more in stereotypically Asian-dominated subjects."

"I was definitely held to a different standard (by my mom), and to different standards than my friends," Holmes says. She sees the same rigorous academic focus among many other students with immigrant parents, even non-Asian ones.

Does Holmes think children of American parents are generally spoiled and lazy by comparison? "That's essentially what I'm trying to say."

Asian students have higher average SAT scores than any other group, including whites. A study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade examined applicants to top colleges from 1997, when the maximum SAT score was 1600 (today it's 2400). Espenshade found that Asian-Americans needed a 1550 SAT to have an equal chance of getting into an elite college as white students with a 1410 or black students with an 1100.

Top schools that don't ask about race in admissions process have very high percentages of Asian students. The California Institute of Technology, a private school that chooses not to consider race, is about one-third Asian. (Thirteen percent of California residents have Asian heritage.) The University of California-Berkeley, which is forbidden by state law to consider race in admissions, is more than 40 percent Asian - up from about 20 percent before the law was passed.

Steven Hsu, a physics professor at the University of Oregon and a vocal critic of current admissions policies, says there is a clear statistical case that discrimination exists.

"The actual dynamics of how it happens are really quite subtle," he says, mentioning factors like horse-trading among admissions officers for their favorite candidates.

Also, "when Asians are the largest group on campus, I can easily imagine a fund-raiser saying, 'This is jarring to our alumni,'" Hsu says. Noting that most Ivy League schools have roughly the same percentage of Asians, he wonders if "that's the maximum number where diversity is still good, and it's not, 'we're being overwhelmed by the yellow horde.'"

Yale, Harvard, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania declined to make admissions officers available for interviews for this story.

Kara Miller helped review applications for Yale as an admissions office reader, and participated in meetings where admissions decisions were made. She says it often felt like Asians were held to a higher standard.

"Asian kids know that when you look at the average SAT for the school, they need to add 50 or 100 to it. If you're Asian, that's what you'll need to get in," says Miller, now an English professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

Highly selective colleges do use much more than SAT scores and grades to evaluate applicants. Other important factors include extracurricular activities, community service, leadership, maturity, engagement in learning, and overcoming adversity.

Admissions preferences are sometimes given to the children of alumni, the wealthy and celebrities, which is an overwhelmingly white group. Recruited athletes get breaks. Since the top colleges say diversity is crucial to a world-class education, African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders also may get in despite lower scores than other applicants.

A college like Yale "could fill their entire freshman class twice over with qualified Asian students or white students or valedictorians," says Rosita Fernandez-Rojo, a former college admissions officer who is now director of college counseling at Rye Country Day School outside of New York City.

But applicants are not ranked by results of a qualifications test, she says - "it's a selection process."

"People are always looking for reasons they didn't get in," she continues. "You can't always know what those reasons are. Sometimes during the admissions process they say, 'There's nothing wrong with that kid. We just don't have room.'"

In the end, elite colleges often don't have room for Asian students with outstanding scores and grades.

That's one reason why Harvard freshman Heather Pickerell, born in Hong Kong to a Taiwanese mother and American father, refused to check any race box on her application.

"I figured it might help my chances of getting in," she says. "But I figured if Harvard wouldn't take me for refusing to list my ethnicity, then maybe I shouldn't go there."

She considers drawing lines between different ethnic groups a form of racism - and says her ethnic identity depends on where she is.

"In America, I identify more as Asian, having grown up there, and actually being Asian, and having grown up in an Asian family," she says. "But when I'm back in Hong Kong I feel more American, because everyone there is more Asian than I am."

Holmes, the Yale sophomore with the Chinese-born mother, also has problems fitting herself into the Asian box - "it doesn't make sense to me."

"I feel like an American," she says, "...an Asian person who grew up in America."

Susanna Koetter, a Yale junior with an American father and Korean mother, was adamant about identifying her Asian side on her application. Yet she calls herself "not fully Asian-American. I'm mixed Asian-American. When I go to Korea, I'm like, blatantly white."

And yet, asked whether she would have considered leaving the Asian box blank, she says: "That would be messed up. I'm not white."

"Identity is very malleable," says Jasmine Zhuang, a Yale junior whose parents were both born in Taiwan.

She didn't check the box, even though her last name is a giveaway and her essay was about Asian-American identity.

"Looking back I don't agree with what I did," Zhuang says. "It was more like a symbolic action for me, to rebel against the higher standard placed on Asian-American applicants."

"There's no way someone's race can automatically tell you something about them, or represent who they are to an admissions committee," Zhuang says. "Using race by itself is extremely dangerous."

Hsu, the physics professor, says that if the current admissions policies continue, it will become more common for Asian students to avoid identifying themselves as such, and schools will have to react.

"They'll have to decide: A half-Asian kid, what is that? I don't think they really know."

