February 27, 2008

We are now on a little frog kick around here. Part of it is due to the recent increase in the frog population in our back yard and part of it is due to a recent visit to the new frog house at the zoo. So we are now reading, drawing, and photographing frogs. The little green ones (like in the photo) are the same ones I have such vivid memories of as a child. Sitting in our bathtub each night watching a disturbing little life cycle take place in the window above the tub... little green frogs being eaten by a snake in the tree next to the window. Not sure why the frogs continued to congregate in that spot each night, but they did. I wonder if my kids will have vivid memories of the little green frogs hopping on them as they went down the slide today?

This is Noah's drawing of a frog catching a fly
And Camille's drawing. One of the first drawings she has ever named. Titled "Froggy".

Favorite Things

February 26, 2008

This is one of my favorite spots in our house because it has so many of my favorite things. The photos on the wall are some of my favorites. A large group photo from our wedding party...all of the important people in our life on one of the best days of my life...a crisp sunny day in April, Cajun music, dancing in the middle of the prairie, holding hands with my new husband. The other photo is of Noah and Camille (who are my favorite children ofcourse!). There are two other photos on the same wall that have special meaning to me. One is a beautiful black and white shot taken by my grandfather and the other is taken by my Aunt Janet.

The other thing I love about this part of our house is the rotating arrangements and the link to our life in Japan. While living in Japan, I took Ikebana lessons. Once a week for three years I would carry my notebook, special scissors, frogs, and heavy ceramic vases into a small classroom. I would join Japanese and American women at various stages of study. Those weekly lessons in patience, form, culture, seasonal growth, and connections are some of my most cherished Japanese experiences. I loved my sensei (teacher)...a gentle, but spunky woman in her 70s with patience and wit. Despite the fact that I always felt so clumsy and "American" while fumbling to produce arrangements, I always loved bringing home fresh arrangements. And I continue to keep that weekly tradition. I don't have a class here, but I do like to make sure I always have something in an arrangement or something blooming (like the amaryllis above). It makes me smile. It brightens up that room and somehow seems to pay homage to my favorite photos/my favorite people.

New Writer

It is exciting to have a new writer/reader in our house. I love watching Noah sound things out and put letters together to make words. Even this sick little addition to a recent grocery list:

Hide and Seek

There are some games that never lose their appeal (Candyland is not one of those gets old very quickly!), yet we seem to stop playing them. I would like to propose the revival of the favorite childhood game "Hide and Seek". Why did I ever stop playing this? Seriously, it is a good game. I hadn't played since I was a kid and spent hours hiding and seeking with my cousins, but in the past year we have begun to play a lot of Hide and Seek in our house and I LOVE it. Seriously. My heart starts pounding as I search for the perfect spot. I laugh when one of the kids discovers a new hiding spot that would never have occurred to me. I feel victorious when they have a hard time finding me (ok maybe I shouldn't admit that, but it's true). It is a game that appeals to all ages and can pretty much be played any where. So why aren't there Hide and Seek tournaments? Hide and Seek games in all of the local parks? If you think I am totally nuts (which I guess is possible), go and try it. Round up your kids or even better a bunch of adult friends and start hiding and seeking.


February 18, 2008

Since both of my children are deprived of traditional baby books (we have journals for each of them, but none of the charts or fancy entries or photos), this blog is part of our way of taking note. Here are some recent exchanges with Noah:

Noah: Mama, tell me again why you do those things to help people and the kids who need families?
L: You mean why did I become a social worker?
Noah: Yes.
L: Because I like helping people.
Noah: (long pause) I really wish you had been a builder instead.

Last week when making Valentines, I leaned over Noah's shoulder to see what he was drawing. He proudly explained that he had made a drawing of a man in a dungeon and a big pile of poop. Before I could say anything, he followed it up with "you told me to make something that Cole would like". Cole (also five years old) seemed very appreciative. Seems that Hallmark should take a hint...instead of doing all the junky character cards they should switch to bodily functions.

And finally this evening I heard this little exchange between Noah and Adam. Noah was being sent to his room for a little time-out:

A: I don't appreciate your sassiness.
N: I know, but I wish you did!

Chair Photos February 2008

February 17, 2008

Our most recent chair photos. And for comparison here are the ones from the last chair photo session in August.

Wrapper Art

February 16, 2008

What to do with all of your Valentine's Day candy wrappers or when your child has discovered (and devoured) your secret stash of chocolate? Turn it into art...paper, wrappers, glue and voila a shiny, sweet collage: Made by Noah on Valentine's Day 2008.

Happy Hour?

More like un-happy hour in our house everyday. I have started dreading that crazy time of day in the hour or two before dinner. This is the time of day when my children seem possessed with spirits that suddenly destroy the house, whine, fight, jump off of furniture, yell, and throw tantrums. I also feel possessed with demonic spirits. Trying to cook dinner (not my favorite activity especially when I haven't been to the grocery store in a week), trying to clean up (can't stand to sit down to dinner surrounded by messy chaos), and trying to keep my little monkeys from going too makes me want to pull my hair out and run screaming from my house!

