Words and Rice

November 28, 2007

Several people have recently shared this interesting site with me. Free Rice. It's an addictive vocubulary game/quiz/SAT prep tool that is trying to end world hunger one grain of rice at a time. Check it out.

Holiday Fever

November 26, 2007

We returned from our Thanksgiving trip last night to discover the early signs of Holiday fever with the appearance of big puffy holiday creatures in front yards, bright lights, and festive wreaths. During our bike ride tonight we stopped to admire one yard filled with mechanical figures. We watched as the owner of the house methodically went around his yard with a can of green spray paint to disguise the spider web of wires in his lawn. He was very focused on his task and grumbled to us that he had been working on the yard for the past two days. This little glimpse into suburban holiday preparation left me feeling split in two. On one hand it made me wonder "is this what the holiday spirit is really about? spray painting the wires to match the grass, isn't that going overboard?" and on the other hand it got my competitive fire going. Once we got back home I headed straight to the garage and started to unpack our Hanukkah decorations.

Now this is a point of contention for some Jewish families. Hanukkah is not traditionally a big holiday in the Jewish calendar but with the close proximity to Christmas and the increasing commercialism of holidays, Hanukkah has become a more prominent holiday. I haven't seen any big inflatable menorahs or mechanical dreidles in front yards (don't be surprised if those appear on shelves soon) but it is much easier to find Hanukkah related items these days. Some argue that displaying lights in the yard or having too many decorations around the house is a sign of "assimilation" and shouldn't be a part of the holiday celebrations. We however feel that some blue and white lights in the yard is a good way to mark the "Festival of Lights".

So with my competitive fire burning I frantically untangled our lights from last year and tried to get them hung before it got too dark. Note to self: in the future don't do it solo. I ended up nearly breaking our dining room window when I fell from a ledge on top of the ladder which was useless in the thick mounds of mulch and mushroom compost (my secret weapon for winning yard of the month). I twisted an ankle, bruised an elbow, and thought I had a bloody nose (turned out it was just competitive juices!) But I got up and finished the job. By nightfall we had blue and white lights around the front of the house. Our dreidle wreaths proudly hung on the front door. I hate to think this was all brought on by my desire to keep up with the Joneses. I'd like to think that under that frantic rush of adrenaline was my desire to create a magical and memorable holiday tradition and to proudly show that amongst our neighborhood displays of Santa and Rudolf there is also a place for our Hanukkah lights (and the menorrah that will soon be glowing in our front window).

Thanksgiving 2007

We had a great Thanksgiving on Tybee Island. A perfect relaxing Thanksgiving day which started with a walk on the beach, some play time at the park, and a delicious feast on the screened porch. The next few days were spent exploring the island and nearby Savannah. Here's a little slideshow from our trip. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Click to play Thanksgiving 2007
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Giving Thanks

November 20, 2007

Noah came home today with a Thanksgiving "hat" he made at school...a feather for each thing he is grateful for:"My family and friends, the sky, me, and my house". It made me smile.
Here's what would be on my hat:
My energetic and beautiful children
My loving and thoughtful husband
Friends and family all over the world
Good books and the ability to read and share them with others
Hot chai on a cold day
Broccoli and nasturtiums sprouting in our winter garden
Past travels and daydreaming about future adventures
Laughing so hard it makes me cry

What are you giving thanks for this year?
We wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Family Visit

We had a great visit with my Uncle John, Aunt Avis, and Chris who stayed with us during the first part of their Thanksgiving road trip.

Lost in the Maize

November 19, 2007

A fun farm day complete with a corn maze in the shape of Noah's Ark, feeding the goats, riding the cow train, playing in the corn box, hanging out with Nana, Poobah, Laureen, Isabel, and some new friends. We all went home dirty, happy, and exhausted.

National Adoption Day

November 16, 2007

Adoption is always an issue on my mind and close to my heart, especially during November (National Adoption Month) on National Adoption Day. I remember as a child seeing Wednesday's Children on the local news show...each week a different child or sibling set was profiled in hopes of finding an adoptive family. It always made me feel sad to see those photos. I became even more closely tied to the world of adoption while working as a child and family therapist with children in a therapeutic foster care program. Working closely with the kids, their biological parents, their foster parents, and their potential adoptive parents....I still think about those kids and their families. Wondering what's happening in their lives these days. Hoping the kids are happy, healthy, and safe. Hoping the families are thriving. I have such admiration and appreciation for foster parents and families who adopt through the foster care system. Sadly there are children right now in our country and around the world who need forever families. If you have ever thought about adoption or fostering, please let this month be a catalyst for getting more information about this amazing way to build families.

