Eva turned eight last weekend and had her party this weekend.  She was thrilled to explore Toys R Us for the first time and to get all kinds of presents.  She was happy to have a party.  And she had a few meltdowns.  The girl can go into a sulk in a split second.  I wonder if she might be an actress someday because she truly embraces every single emotion.  Whatever it is, she does it 100% (and fortunately, most of the time it's very happy and adventurous). 
She had her favorite foods-fruit, chips, and later-ice cream cake.
It snowed a couple of inches the night before the party, so the kids were stuck inside, but overall they seemed to have a good time.

I have other photos from my small camera, but we can't find the cord to download them, so I guess they'll just have to wait.

Now, on to Aidan.  He was quite miserable before February vacation-he hated Eva and wished she had never come to live with us (though he didn't actually wish her back to China).  He said she stole all of his friends, got him in trouble and everyone always believed her, and that life was perfect with just his parents and himself before she came.  So there was daily fighting, sulking, being mean, etc.  Then over vacation there was a transformation that became brother and sister vs. everyone else and occasionally it was Aidan and RB vs. Eva, but there was less of the out and out refusal to accept her.  (They play very well when they are alone, of course)  We're still working on that and I imagine we will be for a long time.  My little brother always had my first two nephews around and it is not easy.  Aidan finds it especially hard because he's very needy emotionally and more shy than Eva.  She's a pretty happy-go-lucky child  (except for the occasional body slumping sulk and tears) and she's pretty confident.

One good thing happened last week, though; Aidan said "I love you" to his father and when asked if he loved me, said, "Yuh."  He has never said I love you to either of us before.  When asked if he loved us, he would say that he loved Mangus, the dog.  That was safe.
Every year our school has a prize speaking contest-have ever since it was created in the early '60s.  Both of my sisters took the tradition to the K-8 schools they teach in.  Here is Aidan, winning 2nd place this year despite a bad cold that made his diction sound less than perfect.  We were thrilled!  Not bad for a kid who has only been here three years.
I have been insanely busy and promise to do a real update soon, but here are some pictures of recent happenings:
Someone just loves the makeup kit she got for Christmas.  Now she has to learn the art of editing.

Watching movies together on my laptop.

Loving her new calculator and math.  The kid just loves to write anyway.

Proof that we had snow this winter, at least for a day or two.

Drinking hot chocolate from medicine droppers-they really thought this was cool!
2012 must be better than 2011, but we could not be happier than we are with our new daughter and the relationship developing between her and her brother.  They are siblings in every sense of the word, even down to the "Mommy, she made faces at me" to "Mummy, Aidan no being nice to me".
Eva is talking a lot.  So when we were done decorating the tree and she said, Me no like, I thought she meant that she hadn't enjoyed decorating.  So I got out tinsel-she's a tinsel kind of kid-and she helped Aidan and I put it on the tree.  Then she stood back and said, Me no like.  I asked her why, and she said that she liked our youngest grandson's tree.  Aidan said he did too; those grandsons have trucks and firetrucks and things like that for ornaments.  So I guess next year our tree will undergo a transformation to primary color, youthful ornaments.
The weekend before Christmas we returned to the Santa Train but this time with Eva.  Here are the two kids making out their list, surrounded by hot chocolate cups and butter cookies.  Santa joined the train at a crossroads where the reindeer were taking a break so they needed to have the list done before he got to our car.
On the last day of school, the kids had a concert in their multi-purpose room with some pretty great music provided by a band just a few years older than themselves.  I sat with RB because Aidan is too cool for that (although he desperately needs hugs and kisses, and appreciates them, he doesn't want a lot of them) and Eva is just very happy and independent, so she waves, smiles, and comes over to tell me when she needs to go to the bathroom.  RB, on the other hand, has sensory processing disorder and what is music to some people can be clanging noise to him, especially if he's too close to the instruments (he's in kindergarten, so he was in the front row).  So we rocked together.

Oh, and do you remember the song about only wanting two front teeth for Christmas?  Eva pulled out the front tooth that was loose and pestering her but she wouldn't let me take a picture, so this is the best I could get.
Last weekend we went to the Shrine at La Salette, Eva's first trip there, and enjoyed the lights as well as the dining hall :)
This weekend we picked out our tree-the perfect tree takes a while to find, of course.
But with the kids helping, we prevailed.
My next sister up would have been 63 on Thanksgiving Day but we lost her to a stroke in 2004.  She loved Thanksgiving. She was also an artist-talented in many mediums.  This is our first Thanksgiving without Mom, and she was an expert seamstress.  So this post is about arts and crafts and the holiday all rolled into one.

