Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dumpling Lessons

When we go out for Chinese food, Katherine always orders dumplings.  She will eat any kind, but the pork-filled potstickers are her very favorites.  Any time she is asked to list her favorite foods, dumplings are in the top 5.  She dearly loves those little half-moon treats.

Kate's class is having a food tasting party tomorrow.  Each child is supposed to bring a favorite dish and everyone will try a bite.  Ethnic recipes are encouraged.  Katherine handed me the note about the tasting party on Monday.  I asked her what she wanted to bring.  She shrugged.  I asked if she wanted to take Chinese food and she nodded.  What kind?  Another shrug.  She just looked at me and I could see the wordless plea in her eyes.  I knew what she wanted.  "How about dumplings?" I asked.  Her answer was immediate - "YES!!!" accompanied by whoops of delight and much jumping up and down. 

I found a recipe for pork dumplings and we went shopping for the ingredients last night.  We could only find square wonton wrappers, not the round dumplings wrappers.  But that really didn't seem to be a problem.  In fact, it would solve the problem of trying to somehow crinkle the edges of the dumplings into the perfect little pleats they have in restaurants.  We were ready.

Tonight, we cooked.  Now Katherine and I have both made dumplings before, with Chinese friends and at China Camp.  But we have never attempted dumplings on our own.  So we knew we were in for an adventure.

We mixed ground pork with minced onion, ginger, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and sesame oil.  It smelled like China...  Then we put little scoops of the filling in the middle of the wrappers.
Katherine remembered how to seal them - dip your finger in water, rub it around the edge of the wrapper, and fold it in half to make a triangle.  We experimented with folding the corners to make the dumplings look fancier and ended up making them look like fat little diapers!
Katherine was in her element, talking and singing and enjoying every moment of the dumpling making.  Our filling and our wrappers ran out at about the same time.  Perfect!
Then it was time to cook them.  And that was where the dumpling adventure turned toward disaster.  The instructions called for boiling the dumplings for a couple of minutes and then taking the pot off the heat and letting them sit in the hot water for a while.  This was pretty much what we'd done when we'd helped make dumplings in the past.  But apparently, we have not yet learned the fine art of knowing how long is long enough to stew in hot water.  Because our dumplings stewed for too long.  The pork cooked up beautifully.  But the wrappers disentigrated into slippery shreds of noodle-like mess.  The cute little diapers were unrecognizeable.  We had a pot of sausage soup.

I felt terrible.  Katherine had so wanted to share this favorite food, this little bit of her heritage.  And it was ruined.  But Katherine was undaunted.  There was sausage in that pot.  She grabbed a spoon and took a bite and grinned.  Our stew looked awful, but it tasted just like dumplings.  Delicious!

Katherine is taking a big bowl of deconstructed dumplings for the Tasting Party tomorrow.  And she is perfectly happy with that.  After all, they taste terrific.  I wrote a note for her teacher to read to the class.  I explained how much Katherine loves dumplings and how this was our first try at making them on our own.  I described the cooking disaster.  I wrote "Sometimes when you cook, things don't turn out like you wanted.  That's okay.  Our dumplings will be better next time.  For now, take a bite of meat (it tastes like sausage) and a little bit of wrapper (it tastes like noodles) and just imagine a beautiful Chinese dumpling."

I can't wait to hear what the 3rd grade thinks of the world's ugliest dumplings.  I'll bet no one likes them as much as Katherine does.  But then, Kate understands that the best food is made with love.  I'm looking forward to the next time we try to make dumplings.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Princess Turns 5

