Monday, September 30, 2013

A hiking we will go

I love September. I think it's got to be one of my favorite Chicago months. Saturday was a spectacular day here so we decided to head to Schiller Woods Forest Preserve for some hiking and a picnic.
The girls brought last year's pumpkin purses in the hopes of finding treasures. And they did...lots of them!

There were a lot of downed trees which gave them the opportunity to see how trees get water.
The scenery was beautiful.
We settled in for a picnic after about an hour of walking.

 This tree had been hit by lightening.

As we were walking the wind picked up and we heard a loud crack. It came from this tree which looked like a hard shove would send it keeling over.

We circled back around on a trip that took a little over 2 hours. They still wanted to find the man-made hill so we made our way to another part of the preserve to find it. After taking off our shoes to enjoy the grass, we spent another hour + running up and down the hill.

Kate said, "Hey! Wait for me!!"
They cheered her down the hill.
And landed in a big puppy pile.
And back up.
 And back down.

 We ended our outing at a local gelato place in the Portage Park neighborhood.
Even with all that running and walking and playing, Kate did not fall asleep in the car on the way home. Lucy was out cold the entire way home. It was a lovely way to spend a day.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shishter Shushi Shat

The girls played rather nicely most of yesterday morning (in marked contrast to most of last week) before we headed out for a hike in a local forest preserve (pictures in another post). As you can tell, Kate's having a bit of speaking difficulty with her new mouth jewelry.
Saturday Morning from Lisa on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hurricane Kate and Tropical Storm Lucy

To continue yesterday's story, Kate and I ended up staying home while Len took Lucy to school. Kate didn't have any more nosebleeds nor did she take a nap but we spent some time puttering around, doing puzzles and playing dressup dolls.  Ms. Julie was able to pick Lucy up after school which was awesome. I got a short break while they all went to the park to burn off some energy and then I had to take Kate to the dentist for her mouth jewelry. Both girls were teetering on meltdowns all day though with their lack of uninterrupted sleep, no naps and new schedule taking its toll on them. Their teachers say they are so well-mannered and happy in school so I imagine it's just a relief for them to come home and "let it all hang out". Oh happy day for me....

But, back to the dentist. Kate was a perfect patient, very calm and charming to all the staff as she was fitted for her new mouth jewelry. Pink sparkles for the top retainer and plain pink for the bottom...she chose her colors last time we were there.
It takes a few tries to make sure it fits properly. The goal of these appliances is to widen and flatten the palate so that the tongue will have a place to rest properly which in turn keeps the teeth in place. Kate's teeth are already overcrowded (which is the same problem I had for which my dentist pulled 8 teeth when I was little) so by widening the palate you negate the need for tooth extractions and *hopefully* braces. She also has a slight overbite which this will correct as well.  This is a new area of orthodonture and is practiced in the Chicago area on children this young only by Dr. Boyd. He is leading the way in preventative orthodontics and speaks at many conferences around the world about his research. We can already tell that Lucy's speech and face/jaw shape have changed dramatically in the year since she's been wearing her appliances.
Picture time!

She was such a trooper that we were going to stop and get a small snack on the way home and then this happened...
Kate, who rarely falls asleep in the car anymore, was out. Rather than wake her up for a treat or head home and wake her up, I drove very slowly along the lakefront marina area and watched the boats and wave riders enjoying a beautiful afternoon. Kate slept for an hour before I had to go home to relieve Julie so she could go home. And that is when the spell of happiness was broken.

The rest of the evening was a total disaster. Kate woke up unhappy, both because she missed her treat and because her mouth was sore. She also just generally doesn't wake up happy after napping so add that to the recipe. Lucy was ALL OVER Kate to see her mouth jewelry which Kate was most certainly not amenable to so then they started screaming...SCREAMING!!!!, at each other. Did I mention they were screaming? Because that doesn't sound like a strong enough verb to describe what was happening.

I had them sitting down to supper by 5:15 but then had to move Lucy to the little table on the other side of the bar to separate them. Lucy just kept on nagging Kate about her mouth jewelry and Kate dug in her heels and refused to open her mouth (except to scream of course) so that made Lucy scream back and oh bloody hell, I poured myself a glass of wine and counted the minutes until Len walked through the door. And when he did he was blasted by the noise as well...he said he had heard it on the sidewalk and had hoped it wasn't coming from our house. A man can dream.

