Friday, January 27, 2017

Old Friends

It had been way too long but the girls (all three of them) played as if no time had passed. Kelly and her daughter M came to visit during a recent teacher planning day and had a blast.

 Dance party in the basement.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Art Show

The elementary school held a school-wide art show last week. The girls were super excited to show off their work.

This is what their study was about: The Flowers of Peace by Picasso. To that end they looked at how colors are used, combining and juxtaposing warm and cool colors. They also studied the meaning of peace and wrote the names of family members with whom they would like to extend peace.

Kate's was titled "Happy Family".

Lucy's was called "I Love Bella".

Their pottery project was also on display. Kate made a pot with a lid. She said she had to work really hard to get the balls on top to stay put!

Lucy made a tea cup and worked diligently to get the handle on the side.

And I love the fact that the school has a kiln! There is also a school orchestra made up of older elementary students. They provided a concert during the art show.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


It is a difficult path at times, this parenting gig. One of the more challenging aspects of it is just the constantly changing needs of my two girls. Because they are so vastly different from each other, it is hard to keep up with what will be in the best interest for each one. With that in mind, I spent a lot of time in the fall watching and listening to what grabbed their attention, what kept them interested in something, how much downtime they needed to recover from the new school demands. With the advent of winter and the early darkness that brings, I find they are cooped up more than usual and with that comes boredom and rancor and general annoyance with each other. Lucy, who needs a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of physical activity, doesn't focus as well on pretty much anything if she hasn't had the chance to exhaust herself physically. Kate, who nees a lot of mental stimulation, retreats and gets inside her head, making up elaborate scenarios for why life sucks or how everyone is better than she is. All of this makes ME unhappy which I am just too old to deal with (I mean, you don't get to 50 and feel you should have to put up with whiny 7 year olds on a regular basis without either A. drinking more than is acceptable or B. finding some activities to keep them off each other).

Enter Winter Activities. This is the first of many steps to get my girls to try things without the safety net of their sister nearby. Because of convenience, I have always signed them up for classes together. When they were little, it didn't seem to matter as much but now they are developing their own interests.

Lucy is signed up for Tumbling and Basketball through the local park district. BB is quickly becoming her new favorite activity. We got there a bit early so she could dribble and shoot some baskets. This was her first time and I am amazed again at just how quickly this child picks up sports.

BB from Lisa on Vimeo.

At the end of the lesson, they had a scrimmage game. Lucy was ON IT.

One of the parents came up to me after the game and asked is she had been playing basketball before. I said it was her first time ever playing. When Lucy came up they said to her, "We couldn't stop watching you...you were amazing!"

Tumbling is not quite as exciting nor is the teacher as capable. There are only 4 kids enrolled and 2 of them seem to be there only because their parents needed a place to put them for an hour. The 2 girls spent most of their time complaining about the moves and/or goofing off, nary a parent in sight. Fortunately, Lucy still seemed to enjoy herself.

Kate, as mentioned in her last Love Letter, has started Brainbusters, a course through Northwestern University. It's a math-based class that focuses on riddles, something she loves.
Kate was a bit unsure of being left in a class knowing absolutely no one.
She came out much happier--she loves the work and brings home more to work on in her spare time.
Kate is also taking Taekwondo through the park district. She was super excited to get her white belt on the first day.

Taekwondo from Lisa on Vimeo.

Much mood improvement has happened now that we have a few things added to our week. Both tumbling and Taekwondo are after school on different days so that gives me time to work with each child on her homework while the other is in class. BB and Brainbusters is on Saturday mornings so Len and I split up, changing kids each week so they get each of us for a bit of time, usually taking them out for lunch one-on-one afterwards. I'm adding in a joint class in a couple of weeks. It's an after-school soccer class once/week which should get them running for an hour before I pick them up. I've found that tired, busy kids are much more enjoyable than tired, bored, restless kids.

