Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chinese war music?

Kate and Lucy are learning some new songs in school. This is their latest and it rather sounds like a war song!
Chinese recital from Lisa on Vimeo.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A visit from Meme and Papa

Meme and Papa visited from FL for the Memorial Day holiday this year. It coincided with an MDS support group meeting here in Chicago on Saturday. My dad was diagnosed with MDS 17 years ago and has been fighting the disease ever since. Unfortunately, it has tired him out and makes him feel quite cold most of the time.
Did I mention the weekend started off with highs in the 50s-60s?

With a good night's rest, he rallied and we visited the girls' school for lunch and a tour.

 I love circle time! I really wish I was going to their school sometimes...it's so peaceful and serene and the "work" looks like fun.
Papa had some fun with the sensory blindfold.

We stayed a little late so the girls could show off some of their favorite activities. Here, Lucy is learning the names for family members.
Then Meme got into the blindfold!
A little drawing.
Boards to learn the Chinese characters (with the corresponding picture/English word on the back). Lucy's is sideways...
All the Chinese language and culture made Meme ask for Chinese food for supper so that evening we walked to our local favorite restaurant for a duck feast.

Papa snuggles.
Slicing the duck tableside.

Meme cuddles.
Sunday the weather was much nicer with highs in the 70s so we headed to the Botanic Garden (along with the rest of Chicagoland it seemed). Thank goodness we are members and could breeze past the 50 car line-up to get in the gate!

Kate was tired of picture taking...

 We took the trolley tour to be able to see a lot of the gardens without walking.

 Lilacs...Meme's favorite.
We forgot the key to Papa's scooter so we were able to get a wheelchair for free in order to see some more of the gardens on foot.
 Kate and Lucy got out some energy racing up and down this shaded walkway.

Just last month, this walkway had no leaves!
 See? I took the one below in April...
We stopped for ice cream which gave Lucy enough energy to push Papa on to the English walled garden.

Wedding photographs were in progress in several locations.
It was a stunning day which ended our weekend together as Papa and Meme headed to the airport this morning but not without dancing with Papa first.
 And bear hugs from Meme.
While Len took them to the airport, we enjoyed another stellar morning outside. They are learning hopscotch.

 Then a walk around the block.

 Interestingly, when they aren't holding hands or running or picking dandelions, they walk like this which is exactly the way every Asian person in our neighborhood walks.
Only two more weeks of school left which boggles my mind. Their first year of preschool almost done. Wow.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

She got it!!

Julie filmed Lucy on the monkey bars yesterday. She's gotten so confident!
She got it! from Lisa on Vimeo.

*Paivi: the shirt looks great on her and you can just make out Kate's dress as she comes up behind her. Thank you again!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cancer update

My biannual trip to Houston MDA was last week. Armed with two books and some sunscreen, I was looking forward to a few days of relaxing by the pool, some shopping in Rice Village and some good meals with friends

...oh yeah, and lying on an MRI table and waiting anxiously for results.

The news was good.

"The desmoid tumor located in the obturator internus region on the left side shows a slight further decrease in size as compared with 11/14/2013. It is much smaller than it was initially. No evidence of interval recurrence. No complication. No additional lesions detected."
As compared with the pictures I posted from my last trip, you can see that the area (on the side labeled left) is much smaller than it was. The biggest impression is that the contrast isn't as bright or as large as it used to be.

The best news is that I have been released from returning every 6 months. I don't have to return for 9 months.  So a nice warm vacation in February!

I came home to find two happy Things and a beautiful day.
And I finished TWO books! TWO!!! It was a very good week indeed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Daughter From Danang

Almost every week I am questioned about why we go to the trouble and expense of sending our girls to the school we've chosen. It would be so much easier in terms of time and travel not to mention a much less painful dent in our checking account every month to send them to a school that is closer and doesn't have the same price tag. So far, I've only been able to say that this is just something I feel very strongly about...in my gut I know this is the right thing for our girls.