Lucy finished her meal first so I promptly whisked her into the tub and into her jammies before Kate was finished eating. Lucy didn't know what hit her. It so startled her in fact that she calmed down and settled in for bedtime stories and was asleep in her bed by 6pm. Len, meanwhile, had gotten Kate into and out of the bath, with her screaming bloody murder the entire time. She finally settled into a hiccupping quiet when he read stories to her. She was asleep by 6:15pm.

Len and I were so shell shocked that we sat on the sofa and ate our dinner in silence. We felt like survivors of a terrible, raging storm leaving us bruised and battered, wondering what the morning would bring.

Fortunately, the morning dawned sunny and smiling. Kate got up once around 12:30am to use the bathroom but both girls slept until a little after 6am. 12 hours straight. It's the latest they've slept for over a week. They were both in good moods and cheerfully headed down to the car at 7:30 this morning with no drama. We've got a chiropractic appointment this afternoon and then I think we'll head to the park to enjoy the 70 degree weather we're having!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Points for creativity

This morning started EARLY. Both girls were awake (AWAKE!) before 5:30am. It became painfully obvious that neither was going to stay in their rooms so Len got up and took a shower and both girls climbed into bed with me. Thankfully they have learned that if I have my eyeshades on they are to be quiet and they were until Len got out of the shower. Kate finally got up and went to play in her room while Lucy stayed with me.

Fast forward to a few minutes before departure for school, around 7:25am. Kate is decidedly uncooperative and making the process way more difficult that it needs to be.

Her thumb hurts. She's itchy. All over. Her tummy hurts. Her eye hurts. Her nose hurts.

And then....a gusher of a nose bleed. Unlike any I've seen before. It was truly spectacular and honestly should have been a scene from a gory movie. It just kept on coming, soaking up washcloths, her clothes, etc.

After about 5 minutes I managed to get her calmed down enough to keep her head back. We regrouped, got her changed and were heading out the door when she blew her nose and it started up again. Back inside and it's now after 8am. I got her to lie back down while Len took Lucy to the train for school.

I finally got her nose staunched by laying her on the sofa eating ice and watching tv. Len got Lucy to school only 5 minutes late which is amazing since they had to take a cab to the train (it's about a mile from our house and was arriving soon), then the train, then take a bus, then walk 1/4 mile to school. He said Lucy was great and in good spirits, looking at this new plan as an adventure.

Kate has just finished eating all of her lunch in addition to a second breakfast of sausage, cantaloupe and OJ. I'm seriously hoping we can both get a nap this morning since I was up late hosting book club last night and am the walking dead right now. Kate gets her mouth jewelry this afternoon so I won't get much of a break.

Is it Friday yet?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Our girls seem to have contracted a pretty serious case of schoolitis. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, stomachachs, sore arm, sore throat, hurt toe, general malaise, contrariness, constant whining, sibling torture, irrationality in the face of obviousness, hunger, thirst, inability to sleep and/or stay asleep, random bouts of screaming, and memory loss for already-mastered skills like, say, keeping food in their mouths or water in the tub.

This malady spreads to other members of the family and results in a common ailment known as Momitis. The only known cure is a spa day. Daditis can result as well but is less common and can be cured with beer and football.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dinner at school

Last night we had a family meet and greet dinner at the girls' school. We got the chance to visit the classroom and teachers, meet the other families and have dinner. Kate and Lucy were so funny in such different ways.

Lucy immediately started hiding in my skirt, peeking out and laughing but hanging onto me almost for the duration of our time there. Once in the classroom, she literally dragged me from one part of the room to the next, showing me her favorite activity stations, her cubby, her artwork, etc. She was a ball of energy, bouncing all over the place while remaining in physical contact with me. When she saw her friend Alex come in the door, she dragged me over to meet him.

Kate, meanwhile, settled in with one activity at a table with Len and stayed there for quite some time. We had to kind of prod her to show us around the room as she kept finding something of interest to focus on. She managed to make two bracelets while we were there in addition to adding up beads over in the math section. Kate told us that it is "so nice in class because it's calm and relatively quiet. All the noise and running around is for outside". I could totally see that this would be true...her teachers are very zen, firm but gentle.

Len and I both got the chance to speak with her primary teacher and get her take on them. She is very good at rotating them around so that they are not always together (like for lunch, at circle time, etc). She said Kate is very quiet, very focused on her activities, with a sweet personality who seems happy in school. She comes over occasionally to "report that Lucy is doing something she shouldn't be" to which Ms. Xiang refocuses her back to her own play without immediately acting on the information.  She said Lucy is very active and needs to be redirected back to her activity but is overall very happy and social. She said they were opposite in nearly every way!

