Monday, February 8, 2016

Chinese Dinner

The Chinese students at our local college prepared a Chinese dinner tonight and invited their "foster" families to join them for the lunar new year. The girls and I went because we always like Chinese food and spending time with our Chinese friends..

Our friends Charlie, Cambria, and Catriona were there too, dressed in the beautiful silks that their Chinese friends had given them.


The food was simple, the comfort foods of the Chinese students.

We had rice and chicken, soup, dumplings,
oranges and bananas, tea eggs (my favorite!),
and a big pot of kimchi plus chips and salsa, because spicy food from any culture is tasty! There was a tea station, with hot water, loose green tea, rock sugar, and tiny purple rose buds. I sampled it all - the roses didn't have much flavor, but they gave my tea a wonderful scent.

Our foster student, Viola, was there. We hadn't seen her in a long time, so it was good to spend time with her again. She, and all the other students, were missing their families today. This meal together was a good way to feel a part of the festivities at home in China.
As always, the girls had fun goofing around with Viola's phone, taking silly pictures and videos of themselves and giggling.


There were prizes at the dinner, too. Viola and Rachel had their names drawn one after the other and a few minutes later, Katherine did too.
I am so glad that we have this network of Chinese students and professors and friends right here in town. Twelve years ago, when we were waiting for Katherine and first became aware of the Year of the Monkey, we had no Chinese friends and no local connections to China. Thanks to changes at the college, Chinese students and Chinese culture are now a part of our community. And it is wonderful! Xin Nian Kuai Le to our friends here and all over the world!



Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Year of the Monkey Arrives at School

When Katherine was in kindergarten, her teacher asked me to come in and teach her classmates about Chinese New Year. So I took in silk clothes, Chinese money, New Year's ornaments, and assorted Chinese things for the kids to see. I read a simple book about Chinese New Year and we made a craft. Kate's teacher had noodles and oranges for a snack and passed out chopsticks for the kids to try. The kids, of course loved it. Other teachers heard about our little celebration and asked me to come to their classrooms, too. I have taught Chinese New year every year since! It is one of my favorite parts of the year.

Yesterday I loaded up my supplies and visited six different classrooms to teach about The Year of the Monkey. In addition to my usual goodies, I added some pictures of wild monkeys that I'd taken when we were in Rachel's Chinese city. The idea of wild monkeys wandering the countryside was utterly fascinating to Kansas kids!

The kindergarten classes made simple monkey faces.

I tried painting with the first graders. In all the years I have taught Chinese New Year I have never repeated a craft project, mostly because it is so much fin to dream up new ones. I have never painted with the kids before, but I saw a very simple monkey drawing and thought they could make something similar. I took in small Chinese paintings from our house and showed them to the kids. I explained that Chinese paintings are often done in just black ink on white paper and that usually only part of the picture is painted and you fill in the rest with your imagination. Then we read a story about a little girl whose paintings come to life and we joked about what would happen if our monkey paintings jumped off the page and ran around the room! When it was time to paint, I showed the kids how Chinese painters hold their brushes (with thumb and all four fingers near the top of the brush handle). I used watercolors that come in blocks and explained that Chinese ink stones are similar. Then we painted step by step. The results were darling!
We even made our own version of a chop, the red inked name stamp that the Chinese use to sign artwork or important papers, I just used a wooden block with the end painted, stamped it on the paper, and wrote each child's name on it when it was dry.
The second graders were excited to see me. Most of them have done Chinese New Year with me before and they couldn't wait to see what we'd do this year. I love that even though Rachel is the only Asian child in the school, her classmates eagerly embrace this aspect of her birth culture. Rae likes having her mom come to her class, too, even though she's a bit embarrassed about the attention.


I made papercuts with the second graders a couple of years ago and they were so pretty that I wanted to try them again. This year we made monkeys and one set of cutting made two different pictures!
I had traced the design on folded paper, so the kids only cut out half a monkey. (Rae is such fun to watch cut. Since she can't hold on to the paper, she balances it on her knee and uses her little hand to turn it as needed. Works perfectly!)
Then the kids glued the cutouts to a background. Second graders still really, really like glue!
The monkeys looked so cool when they were finished.
It is such fun to have a little but of China in our little school in Kansas!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

She's 12!