We have a 5 year old at our house!  Rachel's birthday was yesterday.  She reminded us every hour or so that "I'm 5 now!", just in case we forgot.  She planned a princess party, of course.
Robie and Brandon arrived wearing princess accessories, much to Rae's delight!
Rachel's only request for her cake was that it be pink and princessy.  That was easy enough.
And she was pleased.
The Girly Girl certainly received her share of girly presents - princesses, Barbies, Pinkalicious books, and lots and lots of lip gloss (because she's asked for lip gloss from everyone).  It was a lot of pink...
She had so much fun at her party that she went home and took a 2 1/2 hour nap to recover from it!  Then it was time for party #2.  Several months ago, Rachel simply announced that she would be having a friend birthday party this year.  (Katherine did the same thing at almost 5).  She invited several friends, but only one could come.  Rae did not care.  One friend is certainly enough for a party!  And she and Abby had a wonderful time.
The two princesses happily played with Barbies in the bedroom.  I peeked in once to find them carefully applying make-up to one another.
I eventually enticed them to come out and make princess crafts.
But then it was back to Barbies!
I'm a bit wistful at the thought of her growing up so fast.  I gently teased her about at least pretending to be my baby, but she wanted no part of that.  "I'm 5 now," she reminded me.  "I'm not going to be a baby ever again."  She's right, of course.  And perfectly happy to 5.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

The girls and I had Thanksgiving dinner with my mom's family, as we usually do.  (We took leftovers home to Steve, who is still sick with flu and pneumonia - poor guy.)  It was a typical gathering, with enough food for an army and kids everywhere - I think I counted 35 of us!

We had fun making a lovely turkey centerpiece out of fruit.  We skewered pieces of friut on sticks and poked them into a pineapple.  It was cute and tasty!
The weather was gorgeous and not at all November-like, so the kids spent most of the day outside.  There was a pack of 5 to 10 year old girls who spent a loooong time giggling and trying out cheerleader moves and just enjoying each other.
There were six (6!!!!) kids who were 5 or nearly 5!
Kenzie and Rachel are birthday twins.  They were celebrating their last day of being 9 and 4 years old.
The girls wanted to climb in the old barn again, so we did.
On of my co-workers was throwing away a lovely turkey hat, when I salvaged it saying "My mom would wear that."  And she did!
We had a wonderful, relaxed day and ate entirely too much food.  (After all, you don't often get the chance to eat homemade chocolate AND coconut cream pie in one day.)  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rapunzel Rainbow and Rachel

Steve was sick today, so Granny took Rachel to the dentist (whom she loves to visit).  Afterward, they had lunch with Robie and then Granny gave Rae an early birthday present.  She introduced Rachel to the wonders of Build a Bear...  And Rachel was DELIGHTED!

When I picked her up, Rachel was beaming and couldn't wait to introduce me to Rapunzel Rainbow Bear.
Rapunzel Rainbow has some pretty fabulous clothes...
Her attire, selected by Rachel of course, consists of Hello Kitty panties, a Rapunzel dress, and sparkly pink high heeled shoes.  This would also be Rachel's dream outfit. 
As I was taking pictures, Rae turned to be with big eyes and asked "Can I put on MY dress like this?"  Of course!
Now we have Rachel as Rapunzel holding Rapunzel Rainbow!
They have to share the hair, though.
I just love this almost 5 year old girl!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


We have officially entered the world of slumber parties!  Katherine and her good friend Katherine (who goes by Keka, in part to distinguish the two Katherines) have been begging for a sleepover for months.  A couple of weeks ago, we set a date and the girls began planning.  Their teacher stopped me last week and told me that she had intercepted assorted notes about the need for flashlights and sleeping bags.  And she had overheard many enthusiastic plans for the Big Day.  Thankfully, Mrs. B was amused by it all!

Last night was FINALLY the Big Night.  Keka came home from school with us and the two Katherines ran off to play.  Granny offered to have a sleepover for Rachel to get her out of the bigger girls' hair - thank goodness!  (Although Keka, who has two older brothers, pointed out that "It's little sisters' job to annoy their siblings"!) 

So, after weeks of planning, what did the Katherines do?  They toured the house.  They played basketball.  They disappeared into the basement for some top-secret toy playing.  They watched Family Game Night on TV.  But they spent most of the evening writing and illustrating a book on sea animals...
Such sweet, funny, nerdy 3rd graders!

When I announced that it was time for bed, the girls happily climbed into their sleeping bags.  I doubt they went right to sleep, but I didn't hear anything else out of them.
Both Katherines agree that their first sleepover was a smashing success.  Now they are making plans to write the next chapter of that book.  Oh, and planning another sleepover.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why I Blog

Three years ago today I started this blog.  I did it mainly as a quick way to keep out of town relatives updated on the girls.  509 posts later, it has obviously become much more.  The relatives do keep up on the girls, but some of my most loyal followers live here in town.  Through the blog I am able to form long distance friendships with other adoptive moms and I am always amazed when people I have never met contact me about something I have written. 

