Playing in the sand and surf

Friday, April 24, 2015

Most of our Saturdays are spent hanging around the tennis courts. And depending on the draws and how Caleb does, he sometimes plays on Sundays as well.  Last weekend was no different.  He made it to the semi-finals on Sunday but couldn't pull off a win against a higher ranked player.  Not playing in the finals meant he had an earlier return home....which meant we decided to scoot on over to the beach for a little bit.  We didn't stay too long, maybe an hour or so. But it was long enough for everyone to get wet and sandy and have some fun.
With the longer summer days approaching, we will surely be hitting up the beach even more.

Hand Camp

Friday, April 17, 2015

{Warning: This is an extremely long post.}

Last weekend, we had an opportunity for the dumplings to attend Hand Camp, an action packed weekend full of activities for children with upper limb differences.  It was put together by a great group of people at Hands to Love, an organization run by Dr. Paul and Ruthie Dell, that believes difference does not equal disability.  Volunteers put together a weekend camp that allows children with upper limb differences to participate in all sorts of activities and parents to network.  This year they celebrated fifteen years of Hand Camp.  They have gone from 10-12 kids to over 90 kids in that time, truly amazing.  Many of the kids have been attending camp for a while. And while it was our kids first year, they quickly made some friends and had a blast.  

Since we found out pretty late about camp, all the cabins were booked.  No problem.  We hit the road in Charlie and dry camped right there at the camp.  We had our own "cabin" on wheels, for which we were grateful.  We arrived Friday afternoon, cut an air hose underneath the RV trying to park (fun!), checked in, and proceeded to rummage through all the goodies in our welcome bags.  Since the Dells live in Gainesville (Dr. Dell is a hand surgeon at the University of Florida), there was a ton of orange and blue...and boy, did the Gator in me get a little homesick for the home of Gator Nation! lol
After check-in, we met our "family pal" Kristin and had some dinner.
Patrick ended up taking Havi back to the RV, and Kristin and I headed down to the campfire for a welcome presentation and s'mores.
Saturday was filled with activities galore.  The dumplings did sessions on music and soccer while Patrick and I did small group discussions for parents.  Our group leaders were AULDS (adults with upper limb differences).  It was a great time of reflection and learning.

Then it was time for Caleb's favorite- archery.  He shot lefty and did awesome!  Madeline wasn't interested.
Then it was off to tennis.  The dumplings were all looking forward to this one.  After doing some basic volley and groundstroke drills, the activity pal played with Caleb.  They both had a lot of fun.  And just to let you know how crazy small this world is, I happened to talk to another mom who is not only living Gainesville right now, but she and her family attend the church my sister attended as a student and know the pastor and his family well!  What a blessing to meet this mom!  God is GOOD!
After tennis, it was time for lunch and then right back out to activities. Next up was the ropes course.  Caleb and Madeline were both too intimidated to climb the course (I think it was like 50 feet high.)  So they climbed around the "grotto".  Even Havi got in on the action thanks to Kristin.
Havi was so little, her helmet kept slipping off her head.
After watching so many kids go up, the dumplings decided they would go up to the half way point and then come down.  But unfortunately, time ran out before they had their chance.
So they headed over to art and STEM. They decorated these cute clay pots.
Then they came outside and put their handprints all over the 2015 banner.
After art/STEM, it was time to swim in the lake. The water was a little chilly, but the girls didn't mind too much.  Caleb preferred to play a little badminton and volleyball (with a beach ball) with the big kids.
Because of his limited range of motion with his left arm, he tried using his right for hitting most of the shots.  Any ball to his left side was hit like a tennis backhand.  It was pretty cute to see...even on the volleyball court, the tennis player in him came out.
After swimming we had dinner and then a parade down to the rec hall for the evening activity.
Once down to the rec hall, the dumplings went on a hay ride.  See that little head in front of Caleb along the side of the hay bed?  That little munchkin really enjoyed the hayride and promptly fell asleep...face down in the hay!!! lol
Then it was time for some fun booths- cupcake decorating, face painting, photo booths and dancing.  Rion Paige, who has appeared on the X Factor, also sang a song for everyone.  What a sweet gal she is.
Sunday morning was time to pack up and prepare for departure.  The children sang a song they all learned at music the day before.  I still hear Caleb and Madeline singing it around the house.
There were also a couple of slideshows, highlighting previous years hand camps and even some photos from this year. There was also a graduation ceremony for the CITs (high schoolers), as they will have their own weekend retreat geared toward teens in the fall.
Then it was time to say goodbye.  Caleb really hit it off with a boy named Sam, who happens to be 2 years and a day younger than him...also from southern China..and just a few hours drive from us.  So we will definitely try to get together with him and his family.
Kristin, our family pal, was great.  She is graduating from UF next month, and then she begins graduate school in Occupational Therapy.  The girls really took to her.  (Caleb was too busy playing with Sam and his younger brother Joey. lol)  It was nice to know the girls were in good hands when out and about the camp.
We all had such an amazing time.  
We're grateful to Dr. Dell for extending an invitation to us.  
And we can't wait until next year!

