Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer is for Beach Vacations

OK, massive photo share here. Hang with me to the end, because I have a big announcement.

In June, we met up with my parents and my sister and her kids in Orange Beach, AL for a cousins vacation. Just low key, relaxing fun. I took some photos of my beautiful niece, and spent lots of time at my computer, editing the photos. I could edit photos all day, and some days, that's all I did!

We got up one morning to see the sunrise.

And took group photos so that Grammy and Papa will have a Christmas card photo this year.

I enlisted the help of my trusty assistant.

Teenage boys don't want to stand too close together. . . Oh, well.

Looks like my sister will get a Christmas card photo too.

There were epic games of Risk.

And some relaxing screen time.

Papa brought his metal detector to search for buried treasure.

Bottle caps and pennies. That's all we got.

So we don't get to quit our day jobs and become full time beach bums.

So here's my announcement. 

Join me at Click Away!

I'm going to Click Away! It's an amazing photography conference taking place in Salt Lake City, September 11-13. 

Oh, how I agonized over this decision. I mean, homeschooling moms of four don't just up and fly all the way across the country by themselves to go to a conference where they don't even know ANYONE, do they?

Nancy, the gal, who taught my photography classes, mentioned this conference many months ago, but at the time, I wasn't even calling myself a photographer, and didn't think I was good enough to be at such an event.

But a lot has changed since then. I've decided that I am a photographer, and I even set up a little savings account for photography. When people ask me to take their photo and give me a little gift to say thank you, into the account it goes. When I sell old homeschool books on Ebay, my little account grows. Those massive boxes of Thomas the Tank Engine wooden trains and tracks that I've been saving for my grandkids are in imminent danger of being sold to finance my next lens. In fact, anything that is not being used at my house and isn't nailed down is fair game. Use it or lose it, people!

Then, after upgrading my camera and buying my amazing 135mm lens, I made another decision. For the next little while, I need to spend the $$ in my savings account on photography education, not more photography gear. For the next year or so, I want to work on SKILLS!

Because here's the secret. It's not really about better gear. It's about growing as an artist. Better cameras don't magically take better photos.  It really is mostly about skills.  

And that brought me back to Click Away. Over 300 classes in one place. Networking with other hobbyist and professional photographers. And shooting photos in a very beautiful part of the U.S. I'm so in!

Want to join me at Click Away? Check it out. If you use the promo code DANABALL at checkout, you'll get $60 off your registration. 

Hope to see you there!

One last thing. Now, my big dilemma is whether to room by myself or try to get a roommate. Click Away's message boards are full of roommate requests. (FYI, I'm an introvert, and am pretty sure that I will never sign up to room with someone I don't know.) Last night, Wenxin told me he thought I should post a roommate request. In fact, he had already decided what it should say. He put a lot of thought into this.

"Roommate needed. I like to stay up late editing photos. No drinking. I might snore a little sometimes, but not much. I hope you will want to be my friend." 

Little by Little

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Best Thing About My Dad Is. . .

I asked all the kids to complete this sentence. The best thing about my dad is. . .

Here are their answers.

Katherine: "He's very patient with us if we are not cooperating." (Can't help but think she might be contrasting him with another parent she knows. Hmm.)

Wenxin: "He's funny."

Julia: "He's extremely caring."

Nathan: "He listens to me and is always helpful."

Friday, June 13, 2014


Maybe I've found my niche. Toad photography! And who needs a busy summer schedule of theme parks and summer camps when you have a backyard full of toads.

Have I mentioned the snake eggs that everyone is watching - waiting to see them hatch? I'm going to need a long telephoto lens for that one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

3 Reasons I've Stopped Blogging About Adoption

OK, I haven't totally stopped blogging about adoption. But my older child adoption posts have become few and far between. I want to share 3 reasons why:

1. There's not that much to say anymore. Isn't that good news! In the beginning, we were all learning so much, and adjusting so much, and struggling so much. There were so many adoption related decisions to be made. Now, almost 4 years in, everything isn't about adoption anymore. There's no magic timeline, and it will almost always take much longer than other people think it should, but like us, most adoptive families eventually find their new normal

2. Wenxin's privacy is important to me. He's eleven years old now, and I don't know any child approaching the teen years who wants his every struggle broadcast across the Internet. From time to time, I may still blog about things I'm learning as a mom - my story, my struggles - but I want to let Wenxin decide in the future how much of his story he wants to share with the world. It's hard, of course, because our stories overlap, and I think that new adoptive parents need to learn from experienced adoptive parents. It's a tricky balance, but if I have to err, in the future I choose to err on the side of protecting Wenxin's privacy. My first loyalty is to him.

