Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A bit of sparring

I can tell that the girls spent a lot of time with boys last week, watching quite a few Superhero shows that involve a lot of fighting. There is a definite energy shift lately....

Sparring from Lisa on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring Break 2016

My annual trek to Houston for my cancer checkup is normally in Feb/Mar but since Spring Break fell so late this year, I pushed the trip back so our whole family could come as well. My friends Paivi and Euan generously hosted us in their new home for a week and it felt like a resort to us! Warm weather, a pool, good friends, good food and a break from our very hectic relocation efforts here in Chicago.

Here's the gang after our flight, on the bus to get the rental car.
Mother Nature tried to ruin our vacay by sending torrential rain/thunderstorms which resulted in massive flooding all over the city. I was lucky in that I made it over the bayou to MDA right before it crested over the bridge, effectively shutting down all the roads from one side of town to the other. And when I say right before, I mean literally, RIGHT BEFORE. The bayou had already started sloshing over the guard rails, the street upriver was already closed and the police were on their way with gates to prevent any more cars from coming through as I drove past.  By the time my appointment was over, all but one of the streets was passable for me to get back to Paivi's house. Thank goodness for GPS.

With so much rain, Paivi's pool began to overflow and the chemicals became unbalanced, causing it to turn green. We decided to spend the afternoon at a local indoor playspace that didn't require crossing over the bayou to get to. The kids had a blast!
Dinner out lightened everyone's mood. Kate, Euie and Euan got in several games of tic-tac-toe while Lucy practiced writing Chinese characters.
Then it was Paivi's and Lucy's turn to play tic-tac-toe.

Fortunately, the skies cleared and the pool guy came and turned the pool blue again making everyone happy.
Later in the week, we all met up in Rice Village to see Euie (he's 10 months younger than our girls) in his first play.
He played Luke Skywalker and was thrilled to brandish a light saber throughout the play.

The tree canopy in Rice Village is gorgeous. I do miss those Southern trees...
On our last full day in Houston, we decided to explore Chinatown. The girls were asleep within minutes of hitting the road. Bedtimes 2+ hours past normal combined with still waking up at their normal hour and lots of swimming did them in.
A 30 minute ride later and we found the Jade Buddha Temple.
There were over a thousand tiny gold Buddhas surrounding the larger Buddha.

There were two meditation rooms which each girl found on her own. When I peeked in, they were standing in front of the Buddhas in a prayer pose. Lucy was in and out rather quickly.
Kate was talking in Chinese and was in for a bit longer. Not wanting to disturb her, I didn't ask what she was saying.
Behind the main temple was a smaller mediation area.
Both girls made a small donation and lit incense sticks.

Most of Houston's Chinatown is a long road of strip malls encompassing many Asian cultures including Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese. We made our way into the Hong Kong Mall hoping to find a snack and some souvenirs.
The supermarket was massive and encompassed nearly a city block. Kate latched onto this pomelo so we bought it and enjoyed it for breakfast the next day.
Our bellies full and small gifts procured, we headed back to Paivi's house to find two of Euie's friends over for a swim date. The girls quickly got into the action.

After a late night swim, we finally got the girls into bed around 10pm. Fortunately, our flight the next day was not until the afternoon, leaving us enough time for a neighborhood stroll/ride before departing for home.

We made it home uneventfully and settled back into our routine. Sunday we spent the day running errands and swabbing the decks...literally. Both of our decks had accumulated green algae and needed a good scrubbing so we hoisted the hose up from the ground and handed everyone a scrub brush.

Now the countdown to our move is on. My to-do list seems enormous. Our close here on the condo is May 23, our close on our new place is May 24 and the movers arrive June 6-7. Sounds easy enough except that there are a ton of tiny details that have to be attended to before then. If I can just make it to June 11 (our first full day in our new house with kindergarten graduation behind us) I think I'll be able to relax.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Cancer--4 years in

Last week I went for my annual MRI and oncology checkup down in Houston. It has been 4 years since my diagnosis and I am happy to report that the findings were positive.

