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Thursday, September 29, 2016

A random assortment of our past few weeks

A random assortment is what my head feels like lately. When we chopped down those trees I think we stirred up lots of tree pollen and mold spores because Len and I now have matching allergies to show for it. Mine progressed into a full blown case of acute sinusitus and Len's has settled into his chest and ears of all places. My throat has been scratchy, thus the lovely sound I made as I was trying to help Kate find one of the notes in her latest practice piece. Notice that she is in the kitchen. I was trying to fix supper but she requires an audience to practice. So I get serenaded whilst I cook.

Minuet in G (not minute) from Lisa on Vimeo.

Next enter the stink bugs. By the hundreds. OMG there are so many of them both inside and outside of the house. This one was inside...right before I smushed him.
I think my record kill was 20 in the space of 2 hours just in one room. They manage to get in somehow and we're still trying to figure out exactly how unless they can just squeeze their bodies into a pancake and slither between cracks. I sent out an email blast to our neighbors and it seems we are at least not in this alone. They started appearing 2-3 years back around this time of year and don't leave again until spring. Fabulous news.

A few weekends ago, Len's work had a family day so we took the train downtown and enjoyed good food and entertainment. After enjoying the view from Len's office

the girls tried a Zumba class.
Zumba from Lisa on Vimeo.

Next up were African dancers on the River Walk:
Real African dancers from Lisa on Vimeo.

Kate and Lucy got the chance to participate. Lucy was, quite uncharacteristically, reticent to join in until her sister did:
African dancing from Lisa on Vimeo.

The Shakespeare Company did a great job showing how they stage and implement sword fighting onstage so that it looks real.
Lucy was most excited for the police dog demonstrations.
They showed off their bomb/explosives sniffing skills.

This girl wants a dog so badly....
"Make your own cupcake" was a big hit:


I just could not get enough of the views...I do so miss the city. This is the view of the Chicago River all the way out to Lake Michigan.
On the north side towards the Merchandise Mart.
In other news, my battle with homework continues unabated but I did win a small victory. Can you spot the mistake with problem number 4?
Aunt Kelly and her daughter Karlie sent us a box full of Karlie's books from her elementary years. Guess who was in heaven?
So happy in fact that she always has a book going these days...
no matter where we are. I have to say it does make the wait for a table go much more smoothly now that I only have to keep one kid entertained and distracted.
I've been keeping busy trying to get some furniture refinished. To that end, I spent the better part of one day sanding down this bookcase.
I did manage to get a few Fall decorations up since it appears we are now officially in that season.
I've also been volunteering and getting more involved with our community and school but I'll leave that for another post. In the meantime, I'll just end you here with a few photos of our 3rd child who I awoke from napping in Lucy's room for a small photo session.
Sleepy girl. I would NEVER have done this with either Kate or Lucy but I had complete confidence that his one would go right back to sleep once I left the room. Cats are great that way!
Quite a yawn.
Now what?
Chin scratches.
More yawning.
This face says it all. "Go away so I can go back to sleep."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Homework

We are 4 weeks into the school year and I still have yet to find an afternoon rhythm that works for us all. I keep feeling like it just shouldn't be this difficult in the FIRST grade and yet, it's a definite struggle. And in the past 10 days we've added in nightly speech therapy practice to the mix so now Lucy, who is already having much more attention from me to help her read and work through the homework, now has even more homework than Kate.

It takes me an hour to get them both through their homework each afternoon. An hour. I'm going to let this sink in...an HOUR of homework in the FIRST grade.

Technically, if you look at the list, it shouldn't take an hour. Generally they have a page (front and back) of math, a page of writing Chinese characters and then a lesson online in Chinese that they need to listen to and learn and sometimes a 4-5 minute cartoon in Chinese. Then they are supposed to read to me for 5 minutes. Then Lucy has a page (with 3 columns of words) that she must pronounce correctly for speech therapy. And don't forget piano and flute practice.