A minimalist Easter celebration and why

Friday, April 10, 2015

This year for Easter, we decided to keep things simple.  As in years past, we went to church Sunday morning and had a simple dinner at home (maple glazed ham, mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach.)  We also opted to dye eggs on Easter Sunday too.  However, we did not do baskets for the dumplings.  We've never done anything outrageous or grand on Easter, but this year we decided to scale back on the candy and chocolate, gifts, and "stuff."  The girls each got a little chocolate bunny and two small chocolate squares.  Caleb got a bag of gummy bears and marshmallows.  They all split some peeps.  That's it.  And not a single one of them complained.  Well, Havi did when I first told her she needed to eat breakfast before she ate her chocolate squares.  But then I relented, and all was well in the world again.  

Earlier in the week, the girls did an egg hunt at Patrick's work while Caleb went to tennis practice.  And as such, we decided to skip the egg hunt at home.  Once we got home from church, we snapped a few photos of everyone outside.
The sequence on Havi's dress was so reflective that it shimmered on Caleb's shirt.  I didn't even see this until I uploaded the photos. And if you couldn't tell, that big boy of ours has decided he wants to grow out his hair.  Just how long he's going to let it grow, only time will tell.
So after photos, it was time to dye eggs.
After egg dyeing, we went swimming and watched the movie Home Alone 2.  I found it funny that we watched a Christmas movie at Easter.  lol

Anyway, the simplicity of our Easter celebration was the result of our desire to keep our focus on the true meaning of the holiday.  We wanted to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, not keep track of baskets, eggs, candy, and "stuff." 

One of our goals for 2015 has been to declutter our home and our lives.  We have donated a lot of stuff we no longer use in our home, and it feels great.  But we're not just ridding our home of unnecessary things; We are also "decluttering" our lives, in particular our food choices and screen time.  All three dumplings have been supportive of these changes as well.  It's been great seeing them spend more time doing things together as well as taking an interest in their health and well being.

While we still have a way to go with decluttering our home, we're happy about the direction we are going in.  We've realized the importance of living with just the things you need.  That was one thing my Bubby (gramma) taught me well.  But that was easy for her to do, as we had very little.  These three precious kiddos of ours, however, are growing up in a very different world than the one I grew up in.  Patrick and I have a greater opportunity to provide for them, making it more difficult to instill in them this same core value.  The world and its influence will also try to pull them in a different direction.  But our desire is for them to value togetherness over stuff.  And if that is our desire for them, we need to model it for them as well.  Now don't think we're going to go off the deep end and sell everything we own and live off the grid.  We're not going that extreme. But...we're embracing the minimalist approach to living and are already happy with how it's working for us.  

About This Blog

This blog is the place where shared our lives while waiting to bring our daughters Madeline and Havi home from China. (Our son Caleb was already home before this blog began.) It is now the place where we continue to share our life experiences, both big and little, as we try to glorify God and raise our 3 dumplings from China.

Feel free to join us as we journey through life, while I try to capture our days...

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