Sunday, May 31, 2015

Kate's first flute recital

This morning Kate performed in her first flute recital at the New Music School downtown. She was one of several flute players but was by far the youngest.
 Waiting for the recital to start!
She memorized her piece (Mary's Theme) and when it was her turn, she marched right up and started playing. She was a bit nervous (although she would not admit it, I could tell as her first few notes were a bit breathy and she turned beet red when everyone clapped) but she did well for her first time playing for an audience.
Kate's first flute recital from Lisa on Vimeo.

Here she is with her teacher, Steve, after the recital was finished.
To celebrate, we went out for lunch. About midway through our lunch we noticed that everyone had gotten a bit twittery so we looked up to see George Lucas walking through the restaurant.
When I told the girls that he was the director for Star Wars, they wanted to say hi. Although they haven't seen the films, they know the characters and some plotlines from their friends in class. We stopped on our way out and he was quite friendly with them.
She was gifted this week with her cousin Stefan's old music stand which has made her want to now practice every day, just so she can set up and put away the stand.

I think Bella likes the concerts she gives every day!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Bedtime stories

Every night now Kate has been reading 1-3 books (depending on their length and difficulty level) to us before bed. Then either Len or I will read a story or two from their library. Yesterday, Lucy brought home a first reader from school and asked to read as well. She has improved so much this year and really seems to enjoy it (although you can see based on her contortions, how difficult it is for her!). Keep in mind that they are both also learning the vowel sounds for Chinese which are different than in English. So sometimes they get their sounds mixed up.
Lucy reads from Lisa on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Summer is only seven days away

School days that is. I have seven more days. Less really, since today is almost over. Spring seems to have finally released its grip of one warm day followed by a week of rain and highs in the 40s. Dandelions and boats have reappeared along the lakefront.
I've been pondering how our summer will unfold and reading a lot about how others plan to steep their children in "enrichment activities". I KNOW my mother never spent her precious free time dreaming up ways to keep me from my own boredom. If I didn't manage to entertain myself, her cure for boredom involved lots of chores. I can tell you that nothing cures childhood boredom faster than being handed a bucket and sent off to weed the front lawn...by hand.

With that in mind (and realizing that I have 5 1/2 year olds who live in a city with no real yard to weed...no yard which also makes playing outside difficult), I'm trying to strike a balance somewhere left of a rigorous schedule that kills joy but right of unstructured chaos. If it's too rigid, I'll give up during the first week. If it's too loosey-goosey, no plans, no direction, and no order, I'll lose the will to live.

We do have a few things set in stone however. Lucy is having bone graft surgery on June 10 (Happy Anniversary Len! Oh, this wasn't how you envisioned celebrating 26 years of marital bliss playing out?) to repair her gumline fistula which you can see in the photo below.
We are going the artificial bone route, hoping to avoid the more traditional bone graft which involves removing part of her hip bone, creating two surgical (and thus two painful) locations. You can read about her surgery here and about her surgical team here.

We will be welcoming Nana a few days prior to surgery who will help out with Kate while we're at hospital and during recovery. Lucy will be on a puree diet for 1 week and a soft foods diet for the following 2 weeks which knocks out the whole of June (and will probably knock the rest of us out with her despair and outrage, that child does love her food).

As those of you who live in the city know, getting into a park district program with just one child can be...challenging. I don't know what camp gods were smiling upon me on registration day but I managed to get TWO kids into the same two camps (why didn't I buy a lottery ticket as well?)! The first one is a tennis camp in Lincoln Park. It's only one hour, three mornings a week, for 2 weeks, but will give them something to look forward to at the first of July. Here's hoping Lucy manages not to get hit in the face...

Then we have a bit of a break before we head for our annual FL vacation where the living (and parenting) is SO.MUCH.EASIER.

Later in the summer they will attend a sports camp (the SECOND park district camp I managed to get in!). This one is three morning hours, three days/week for 2 weeks.

That leaves a whole lotta hours of summer that I hope will be filled with pool, beach, bike rides at the lake, family walks after supper and...learning some life skills.

Yep, this is the summer that we are going to focus on learning how to take care of ourselves and our home. I have to say, they are pretty self-sufficient in a lot of ways. I no longer get them dressed. They nearly always have dressed themselves by the time breakfast arrives at the table. They can button, zip and thread velcroed straps on shoes. They are moderately capable of brushing and flossing their teeth, although Lucy is better at it than Kate if the red dye tablets from our dentist are to be believed. And hair brushing seems not to be a problem either.

So we'll focus on areas that need improvement. We'll start out by learning to tie shoes. Then we'll move on to learning different ways to tie a scarf and belts. Lucy wants to learn how to put her hair into ponytails and to braid hair so I'm hoping to find one of those doll heads that hairdressers use to practice on.