Piano homework from Lisa on Vimeo.
Kate is pretty self-sufficient and doesn't generally need my help with anything. I don't even have her read to me as she will go off and read for 30 minutes while I'm still working through homework with Lucy. To have her not feel left out though, I then check Kate's reading by asking her questions about what she has read to check for comprehension and later I quiz her on the Chinese characters she needs to know for her Mandarin quiz.

Chinese vocabulary lesson with Kate from Lisa on Vimeo.
The other reason it takes an hour....if you've ever met 6 year olds after a long day of school, you know that they can move at a glacial pace. I've seen videos of sloths that move faster. Just getting set up to play flute can take Kate 20 minutes. Getting a child who doesn't want to read or write is like trying to stand up a cooked noodle.

Chinese homework with Lucy from Lisa on Vimeo.
That last video had some serious editing--it went on for another 15 minutes before we finally finished the one page of characters.

Add in the ever-shortening amount of sunlight we are getting now that Fall is officially here....I am so not ready for winter!

To that end, I called a halt to homework today. As soon as the girls got home, I loaded them up with a homemade muffin and some water and we set off to kayak around the lake. It is much cooler here now so we donned sweatshirts over our tshirts and shorts but we had a great time nonetheless. We were all much happier to be out of the house and back on the lake. We kayaked for just over an hour, spent a long time watching a blue heron fishing for supper and then walked home just as the sun was sinking behind the trees.

It was a welcome reprieve from our normal routine and they were so much more delightful at supper and bedtime than usual. Play is good. I think I will be replacing some of the work with play from now on.

Monday, September 19, 2016

5 Years

Seems hard to believe that Lucy has not always been with us but it has been 5 years since that hot day back in China when we all first met. I just wrote the final homestudy and found 8 photos to send to the Chinese government which marks the last part of our adoption agreement. I can't believe that all of the paperwork associated with making Lucy our daughter is finally O.V.E.R. No more reports or home visits or fingerprinting!

Lucy has changed so much and yet, in other ways, not very much at all. She is still, as I mused in this post, quite assertive in making her wishes known. She is no shrinking violet that's for sure! I think the best decision we made about our entire trip was to take Kate with us to meet Lucy in China. It was hard, to be sure, but well worth it in the long run. Lucy looked to Kate immediately as someone who already knew the routine and, most importantly, how to get food and attention.
Kate, for her part, loved having a new playmate and the language barrier seemed a non-issue even though Kate was speaking in full paragraphs by this point.

Lucy is healthier and happier than she was 5 years ago and has become quite the social butterfly. She can remember the name of every kid and dog in the neighborhood and can usually tell me something particular to that person/canine as well. And when they aren't fighting for resources, Kate and Lucy are still the best of friends.

Five years is just a drop in the bucket. I can't wait to see what the next 5 years looks like. Oh wait...they will both be hitting puberty around then....lord help us all.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

More landscaping

By last weekend, we still did not have the stumps ground from the trees we had removed. Knowing that they would be showing up early in the week, Len decided to rent a chain saw and rid our yard of a few of the other straggly bushes/trees that we didn't want to pay to have removed but that we did want to have the stumps ground down with the rest of them.

First on my list were these two overgrown bushes hiding the front door and the two pots of flowers on the steps.
That's more like it!
Next up was the crab apple tree that was on its last legs.


Meanwhile, the girls wanted to help so I put them to work weeding the buckthorn out of the mulched beds left by the juniper bushes. The row of dead bushes behind the pile of applewood was coming down next. It is only green because of the vines that have grown down from the trees in the woods,
Here's a shot of the bushes coming down. You can see where the vines have attached from the branches of the trees near Len.  It is now where we will stack all the wood Len is splitting.
To that end he got right to work on the evergreen stacks in the front yard.

He spent nearly a day and a half out there but barely made a dent in the wood still needing split. Fortunately, it turns out you can rent a splitter from a nearby store and they will even tow it to your property. It should knock out all the wood piles in a day or two. But I have to say, I like watching my lumberjack in action.