Katherine is 12 today. That doesn't quite seem possible, but it is.
My tiny baby girl is now a confident, responsible, talented young woman. She is also no longer happy to pose for pictures, so her birthday weekend has not included much photographic documentation.

When Kate was little, she had fun, themed parties that included invitations and decorations and a cake that I baked. She's over that now, so parties are a lot easier! She just wanted a couple of friends to spend the night. They went out for pizza and then came home to play Twister and bake a chocolate cake. Katherine assigned her friends jobs and then dared them to taste cocoa powder. (They did and were pretty grossed out!)
At 10:00 I told them it was time to stay in the basement and keep quiet. I didn't hear a thing from them until morning. Easiest slumber party ever!

Grandma and Grandpa came last night and we went out for Mexican food and then ate some more of the chocolate cake. Katherine, at this point, is pretty much at a loss as to what sort of gifts to ask for herself. She has few wants and likes experiences better than things. A ukulele was her only request this year and Granny and Poppy took care of that. We got her a nice tennis racket...

...and I gave her books that I had loved as a 12 year old. The Outsiders. The Diary of Anne Frank. To Kill a Mockingbird,  Book lover that she is, she was pleased.
Twelve years ago, we were waiting for our baby. We wondered if she had been born yet and where in China she might be, We wondered what she would look like, what she would be like. We wondered what it would be like to be parents. And now, twelve years later, we know. We know that this girl is amazing and that being her parents is an honor. I can't wait to see what the future brings.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ukulele Girl

Katherine turns 12 in a couple of weeks. Granny and Poppy are going to be gone on her birthday, so they gave Kate her gift early. She had to follow a series of clues around their house and finally found her present tucked into bed.
The reason for that big smile? A ukulele. Katherine discovered ukulele music this year and has been quite intrigued. She asked for a ukulele of her own for her birthday and Granny and Poppy carried through. She was one happy girl!

Granny and Poppy also sprang for a nice digital tuner and within 15 minutes Katherine had figured out how to tune  the instrument and was starting to pick out tunes,


This girl amazes me. It's clear that for Katherine, music is her language, her heart, and her soul.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Hike

The girls and I bundled up this morning and went for  a walk on the levee.
It was cold and clear and the sun sparking on the frost was glorious.

We walked and laughed and joked around.

There was no one around, but the birds were awake and calling. We saw hawks and herons, crows and jays and ducks swimming on the ice rimmed creek.


We wandered through the woods, stopping to admire ice patterns on frozen fallen trees.
We ended our hike by playing on a frozen puddle, sliding and skating and cracking the layers of ice.
It was a wonderful way to welcome a new year!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day 2015

Merry Christmas! We have had a long day of spending time with family and it has been wonderful!

Santa arrived early this morning and left a long letter thanking the girls for all of their Good Deeds. His letters are always on red paper with silver ink...
There were presents, of course.


Even the dog had gifts.
Of course, she's a dork and prefers to carry her toy like this!
We spent most of the day at Granny and Poppy's with Aunt Robin and Uncle Brandon and the cousins from Chicago. There were stockings full of all sorts of goodies...

And more presents for all...



After my sister's ordeal with breast cancer this year, when I discovered NPR's Best Books of 2015 list and saw a graphic novel called The Story of My Tits I guessed that Robin would appreciate the author's humor.
We spent most of the day eating and playing.


And some people even took naps...

Mom made another batch of oley koeck...
...we played Rae's new card game, put together two different 500 piece puzzles, told stories, chatted, and just enjoyed hanging out together. It was a good day.

This evening we came home and put away all of our new loot. We have plenty of books and games to keep us entertained through the next week. It has been such a good day...

2015 was a Harry Potter Christmas at our house! Both girls discovered the series recently (I read the first book aloud to Rachel) and are big fans. Between Santa and Aunt Robie, we now own the complete set of books, a copy of the Illustrated Sorcerer's Stone, a DVD of the first movie, a Harry Potter cookbook, and two (partially eaten) boxes of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans!


I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters

Sisters

Sisters
Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way