Friday, December 28, 2007

Flying Home

Flying to Tucson was just short of a nightmare with an active toddler who likes to move stuck in a cramped seat with no room to move. Add somewhat surly attendants who seemed shocked that we didn't know we had to special order a baby meal (other airlines do it automatically and with a smile!) and being assigned seats that weren't near each other, and we were sure we'd never do that again. So, Dale and I gave each other the Christmas present of an upgrade to business class going back to Shanghai. Man alive, did that ever change the flight for us all!! Sojo had an entire play area set up at our feet, and she was so happy and adorable that much of the 13 hour flight was actually enjoyable. She is now using a few words and "AY" is one of them (means "HI"), and she proceeded to say "AY" to anyone who would listen. It sounds like this, "AY...AY...AY...AY" as we are fully into the repetitive phase of life.

Sojo stylin' in her roomy digs

Dale and Tara with a bit of hands-free time filled by wine glasses

Sojo was a huge fan of the seating switch

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cooking With Gong Gong

We are just rolling around in love and family and treasuring every moment of it. Gong Gong (grandpa) and Sojo had a blast making scrambled eggs this morning, and it was a hoot! We're taking a million videos of this trip to share with Sojo when she is older.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Tree Giggles

Sojo's sleep clock is still a bit out-of-whack from the trip, so she winds up waking up once in the middle of the night for a good 90 minutes and is fully awake. The good side of that is that mama and baba are getting lots of sleep in the morning since everyone is anxious to take care of Sojo for us. Last night, we went out to see my brother Matt's gig and returned home around midnight to find Sojo wide awake with her two grandmas (they weren't really wide awake!)-- giggly and downright blissful about the Christmas tree. Her "answer" when I ask if she likes the Christmas tree is her new way of telling that she likes something. Aaagggghhh...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Surrounded by love, sunshine (65 degrees in Arizona--hardly a winter!), a house full of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents, and great food! We are all in heaven and having a great time in the U.S.

Sojo LOVED the bronze javelinas at the Desert Museum. She kept running back and forth between them and tried to climb on them.

My parents put up a swing in their really cool bird sanctuary. Another big hit with Sojo as this was her first time in a swing.

Cousin Carli was a a sweetie with Sojo, and Sojo always loves little people.

Just chillin' in my posh high chair Popo got me. Mom found tons of deals on and created an awesome play area for Sojo.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We're Coming Home Soon

I get it now. I get why having a kid is the coolest thing on the planet. It gives us the chance to see the world all over again because somewhere along the way we forget that knocking over a tower of blocks is pure joy...

...and a real picture for my mom to add to her Sojo book. This is the first of her first Christmas gifts.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

She Just Gets Funnier

Man, she is a funny kid. Tonight she got her first Christmas present--a pair of animal slippers from a friend. She took to them immediately and wanted them on her feet. Well, they are certainly cute but definitely an orthopedic nightmare because they are uneven and too squishy for her feet, which made walking quite difficult. Sojo didn't care one bit as she staggered around the room strutting her stuff and had a fit whenever we tried to take the slippers off.

We even had to squeeze her pajama footies into them later on (seriously, no easy feat! ha!) and only took them off once she fell asleep. This new toddler stage is mostly humorous to us, and we are taking her little screeching fits as par for the course because she can't tell us what she wants, so of course she'll scream if her meanie parents are hung up on little things like her safety and don't appreciate the funky feel of new squishy slippers on her feet!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And We Just Bought a New Winter Coat...

Ok, this kid is too funny! Here is Sojo in her new winter coat where her arms don't reach the openings.

Our family is moving back to the tropics at the end of the school year. We've been in Shanghai for almost 5 years now, and we decided it was time to move on to another adventure. Our new home will be sunny Bangkok, Thailand, a country we have loved since the moment we visited in our first year living in China. We actually flew to Bangkok last weekend on a super quick trip to check out the school and the teacher housing. We'll live very close to school, and there are tons and tons of little people Sojo's age to play with. Swimming every day, Sojo brown as a peanut, mangos to Tara's heart's content, Dale playing guitar on the beach--all good things to look forward to. It will be extremely hard to say goodbye to China, and especially to Xiao Liu, but we are taking the coolest memory of our time here out of the country with us: the gorgeous Sojo.