Splitting wood from Lisa on Vimeo.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Love Letter, Month 80

Dear Kate,

You are 80 months old.
This was the month that we wrapped up SUMMER 2016 and started a new school. Whew! We made it! But it was a hard climb letmetellyou, frought with anxiety and worry about everything from your teachers to new friends to a new schedule.

But before we get to how you have adjusted to school, let's take a look back at the end of summer. Nana came specifically to spend the last part of summer with us but also to be here so she could meet your teachers and see your new school.  As usual, you loved having the extra attention that only a grandmother can provide.

After much kvetching about how you "will NEVER catch a fish" and how "Lucy ALWAYS catches fish", thank GodAlmighty and PRAISEBE, you caught one.

You even had the joy of showing it off to Sloane and Naia who were here to vist for the day.

Surprisingly (or maybe not, now I think about it), what you took away most from their visit was learning how to meditate from Ms. Hema. You have kept the chant she wrote down for you taped to the pantry door and you ask to meditate every morning before school. With our new and improved school schedule (re: having the bus pick you up practically in front of our house), we have plenty of time in the morning for that and it actually does serve to help you center yourself and have more peace in your thoughts about going to school.

You thoroughly enjoyed the end of school bash in our neighborhood, spending 2 hours sliding down slides and eating frozen ice treats. One of the the best things you've discovered is that, even though you don't have classes with your neighborhood friends like Emme and Sophia, you still get to see them at lunch and on the playground.


On the Friday before school we got to go meet your teachers and figure out where your classrooms were, where your locker was located and how to get to the lunchroom and gym.
This is your Chinese and math teacher, Liu Lao Shi.

Your English teacher is Ms. McCarthy.
Your art teacher is Ms. Siddons.
 And your music teacher is Ms. Owens.
I wish, though, that we had gotten a picture of you with the librarian, because that is your favorite place. You get to check 2 books out of the library every Thursday. You have that day etched in your mind as the goal, the prize at the end of the week. You are reading now more than ever but I fear that 2 books will not be enough. Thus far you have completely finished one of your books by Friday morning and are returning it. You wised up last week and checked out a much longer book that has kept you busy much of the weekend. In fact, you disappeared one afternoon while I was helping Lucy with piano practice and I found you holed up in your room where you had been reading for an hour. Last week, you brought home a reading log where each apple represents 10 minutes of reading. By the end of September, you are supposed to have all of them colored in. I don't think I'll need to worry about this part of your homework:
As for the first day of first grade, you survived!
Homework was exciting for the first 2 weeks but by the 3rd week, you were over it. Alas, it continues unabated and will for the next 11+ years.  Sorry for that bit of bad news...
The good news is that you will always have books which you can enjoy anywhere!
And you still have time to do the other things you love which this month has been rediscovering some of your birthday presents...namely your crystal excavation kit and your geodes.


And now, because one of your greatest gifts is your ability to turn a phrase, the Kateisms of the month:

As we were watching the Olympics you remarked, "Rhythmic gymnastics looks like ballet while throwing things around."

"If Audible isn't working I guess we can listen to the yelling music that Daddy likes."

You: Maybe Daddy will play with me when he comes downstairs.
Nana: Maybe, but it's almost your bedtime.
You: Really? That's bad. Well...it's good for you guys so you can have boring grown-up time...but it's bad for me.

You asked if your new locker would have a lock. I said that no, the lockers aren't locked but that you wouldn't be keeping valuables like money or jewelry in it, just your books and lunch. You replied, "Books are valuable! To me!"

Daddy was getting ready to hang your chair from the ceiling. You looked at the rope and said, "Do you think that rope has enough tensile strength to hold me?"
Daddy: "Do you know what the word 'tensile' means?"
You (rolling your eyes): "The ability of the rope to hold a certain amount of weight."
Lucy asked me, "Why don't you have any mosquito bites?!"
You answered, "Because her blood is old."  #nofilter #waytomakeyourmamafeelgood
Love,
Mama

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