Stephanie has turned six this year and is now in first grade. She is enjoying school and is doing well according to hear teachers and her report card. While in China, Stephanie’s caregiver made it a point to tell us that she was extremely bright and we can now see he wasn’t just saying that. One thing that we are having a hard time getting used to is the number of birthday parties that she gets invited to. We have had 4 in the month of November alone.
Stephanie continues to enjoy swimming. She can now traverse the full length of an Olympic sized pool without any floatation devices. Her form needs a bit of refining, but we are now confident that if she ever fell into a pool or river, she would be able to get out by herself. Right now she is learning the different strokes backstroke, freestyle, sidestroke though she still prefers the dog paddle.
In addition to swimming, she is taking ice skating and piano lessons. We have no visions of Stephanie being the next Michelle Kwan or Vladimir Horowitz, but she is doing well in both and enjoys the lessons. Stephanie has shown a real propensity towards sports though, and we think she will be a very good athlete when she grows up. Now if we can just teach her to throw left handed.
This year, Tamlyn turned two years old. After a year of procrastinating, we finally completed her
re-adoption. As with Stephanie, we had to take Tamlyn downtown to city hall, slap her with a lawsuit by the Sheriff’s Police, then stand before a judge and pledge that we will take care of her. In return, she got a plastic Sheriff’s badge and a lollypop and we got her officially recognized as our daughter by the state and received a state issued birth certificate. Also, now she is legally our heir and, in effect, cut Stephanie’s inheritance in half.
Tamlyn is talking up a storm now. She has a very verbal personality and speaks in full, understandable (mostly), sentences. One of her favorite phrases is “Thank you everybody!”. She says that after she sings a song for us and begins her bowing. It cracks us up every time. Speaking of singing, Tamlyn is very musically inclined. She has been able to carry a tune perfectly for a long time now and has great rhythm. She is also a very good dancer (better than dad for sure) and loves to listen to music. Tamlyn also has very long fingers, so piano lessons are definitely in her future.
This year was a lean year for travel, simply due to the lack of time. Earlier in the year, we traveled to
to get away from the cold. Stephanie had a science project due and she chose to do a project on different types of rocks. The deserts of
were great for finding rocks and looking at the different formations, so Stephanie was able to complete her project easily.
Stephanie and Tamlyn both had the opportunity to go horseback riding while we were there. They enjoyed that immensely and looked like they have ridden horses all their lives. Of course Stephanie wanted us to get a horse when we got home. I’m sure the neighbors wouldn’t have a problem with that.
During the trip however, we had two major incidents. First, Stephanie got a fever and her temperature reached 103 degrees. Although she felt awful, she was a real trooper and seldom complained. Second, Tamlyn’s stroller collapsed while she was out for a walk. Tamlyn hit her face on the pavement and ended up with a big, bloody, fat lip along with other facial scratches. She looked a bit like Rocky after his first fight with Apollo Creed. Fortunately, there was no permanent damage other than to the stroller. It was a bit saddening to throw the stroller away because it has traveled with us to
twice and served us well for many years.
The second vacation trip was to
for a reunion with Stephanie’s “sisters” from
. These are the girls who were adopted by the group we traveled to
with. The reunion is always one of the highlights of the year as it is great to see the girls (and their parents) again. Without exception, each of the girls are happy, doing well, and simply beautiful. Living in the Midwest, this was Stephanie and Tamlyn’s first experience with the ocean and they both enjoyed watching the dolphins, playing on the beach, getting knocked over by the waves, and building sand castles. We were all very sad to leave, but knew that we would see each other again.
Mark and Grace are doing well too. Mark continues to work full time and Grace works officially one day a week and unofficially six days a week watching the kids. Thankfully, we have had no major health problems or catastrophic events and everything is running smoothly so far.
A big change is that we are in the beginning stages of remodeling our home. Because we were running out of space, we had to decide whether to move to a bigger house or add to our existing house. We were planning to stay in our house for 7 years when we first bought it, but 2 kids and 15 years later, we are still here. In the end, because Stephanie is in a great school (top ranked in the state), we decided to stay. So, early in 2006, several strangers will come to our house, rip off the roof and begin building additional space. The entire family will have to live our lives downstairs for about 6 months while the demolition and rebuilding goes on upstairs, but hopefully it will be worth it in the end.
Looking back on 2005, we can honestly say that we had a great year. Like most years, it wasn’t without its challenges, but overall we feel very blessed. We hope that each of you had a great 2005 and have an even better 2006. Merry Christmas and Happy holidays to each of you and may God bless you in the new year.
Mark, Grace, Stephanie, Tamlyn