And just in case you forgot what her parents look like, here's Dale and me at our school holiday party. Dale, or GuitarDale, played some cool jazz music for the cocktail part of the evening.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hitting the Bottle

Oh, those dreaded baby books that all seem to say different things and instill guilt in parents everywhere that you aren't doing what you are "supposed" to be doing! The books say that it is time to wean from the bottle at 12 months, and the mere thought sends me spiraling into a panic! That bottle is so many things to us--our early morning snuggle time, our get-ready-for- bed helper, and what she refers to as her "mama." We are attempting to change over to the sippy cup, but she just isn't very interested (or is it us who aren't interested...). Since we are making the extremely long trip back to the US next week, we will need that bottle, as well as fellow passengers will need us to have it! Our plan is to wait until we return from holiday to give it a real try to get off the bottle. Either that or send her off to college with me feeding her by hand and with a bottle as well.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Oh, Darn!

I forgot my camera at our annual school holiday party, so I can't post the cute ones I took this week. Perhaps I left it subconsciously because we need one that is a bit faster to catch Sojo in action. Since my mom gently reminded me I haven't posted in a while, I'll take one from the archives...

Yes, Sojo is totally into opening the cabinet doors. And that black thing you see is a random phone in the cabinet. This morning, as I was ringing my mom on Skype, Sojo heard the ring and went right to the "phone cabinet" to pick it up. Pretty wild tech world that this child knows the telltale Skype ring and will grow up only knowing that you can see people on the phone. As a child, I only dreamed of that as I watched the Jetsons.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

6 Months Already?

Somewhere around 4 months, we think...

7. 5 months on our Family Day

It's hard to believe, but we have been together as a family for just over 6 months now. Sojo has gone from just barely holding her head up at 7. 5 months to walking like a pro six months later, from a bald kid with somewhat bizarre tufts of hair sticking up to a kid with the cutest pigtails around, from not sleeping very much to sleeping a tiny bit more like the books say she "should." Often we forget that we haven't been together her whole life because it feels like she has always been here. And, yes, sometimes we turn to each other and laugh because our former lives are unrecognizable at this point, but Sojo and her grooviness have nestled their way into our new life so nicely. She is simply a joy, and we are so grateful for every bit of her sweetness.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Just Random Cuteness

Maybe we all need a pair of rainbow pants in our closet. I know I had rainbow suspenders back in the Mork and Mindy days, but I'm crossing my fingers someone can bring this style back for grownups! These groovy ones seemed to put a spring in Sojo's step all day, and I just love them (thanks, Popo!)

We recently bought Sojo one of these Touch and Feel books with "real" fur for her to pet, and she is a huge fan. Baba surprised her this weekend with a set of 3 new ones, and they received the very cute "hands in the air, dancing while I'm sitting,whoo-hoo!" approval from Sojo. This happens with food she likes, Baby Einstein characters, and now, it seems, with very good books. The librarian's heart soars...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Big Girl Eating

I admit it--if I had my way, I'd feed Sojo myself with a spoon or fork until she started college. The mess is just insane every time she feeds herself! I know she needs to learn, and she is very intent on using her fork, and it's super cute to watch her, but it's such a disaster after she is done. Also, I find leftover food in the most random places later, like her diaper! She's at the point now where she won't eat some foods unless she uses a spoon or a fork (you can also see that she is going to be right-handed--"darn!" says her left-handed mom), and at the moment she'll eat just about anything. I've been making crustless quiches with tons of veggies, and she loves them. For the Chinese twist, Xiao Liu is now bringing Sojo Chinese food in the mornings for breakfast. One thing is like a dumpling with rice in it and also something that is called a 'tea egg.' It's an egg that has been hard-boiled in a big vat of tea so the tea soaks through the shell, and it is a big Shanghai local breakfast. Xiao Liu keeps these in her purse, and this morning Sojo went right up to her purse looking for her Chinese breakie treats. Adorable!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Here's the Smiling Girl!

Sojo looking through the big bubble window at the playground that cracks her up!

Who knew that going to the playground would become a highlight of our weekends! We are trying to go as much as possible before the winter arrives and keeps us indoors going stir crazy. Sojo is now getting a kick out of running the other way and giggling when we go near her, so there was lots of exercise and quick reflexes for the parentals today. She has this one plastic riding horse she runs up to all the time and gives a big slobbery kiss to--yuk! We have tried to convince her that basically licking a playground toy is not really the most sanitary choice, but she ignores us and always goes right in for the big, open-mouthed kiss everytime. Good thing our reflexes are honed and we can get a quick hand onto the horse before she makes her move!