Next we'll move into keeping a home. They already know how to wash tables and shelves from their work at school. They have been helping me by sweeping the cat litter in the hallway and last week they helped me wash the windows during a spring cleaning frenzy that enveloped me. They both know how to make up their beds, set and clear the table, fold laundry, hang up their clothes and put away their toys.

So our new focus will be: learn how to wipe down cabinets, wash dishes, scrub a toilet and the thing we're all excited about: planning, shopping for and making a complete meal. They will each get to select 3-4 new recipes from my cookbooks, make a shopping list and head to the store. The recipe chooser is the kitchen helper but the real prize around these parts is the alone time with Mama.

The last area of focus will be our patio. Although we don't have much room or sun, we're going to shop for, plant and care for flowers and herbs on our back patio. Although they have "helped" me in the past, they were more inclined to just throw dirt and rip flowers off plants and then drown the rest by "watering" them. This year they will each have their own plants to care for and keep alive and healthy. Hopefully along the way they'll learn the names of various flowers and herbs, which do better in sun vs shade, watering requirements and how to properly prune or pinch-back plants to help them grow.

Reading back over this, it sure sounds like a lot but as mothers of preschoolers the world over know, what sounds like a lot will probably only take about 20 minutes tops. Which leaves another 13 hours, 40 minutes to fill. And that's just ONE DAY. #thestruggleisrealya'll

Either I micromanage their childhood or I give them as close an approximation of childhood as I had. Being a kid should be fun, and not from 20 pinterest boards of developmentally correct activities, but because this is when they are supposed to be free from much responsibility. The good thing about this age is that they actually see housework as fun, not a chore that takes away from what they could be doing. And I plan to milk that cow for all it's worth. But should they risk their lives and utter the b-word, a few hours of scrubbing baseboards will cure what ails them. Mama may be fun, but she don't play.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Love Letter, Month 64

Dear Kate,

You are 64 months old today.
Spring has sprung and with the volatile weather patterns comes your volatile mood swings. One moment you are a peaceful yogi, all meditative and serene; next moment you are a raging ball of tantrumming nerves. God help us all when you hit puberty.

With the spring weather comes more outdoor time and we've been enjoying as much of it as we can from running up hills to swinging to mastering the climbing rings to kite flying.

You really enjoyed kite flying...so much that it showed up in your artwork at school.
You got out your rocks and shells this month but then didn't know what you should do with them. I told you that you used to make pretty little vignettes but you said you had no idea how to do them anymore. Oh, it nearly broke my heart because I then realized that you hadn't been doing that for more months than I could remember. I found a picture or two of your old creations and you just sat in the floor with them for the longest time trying to figure out how to start.
But inspiration finally hit (and Bella kept trying to play with any stray pieces you had left out) and in an effort to keep her from batting all your stuff under the sofa, you made another one.
You wanted me to note that you had placed the tiny shells on top of the larger ones, "like little jewels".

Speaking of Bella, your love affair continues. She loves to sleep in your bed while you are in school and then snuggle up with you for afternoon tv.
You and Qiongwei lao shi gave Bella a Chinese name so you could write, "I love you Bei la".
You seem to have developed my habit for list-making. You came home with strips of paper upon which you had made two lists. One contained items that you noticed were needed at school: glue stick for the school, glue for the school. The other contained a list of what you needed to do: school tomorrow, breakfast tomorrow, lunch tomorrow, dinner tomorrow, dessert tomorrow, bed tomorrow, list of things to do.
You wrote a few things in your secret diary...and then ripped them out and shared them with me so I guess the words were not so secret after all. The first one said: "My family is the best of all They feed me and love me." At first you had ended it with "...They feed me" but Lucy made a face at you so you added, "and love me" and Lucy said, "That's much better."
Your second note read, "I feel happy but I am starving." 
Both of these notes are pretty appropriate for what has been happening this month. You are eating like a teenage boy. We went out to your favorite restaurant, Sun Wah BBQ, this month and astounded nearly everyone with how much you ate. I counted 5 pork dumplings, 4 bao filled with duck, 1/2 a serving plate of baby bok choy, the duck butt, 3 bowls of turkey broth and 1 serving of rice.

On another outing for dim sum with Zadie you polished off most of the duck, and many dumplings.
I think all of this food is going into your height and not your weight. You still weigh 40 lbs but you have shot up almost 2" and your feet have grown to a size 11.

And now for a few Kateisms:

You: "The boys (in our class) don't understand the concept of show and tell. 
Me: Why? What do they do?
You: They play around and don't listen and laugh at what we bring. It's annoying." 
That last sentence is said with a heavy sigh and much eye-rolling.