I have always felt a deep need to document my children's lives.  I think part of this is because I have almost no information about their early months.  There are no sonogram pictures or newborn footprints on a hospital birth certificate or the ages of when they reached early milestones or even a clear idea of who was caring for them.  So part of me wants, needs, to have detailed evidence of their lives with me.  (Part of the desire for marking their lives may also be genetic - my mom jokes that every third moment of my sister's and my childhood was captured on film.)  I have kept birthday cards and art projects and Christmas concert programs.  I've taken thousands of photos (and printed them and put them in albums).  I have made, and loved making, scrapbooks with pictures and captions for all of the big events of their lives.  But this blog has brought a new and somehow more initmate way to bear witness to my daughters' lives.  I've written posts on the Big Things - Christmas and birthdays, school programs and vacations.  But I've also written about little things - loose teeth and funny conversations, riding bikes and playing in the leaves.  And I think these everyday posts are my favorites.  This is who we really are.

Looking back at my earliest posts, I realize how much I have learned.  The blog brings out the photograher in me.  I have learned how to tell a story in pictures.  Sometimes I plan the picture series out ahead of time and other times I just see the action and start shooting.  I love taking pictures, especially of my kids.  This is such a good way to share them.

I have also remembered how much I love to write.  I was 15 when I discovered the power of writing and realized that written word was how I best expressed myself.  I wrote constantly through high school and college, but then just... stopped.  When I was really upset or confused I still picked up a pen and wrote myself calm, but otherwise I didn't write.  Once the girls arrived, I occasionally put some of my thoughts on paper, but not as often as I wished.  And then I started the blog and the words have come pouring out again.  I still express myself best through writing and writing is still how I process life's events.  I often think out my blog posts on my way to and from work and then look forward to getting home to type.  I am so glad that I have re-learned just how much I enjoy writing.

When I started the blog, I promised myself that I would update it at least once a week.  And I've kept that promise.  Sometimes I have so many things to post that I have to ration them out.  But other times I have to work at it, to actually plan something to write about.  And this has been the biggest gift of blogging.  Because to get a post ready, I have to stop what I am doing, pull out my camera, and really pay attention to my children.  I have to forget cooking dinner or making lesson plans or cleaning the bathroom and just be with my kids.  And I've learned that when I slow down and look through the camera lens and just watch, I remember how much I love my girls and how much I like being around them.  I forget the whining and bickering and endless nagging and see what amazing people they are and feel that endless awe of how they came to be mine.  This blog is how I remember to "carpe diem", to slow down and savor the moments, because they go by so fast.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Leaves and Light

Poppy raked the yard for some elderly neighbors today and left some enticing piles for the girls to explore.  So Granny and the girls and I went over to play.  The leaves were perfect and the light was gorgeous...
Do you think my girls love leaves?  When they tired of leaf play, they explored the yard.
Rachel showed us she can turn a cartwheel!
And then there was that light...
What a beautiful fall afternoon.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thanksgiving Program

Katherine had a music concert this evening.  They usually have a Christmas program, but her teacher decided to skip the December madness and do a Thanksgiving concert instead.  Smart teacher!
I love the music concerts at her school.
There are huge crowds and I know most of the people there, because I had their kids in preschool.  And the music is always great fun!
There are always a lot of actions in the songs.
And lots of kids accompany the songs on rhythm instruments or drums or chimes.  Katherine played the sand blocks tonight.
She even got to try out some hip hop moves...
My favorite pictures of the evening happened during the down time, when Kate wasn't even singing.  It seems the general opinion is that watching other kids move one and off the risers is, well, boring.
The younger kids did a dance to a song called Any Turkey Can Tango.  It soon became clear that while turkeys can tango, kindergarteners can't.
I'm just glad that music is a part of Katherine's education, because music has a way of engaging her and soothing her that nothing else can.  She always has a song in her heart.

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug 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