Tuckered out again...if only Dale and I were smart and took advantage of her naps by napping ourselves...but we never seem to.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Santa in China

Not that we thought they'd become fast friends, but we thought there was a slight chance Sojo would like Santa since her own baba has a pretty big beard with a bit of white in it as well! However, she is fully in the phase of not wanting to go to strangers, so she didn't dig it at all. However, she did like the tree and the basket of candy canes (crunchy plastic is always a hit!)

Another gorgeous, sunny, warm blue-skied day in Shanghai (these conditions hardly ever come together, so it's reason to celebrate!) and we took advantage of it by walking around in the backpack. It's obvious that Sojo loved the day as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dancing Queen

Now that she is on her feet and feeling quite comfortable, Sojo has let loose with the dance moves. She's always been a mover and a shaker, but now it's downright hilarious! Still using her classic deep-knee bend move, she is adding to her repetoire by putting her hands in the air and doing something that looks almost like a Spanish flamenco dance move while spinning around. It's fabulous! We put on music the other night and all did the same dance in the bedroom and had a blast. I picture years and years of family dancing.

On a separate note, dances of joy from the parents this week b/c Sojo has slept until 5:45 for 2 mornings in a row!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Day in the Life

I've been taking my dear friend Jeanie's advice and trying to take more pictures outside to capture more smiles from Sojo rather than the deadpan look that we know and love. Since we arrive home without much light left during the week, thanks to the fall weather, the weekend is the best time to be outside. So, here you go. A day in the life of Sojo and Tara and Dale.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Diva in Training

Stuffed in a box of secondhand clothes a teacher gave us, I found this incredibly funky, furry, diva-like jacket and loved it! Now that fall is here, Sojo has worn it just once until the other day when Xiao Liu told us that she picked THIS jacket to wear outside to pick us up from school (mama is secretly LOVING that she has a wee bit of the flair for style already!). Not only did she pick it, but she's understanding enough Chinese to know that Xiao Liu was telling her she looked pretty. In fact, she looked so adorable that we ran in to get the camera and take some photos of her. As if on cue, she even picked a pansy and walked around holding it. Only problem for us is that the little goober just doesn't sit down or stand still long enough to take a photo. We must have taken at least 20 photos and got only one or two that look great. Only need one good one, though. Family decision that we need to buy a camera that is faster than the one we have now just to keep up with Sojo.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On The Move

Whoa--Sojo is feeling more confident in her walking and has us on the go more than we already were! Adorable to see her toddling around exploring her world. Yet another new thing she is doing is taking a book, coming over to one of us, grunting "UH!" (means Read it!) and sitting in our lap. Mind you, she has the attention span of a Cheerio right now so the "story" has gotta be quick. The only one she'll ask for twice now with another "UH!" is the Bingo book of "There was a farmer had a dog..." fame.

On a more shallow note, LOVING the funky tights popo brought with her to China! We've also finally discovered why Sojo never smiles in pictures anymore. We've had the red-eye reduction function on our camera for a while, so she gets the strobe effect every time a picture is taken. Oops on our part. She has now developed a Pavlovian reaction to the camera where she shuts her eyes to avoid the flash. We are now trying to convince her that not all cameras should instill fear, but it may be a while before the smiles come back. We did catch one yesterday.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

We Interrupt This Program... announce that my groovy brother Matt and his fab partner of 11 years, Cathy, have decided to get hitched! On their anniversary weekend, they headed down to the beaches of Mexico and Matt rigged up a cool proposal of tieing the ring to his finger and presenting it to her underwater in a fistful of sand and shells while snorkeling. Extra points for creativity on that one! A big yippee for them both.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rha-rer a.k.a. Roar!