In honor of National Adoption Month, here are a few of our favorite adoption books:
Over the Moon by Karen Katz (picture book, fun illustrations, nice story that can fit most international adoption scenarios)
Guji Guji by Chih-Yuan Chen (children's book, Taiwanese author, an alligator raised by a family of ducks)
Rebecca's Journey Home by Brynn Olenberg Sugarman (A Jewish family's story about a new baby sister from Vietnam)
Waiting for May by Janet Morgan Stoeke (One of Noah's favorite books to read while waiting for our own Mei-Mei. A good book for siblings.)
The Family Book by Todd Parr (A great book for all families! Highlights all of the wonderful ways families are unique)
Every Year on Your Birthday by Rose Lewis and Jane Dyer (same author and illustrator of I Love You Like Crazy Cakes...both beautiful books about a mother and her daughter from China, stunning illustrations)

And some good adult reading material:
Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother by Jana Wolf (very honest account of one mother's experience. short easy read and good for all parents starting the process)
Beyond Good Intentions by Cheri Register (this should be mandatory reading for all parents considering international adoption. Not always easy reading because of uncomfortable topics and some extreme scenarios, but very thought provoking)
China Ghosts by Jeff Gammage (one of the most moving and beautifully written adoption memoirs I have read)
A Love Like No Other:Stories from Adoptive Parents (a wonderful collection of essays covering a wide range of adoption experiences)
Digging To America by Anne Tyler (a great novel about adoption, culture, and two very different families)
Relative Choices: Adoption and the American Family A NY Times blog with some amazing entries.
Hallmark Adoption Videos...bring out the tissues

And if you are more in the mood to shop than read, here is a link to my friend Morena's new site which is raising money for special needs adoptions. A wonderful place to do some holiday shopping that will have a very positive impact http://www.cafepress.com/forthischild

Child's Play?

November 13, 2007

I saw this sign at a local park today. Pretend you are a slave? Treat your "property" with respect? "Buddy Up" and pretend to "own" someone? Go Play!?!! Who in their right mind wrote this? And why has it continued to be in this popular park? I just don't think slavery should be a part of children's play, Do you?

Brother and Sister

Scaring the little sister
Dancing Together
Hitting the big brother
I shot this series of photos right after the concert on Saturday. They were taken within about 10 minutes and seem to sum up the current state of their relationship. As you can see it changes minute by minute.


What's up with the fortunes in the cookies lately? Here'a few we got with a recent Chinese meal:

"Next time you should get the shrimp"

"It is not the strong but the responsive that survive".

Those aren't fortunes. Who's writing these? I used to think that writing fortunes would be a fun job (same with naming paint and fingernail polish) and it seems like they are now sorely in need of fortune writers. I think the batch we got was written by someone who was depressed and I guess fortune writers don't get paid a ton of money so perhaps there is a good reason for the depressed tone of the messages. But what happened to those fortunes of the past (or perhaps our local restaurant should change fortune cookie companies)? The ones that predicted travel, news, handsome strangers, and on a very good day...good fortune in the near future. Or perhaps we truly get the fortunes we deserve and I really should order the shrimp next time.

Parental Torture

November 11, 2007

I made a very foolish decision today. We spent a beautiful sunny afternoon trapped inside my new definition of hell...a Chuck-E Cheese type place. If you are a parent, you know what I am talking about. One of those big warehouse places filled with loud games, scary climbing structures, gobs of screaming children, bewildered parents, and bad food with lots of salt and sugar. This wasn't our first foray into the rough waters, but this was our first birthday party event in one of these places. I quickly developed a horrible headache and found myself frantically trying to keep up with both of my monkeys...not an easy task when one wants to drive the bumper cars and one wants to bang on the blinking game machines. And trying to have any type of conversation with other adults is fruitless. Besides the anxiety of losing my kids and the pain of the headache, I couldn't have a conversation because I was so overstimulated by all of the noises, blinding colors, and flashing lights. I am sure that children get left behind each day..children found in the top of those climbing structures, children still trying to decide which crappy junk toy to claim as their prize...as the parents stumble out of the building frantic to get some relief. So frantic for relief they leave their children in the warehouse of "fun". As we made our way out of the torture chamber, I suddenly understood why there were so many adults smoking by the entrance (including pregnant ones). There should be some type of parental survival room stocked with liquor, low lights, and serious sedatives (don't you think they would make even more money that way?) I can't tell you how happy I was to sit in my van with my two children strapped in their seats. They also seemed a little worn out by the whole afternoon. I hope we don't have to experience that again any time soon.