I have noticed that this time of day is harder during the winter months. It gets darker earlier so we can't play outside as long we would like. It's also harder on the nights we are trying to wait for Adam to come home for dinner....trying to keep dinner warm so we can sit down together, trying to keep the kids from not filling up on snacks before dinner, etc.

I have a dream about my children sitting quietly at the kitchen table, patiently waiting for dinner while drawing or reading books to each other.I want to hold on to this dream about happy hour but perhaps I just need to really make use of "happy hour" and start drinking something stronger than ice water!

The Great Backyard Bird Count

February 15, 2008

We are still on a bird kick around here. I have always liked birds but never paid all that much attention to them until having kids. One of Noah's first signs was for "bird". Camille can spot birds that none of us see until she points them out. And as you can tell from recent posts we have been reading about birds. So we are now taking it to another level and going to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Not sure we'll do it every day (we'll just be using the kids list) but thought it might be fun or perhaps it is just plain geeky. The count is from Feb.15-19th. Happy counting and bird watching!

Happy Family Day!

February 14, 2008

Two years ago we celebrated Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year in Taiwan by becoming a family of four! Here's to celebrations, chocolate, love, and families!

Children and Art

February 13, 2008

This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot. I grew up surrounded by art. Watching both of my parents create beautiful things. Watching them teach others. Learning to appreciate the natural creations surrounding us and experimenting with nature...smearing flower petals to create paint, mud sculptures, constructing houses out of vines and sticks. Wandering galleries and museums. Even spending a summer traveling by train around the country as we visited museums and exhibits. I still remember my excitement about visiting The Art Institute of Chicago. We read books about some of the well known pieces on display and as the train got closer to Chicago my anticipation grew. I was ten. I spent hours as a child drawing and painting. I went through a phase where I was obsessed with neighborhoods (perhaps a result of living in the country). I had a notebook that I filled with little sketches of houses. Floor plans. Exterior drawings. Streets with houses. I drew the families that inhabited each house. Giving them names and characteristics. Imagining and writing up little vignettes about their lives in their little houses on intersecting streets. In high school, I created books with my short stories, poems, photographs, and illustrations. In college, I took my first drawing class and I loved the challenge of the assignments and the familiar smells of the studio space. I continued to create things and get that thrill of fleshing out ideas in my social work endeavors (especially drawn towards art therapy), building gardens every time we move, and making gifts for others.
Drawing, painting, photography, creating has always felt like a very natural, normal, and comforting part of my life. I don't have the compulsive drive to be a professional artist like my sister and my parents, but I do feel the need to observe, to create, and to appreciate. I think a lot of that is due to my parents and their belief that children should always be encouraged to create. That art supplies should be as readily available as food and books. That children should be free to explore their natural surroundings. That they should be exposed to a wide range of cultures and art.
Now that I have children I find my creative juices are being sparked in a new way. I am seeing the world through their eyes. Suddenly birds and squirrels are funny and magical creatures. Details are suddenly brought into clear focus. Questions are a constant part of the exploration process starting from those early words of "what's this" to "why" to "why is the sun so hot?". And watching both of my children create, build, paint, and explore gives me more joy than I ever anticipated. And I find myself savoring the chance to return to fingerpainting, fairy house building, mud art, and rock collecting.

My favorite book on the topic of children and art is "Young at Art" by Susan Striker. A great book and in my mind a must-read book for all parents and teachers. And I recently discovered this blog, The Artful Parent with some great ideas. You don't need to be a professional artist. You don't need to send them to art classes. Just make paper and crayons available. Draw, paint, build, play, create and have fun with them. Get dirty, messy, and sticky.

After you are covered in paint and happiness share that experience with this amazing art exchange program in India. Make a drawing and send it to Art 2 Heart. Visit their website for more information....what a great way to merge art, culture, exchange, and goodwill. Great for all ages!

Sunny Hearts

February 11, 2008

Noah and I have had fun making these sun catcher hearts for Valentine's Day. We were inspired by the recent Martha Stewart Kids craft book (actually lots of nice craft projects using recycled materials). Here's the link if you want to try some.

Birthday Blast

We celebrated Noah's birthday with a weekend trip to the Kennedy Space Center and it really was a blast! Rockets, shuttles, lunar rovers, moon rocks, big buses, space ice cream...a perfect place to turn 5. The biggest suprsise for me was the overwhelming wildlife. Tons of alligators, roseate spoonbills with too many different water birds to count, bald eagles nesting (in a nest the size of king size bed!!) and even a bear from a distance. I didn't realize the space center was home to more than 500 species of wildlife including manatees..hope we can make it back again soon.


February 8, 2008

Noah turns five tomorrow. Here are five of his favorite things: Taiwanese train, tiger bus, space shuttle, red shoes, and soccer ball:

And an interview with my favorite nearly five year old boy:

L: What are you going to do when you are five?

