Tuesday, July 31, 2012

OC Fair is fun!

It's a simple statement, but true. We're enjoying ourselves tremendously at this year's Orange County Fair. A summertime staple since 1890, the OC Fair runs for about a month every summer, from mid-July to mid-August. This year we decided to get Super Passes, allowing us to go any time we wanted. We've already gone three times this summer, and we're planning a couple more visits before the Fair ends on August 12.

As with most state or county fairs, the OC Fair offers a mix of agricultural and crafts displays, carnival rides and games, live music and of course, lots and lots of food. While all fairs have unique features, there are a few areas that make the OC Fair special, which we particularly enjoy.

There are a few ways to enter the OC Fair and each has its charms. We like the entrance by Centennial Farm. This is a permanent part of the fairgrounds, and is open for visits all year, but they really put on their finery for the fair. In addition to the visiting animals, like Ankole cattle, llamas, and a working hive brought by the OC beekeepers, Centennial Farm boasts fruits, flowers and vegetables from raspberry vines to sunflowers to Anaheim chili peppers. This year, the agricultural crossed paths with the crafty, when yarn bombers made new coats for the cow and pig statues outside the Millennium Barn. Fun stuff!

Susan and the yarn-bombed pig.

The OC Fair's yarn-bombed cow.

Park Plaza, the next area you come to on the fairgrounds, is the host to the Crafters' Village. We saw a live ceramic making demonstration here (and found a sweet little ceramic butterfly to take home in the shop next door). There is usually a glass-blower here, too, but it looks like they missed this year, which is too bad. That's always interesting to watch. Missing this year too, is the ice museum. This is always a fun way to cool off while enjoying the artistry of the ice sculptors who have made everything from a Mona Lisa to a shark and coral reef out of ice in years past. We hope it's back next year.

Mitch posing with Poseidon in last year's ice museum.

A few of the bigger buildings on the fairgrounds are turned over to the display of the works of other local craftspeople. Beautiful pieces of woodworking, quilting, knitting and crocheting, cake decoration, painting and sculpture are on view for the duration of the fair. We haven't made it to this area yet, but we look forward to it, as it is always a favorite.

The next couple of areas are turned over to commerce and fair food. At the OC Fair you can find just about anything you can imagine either deep-fried, chocolate-dipped, or wrapped in bacon. In fact, there are a few places that actually offer chocolate-covered bacon! While we've enjoyed a funnel cake and some fresh-made potato chips so far this year, we've stayed away from the mile-long hot dogs and bacon-wrapped turkey legs (Mitch doesn't want to look too much like Henry VIII). That said, we've heard good things about the deep-fried Oreos...

This picture speaks for itself.

The livestock shows put on by the local 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs get us up-close and personal with goats, sheep, and cows (in fact, last year one of the goats tried to eat Susan's purse!). This year we found something new and one of the cutest things we've ever seen: the All Alaskan Racing Pigs show. 8 piglets compete in 3 races around a miniature track, complete with hurdles to jump. The final race includes cheer sections led by little kids from the audience. We're really looking forward to the day when our own child can have this experience.

There's the purse and the goat.

Go piggies, go!

Finally, we come to our favorite part of the OC Fair, La Grande Wheel. This 130-foot Ferris wheel takes riders high over the Fairgrounds for a view of Orange County that can't be beat. We've only ridden it at night so far and the view is amazing. We've also been wondering what it's like during the day and if you can see the Pacific Ocean from the top. We'll just have to ride again soon and find out!

The lights of the OC Fair from atop La Grande Wheel.

Self-portrait while riding La Grande Wheel, with a bit of the structure in the background.

We've had so much fun at the OC Fair this year, and we'll have even more before it ends. Even better will be the day we can visit the OC Fair with our child. Seeing the joy and wonder on his or her face will be the most fun of all.

Mitch always finds dinosaurs, even at the fair!

Monday, July 23, 2012

10 Random (and Fun) Facts About Susan

1-Susan spent the summer between high school and college in Kawasaki, Japan on an exchange program.

Susan visiting Asakusa in Tokyo, Japan with her host sister.

2-Susan's first job was at Shakey's Pizza.

3-Susan has been to London 18 times. It's her favorite city.

Stopping for a photo along the river Thames, near the London Eye.

4-Susan has also held a sea cucumber (quite a long time ago at the Queen Mary in Long Beach).

5-Susan has seen every episode of Absolutely Fabulous at least 10 times.

6-Susan wore glasses from age 5 until she got contacts at age 14 and then again in grad school.

Susan took her glasses off for some school pictures, but not this one.

7-Susan failed her driving test twice with a manual transmission, then passed with an automatic. And then didn't drive an automatic again for the next 20 years.

8-Susan likes products made with tomatoes, but dislikes eating actual tomatoes of any size.

9-Susan's hair was various shades of dark red for about 7 years. It took the hairdresser almost 6 hours to get the red out when she went back to blonde.

Dark red hair and glasses in Amherst, Massachusetts.

10-Susan was born in Chicago. Her family moved to California when she was 7.