Still, it was a day of celebration.  We met at our daughter's house and our grandsons had made these adorable placemats.  MB broke his left arm so the turkey print is his right hand and then his brother, RB, wrote our names on each card.
After the meal we came home and after a nap for me (I'm sick with a cold) the kids and I made new Christmas stockings for them.  I bought blanket material years ago and cut out several, making each one unique, but once sewn they were too small.  These two will have plenty of room!

Here are the before photos:
Here are the finished products:
So the kids helped with cutting the pieces out, pinning them, and ripping out the basting.  Each chose the ribbon they wanted, both wanted jingle bells, and Aidan really wanted his name painted on, but I have no paint for cloth so I surprised him with the A, which made him just as happy.
Sorry, time has just run away from me.  I went back to work this week and it was a good week.  I have really nice students this year-I genuinely like all of them, and that's a rare and special thing when you teach juniors and seniors and see about 120 students a day.

Today is my birthday.  Taught Sunday School.  Went to see our middle daughter get two awards at her college-one for straight As in the spring and one for contributions to the division of arts & sciences (she is a dual major-English and history).  Friday night my oldest daughter took me to see Breaking Dawn; we had a table reserved for a party and everything so that was nice.

Have been very busy attending School Board and Budget Committee meetings for our district (not the one I work in) as my kids' elementary school could possibly close if people just take a nap and taxes are up significantly.  The problem can be fixed, the school can be saved, but of course it's like our national economy-someone will not be happy about it.

Anyway, enough of all of that.  Eva is doing wonderfully.  Aidan is starting to be a little bit jealous even though he still loves her company. 

Here are a few pictures of recent family happenings to enjoy.
Eva and I met with the surgeon a couple of weeks ago and nothing will be done to her feet until at least next summer.  They are much worse than anticipated and the soft tissue surgery (Ponseti method) will not work on them; it was tried in China already. 

So her options are pins that are turned four time a day with a "rack" around her legs, high chance of infection, no guarantee that it would work, and she would be unable to walk for a year.  I think the doctor said that the feet could be done separately, so six months for each if I heard him correctly.  Pretty Baby had surgery like this done to one leg when she was 13, but she managed the care herself-keeping the pins turned and cleaned is crucial.

She could have a bone removed from each ankle and then her heel bone could be stood up to act as two bones.  Her feet would look normal but of course they would not be able to move the way that other people can move their feet.

She could have a partial or full amputation.  The partial amputation would cut into the current ankle from the top; the full would cut off the foot.

The doctor said that she is essentially a "peg leg" right now and that is why she has trouble standing in a tub or on wide stairs-she has no feet or toes to grip with.  I think that's why she loves her winter boots so much more than her shoes, although she loved her shoes.  Boots are flat on the bottom and conform on the side while shoes have ridges for the natural placement of feet-hers aren't natural.  Thank you to Pretty Baby for suggesting that this was the case; I'm sure you're right and I will start looking for those long slipper socks for Eva to wear indoors.

So we will meet with the surgeon again at the end of April, after Eva has become comfortable and verbal, etc., and talk again.

We got the foot of snow that was expected but it's all gone now, much to Eva's disappointment.  Aidan was thrilled to have someone to go sledding with.  Here she is in her long johns just before he crashed his sled into the rocks and took a chunk out of the front of it.  They had a great time, though.

I had to run right out and get new winter wear for them.  She needed snow pants and he needed new everything.  This picture is not very flattering of him because it's close up and the coat is large enough for him to grow into plus it's one of those double coats, but they both were happy with them.
On the day that I returned from China I got an email from a publisher accepting a manuscript I sent to them in September.  I can't say more right now, this work will be published under a pseudonym, but I have been very busy writing revisions to make my December 1 deadline and get the work done before I return to school next Monday.  I have been writing since I was a child, but this is the first big piece of work that I've sold, so I'm beyond excited!  There is never a dull moment in our house.
This week the kids went on a field trip to see Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and I went along with them.  Aidan sits in the very back seat with his best buddy.  They are just about the tallest kids in school, if not the very tallest (they are actually the same height, but Aidan is slumped down here).  So they are the "big kids" on the bus despite being only in second grade!

Eva is seated below with a classmate of hers who wanted very much to ride with me.  She ended up joining us after one of the older girls wouldn't leave her alone.  She gets a little smothered by some of the kids because they are fascinated with her.
We got our first snow of the year-not a lot but tonight's storm is making up for it (pictures to follow).  Eva acts like it is Christmas, her birthday, and Halloween all rolled into one!
Speaking of Halloween....
Sorry, can't correct the double flash messing with the grandsons' eyes, but everyone had a good time at the party.  And here are my two little ones on the morning after (Saturday morning cartoons).