The lines are already blurred at Yale, where almost 26,000 students applied for the current freshman class, according to the school's web site.

About 1,300 students were admitted. Twenty percent of them marked the Asian-American box on their applications; 15 percent of freshmen marked two or more ethnicities.

Ten percent of Yale's freshmen class did not check a single box.

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Journey Down Memory Lane

My husband and I decided we should start getting my old toys out and either give away to Goodwill or keep for Ashton.  We had several boxes in the basement we haven't seen in years.

I found 4 very old items... actually let's not call them old as they are my childhood items ;)  I found 4 very young items, but need some TLC to bring them back to their former selves.  I found my silver piggy bank, my silver rattle and 2 silver mugs.  I know I got one of the mugs during my Christening.  But the other stuff I may have got when I was born.  One of the mugs is Humpty Dumpty, and it has the poem on the back.  My piggy bank has my name and birthday on the top.  I've never seen another silver rattle, but it's so cool!  Anyhow, I can't wait to polish these up and put them on her shelf in her room.

Then came the main toy I was looking for.  This is Mousey, my most beloved toy of all.  I know I should have pictures of me as a baby somewhere holding him, when he was clean and fluffy, in all his glory.  I don't remember ever not having him.  He is well loved.  I still adore him so much, and know how "fragile" he is now, I'm debating whether or not to put him in her room.  I don't want him destroyed.  Maybe a HIGH shelf or I'll just keep him for myself... somewhere.  If I could find him again anywhere I would, but his tag is cut off so I wouldn't even know where to find this toy, who made it or what he is called.  But who can resist this face?  Don't you just want to take care of him?  His nose is "loose" and so is his tail.  So he's fragile as I said.  But very, very loved.

Next is a very loved Cabbage Patch doll from Germany.  We lived in Holland when I was little, and Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage.  I got a special one.  It's not an official one, but she was mine and cooler... her eyes can open and close and she had a hard body (except plush tummy).  And she can stand up on her own!  I have her in her original outfit (It even has the German tag still on the dress)... except for the shoes... those are actual baby shoes.  But what else is great is I found several of her baby doll outfits.  Including a yellow knitted dress... but it had a tag on it, so I am remembering the wrong dress.  What I love is Chrissy (that's what I named her) can wear actual baby clothing.  So that is fun!  I'll get Ashton a Cabbage Patch doll of her own choosing, but I think she'll love Chrissy too.

Then, to my surprise, I didn't know I even kept this doll.  I was very excited to keep this one for Ashton.  It's my Rainbow Brite doll, Indigo!  I had just bought a doll back in August that reminded me of her.  I'm so happy she and Chrissy seem to be in good condition.  I don't have her little fluffy friend, but who cares.  She's pretty sturdy and can be played with.  I'll have to re-tie her bows and cut any strangely yarn hair, but overall she looks great!  I'm very glad she and Chrissy lasted.  I'm going to have to buy this girl a toy chest!  I can't imagine having all these toys plus the new ones we've gotten her placed all around the room.  Either that or she won't have room in her bed to sleep.  Some people have tons of pillows, she's going to have lots of company!

Next, is a teddy bear I know I've seen in baby pictures with me.  Also, looked much fluffier then.  I can't say he's very sentimental, but I think he was my first toy.  I remember seeing pictures of him next to my chubby baby body, laying next to our German Sheppard.  He seems to be in great condition, although his fur is all matted down from love and age.  Also, amazingly enough the teddy still has his squeaker.  But it doesn't work if you squeeze his tummy.  I only squeaks if you spank him.  Probably not a good place for the squeaker to have fallen, but hey... He still is here and can be loved.  I'll have to take out my Confirmation cross pin from his bib.  Not kid friendly.  But the hole remained when I took it off the bib, so I put it back for the time being.

Then my favorite animal is the platypus.  They are awesome.  I have never seen one in real life, as there are none here in any of the US Zoos.  So if I ever go to Australia, I will HAVE to see this amazing animal and I will try anything I can to touch one.  But I still have 2 beautiful stuffed toys of the platypus.  So I hope she enjoys them.

I did find my old baby doll Michelle, a "life like" doll.  She was ruined.  So she had to be trashed.  And I found Bubba my huge, brown bear by Gund

Last but not least, my husband had special toys to share.  My husband used to show llamas.  He was VERY good at it.  It's part of his past that he treasures very close to his heart.  So anything llama he sees as toys or movies he gets excited over like a little boy.  Anyhow, he had these 2 alpaca teddy bears.  He was very excited to see them in pretty good shape.  He wants them in her room.  I think it's sweet he had something to pass down as well.

So I think we have a good mix and a good start to things.  I just hope she treasures them as we have.
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Boilermakers

Quick tangent: While driving home from work last night I was very surprised to see 2 swans swimming in a lake in a neighborhood.  Isn't too cold for swans?  I don't know where they hang out, but a retention pond doesn't seem like the typical place.  I always thought they hung out in southern states and in parks  or something very ornate and beautiful.  But I was surprised to see them.  They were very beautiful.  I had to call my mom and tell her as swans are her favorite animal.