Looking for fun facts about Mitch? You can also check out 10 random facts about Mitch if you missed it. Stay tuned for more random facts and other lists of 10.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cross-stitch: Too much progress?

Believe it or not, it's been a month since we last posted any cross-stitch photos. It's time for a few photos so you can see how things are going and it's time for some reflection too. As you can see from the photos, Susan has been working quite a bit on the project. Perhaps too much? There were a couple of weeks where it seemed like she had little time to work on it, but then suddenly a lot got done.

Now this has us asking a completely unexpected question. Is it possible for there to be too much progress on the project? This probably seems like a very odd question. You may be wondering, wouldn't it be best to finish the piece before the adoption? Surely it would helpful to complete it before we have all the excitement (and chaos) that a baby will bring into our lives. Then it would be a simple matter of adding the child's name and birth date and framing the piece which sounds like it could be done fairly easily, even with an infant on the scene.

Progress as of 7/20/12. The "A is for Alligator" block is moving along nicely.

You can see it's far from finished and there's still a lot of work to be done. We calculated it would take about 18,400 stitches to finish the piece (not including back stitches and French knots). Susan clearly hasn't gotten that far. There's another six full blocks and a border around all the blocks to be done, plus all the finishing details. We haven't counted stitches, but there's probably at least another 10,00 stitches to go.

So why would we be concerned the project is moving too fast? The answer is our expectations. While Susan enjoys cross-stitching, we expected she'd give the project a go and then have to put it down after the first or second block once we adopted. Of course, this would likely mean that the project wouldn't get done until our child was 17? 18? 19? Who knows, but it wouldn't be quick once we adopt and have new responsibilities.

John Lennon said that "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." In our case, it's cross-stitch that's happening (and other stuff too). We'll hang in there and enjoy the ride, but we'll also keep hoping we're just another block away from bringing our child home.

"C is for Cat" is done except for the finishing touches.

"A is for Alligator" still needs work, but not all that much.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Viva Las Vegas! Viva the wait?

Recently we had the chance to take a trip out of town. It had to be a short trip, just a couple of days, but we decided to head off to Las Vegas. It's about 4-5 hours from where we live so it seemed like an odd choice since we'd be spending a significant amount of time on the road. However, it felt right despite this and we went for it.

Our last trip to Vegas had been 8 years ago and ended badly as the air conditioner in the car broke halfway through the weekend in July 2004. It was unbearably hot driving back on that trip even though we crossed the desert late at night to get back home while avoiding the worst of the heat. Now seemed like a good time to revisit Las Vegas and put happy memories in place of the old ones. We felt like we really needed to do something for ourselves without an adoption or kid focus. Of course we can't wait to be parents, but we felt like it was time to take a real break on our adoption journey. We wanted a trip focused on us and our present life that we share together.

Relaxed and happy on our road trip.

We realized just how much we needed this trip almost as soon as we were on the road. After all, there's nothing like a good road trip to take you out of your element, give you new vistas, and encourage a fresh perspective. We crossed the desert at night so we didn't see its impressive beauty along the way, but knew it was out there while we were driving. This refreshed us as did the gorgeous night sky. It was a clear night and we were amazed by all the stars we saw once we got far enough on our drive.

Happily melting in the heat on the Las Vegas strip with the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

The Las Vegas of 2012 seems very different than the one we visited in 2004. We were surprised by the lack of character in some of the new buildings on the strip and a bit disappointed that it seems harder than ever to find remnants of vintage Vegas. That said, we had a great trip. We lucked out with a nice room with a view at Paris Las Vegas and enjoyed some of our favorite places. The Mexican restaurant, Taqueria Canonita, we loved at the Venetian is still there and we had a thoroughly delightful (and very decadent) dinner out.

While Vegas itself had its charms, it was the desert that really caught our attention this time. We went to Red Rock Canyon (about 20 miles outside of Vegas) and also to the Hoover Dam and into Arizona. It's a glorious landscape and the majestic beauty of the land took our breath away. The silence there also melted our anxieties away as we peacefully stood quiet in the desert appreciating the beauty around us.

Enjoying beautiful Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas.

We enjoyed visiting the Hoover Dam too.

While we can't quite say "Viva the wait" (long live the wait), we are happy to have had a chance to recharge our batteries and we feel ready for the next part of our adoption journey. After all there's always another road trip in our future if we need one.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Open Adoption: What Is It?

The short answer is that open adoption is a mutual choice between birthparents and adoptive parents to make an adoption plan for a child. Everyone meets each other, shares information, and agrees that they want to go forward together. There is also an understanding that the child will be aware from the start that he or she is adopted and know who his or her birthparents are. Ideally there will also be continued communication between everyone in the future.

The longer answer is that every open adoption is as unique as the people involved. Some adoptions involve lots of close contact through the years, others may not due to choice, geography, or circumstance. What works for some, may not work for others. While we can't speak for other families or for the birthparents who will hopefully choose us, we would like to share why we chose open adoption and our hopes for the future of this relationship.

We're open to adoption. Open Adoption, that is!