When the tumor was first scanned in April 2012 it measured  6.6 x 4.4 x 4.4cm. When it was scanned in September 2012 it measured 8.5cm x 6.5cm x 6.5cm as I talked about in this post.

Here is an MRI scan from that time:
Last week's report was welcome news: "The tumor now measures 2.3 x 5cm, excluding numerous thin tendrils that extend posteriorly in the fat of the issue rectal fossa (if you are unclear what that is, you can find anything online these days....). The lesion has diminished in size and enhancement has also diminished. No interval development of new foci are detected. The PICC tibias and adductor musculature are within normal limits. No osseous involvement is visualized. Positive response to radiation therapy."

As you can see from the scan below, my organs are now back where they should be and I *think* the tumor is that small white area right above where I wrote "tumor". Vast difference from the giant tumor in the scan above where it was pushing all of my vital organs off to the side.
I've been released until next year when I have another date with an MRI machine and Dr. Zagars. Hopefully the 2 months of radiation I went through will continue to keep the tumor on the run for many years!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Duet with San-Nan laoshi

Lucy has been practicing nearly every day on her piano homework and this weekend she did really well on a Christmas song duet with her teacher. Since the weather has taken a rather snowy, blustery turn of late, the tune seemed fitting.

Piano duet w San-Nan from Lisa on Vimeo.

Hopefully, Lucy will have a recital near the end of May. San-Nan is trying to coordinate one so Lucy can have the experience of playing for an audience of more than one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Love Letter, Month 75

Dear Kate,

You are 75 months old.
This month has been a hodge-podge of events with the largest of them all being Easter. You and "Sis" (as you now almost exclusively call her) were super excited for Easter to arrive.

You had another flute recital but this time it was an All-School recital meaning you would be performing with kids who play other instruments. You were the only flute player in the bunch and you held your own.

Your Chinese Chess lessons continued with Ms. Xiang. You really enjoy and look forward to them.

You were thrilled when we finally managed to have a date with Ms. Vicky in Chinatown for Hot Pot.

Although I managed to get a very nasty case of acute sinusitis (my yearly spring visitor now it seems) and had to stay home in bed, you, Lucy and Daddy met up with Zadie and her family for dim sum at Phoenix in Chinatown.
I woke up to find you had made me a lovely card which made me feel so much better!

You were very interested in the Chinese Terracotta Warriors at the Field Museum. You wanted me to read all of the signs to you since some of the terms were a bit long and dealt with time frames you cannot fathom just yet.
You were especially interested in what each of these figures represented and what their roles were in the army.
What you were, surprisingly to me, most definitely NOT interested in was the 3D movie about the finding of "Sue", the T-Rex pictured below. Oh, you loved the bits about the actual work of finding the bones and excavating them and reconstructing them. What you did not like was the very real, very terrifying depiction of an actual T-Rex in 3D chewing up other dinosaurs into lifelike, bloody bits.
You got your roar back, though, after a chat with the docent hanging around Sue, answering questions about the scars on her bones and how they got there.

Our last big event this month was learning to make spring rolls with the China Care group at Northwestern U. It was our second time attending one of their events and you really enjoyed yourself. Although you kept insisting you didn't like spring rolls and you really didn't like the smell of the filling as you wrapped roll after roll, you were polite enough to try them once they were cooked and surprised yourself with how much you liked them.

And because I don't know where to put this information but I do think it is something to note, I'll just pop it in here: you love to turn the shower on to ice cold (and I do mean ice cold as the ground temps here are still quite low for the pipes) and stick your head under the stream. Considering your many sensory aversions, this plunging of your head into ice cold water seems at once strangely odd, yet unsurprising.

Some Kateisms from this month:

Me: Baby Joy is turning two this Sunday. Perhaps we can go help her celebrate.
You: Yeah, but I'll probably hang with the grownups.