Now back to our regularly scheduled post.  Last night my husband and I did some fun Christmas shopping after going out to eat, celebrating our "dating" anniversary.  We were friends longer than this particular anniversary, but if he hadn't kissed me on this day, years ago, who knows where we would have ended up?

While shopping, of course, we came across a "must buy" for Ashton. 

Almost a month ago, I went to a Butler Bulldogs Basketball game!  While there I came across my own "must buy".  I thought it'd only be a matter of time until this day arrived.

So while we were shopping, my dear husband came across this!
As I said, it was a "must buy" so we did.  But the cutest part isn't the outfit. 

No!  The cutest part is the Purdue panties, with "Purdue" written across the bottom!!  It's like "Juicy" but only BETTER!  How cute is that?!?  Seriously! 

Oh, I so want to make her a Butler panties set now!!  Dang it!
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ringing in the Christmas Season

I thought I might spread more fun and get others into the holiday spirit.  And what gets you into the holiday-festive spirit faster than Christmas carols?

You never know what you can find!  A fellow adoptive parent shared this site and I thought I should do the same!

This was on someone’s blog last year, but I thought others may enjoy it too.   (In fact, you may also enjoy the video below on the page, check it out.)  Go here to enjoy the classic Christmas songs in Chinese!

I've never heard anything like this before.  Quite eye opening... or ear opening.  Enjoy!

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Christmas in China

As Christmas is approaching, I obviously wonder about how and if China celebrates.

Thank you to TLC for this informative Chinese Christmas and Chinese New Year/Spring Festival!

The small number of Christians in China call Christmas “Sheng Dan Jieh”, which means “Holy Birth Festival”. They decorate their homes with evergreens, posters, and bright paper chains. The family puts up a Christmas tree, called "tree of light," and decorates it with beautiful paper lanterns, paper flowers, and red paper chains that symbolize happiness. They cut out red pagodas to paste on the windows, and they light their houses with paper lanterns, too.

Many Chinese enjoy the fun and color that Christmas brings to the drab winter season. Big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong are gaily decorated at Christmas.

Many people give parties on Christmas Eve, and some people enjoy a big Christmas dinner at a restaurant. Shops sell plastic trees and Christmas decorations for everyone to enjoy, and Santa Claus is a popular good-luck figure.

The Christmas season is ushered in with fireworks. Jugglers and acrobats entertain, and people enjoy the merriment and feasting. In Hong Kong, which recently was restored to Chinese rule, Christmas Day is just one of seventeen public holidays.

At this time of year, people in Hong Kong also celebrate Ta Chiu, a festival of peace and renewal, by making offerings to saints and reading the names of everyone who lives in the area.


On Christmas Eve, Christian children in China hang up their muslin stockings that are specially made so “Dun Che Lao Ren” (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run), or "Christmas Old Man," can fill them with wonderful gifts. Santa Claus may also be called “Lan Khoong-Khoong”, "Nice Old Father."

Since the vast majority of the Chinese people are not Christian, the main winter festival in China is the Chinese New Year. Now officially called the "Spring Festival," it is a time when children receive new clothing, eat luxurious meals, receive new toys, and enjoy firecracker displays. An important aspect of the New Year celebration is the worship of ancestors. Portraits and paintings of ancestors are brought out and hung in the main room of the home.

The Chinese lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, begins in late January or early February. The celebration lasts for three days. While not part of Christmas, the New Year is the most important celebration of the year for the Chinese people. People travel long distances to be with their families. They decorate their homes with brightly colored banners. These banners carry messages of good wishes for the coming year.
Many people exchange gifts at the New Year. Following tradition, very expensive, special presents are given only to close family members. Token gifts are given to friends and distant relations. Children especially enjoy their gifts of new shoes and hats.

People put on new clothes for the New Year celebration. They prepare many special holiday dishes, and families come together at one house to enjoy them. The younger sons of the household serve dinner to the head of the household.

For the first celebration, on New Year's Day, people offer rice, vegetables, tea, and wine to heaven and earth. They burn incense and candles to pay tribute to their ancestors and to all living members of the family.



Chinese families turn out to watch the spectacular New Year's fireworks displays and the exciting lion dance. Several performers dance inside an enormous costume. They make the "lion" walk, slither, glide, leap, and crouch along the street as it leads a colorful procession.

The greatest spectacle takes place at the Feast of the Lanterns, when everyone lights at least one lantern for the occasion. Other special events of the New Year include the Festival of the Dragons and the Fisherman's Festival.

Throughout the three days of New Year's celebrations, everyone speaks only cheerful words to each other so they will have good luck in the coming year.
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