N: I am going to learn how to kick the soccer ball over the roof. And I am excited about the solar system.

L: You mean you want to learn more about the solar sytem?

N: Yes, I want to learn more about it when I am five.

L: What is your favorite food?

N: Cake and strawberries and shrimp, but I like my trains better than food.

L:What do you worry about?

N: Time outs. I hate time outs

L: What do you want to be when you grow up?

N: A firefighter

L: Who is the funniest person you know?

N: Me

L: Who is the smartest person you know?

N: Me

L: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

N: New York City so I can see the tall building and paint pictures of them.

L: Anything else you want to say about being five?

N: Nope

Spaced Out

Today we drove to the beach in hopes of seeing the shuttle launch. Unfortunatedly, it was too cloudy to see anything, but we "might" have heard something. The other unfortunate thing was that just as I was getting ready to head out the door, Adam called to tell me he was getting deployed this summer. I spent the whole drive thinking about it. We knew it was probably going to happen, but it still isn't fun news to receive.

This news comes on the tail end of two weeks as a solo parent (Adam has been out of town for work). There have been some stressful moments (like having sick kids, and like last night when we went out to eat and I couldn't pay the bill because I left my wallet at home), there have been some really good moments (like letterboxing with Annie and Megan, and having donuts one morning with Ericka and Ben), but the most overwhelming feeling is pure exhaustion at the end of each day. Parenting is hard work and single parenting is especially hard work (I am in awe of single parents). I am not looking forward to six months of single parenting, but I know it will be ok. I know that we will have ups and downs. I know we will miss Adam desperatedly. Luckily, we have good friends and family to lean on for support and we will keep ourselves very busy with beach trips, picnics, and park adventures.

Being at the beach this afternoon was a good thing. It got me out of the house and out of my head. As soon as I heard the waves crashing and saw the kids running free on the beach, I felt less worried and sad about the deployment news. Noah and his buddy, Cole, had a great time running up and down the beach including the freezing water. Camille is not a big beach fan, but she eventually settled down and had a good time digging in the sand. I had a nice visit with Nisha and felt reassured that all will be fine. We are so lucky compared to so many other military families who have faced back to back deployments, injuries, and losses.

Happy Mardi Gras 2008!

February 5, 2008

To our family and friends in Louisiana...catch some beads and enjoy that last King Cake for us!If you have ever eaten a King Cake, you will recognize the "baby" in the photo above. If not, here is a description.

Snotty Pea

February 4, 2008

Last night Camille kept fussing about something. She's been sick (hand, foot, and mouth disease...January was quite a month for illnesses for us!) and with that has come a lot of grumpiness. So it took me awhile to understand she had a pea stuck in her nose. A pea which had been frozen and once inserted had thawed and plumped up. In a flash of mama genius and without any sense of panic, I squeezed the top/bridge of her nose and the pea came flying out with a gush of snot. Finally a positive attribute for snot...easy pea removal. Isn't it wonderful to learn new things every day?

Chinese New Year Reading

February 2, 2008

I have recently been asked by a couple of people to recommend books for Chinese New Year. So here are a few of our favorites:

"The Good Luck Life" by Rosemary Gong
This is a great book for Chinese American customs and festivals...good section for New Year's activities.

Similar to the Good Luck Life but more focused on children/family activities, a good resource book to keep out all year round. Nice illustrations.

"My First Chinese New Year" by Karen Katz
A delightful, colorful introduction to Chinese New Year. Perfect for toddlers and up.

"The Year of the Dog" by Grace Lin
A wonderful chapter book (elementary/middle school) by one of our favorite children's authors/illustrators. The first in a series of books about Pacy, a Taiwanese-American girl and her family (somewhat autobiographical). We own the book, but we might as well own the audio tape because we check it out of the library so frequently...I hear Noah laughing at night while listening in bed. So excited to see that the second book is available in time for the new year and appropriatedly named "The Year of the Rat" along with another new book about Chinese New Year (both are going to be arriving in the mail soon so I will post a review later). And here is a link to her blog. Looks like she is traveling in China right now...some great photos. I especially like the ones of the Great Wall covered in snow.

"Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year" by Kate Waters and Madeline Slovenz-Low
Photographs and easy text make this book perfect for school age children. The book follows Ernie (a young boy in San Francisco's Chinatown) as he prepares for Chinese New Year including his participation in the lion dance. This is a Reading Rainbow book and there is a companion video about Chinese New Year (found it at our library).

Not necessarily the most beautifully illustrated and in typical Magic School bus style it is somewhat chaotic and choppy, BUT we recently checked this out from the library and have been enjoying it. There is a ton of information packed onto each page. Starts out with Ms. Frizzle celebrating Chinese New Year with a student's family and they end up being transported back in time to China.

Charming illustrations and informative text.
We are always on the hunt for good books. So if you have some Chinese New Year's favorites please share them!

Latest Instagrams

© Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish. Design by FCD.