Halloween was fantastic! Sojo's last minute costume was a tiger, which is on her favorite animal list. When she saw it, she said, "Rha-rer" in her soft tiger voice and proceed to "give love" to the tiger. Too cute! Enjoy the slideshow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Plan A for Halloween

Plan A usually means a Plan B is in the works...For Sojo's first Halloween, I actually got myself organized ahead of time (not a common trait for things like this) and bought her this adorable zip-up ladybug costume when my parents were here. Just the other night, I thought it would be fun to put Sojo in it to see what it looked like. Let's just say Sojo didn't think that was as much fun as we did. We attempted to stuff her sausage legs in this costume, but there was no way she was going to fit in it. Lots and lots of howling and crying on her part as we tried 3 different ways to get it to fit until we finally gave up (and hopefully didn't scar her for life on this Halloween thing). Dale then thought to cut the feet out of the costume to try and give her some more leg room but alas, this was not successful either. What to do for a kid's first Halloween that will last about all of 15 minutes and she'll never remember anyway? Luckily, a friend happened to mention she had a bunch of costumes so we are set for tomorrow night. I'll keep it a surprise for one more night but it should be fantastic. One of the coolest things about having a kid is the downright giddiness about once normal activities--I simply can't wait to go trick-or-treating tomorrow night!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


The little cutie is trying so hard to express herself lately, but she simply doesn't have the words to do it yet. So, instead she has her own language of just a few words that mean a lot of things. Here is our translation:

1. dee dee dee dee--said in a sweet voice means "I like this, this is good."

2. DEE DEE DEE DEE!!!!!--said in an obviously frustrated and louder voice means, "I don't like this, change it immediately!"

3. Mama--now one might think this is referring to the loving mama she has who takes care of her, but NO...not the case! "Mama" means just about everything right now from "bottle" to "I'm hungry" to "Take my finger to help me get to that thing over there that looks interesting."

Since she is living a life of two languages, she appears to be understanding more Chinese now than English. We realized the other day that if we said, "Give mama and baba a kiss" in English, we got a whole lot of nothing, but when we changed to Chinese, she came zooming in for one of her awesome cheek kisses. We're also trying to use sign language with her to help her communicate. She knows the word for 'more' and uses it during mealtime, especially with her current food fav of yogurt. As I am feeding her one spoonful, she already has the 'more' sign going for the next spoonful.

Monday, October 22, 2007

She's Mobile!

Look out world--here comes Sojo! We got off the bus the other day, turned the corner and saw Sojo barreling towards us, arms stretched out and looking so proud to be walking alone. We could barely get her to sit down that first day (ok, most days we can barely get her to sit down), but since then she's been more tenative and still grabbing onto our fingers. We're ready for extra massages due to the hunching over necessary to keep her from crashing into things as she wobbles along. What I am loving about this age is just how long it takes us to get places with all her stopping and checking things out along the way. We always leave with plenty of extra time, but I love to watch her take it all in, from her head back checking out the leaves blowing in the trees to her squealing when she sees a dog.

Trying a new video here b/c Youtube is blocked in China now. Crossing my fingers it will work...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Small World

My cousin Ryan and his wife Marcy are traveling through China and came to our house for dinner tonight. It's been about 12 years since we've seen each other, and I've never even met Marcy (but have heard rave reviews for years!). We had a wonderful time talking, laughing and sharing stories of life and travels. I love reconnecting with people in foreign lands; there is a great energy and immediacy to it for some reason. Already planning a possible trip to Vietnam to see them before they move on.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Family Tradition

In my family, there is a birthday tradition where my father reads a proclamation that starts out "HEAR YE! HEAR YE!" and then lists all the qualities that he and my mother are thankful for in each of my brothers and me. As kids, my two brothers and I thought it was a bit cheesy, but as we grew, we came to love it. Even at almost 39 years old, I wait each year for my HEAR YE! HEAR YE! birthday phone call and the list of my good qualities. We have started the same tradition with Sojo this year, and here is her very first HEAR YE! HEAR YE!

Let it be known that on this day, October 9, one year ago, Sojo Aini Ethridge was born in Kunming, in the beautiful province of Yunnan, China.

We are thankful for her joining our family and bringing us so much laughter and a higher level of awareness of ourselves and the love that surrounds us.

We are thankful for the depth and serenity and understanding that seem to radiate from Sojo's eyes as they apprehend us each time we look at her.


Let it be known that we love little Sojo's laugh, her giggle, and her squeal as she runs around the house, barely holding on to one of our fingers.

We love how she trusts us completely to catch her each time she does a 'spawning salmon' from against the back of the couch.

And, that we love how each day she gives us "love" with a wet, open mouth pressed up against our cheek and her little arms spread around us.


