Okay to began where we left off! Another month with Gemma home.
About a week before Christmas break Gemma started school part time. She has been placed in the 3rd grade and attends a charter school with Gavin and Keaton. She was beyond excited to start and counted down every day! My husband, Ava and I walked her down to her class. Her teacher and classmates where expecting her. They had made a wonderful welcome poster on the door of the class and had pictures from our china trip on it. Everyone in the class had signed it. Her teacher had taken the time to read our entire travel blog to get to know our family and Gemma better!
We continued to walk her in for 2 more days and showed Keaton where her class was so he could have the privilege to make sure she got to her class okay every morning.
School has been going great and she is still very happy and enjoys going every day. She is kind of a rock star and has made many friends quickly. Some of her classmates now argue over who will walk her to her class when the school doors open in the morning. Keaton is kind of bent out of shape because of this.
We had a beautiful Christmas break and the weather was beautiful for our neck of the woods. The kids got lots of outside play and it was not too cold to enjoy it. Gemma has taken a liking to the Razor scooter, jump roping, and hula hoop. She is very good at all of them!
Ava showing Gemma how it is done!
A week before Christmas some great friends of ours came over from California to visit for two weeks. They have family just 30 minutes north of us so we were still close enough to get together many times in that two weeks. They have three amazing kids; Jacob 18, Emily 15 and Hannah 3 1/2. I have talked about this family before on my blog. We met in a very special way last November of 2009. Their daughter Hannah and our Ava were crib mates in China for almost 15 months before being adopted. Our families hit if off and enjoy that we have this special bond with our girls. Ava was beside herself knowing that Hannah was coming to visit. We had them over for dinner one night after they arrived. The girls have so many of the same mannerisms and facial expressions, it just melts my heart seeing them together here on the other side of the world! We have some very touching stories about them in the orphanage that the nannies had shared with our families.
Yes, this is only two families! ha
We got invited over to their extended family's house for a Christmas party the week before Christmas. We only knew our friends but it was still fun nevertheless. I think Gemma really enjoyed being part of a celebration and feeling part of a bigger family. She and the rest of the kids had a great time.
Gavin and Hannah
Keaton digging in
We stayed home this Christmas and did not have any family come this year so it was such a blessing to be able to spend it with great friends.
I have never seen so much excitement from a 9 year old child about Christmas. The amazement and wonder in her eyes was priceless. Christmas eve we took the three little's to see St. Nick. He was in a cute part of old town in a little cabin. It was beautiful and almost 60 degrees, which was wonderful for waiting in line outside. Gemma was not sure what to think of him but he was very kind and we got some great pictures. Ava even drew Santa a picture!
St. Nick and the little's
We have the tradition of opening one present on Christmas eve. We always do this after dinner. I made a yummy roast in the crock pot with potatoes and carrots and enjoyed a wonderful Christmas eve dinner. We had also baked and decorated sugar cookies earlier in the day. The kids all sat at the table for hours working on cookies. They started off very traditional but with 4 boys they got creative with the icing color and the cookies! Everyone enjoyed the gift they opened and off to bed they went early.
And their set
Gemma's first cookie
Then the boys got crazy and creative!
We woke the kids up at 6am Christmas morning to see the presents St. Nick had left and then it was time to get ready for church. We are so blessed Gemma came to us knowing the true meaning of Christmas and that it was Jesus' Birthday! After a beautiful Christmas Mass we headed home to snap a quick family pic, change clothes, have a quick breakfast and sit down to pass out the gifts. Gemma was just grinning ear to ear. We opened our presents by taking turns and going from youngest to oldest, one at a time. Gemma caught on very quickly and knew it was her turn when Keaton was done! ha Ava actually understood and enjoyed Christmas much more this year too. The older kids really did a great job at getting excited for the little ones.
Ava got the diaper bag she had been wanting!
Keaton and his "surprise" look
Explaining Gemma's gift card from Papa and Lori to her
We broke from tradition this year with no family in town and decided we did not want to spend the whole day cooking and preparing dinner and then have all the clean up. We wanted to enjoy each other and the kids and have a very relaxing day. So at 4pm we headed to our favorite Japanese restaurant for an early dinner. It was a hit and we enjoyed bento boxes, sushi, noodles and much more! We came back home to a clean kitchen and enjoyed yummy cookies, fudge, and pies!
We enjoyed a couple more get togethers with our friends from California and it was sad to say good bye. We will see them this June when we head to California for a mini vacation.
The little's getting crazy
Trying to get them to settle for a picture!
Super Ava to the rescue!
During Christmas break we also took the family to see "Tangled". Everyone loved it!! It was Gemma's first movie and she was very excited to have popcorn and watch the movie. This was only the second movie Ava has ever been to and she sat and watched the entire movie, which is big for her. When the movie was over Ava told me she wanted hair like Rapunzel, so cute.
On January 2nd our church had its annual Christmas pageant. The pageant is for all kids five and up in the parish that are interested. Keaton was a shepherd and Gemma was a star angel. She was not quite sure what was going on so we had our friend Linda explain it to her. I think she really enjoyed dressing up, she did a great job and even try to sing the Christmas carols.
Yes, the older kids enjoy photo bombing the pics!
Gemma seems to be fitting in very well. There has not really been any big issues. She and Ava have their moments but it is nothing major. She is very trusting of us. She is doing better in the car and no longer getting sick but Gemma is very much a home body. When we are out and about she always wants to know when we will be home. Her English is slowly coming along but it is still very hard to communicate without a translator. I think school will help in that department. She goes to bed easily and sleeps well every night. Ava is doing much better in the sleeping department too, thank you God!
Gemma continues to talk to her foster brother via QQ a couple times a week. She has also called her foster mother once. Her foster mother was very excited to hear from her and to know she was okay and safe.
The things we have to work on the most are manners and cultural differences but it is coming along. She is a very quick learner with a goofy sense of humor. We have had some funny translation moments and we all just laugh. She continues to speak to her friend Faith every couple of weeks on skype but the conversations are not as long because Faith has picked up English very quickly and does not speak Chinese much anymore. Since Gemma's English is slow coming this makes their skype sessions a little more difficult but I think they still enjoy seeing each other.
Gemma continues to go to Chinese school on Sundays but has been on break over Christmas. We start up again next week. We still meet with our friend Linda every week or so, she is a wonderful Chinese mentor for Gemma. We use this time to tell each other things and ask questions of one another. Linda also makes Chinese food for Gemma every time she see hers. We are very blessed to have Linda as a friend and to be so generous with her time! Gemma calls her Ayi (Auntie).
I still cant believe we have 6 children now, have to pinch myself. Every chair at our table is now filled and now when we have company we have to break out the card table and extra chairs.
Thanks for following along!