Me: Where did you get this giant scrape on your knee?
You: I fell down when the boys were chasing me.
Me: Why were the boys chasing you?
You and Lucy talking simultaneously: The boys chase the girls at the playground. But not all the girls play, only us, Scarlette, Avery, etc...
Me: Why don't you ask them to stop?
You: Oh, I quite like it.

When I asked what you liked about it, you just grinned slyly and clammed up. Can I just say for the record that you are MUCH TOO YOUNG to be "quite liking" being chased by boys.
I sometimes forget, because you talk to me like a grownup and are able to articulate your wants/needs, that you are not even 5 1/2 years old. I think your meltdowns are your way of reminding me to take a step back, to give you the space to take a few steps back and relax from all of your growing up. I promise to do my best to listen. To hold you a little longer. And to kiss your boo boos--even the ones I cannot see.

I love you Katiebug.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day for me!

The board says, "Mama, I love you."

Better gifts than I could have asked for.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lake Effect

We've had some seriously serious fog these past two days. It rolls in waves from the lake and creeps inland for 1/2 a mile or so. And it keeps temperatures low. I had an errand to run out in the western 'burbs. It was 88 degrees when I left the 'burbs. It was 55 degrees back in the city.

Downtown was the most dramatic, though, as the fog gets trapped in the building canyons. These were taken at 8:30 in the morning.

On the way home this afternoon, the fog was rolling over the road near the lake. These were taken at 3pm.
You can't even see the lake in these next two pictures. It is just beyond the dogs/people at the beach.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


Happy Buddha, Happy Girls.
We thought we would share our happy with you!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Heart Letter, Month 65

Dear Lucy,

You are 65 months old today.
Guess what you bought with your very own money? A kite! And it matches your shoes which you pointed out as you were deciding which kite to buy (Captain America, for the record). That's my girl--you are the fashion diva and you have taken it to new heights (hey! get it, kite, new heights...so clever that was) by matching your accessories to your hobby. But I digress. You picked a kite which was very appropriate given the turn in our weather this month. Although spring temperatures have been quite reticent to venture higher than 50, the wind has not which made our foray to the lakefront to fly your kite a....breeze! Hahaha.

Oh, I kill me!

You enjoyed flying your kite so much and you were so awesome about sharing with the rest of us who did not buy kites with our money.
The month started out with Easter, which you were very excited to celebrate even though you were just beginning to have what turned out to be a pretty nasty, week-long fever/cold-fest.

Your daddy and I met with your teachers this month for your semester progress report. You are still very much enjoying school and have made great progress with your letters and numbers. More importantly, you are much more interested in learning to read and write than you have been.

Your math work is progressing and you are currently working on the 45 layout associating quantities and numbers from 1-9,000. You are also working on number building of 10-100 using the tens board materials.

In your Target language you can comprehend command sentences and basic conversations in Mandarin. You have mastered simple greetings and expressing certain needs (like "I would like a snack!" which I feel certain you mastered as quickly as possible as snacktime is your absolute favorite time of day) and you are practicing the basic Chinese characters and writing your name in characters. In English you have made great progress in recognizing letters and their sounds as well as in tracing and writing letters.

One of your favorite areas of interest is Practical Life. You enjoy table scrubbing, washing dishes and windows. You were very proud to have washed and dried the biggest cabinet in the classroom, moving all the materials off in order and returning them properly to their places. In Sensorial work, you have mastered seriating sizes, sorting colors, and discriminating different sounds and smells. You have shown a lot of interest in geography and have completed a map of the world and of Asia. You love to draw and paint, cut and paste.

In general remarks, it was noted that you have made great improvement in being gentle and using appropriate language in solving conflicts. You are very diligent and strong-willed in learning as well as in life. You are very excited about being a leader next year when you will be a kindergartner, the oldest year in your three year class.

Although you are growing up in so many ways, your body still insists on slowing you down on a regular basis.
When given the opportunity, you will still nap for 1-1 1/2 hours every day. With school, your nap usually means a 1/2 hour power nap during the car ride home but on the weekends, you can still rock a nap like nobody I know. That is, once I can get you in there and calmed down. What precedes your nap are the accusations (It's not FAIR that Kate doesn't have to take a nap! You're going to have fun without meeeeee!) and tears. But without the nap you are so miserable by the time supper rolls around (involuntary body movements and lots of yelling resulting in a less-than-pleasant dinnertime and bath) that I would rather face your pre-nap anger any day of the week.

Mostly though, you are a happy girl. All you seem to need is love, sleep, food, exercise and fashionable, matching outfits and accessories!


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