Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dancing Machines

I had PBS on the other night and a show called "America's Ballroom Challenge" came on. Kate was pretty transfixed by the glittery costumes and terrific movement. Liam loved the music and shook a tailfeather. I suppose one can balance out his enthusiastic cry of "Cha Cha Cha!!!!" with his regular shouts of "Touchdown" that ring through the house. We are raising a well-rounded man. Here are some videos of the kids boppin to the beat - I grabbed the camera to try to capture the cuteness. The announcer for the show is in the background, but you get the idea. By the way - the little man will be TWO on Sunday! I can hardly believe it! We are going to go tomorrow to get him a fresh big boy haircut as he is pretty shaggy for such a big boy. :)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Goodnight Moon

Last night there was a total eclipse of the moon. The eclipse began a bit before the kids went to bed and we had an absolutely perfect view of it from Liam's bedroom window. There was not a cloud in the freezing cold Minnesota sky last night and the moon was framed beautifully for us. We let the kids stay up a little late and we all sat in Liam's dark room and watched the eclipse and talked about the moon. Kate was fascinated and asked a million questions. She is so interested by space and talks about it a lot. She already knows about gravity and the tides and learned about how the earth and the sun and the moon line up. She was so curious and inquisitive. She called her Nia and Gramps in Miami (who were watching the eclipse from their balcony seaside) and said "Good news!!! There is a Clipse!!!! And the moon will be red!!!!!". Liam was adorable and just kept gawking out the window shouting "Moooooon! Moooooon". We also recited "Goodnight Moon". It really was a neat thing to see and the timing was so convenient at bedtime. When the shadow finally enveloped the moon, Liam enthusiastically shouted, with no prompting, "Bye bye Mooooon" over and over. It glowed rusty dusty copper and the kids went to bed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ice Cold

I like the cold. I do! Irish gals do not generally look or feel fantastic in the heat - think red faces and a constant sheen of sweat with tendrils of hair usually plastered to one's forehead. I adore sweater weather and have a mild obsession with the fashion of what is known as "outerwear"....I like a crispness in the air. Now, as you may know, I spent a large part of my formative years practically living on the equator, so I have many years of sunburn and sweat and swimming through the atmosphere to school under my belt. I recall days when literally 5 minutes after stepping outside, one felt like they needed to go back home and take a shower and put on a fresh change of clothes due to insta-soak humidity. Things smell extra horrible in the heat, too - garbage goes from bad to toxic in 1.2 seconds, pavement overheats and the asphalt stinks, and since I lived in Asia, animals were extra "ripe" - be it the dogs and livestock running in the streets of Jakarta or the pig heads and cow tongues hanging in open alley shops in Hong Kong. Heat can just be, in a word, GROSS. And I pretty much despise "gross".

That said.

I would really not mind traveling to the hottest possible place on the planet right now. Tomorrow the temp is supposed to be below zero - again, with the windchills in the negative 30 to negative 40 range - again. With blustery wind. I KNOW, I KNOW!!!!! "You live in Minnesota, Maggie, what did you expect?" Well, I expected a week or two of this off and on. But it has just been bone chillin cold for weeks now. My feet are incapable of warming up. Cold toes make me really cranky. I just want to go for a little while to one of those locales where you can literally feel the heat soak into you. Where it makes you toasty and sleepy and cozy and relaxed. I would even take a little bit of nasty humid awfulness right now over this c-c-c-c-cold.

But I DO love my sweaters. And I love snuggling with the kids under blankets reading. And I love our cozy little buttoned up house with the wind and whiteness outside. This particular winter is just feeling extra long. sigh. May cannot get here soon enough (because honestly it is still pretty chilly until then). Going to go now and put hunters hand warmer packs in my Ugg Boots to see if that will toast my toes up.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tales of Two Kiddos

Kate and Liam are really keeping me on my toes these days. They are a lot of fun and really are each others best buddies. They play together and are so sweet with each other – Kate will read stories to Liam as they snuggle on the sofa, they have dance parties together that completely crack me and Nick up, and they play trains and cars for hours. I really am so crazy about them and happy about the fact that they are such buddies. That is not to say that Kate does not get frustrated by the fact that she has a “Liam Shadow” and acts out now and then, but that is to be expected.

Liam is a wonderful boy. He loves all things car and truck related and I cannot believe he will be 2 years old in 2 weeks! He is much more verbal now and while he is still not as chatty as Kate was at this age, he understands a lot more than we realize. He will answer questions and has a great memory. He knows all his shapes (pretty obsessed with shapes, actually) and all his letters and their sounds. In fact, one of the things that delights me to no end is his slight obsession with letters. He points them out wherever we go. But he has a very unique way of identifying them. For instance, I was changing him the other day and stood him up on the changing table and was talking to him as I fixed his shirt and he pointed to the letters on my sweatshirt (again, it was the Butler sweatshirt – I should call it the literacy shirt or something). He pointed to each letter and said “Buh, Uh, Ti, Elll, Eh, RRrrr”. He does this with every word he sees. He SOUNDS out the letter. If you point to any letter or say “What does the P say”, he will tell you the sound correctly every time. But if you ask “what is this letter” and point to a M, he will say “Mmmmm”. So funny!