We learned about different types of adoption before we decided what was right for us. During this process we learned a lot about open adoption and found it to be the most suited to the openness we have with each other and that we would like for our family. Part of what we learned is that open adoption has positive benefits for everyone involved in the adoption triad (birthparents, adoptive parents, and child). It is particularly important for the adopted child, as he or she has immediate access to answers to questions that come up and the satisfaction and security of knowing his or her story.

We believe that you can never have too much love in your life. We often hear birthparents referred to as extended family, both in the learning we've done and some of the discussions we've had with families who have already adopted. We like this idea and we want our child to have the chance to grow up being loved by many people. Our hope is to build an ongoing relationship with our child's birthparents based on trust, honesty, and respect.

Many of the decisions that will be made are ones that we hope to make together with the birthparents who choose us. One of the most important things to decide is the type of contact we will have. We are very open to the possibilities. To us, photos and updates (emails, texts, and/or letters) are a given and we hope our child's birthparents will be receptive to receiving these. We are also open to visits and hope to decide together how much contact will be comfortable for everyone. Of course, life includes change and we understand that sometimes visits or even photos and updates may be too much. Please know that we are ok with that too. Our hearts will always be open to contact whenever it is comfortable.

We say "no" to the idea of closed adoption. It's not for us.

Sometimes we are asked about why we didn't choose another option such as international adoption or adoption through the county. These were options we considered, but we soon realized that in both the adoption would likely be closed. It seemed the chance of a future relationship with the birthparents was very unlikely. And in many cases it might not be possible for our child to even know who his or her birthparents were or anything about them. This isn't what we want for our child or for the people who bring him or her into the world. This is why we ultimately decided to work with Independent Adoption Center (IAC) to adopt our child. They are open adoption experts and provide resources for everyone in the adoption triad, including counselling for birthparents.

You can learn more about us on this blog, through our Facebook page, and online profile. IAC has more information about Open Adoption on their websites, www.AdoptionHelp.org and www.iHeartAdoption.org. IAC also has a toll-free number at 1.800.877.OPEN (6736) for anyone thinking about options in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. If anyone you know is facing the difficult decision of placing their baby for adoption, please share this information with them.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Joys of Summer

We're so happy that summer is here! Now some might say, you live in Southern California, so what difference does it make? Isn't it always summer there? The answer is yes and no. Certainly the climate here is very temperate, but summer is still different than any other time of year. We love the longer days that summer brings. It's so much nicer to get things done and have fun while the sun is still shining. Summer brings lighter clothes, foods, drinks, and a more casual attitude, all of which we quite like.

Having a great time at an outdoor birthday party for our young cousin.

And of course, summer brings many fun activities. While summer officially starts in late June, it always seems that the 4th of July really marks its arrival. We always enjoy the 4th, especially the fireworks. Unfortunately this year we won't be able to see them together (Mitch has to work). However, there's many other fun things happening in the next couple of months that we will share together.

The Orange County Fair happens here over the summer every year and its always filled with possibilities for enjoyment. Of course there are the rides and foods from the delicious to the extraordinary. (We usually go for the funnel cakes and roasted corn, but shy away from the bacon wrapped and deep fried items.) There are animals to see in the livestock area and we love checking out the arts and crafts displayed at the fair. There are always amazing pieces made by county residents, especially in the woodworking area.

Mitch making friends with a bunny at the fair.

Susan checking out a Vermeer inspired piece in the fair's art exhibit.

For the last couple of years, the OC Fair has included an Ice Museum and while it's the coldest place at the fair, it's also a lot of fun to check out the many creative things that can be done with ice. Two years ago the Ice Museum included replicas of great works of art, such as an ice Mona Lisa, King Tut, The Thinker, etc. Last year's display was undersea themed with an ice jellyfish, shark, Poseidon, and much more. It was even more elaborate than the previous year with color ice elements. This year the fair is July 13th through August 12th and we plan to go a couple times, if not more. 

Look, it's King Tut in ice! Appreciating the ice art despite the cold.

The giant ice shark at last year's fair. Everything around the shark is ice too!

There's lots of other good stuff happening here too. We always enjoy local museums, but their gardens and outdoor artworks are even more pleasant in the warmer weather. Every summer includes the Sawdust Art Festival in nearby Laguna Beach. It's another great place to check out the handiwork of a variety of artists including ceramicists, glassblowers, painters, jewelry makers, and many more.

Taking a little break in one of the Getty Villa's gorgeous gardens.

We also love summer's outdoor activities including the many outdoor concerts and more. Among our favorites are the concerts in Huntington Beach's Central Park, which is a lovely setting fairly close to the ocean. It's a fun place to meet up with friends, sometimes with a picnic dinner and even a little glass of Vinho Verde. Places we love such as the San Diego Zoo have extended hours in the evenings through Labor Day. And, what would summer be without a bit of reading? The local libraries have special programming including the summer reading program Susan and her mom signed up for tonight. (Prizes for reading, yay!)

We saw these flowers at one of the concerts and didn't know what they were.
 Luckily a friend solved the mystery and told us they are passion flowers. Thanks NN! 

Checking out the first Huntington Beach concert of the season this year.

Can you tell we love that it's summer? Happy 4th of July! We wish you the best summer ever!