Yesterday I watched a documentary that validates how I feel about this. Daughter from Danang  touched me on so many levels. Here is what their website says about the film:

"A heartbreaking documentary that upsets your expectations of happily-ever-afters, Daughter from Danang is a riveting emotional drama of longing, identity, and the personal legacy of war. To all outward appearances, Heidi is the proverbial “all-American girl”, hailing from small town Pulaski, Tenn. But her birth name was Mai Thi Hiep. Born in Danang, Vietnam in 1968, she’s the mixed-race daughter of an American serviceman and a Vietnamese woman. Fearing for her daughter’s safety at the war’s end, Hiep’s mother sent her to the U.S. on “Operation Babylift”, a Ford administration plan to relocate orphans and mixed-race children to the U.S. for adoption before they fell victim to a frighteningly uncertain future in Vietnam after the Americans pulled out. Mother and daughter would know nothing about each other for 22 years.

Now, as if by a miracle, they are reunited in Danang. But what seems like the cue for a happy ending is anything but. Heidi and her Vietnamese relatives find themselves caught in a confusing clash of cultures and at the mercy of conflicting emotions that will change their lives forever. Through intimate and sometimes excruciating moments, Daughter from Danang profoundly shows how wide the chasms of cultural difference and how deep the wounds of war can run--even within one family."

Although the circumstances are very different, we could be talking about Lucy 22 years from now. I have no way of knowing at this point what she will want to know of her birth family. What I do know is that I want to arm her with as many tools as I can so that if/when that day comes, she will be as prepared as she can be. She will have the language of her heritage. She will have an understanding of Chinese culture (which is very similar to the Vietnamese culture in that children are expected to monetarily take care of their family and which was the cause of Heidi's breakdown in the film). She will have a strong history of love and affection from her adoptive family (which was also lacking in Heidi's case). She will have a sister who understands all of this as well so that she will not feel she has to make a choice to leave behind a sister who doesn't speak or understand Chinese language/culture.

I feel so badly for Heidi that she went into the reunion so blindly. She put it quite aptly when she said, "I came here wanting to be the 7 year old child who needs mothered and instead I am the one who is the mother and my mother is the child."

For anyone who has adopted a child of another country and for extended family, I highly recommend watching this documentary. It is available for free on Youtube! I watched it on my iPad.

I've attached it here (and here's the link just in case)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hula girls

They both got it! Lucy had been practicing and then one day, she just effortlessly hula'd. She makes it look easy. She's now trying to dance and hula at the same time!
She got it! from Lisa on Vimeo.

Of course Kate had to join in. Their styles are SO DIFFERENT, just like everything else about my girls.
Hula queens from Lisa on Vimeo.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Love Letter, Month 52

Dear Kate,

You are 52 months old today.
It is finally starting to feel like your favorite season (summer) so we've been outside as much as we can. Just yesterday you and Lucy spent the afternoon turning what little grass we had left in the yard into mud. You had a blast!
You have made friends with Brandon a few doors down and he has been nice enough to let you practice on his big bike. Ms. Julie was helping you balance while you figured out how to pedal.

You both earned scooters for getting all but one of your stickers on your responsibility chart for the week. You LOVE your new toy and use it every chance you get. Although the sidewalk is fine, the road is a much better place to ride as it has no bumps. Where do city kids go to ride in the middle of the road? Why, the cemetery of course.
Don't tell me your mother has no imagination!

The big event in April was Easter and you were quite thrilled about it.
 You were especially excited when you realized all the jellybeans you had planted had grown into lollipops!

We had parent/teacher conferences this month and you are doing quite well in school. Here is just a little about what your report said:

Mathematics: Kate is working with materials to help understand the concept of numbers 1-20. She is counting including using addition and subtraction correctly.

(You can count to 100 in Chinese and are practicing addition/subtraction. You have many exchanges like this with me:
"2+2=4. For example, if you had 2 light switches and then you added 2 more, then you'd have 4!")

Chinese language and literature: Kate has learned new vocabularies like big and small, short and long, loud and soft, primary and secondary colors, basic and advanced shapes, fruits, family/social relationships, clothing, continents, basic and advanced food, prepositions, days of the week, months of the year, seasons and holiday/festival names. Kate's Chinese listening skills and vocabulary are above-level.  