Kate is so big, I just cannot believe it. There are moments when she is talking to me or I am watching her as she playing and I just for an instant catch a glimpse of grown-up Kate. For a fleeting moment she looks wise beyond her years, or her face looks older and I am left almost breathless by the thought of her becoming a smart, strong, wonderful woman some day. She continues to surprise us with her humor and sweetness and curiosity.

Here are some Kate stories:

Kate’s Teacher told me this one. At school the other day the teacher read a story about a polar bear. In the story, the polar bear apparently caught and ate a fish. At the end of the story, Kate loudly announced to the class that “Polah Beaws (still has trouble with her “R” sound, though she has the “L” sound down now!) don’t just eat fish, they also eat SEALS”. Some kids apparently oohed and aahed while others seemed dismayed at the news. The teacher said “yes, different animals eat lots of different things”. I am sure she thought that may have ended things. Well, then Kate said “and then the FOXES come and eat the cawcass of the seal that the Polah Beaws did not finish”. (she seriously said “carcass”). One of the boys protested VERY loudly “FOXES don’t live with POLAR BEARS!!!! FOXES live in the WOODS”. Kate, according to the teacher, looked at the little boy very frankly and with one eyebrow raised said “Not Awctic Foxes”. The teacher agreed that yes, there were such things as Arctic Foxes. The kids were all fascinated. She asked if anyone knew what color arctic foxes were and of course little miss smarty pants shouted “WHITE!!!!!!!!!!!!”…….the teacher then asked if anyone knew WHY they were white and Kate yelled “FOR CAMOFLAUGE!!!!! That is so they blend in to the snow”. And that pretty much ended the Kate Story Time Brain Bowl.

Her teacher and I just giggled. It is nice that her teacher really gets the way Kate works and encourages that and builds it into the day instead of dismissing her. She does that with all the kids and their interests and so the kids really do learn from each other. I asked Kate where she learned about Arctic Foxes and carcasses of all things. She told me that she was watching “Planet Earth” with Gramps. I have no doubt that she probably asked questions and my Dad explained it in a very matter-of-fact way without it being a scary thing (as polar bears eating seals could be for a 4 year old) and Kate just really accepted it, absorbed the info, and retained it word for word as she tends to do. I think it is great! She has a really healthy balance of fantasy (read: unicorns and princesses etc) and reality.

One other trait of Kate’s that is starting to shine through is her appreciation for giving to others. Naturally, due my involvement with Ever After Gowns ( she sees me working a lot on a charitable effort. The other day I had done a dress pick-up when she was at school and when I picked her up the minivan was full of tulle and sequined finery. She asked about it and I was explaining to her and she asked “What is Prom”? I explained how it was a dance etc. and she interrupted me enthusiastically and said “OHHHH!!!! That is where everybody gets dressed up and does the MANGO!!!!!” Trying not to laugh I said “Really? The Mango? What is that?” She said “it is a DANCE, mom, you know, the MANGO”. I just said “hmmmm…the mango”. And then she said “OH WAIT, I mean the TANgo. Not the MANgo. Of course” (totally waving her hand around and acting very laid back). I did not really get into the fact that people were not really ballroom dancing at Prom to my knowledge – let her imagine a “ball”. She is four!

Finally, last night I was proud beyond measure. As I was tucking Kate into bed she said “Mom, I think later this week we need to make two big piles. We need to make one big pile of clothes that are too tiny for me now. And another big pile of toys that I don’t use anymore. And then we can give them to kids that don’t have toys and clothes!” Well, my heart just melted. I said “oh sweetie that is a WONDERFUL idea. I am so proud of you!” She then revised her statement by saying the following “Actually, I think we need to make a pile of clothes and toys and then make MORE piles from that. One pile will have clothes and toys that we are going to give to kids that don’t have any. The other pile is stuff that we will SELL”.

Even better. ;)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ni Hao!

That means "Hello" in Mandarin and we now hear that about 27 times a day. Why? Because Kate has started taking Mandarin lessons! She just loves it. Now every Saturday I take Kate to the China Academy - which happens to be across the street at the college so we just cross the street and we're there! She is in the preschool class, and parents are asked to sit in so I get to pick up a bit as well. At home we get to listen to the provided CDs a certain number of times a week and just work on the songs and words which to Kate is like a game! All of the children in the class, except for Kate, are actually lovely little girls who were adopted from China. The parents are just terrific and it is a really great hour out of my day. Coming up this month the girls are singing songs in the Chinese New Year show that the whole school puts on. I am really looking forward to learning a lot and seeing Kate's progress as well. My experience as a child in Hong Kong mostly exposed me to Cantonese, not Mandarin, so this is starting from scratch for me! We'll see how it all goes!