Cards from the past

November 10, 2007

Walking through the main library a few days ago we saw this relic...the card catalogue. It is being used for a very cool community project in the teen reading area. Kids are encouraged to use the old cards to write messages or create collages and then to re-file them. The funny thing is most of the kids have never used a real card catalogue. But I remember very clearly the annual tour at our school library teaching us how to use the card catalogue and a lesson on the Dewey decimal sytem. I remember long hours during my college days thumbing through cards and wandering through the stacks. It was such a tactile process...the feel of the cards, the smell of the cards, the little stubby pencils. Don't get me wrong. The current process of searching on-line, placing holds on-line, cross referencing...it is very nice and very convenient. But my sentimental side misses the card catalogue.

Preschooler Rock Fest aka Dan Zanes Concert

Today was the long awaited concert! Highlights included Noah dancing on stage, speaking to Dan Zanes, Camille clapping like crazy, leading the "train" around the concert hall, and watching them pack up the instruments. They played some of our favorite songs and it just felt good to dance and jump around. Since it wasn't very full it felt like a very private concert. The hard parts were keeping track of Noah in the mass of wriggling, jumping tots and having Camille in my arms for the entire show...she loved the show but there was no way she was going to jump into that chaos which means my arms and back are now very sore. If you have the chance to see Dan Zanes and Friends live, do it!

Officially Two

November 9, 2007

Camille turned two on Wednesday. Hard to believe our sweet Mei-Mei is so big. Just seems like yesterday when we saw those first pictures of her, just yesterday when she was placed in my arms peering up at me with her big brown eyes, just yesterday when she started walking. I know that "time flies" by quickly with kids. It seemed when I was pregnant with Noah everyone told me that and I didn't really "get" it until he arrived. And now with Camille time seems to fly by even more quickly. Birthdays are such a defining marker of time. A time for celebration and reflection. With Camille's birthday I always feel a little sad.I always think about her birth family on this day.

To celebrate her actual birthday, we planned on bringing doughnut holes to her class. Unfortunately this family tradition has grown to include auto accidents. Last year for Noah's birthday, Adam and his mom were rear ended while bringing donuts to school. Well, this time it was me. It was a busy morning and after loading everyone up I was focused on remembering to stop by Krispy Kreme. I should have been focused on driving because I ended up backing out of our garage and hitting Adam's car. Not too badly, but enough to feel very stupid! Happily after that the day went well. Camille had fun with her classmates...digging in the school garden, eating doughnuts, singing songs. I hope that this will be the year of the "terrific twos"! A year of exploration, laughter, and not too many tantrums!

Suburban Success

This little "treat" arrived in our yard Halloween night. Remember this earlier post?

A Perfect Day

November 4, 2007

Yesterday we celebrated Camille's 2nd Birthday! It was a perfect day. A beautiful sunnny day. Happy children chasing balloons, blowing bubbles,and exploring the birthday village (box houses built by Noah and Grandpa). Adults laughing and lounging in the sun.Camille and Isabelle

Sydney, Noah, Zoe, and JonathonA huge thank you to Xan for being such a good friend (thank you for skipping coffee to help me in those frantic last minutes...vacuum, food prep, etc.). Thank you to Sydney, Zoe, and Hayden for building a birthday house for Camille and helping her dress up for her party.The amazing butterfly cake (made by Duchess)

Halloween 2007

November 2, 2007

We had a great Halloween this year! My parents are here so that made it even more fun. Noah had fun picking out the perfect pumpkin. He didn't enjoy cleaning the out the seeds, but Camille had fun doing that. I tried my hand at carving...not easy to do with a big knife, a thick pumpkin, and two active children hopping around. Just as I was finishing and feeling like I had done a pretty bad job (crooked mouth, no nose, etc), both kids starting cheering and saying "good job, mama! (Camille) and "Awesome" (Noah). That was my favorite Halloween moment and a good reminder that things don't have to be perfect to be good.
Noah and Duchess creating a very sweet and spooky house
Noah waiting for the first batch of trick-or-treaters.
We had a couple of scary swamp monsters handing out treats
Noah was a scary farmer (thanks to his glow in the dark skeleton shirt that he refuses to take off). He wore a pair of Adam's overalls from when he was 4 years old. Camille was supposed to be a chicken. My mom spent time hand sewing white feathers to a onesie and minutes after Mei-Mei put the costume on she started screaming "don't like it!" and started pulling off feathers....looked like we had sacrificed a chicken in our living room! The only thing she wanted to wear was the tiara Nana made for her. Jonathan also joined in the trick-or-treating fun, but he wasn't too crazy about the wagon ride.

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