(Your teachers mentioned that they have been having you work with the kindergartners in some areas. Don't worry, you come by this honestly. When your daddy was in first grade, his teachers wanted him to skip grades but Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Len said no for a variety of reasons, mostly pertaining to social development. Instead, his teachers challenged him in different ways, including reading books to the fifth graders (which was not too popular with the 5th graders as you might imagine!).

In addition, your teachers say that you will speak to them completely in Chinese, asking and answering questions, using words that you have not formally been taught. For example, when asking for water, you will say, "Wǒ xiǎng yào yīxiē shuǐ." They said that your tones and vocabulary sound like a native Chinese child.)

Practical life: Kate is continuing to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Activities include putting on an apron, opening and closing bottle tops, rolling and unrolling rugs, threading beads, pegging, pouring beans/water jug to jug, and cutting along a line.

Sensorial: Kate is doing a very good job on triangular box, large hexagonal box, rectangular box and small hexagonal box. She is practicing binomial and trinomial cube.

Cultural subjects: Kate is working on fruit/vegetable sorting, animal kingdom/animal sorting, living/non-living sorting, animal/plant sorting. In geography, she has learned the seven continents and planets in the solar system. She has improved a lot in her cutting/pasting skills. She loves drawing and making paper crafts.

Kate is very eager to learn. She always asks us for things to work on when she arrives at school. Kate is very attached to Lucy. I would like to see her more sociable with other students. Kate seems to like observing other students and focus on the things that they are doing. When she does so, she loses focus on her own work. We need to work on improving her concentration.

They also mentioned that you tend towards perfectionism. They will often find that you have put work away into your cubby when you find it too difficult. You do not like to show your teachers unfinished work or work that is not *perfect* so we're all working on helping you enjoy the process just as much as the outcome.

One thing you do lose yourself in are what I call your vignettes. You love to arrange things "just so" and I have to say, I find them quite aesthetically pleasing. This activity can keep you absorbed for quite a long time.

 You even did it with your Easter candy.
You have your first penpal in Yiayia. You love her letters and look forward to them. You are quick to write her back so that you can get another letter.
You went to some performances this month. We went to your first theatre performance (Lyle Finds His Mother) with your school. You enjoyed the bus ride as well...
Next up was a local trapeze show.
But the best was YOU in a performance! You had your very first dance recital a few days ago and, although you were nervous, you did such a great job! You did all your dance moves and when it was over you exclaimed, "That was so much fun! I think I might want to do that again."

You were enthralled watching the rest of the show and sat quite happily on Uncle Paul's lap. Yep, this was the other big deal this month. Uncle Paul came to visit from Singapore on his way to work in Dallas next week. You were over the moon this whole weekend.

Unfortunately, his departure last night was hard on you. We had to literally pry you off of his legs and pour you into bed after he finished reading stories to you and Lucy.
Long after we had closed the door for the night, you lay awake in your bed and finally you came out telling me you couldn't sleep. After 2-3 more times of this scenario, I asked you, "Are you sad that Uncle Paul left?" and you burst into tears. My poor love, you are so very sensitive. You then cried for a while as we talked about how it is sad when people we love leave but that we can always see them again the next time we visit. "But it was so long ago that we saw him in China and I don't want to wait that long again!" you wailed.

Sigh. Some things I'm just not able to fix.

As usual, I will end this note on one of the funny conversations we had this month:

As we were driving home along the lakefront on a warm afternoon, we saw a bunch of joggers and you noticed that most of the men had their shirts off.

You: Mama, why do they have their shirts off?
Me: Because it's hot.
You: Why don't any women have their shirts off? Aren't they hot too?
Me: Because men are allowed to take off their shirts in public and women aren't.
You: Why?
Me: (oh god, this could last forever with no really good answer....perhaps, "because this is a patriarchal society where men make the rules?") Because women cover up their private parts, like their breasts, in public.
You: But men have nipples. Why can they show their nipples and women can't?
Me: (giving up) Because it's a patriarchal society where men make the rules.
You: What's patriarchal?
Me: It means a society controlled by men.
You: Well, that's not fair. So daddy is the only one in our family that can take off his shirt when it gets hot?
Me: Nope, it's not fair and yes, that is what that means.
Silence for a few minutes as you mull that over and then:
You: Can we get some ice cream?
I love you my funny girl.



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