As Lucy was trying to pedal her bike from a dead stop with much effort, I heard you say, "If you don't gather momentum then it doesn't work as well."
Speaking of your vast verbal skills, Daddy and I went in for your last school progress report with Ms. Qiongwei and Ms. Yi-Chu this month. You are doing well overall but they suspect that you are getting a bit bored as you have managed to work your way through all the works your classroom affords. Fortunately, they are going to bring in some of the elementary works for you and you will also have the opportunity to visit Ms. Xiang's 1-3rd grade class soon.  Here were their individual comments on various areas:

Mathematics: She is currently working on static and dynamic multi-digit addition using the stamp game and the golden beads materials. She is also practicing with the snake game material to familiarize with the possible number combinations that make up 10. Kate has demonstrated great ability working with abstract mathematical problems and has also improved with single-digit multiplication and division.

Target Language and Literature: Kate's progress in Mandarin comprehension and language is impressive! She is able to comprehend and conduct long and advanced conversations in Mandarin. Kate is also doing a good job in reading Chinese books with Pinyin. She has made improvement in writing her full name. Kate's proficiency in Mandarin is one of the highest in the class. (In verbal comments, your teachers said that having Chengze as a friend really forced you into using Mandarin throughout the school day and on the playground instead of just in response to teachers' questions.)

English Language and Literature: Kate is currently working on advanced reading comprehension. She shows great interest in writing letters and diaries on her own. Her proficiency in English language and literature is one of the highest in the class. (You have been bringing your diary to class, with the key on a string safely around your neck, so you can sit in the library and write when you have time).

Practical Life: Kate is very into helping in the classroom, keeping the materials organized and helping the younger classmates with their work. Her fine motor and gross motor skills have progressed very well through practicing with the practical life materials.

Sensorial: Kate is working with advanced shapes, polygons and geometric solids.

Cultural Subjects: Kate has been learning about animals around the world, the five classes of vertebrates, parts of different animals, parts of a tree, leaf and flower, life cycle of a butterfly and land and water forms. She has shown her artistic talent in may of the art projects.

Other comments: Kate is very talented and intelligent. Kate is very kind to all the kids, especially the younger ones in the class. We are going to miss Kate and Lucy so much!!

We did talk a bit about this other month's big event: your showing up to school in your pjs with no breakfast. Yep. That happened.

Our morning routine has been hijacked nearly every day with your inability to get yourself dressed and breakfast consumed. You torment your sister and terrorize the cat with your raging tantrums that I'm am sure have wakened everyone in the building. I had run through every tactic that I could think of short of cajoling (Mama doesn't cajole well) so I just gave up. I called your bluff and said, "Fine. You can not get dressed and not eat breakfast. Please put on your boots and coat as we are all ready to leave." Needless to say, you did not miraculously see the error of your ways and become compliant. Instead you stomped down the hall, slammed your bedroom door and locked it, leaving the three of us sweating in our coats by the back door. What you failed to calculate was that Mama and Daddy were not born yesterday: Daddy picked your lock in 2 seconds flat, hoisted you over one shoulder and carried you down the stairs before you could figure out what was happening. You went to school in 30 degree weather wearing only a pair of shorts and short sleeved pjs. The rest of your clothes were in a bag.

Sadly, contrary to what many parenting blogs/books/experts promised, this did not help you to see the error of your ways. Nope. You were in it for round 2 but this time you were smart enough to put on flannel jammies the night before.

So, as I like to do in these letters, I'm going to focus on the positives from this experience. As I see it, you are tenacious, incredibly strong-minded, and you have a kind and forgiving heart above all. After the second round, you were willing to talk about what happened, to apologize for your behavior and to receive love and acceptance in return.
No matter how tired you grow of hearing it, I will not stop repeating these words to you in some form or fashion:

I will love you unconditionally for the rest of your life. Nothing that you do will cause that to change. You are not a bad child just because some of the choices you make are bad. The key is to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over.

And you did learn from your first round....you put on the warmer, flannel jammies the second time around.

I love you kiddo.



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