Len and I were both impressed with how much responsibility they are already showing in class. They both got stuff out carefully and put it back away before moving on to something else. They pushed their chairs back in when finished, set up the table for snacks, cleaned it all up afterwards and then headed into the bathroom to wash up. There were pitchers of water and milk set up in the snack area and we noticed that all the kids poured their own drinks, got their own snacks and set up their place settings all on their own. They were polite to the other kids and by the time supper was over, they were all running around with a few of their friends in the gym.

Lucy and Kate were beaming at being able to show us around, introduce us to their friends and generally be more knowlegeable than their parents for the evening.

They were so....grown up.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Two years ago

It's hard to believe sometimes that Lucy has not always been a part of our family but today marks only two years since we met her. As I wrote about last year, a lot has changed since that hectic, drama-filled day in Zhengzhou.
Gone is the vacant stare, the sallow complexion, the fear. In its place are sparkling eyes, rosy skin and joy.
We celebrated Family Day last night with cupcakes and memories of meeting each other in a hot hotel room in China. We remembered how Kate said, upon meeting Lucy for the first time, "That's my Doodcy!" which prompted Kate to call her sister Doodcy for the rest of the evening and again this morning. Lucy wanted to know what she said to Kate and we had to tell her that she didn't yet speak English, so said nothing, just stared at her new sister and decided that they would like each other.

And happily, that is just what has happened. This morning when Kate could not find her "First Day of Preschool Crown" (aka her pink, sparkly headband) and started to cry, Lucy touched her arm and said softly, "You can borrow mine. I won't wear it today so you can wear it."

Len and I just looked at each other and smiled through our tear-filled eyes. We have two beautiful, smart, kind daughters. We are so very lucky.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Four days in and she can already count to seven in Mandarin...with the caveat that she has number 6 incorrectly pronounced. I think the lesson we can learn from this, though, is that if you say something with enough conviction, people will believe you.
Counting in Mandarin from Lisa on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Love Letter, Month 44

Dear Kate,

You are 44 months old today. 
This month was rather low-key, mostly in preparation for the start of....drum-roll please....PRESCHOOL! You have been alternately excited and anxious for this new milestone and that has played out in your moods. You are doing a lot of "testing" behavior and the worst of it is when you look right at me and say, "NO!!!!!" to whatever you felt was being unfairly asked of you like, say, wiping your own bottom after using the bathroom. You looked appropriately askance when I told you that I would continue to wipe your bottom if you would then wipe mine. Problem solved.
By far the funniest times with you revolve around your usage of words. One of the things I love about you the most is your word play and some of the conversations we have. Here are some of your best from this month:

Me: (Perusing a website for classroom shoes) They don’t have yellow shoes for Lucy.
You: There are some purple ones. Can purple be the new yellow?

I overheard this while you were playing with your playphone:
Hello? I cannot talk to you. I do not have wifi damnit. Damnit damnit.

You have a rather extensive collection of shells and you picked one up to show it to me and said, “I like this one the best because it’s fragile.” 

While at the lake this week you spent a fair amount of time diving under the water in search of more shells.

Me: Would you like eggs for breakfast?
You: I think that would be delightful.

Also delightful is the way you light up when you hold babies. Here you are with Ms. Julie's grand-daughter, Nora. You were thrilled to be able to hold her.
You: I’m going to a church so I can marry somebody.
Me: How did you know that people get married in a church?
You: You told me what a church was when we passed by one.
Me: Yes, but I didn't mention marriage and church. How did you know about getting married in a church?
You: Because I’m a person and I know things.

You: When I grow up I want to be a daddy.
Me: Why?
You: Because then I could pee standing up.

I'm sure Daddy will be delighted to know that you consider that the best part of being a father. 