(I've no doubt that things will change once I hit Publish and I may find myself eating my words and reevaluating once again how best to raise them....but for now, I've got my one glass of wine and a schedule to keep.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Love Letter, Month 84

Dear Kate,

You are 7 years old!
And no, I'm afraid you did not grow an inch overnight much as you insisted that you might. You hopped out of bed on your birthday and asked me to measure you saying, "Maybe I grew an inch and am now as tall as Lucy since we're both now 7."
You might not have grown an inch overnight but you most certainly have been growing up...and then regressing....and then growing....and then regressing..... You want so much to be independent and yet...not. It's a tough road to navigate...for all concerned, including Nana who visited this month.
This month saw Christmas come and go and with it, Nana and a few new traditions. We made our first gingerbread house.

Charlie, as is his custom, gifted you with a new nightgown on Christmas Eve.
You had quite the correspondence going with both Santa and Charlie this year.

Santa brought an early present which prompted this letter:
Sprinkling reindeer food on our front lawn was a new tradition this year.
Chocolate on Christmas morning has remained firmly rooted in our family and is by far your favorite tradition.
You asked Santa for a bell from his reindeer and were not disappointed.
You gave as good as you got though and it was such a lovely thing to see how much joy it brought you to be the giver of gifts.
"You are the best mom in the whole world. I love who? I love you to the moon and back. From Kate To Mom." Accompanying your note to me was one of your bells and keys from your collection. It was a thoughtful gift.
Nana was on the receiving end of your generosity as well.
Santa had a big surprise waiting for you and Lucy outside...

You got to spend a lot of quality time with Daddy. I know you don't realize this yet but you are very lucky in the Daddy department.

You got your first pair of ice hockey skates and spent a good portion of your holiday vacation learning to skate and hit a puck.

You started a few other new activities as well including a pull-out enrichment for math and English at school. You are very much enjoying the harder math concepts and proudly show me your work every week.

For Christmas, Daddy and I gifted you with a Saturday class through Northwestern University.  You started a Brainbusters math/riddle course which allows you to work 1 1/2-2 grade levels above your current grade.
Although you were a bit apprehensive without your sister,
by the time I returned 2 1/2 hours later, you were all smiles and excited for the next class.

One of your other gifts from Daddy and me was taekwondo classes at the local rec. center. You have been asking me about taekwondo for nearly 6 months so it was a great joy to see your face as you opened the note explaining when your lessons would begin.

You continue to read and write prolifically, both in English and in Mandarin.

Dreary weather is no problem when there is a library full of good books to be read. You discovered Calvin and Hobbes this month which led to a rather funny revelation about how your Uncle RyRy came to be called Spiff by your daddy and me. I'll let him finish the story when you are older.
One thing I hope you realize when you look back at these love letters is just how much you are loved, and not only by me but by many others. Your life is forever entertwined with family and friends who love you and want only the best for you. One of those special people is Ms. Julie who came to visit this month.

Another is your friend Scarlette. You asked not to have a big birthday party this year and instead wanted a day in Chicago with me. We planned it out together but I kept one surprise waiting in the wings for you: Scarlette would join us for part of the day. You were thrilled and had a blast! We started out the day with shopping in Chinatown. Among the treasures that found a home in your room: a glass teddy bear, a glass dolphin, and a Chinese good luck kitty.

After shopping we picked up Scarlette and headed to the salon for manicures (which you can see in the picture above) and a bit of makeup.

Next up was afternoon tea at the Drake.

And now for the yearly round up of your favorites:

Favorite Color(s): Purple, red, blue
Best Friend: Rico
Favorite Animal: Tiger (all cats)
What do you want to be when you grow up? Archeologist, scientist
Favorite Movie: Sing
Favorite Book: "That's hard. Ummm....Magic Tree House series"
What makes you happy? Reading, swimming
What makes you sad? When people bully me about my hair
Favorite Food: Cherries
Favorite Song: Happy New Year (in Chinese)
Favorite Game: Life
Favorite TV show: I don't know...what did Lucy pick? I guess Lion Guard

Happy Birthday my little girl. You confound me, vex me, astonish me and bring me great moments of utter joy. And that is what life is about I suppose. It is not a straight line nor is it designed to be devoid of struggle or heartache. The key is to learn from the struggles and move on from the heartache to see the beauty of the life you have been given as well as the beauty that your life brings to those around you. To feel in your bones the love that surrounds you every day.

That was my wish as you blew out your seven candles.


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