3. These days, I'm funneling most of my creative efforts into photography. I've discovered a new passion and am working hard on developing my skills and building my portfolio. Can you believe it? My older child adoption has reached the point where I can even develop a new hobby! That should encourage everyone. These days, my creative efforts are more likely to go into shooting and editing a new photo than writing a new blog post. For now, I'll keep posting my photos here at Death by Great Wall, but I have a new photography blog in the works for later this year.

I'm pretty proud of the resource we've built here for other adoptive parents and hope you'll continue to share it. And keep your comments coming. I read every single one!

Monday, June 9, 2014

All Boy!

This week's photo challenge over at I Heart Faces is called "All Boy." The minute I saw it, I knew I'd just taken a photo that fit the theme perfectly. Click here for more critter pics.

Photo Challenge Submission

Friday, February 14, 2014

Continuing to Honor His Chinese Heritage

China. It's important to him and important to us. 

Still, we almost missed it.

Chinese New Year.

In the busy-ness of life, it's easy to overlook holidays I didn't grow up celebrating. We were out of town for a soccer tournament on Chinese New Year this year, so The Year of the Horse arrived unnoticed. There was zero fanfare that evening as we shared dinner at a Chick Fil A by the interstate. Red envelopes (for giving money to the kids) lay forgotten in a drawer back home.

On top of that, I almost forgot the annual Chinese New Year parade last weekend. Mike and Nathan were away on a campout, and Julia was spending the weekend with a friend. As I was getting ready for church, I remembered that the parade was on a Sunday in early February and quickly checked my computer.  

Yikes! It would start in a couple of hours.

We were able to go to church and then join our Asian-American community downtown, just in time for the first float.

Dragons. Mardi Gras beads. Lots of free candy.

A whole sea of folks who looked more like Wenxin than they looked like me.

And an Asian meal that was to die for.

It was a great day.

International adoption is a tricky dance. On the one hand, I want to honor his birth culture. 

But on the other hand, I don't want to constantly point out his differentness, making him essentially a life-long exchange student in our home.

I think what I'm shooting for is a little more nuanced. I want to see our family culture shift slightly and embrace more Chinese culture. It takes intentionality on my part, which means it doesn't always happen. But every time I make the effort -- like changing plans last minute to get Katherine and Wenxin to the parade last Sunday -- I'm reminded that it's worth it.

Recently, Nathan competed in The Ying Expo, a county wide science fair sponsored by Dr. Nelson Ying. At the Awards Ceremony, Nathan received second place in Computer Science. We were thrilled, and as we cheered and clapped, Wenxin had a question.

"Mom, where is Dr.Ying from?"

Back at home, we looked up Dr. Ying's bio online and learned that his family immigrated from China during The Cultural Revolution. They started a new life in America, building a successful business. Now, the senior Dr. Ying and his son (pictured above with Nathan) generously sponsor several science competitions in our area.

I was reminded that Wenxin needs role models who look like him.

Meeting successful Chinese Americans plants seeds of pride in his Chinese American heritage and  gives him a glimpse of what can happen with hard work and perseverance.


It will always be important, because my son in Chinese.

And my family is still evolving, learning to embrace that truth and discovering what it means for us.

Sharing today at The Long Road to China.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sunday Snapshots!

Anyone remember this tree? A year later, we returned for another pic. 
Maybe this should be an annual tradition.

I had ulterior motives when I offered to take Katherine and her friend out for ice cream. 
I took photos the entire time! I even sat on the ground for some of the shots! 
I think Katherine may be saying, 
"Don't mind the crazy woman with the camera. She's my mom."

Here's Julia first thing this morning. She's beautiful with braces and bed head!

Ni Hao Yall