Lucy: I need my fip fops.
Kate: I don’t think you NEED them, you just want them.
You and Lucy have had a resurgence in your dress-up play this month. I love listening to you both when you are in the depths of your play, unaware that I am eavesdropping. It is in those moments that I am convinced that you and Lucy will be lifelong friends and not just sisters thrown together by their parent's desire for two children. You both spontaneously tell each other sorry (when you have caused an accident) or say "I love you sister", and it slays me every time. 
I am so happy that you have each other, especially when there are new and unfamiliar places to experience...like starting school. You both clasped hands when it was time for pictures (and made so many funny faces that I couldn't stop taking photos) and held hands again as we walked into your classroom for the first day.
You both were smiling and happy as Daddy and I left you in class for that first day. Fortunately the only tears that were shed were ours as you and Lucy faced your new adventure with excitement.
I have to confess to some covert recess operations on that first day as you walked to and from the playground. You informed me that your new friend is Ava and that "she wears a different shirt every day!" 
One of your first assignments for school was to pick out a plant to tend. We went to the store and you immediately picked out a succulent called Split Rock. 
Apropos because your new obsession is rock collecting. I've had to seriously limit how many rocks you are allowed to bring home when we go anywhere. Here is your collection thus far:
You have said that you want to take it to school for show-and-tell so we found a nice container for you to keep them in (so I won't keep stepping on them when you set them out on the floor to admire).

You are pretty quiet in the car when I pick you up from school and I get the impression that you are doing a lot of processing of your new circumstances. You are very much a people-pleaser and I think it is harder for you at school sometimes than it is for Lucy as you are very concerned with doing things perfectly to please your teacher. 
I want you to know that perfection is hard to obtain and not very valuable once you have it. Magic happens in the in-between moments, those moments when things don't turn out as expected but are better than you had even imagined....like you, my love.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013


We've clocked in "finished" with our third day of school and I'm already exhausted. Pure. D. EXHAUSTED. And I suspect the girls are too. Although their school is only 7 miles from home, it takes 30-40 minutes to get there with traffic and we are so not used to driving. I've looked at it from every angle but there is no getting around that driving still gets us there faster than taking the train (and then a bus because it's still almost 2 miles from the train station).


Some observations about the girls since starting school, in no particular order:

1. Lucy is waking up with bad dreams in the middle of the night now. I wake up to here her crying and saying, "Mama, don't leave me!" Fortunately, she soothes right back down with a little back rub, a song and some kisses. This morning she said her dream was about a big dinosaur chasing her. We re-framed it together and said that it was her "dog" Flossie who was chasing her to get her to play. She liked that a lot!

2. When I check on Kate in the middle of the night she is almost always reversed in the bed now with her feet on her pillow. This is a new thing as she normally would get out of bed and it hardly looked like anyone had been in it all night. Now her blanket is all askew and she's all over the place.

3. Kate is practicing speaking in Chinese a bit. She makes up whole sentences with Chinese sounding words so it sounds something like this: Chong wei wu chong ching ching long goo. It's pretty funny.

4. Both girls have told me that there is a girl who cries every day in class. Her daddy drops her off and she cries. Ms. Xiang will pick her up and then she cries some more and wiggles to get down. They insist that she cries throughout the 4 hours of class but I imagine it only seems that way. Neither of them do well with other children crying, to the point that they cannot block it out to do their own play.

5. After much discussion and encouragement from Len and me, they finally used the bathroom at school. Monday and Tuesday they both said they didn't use the bathroom. Kate said she was afraid to leave her stuff (meaning her project) for fear someone would take it while she was gone. Lucy just said she didn't want to go because "the potty is different than ours." Today they both said they went and thankfully didn't race straight to the bathroom when we got home.

6. I expected them to be tired after school but unfortunately the 20 minute drive home (no traffic!) provides just enough low-key downtime to rejuvenate them. Although neither naps in the car, they still can't seem to settle for rest at home either. Lucy (my champion napper!) has only managed a 20 minute catnap both days and woke up both times much crabbier than she was before.

7. Both girls seem to want more snuggle time now. Len and I have been spending the time between supper and the girls' bedtimes snuggling with them on the couch much to their delight.

8. They both tell me they really like school and when I ask what they like most, they invariably say "Everything!" They each have an older student who watches out for them (Lucy has Alex and Kate has Ava) and holds their hands when they walk to the park. They love taking their lunch to school every day and "feel sorry for the people who have their lunch brought to them instead of having their mama make it because you make the best lunches". Melt my heart. They got to paint yesterday and today which thrilled them to pieces.

Because the weather has been unseasonably hot (my car thermometer hit 99 degrees yesterday) the girls have begged to go swimming in the lake after school. Since it was too hot to do much else (they didn't even have recess on Tuesday because of the heat index) we suited up and headed out both Monday and Tuesday afternoon. Lake Michigan felt divine even to this Florida girl! We all went swimming for a couple of hours before suppertime.

Hard to believe it's supposed to only get to 65 degrees on Friday! I'm so not ready for winter.


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