Be it known that we rejoice in her presence everyday in our lives.

We rejoice in her face lighting up whenever she first sees us coming home from work.

And we rejoice in the purest form of love that she gives us whenever she gently lays her head against ours.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Sojo is One!

Sojo turned one year old on October 9! While we were at school, Popo and Gong Gong made her the cutest cake with a duck on it. She loved every minute of the cake and frosting and especially loved opening presents. Her newest thing is literally squealing with delight over things she loves. Dale and I commented that we completely forgot how much fun a birthday party can be while we watched Sojo loving every minute of it. We are so grateful to have that sweet girl in our lives as she brings us such joy and laughter. It seems now that she is changing every hour of the day--she's now crawling on all fours, barely holding onto our hand as we walk together and ready to take on the world.

We had to say goodbye to my parents after a whirlwind two weeks together. Lots of ordered-in dinners, early bedtimes for us all and great conversations during their visit. They showered enough love to last Sojo until Christmas when we see them again.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

So Sweet

Man alive, I love this photo that I captured today while at the neighborhood playground. A tiny hint of a smile and those eyes that are so dark you can't even find the pupils. Lately, Sojo isn't interested one bit in smiling for the camera. She'll be laughing away, see the camera and give the famous deadpan, super serious look. Too much! We had a ball today as a family with Sojo back to her old self, my dad chasing her around the house with a tiger growl, my mom feeding her beets that she loved and singing songs and all of us loving the heck out of Sojo.

A few stats for the record--when we took her to the doctor the other day, she now weighs 8.75 kilos, or 19.25 pounds, and she is 28 inches long. Somehow she feels heavier than that...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

She's Back!

After about 72 hours of lots of whimpering or full-on crying, Sojo seems to be feeling better and is on her way back to her old self again, complete with smiles and cruising around the house at warp speed. And just in the nick of time because I don't think Dale and I could take another middle-of-the-night viewing of Baby Einstein's "Day on the Farm" (sing along everyone! the cows give us milk, the cows give us milk, hi ho the derry oh, the cows give us milk!) to get Sojo to calm down. A HUGE thanks to Nai Nai Patsy for sending the Baby Einstein videos--they saved us this week! When she was sick, we did get a chance to see just how strong the bonding has been with the three of us in four short months-she became quite clingy (not a bad thing!) and really needed her mama and baba. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Catching Up

TIme got away from us a bit, so a quick catch-up. We went to a great place called Century Park, which is almost like the Central Park of Shanghai complete with a huge lake and four-person bikes you can rent. This is where the clown festival was being held, so we pedaled around for a while and Sojo went on her first ride. Looking at Dale on the bumblebee ride had me simultaneously smiling with joy and also laughing hysterically at how things change when you are a parent...Sojo was not a fan of the ride, and she just sat there the entire time with her stoneface look.

All that fun went south yesterday when Sojo suddenly got a bad cough and cold, compounded with a fever. Poor thing! We took the day off today and took her to the doctor--she has an ear infection along with the cold, plus she is teething. A triple whammy! All she did today was whimper and moan and we all felt sorry for her because she just looked so sad and sick. The only thing she wanted was her half-deflated helium balloon we bought her a week ago. Look at that face...breaking our hearts.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Aquarium Magic

It's amazing to me how this child, who spent the first 7 months of her life in an orphanage and whose exposure to water I can only assume was in the form of some type of quick bath, is completely at home in the water. She just loves it, splashes like crazy, goes underwater with help and has a pretty darn good frog-kick. We've begun mommy and me swim classes on Saturdays to nurture this love of hers. Perhaps then it shouldn't have been a surprise that our trip to the aquarium was a huge hit for Sojo. She loved every minute of the fish, did her knee-bend dancing to show her enthusiasm and pointed at everything she loved. The only time she cried was when she saw exhibits that had the surface of the water showing--she wanted to get in with the fish and didn't understand why we wouldn't let her jump in. Fearless and fascinated...much like my dear friend Sharon and her relationship with the sea. About halfway through the aquarium, where we spent more time watching Sojo's gorgeous reaction to the fish rather than the fish, I got teary thinking of Sharon and her stories of the underwater world I've heard over the years. She often talks of this magical place in the Red Sea and of petting giant manta rays. All I could picture was Sharon taking Sojo on her first dive years from now and the two of them in heaven underwater...