Life with 4 kids 6 and under. Our trip to pick up Tonito in China is: mid-March 2008 through April 12. Our trips to pick up Ricky in Ethiopia are in June and August of 2010.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tio Timo and Auntie Colleeny

We will miss our family so much if we move!!! We see Grandma and Grandpa a couple of times a week, and we love to play with Tio Timo and Auntie Colleen as well. In NY Auntie Colleen got Vivi her favorite animal: a LEMUR, who is now named "le," "L," or "Lily" depending on when you ask Vivi. Once at the zoo we went to the lemur cage and they have dress-up costumes of lemurs, and you can climb in the fake trees while being separated by the real lemurs only by glass. Since then, Vivi has moved the fa-fa (aka giraffe) into second place and replaced it with the beloved ring-tailed lemur. While at the Natural History Museum in NY we saw loads of stuffed animals, and I was mentioning that if anyone would ever see a lemur we would have to get it for her. Lo and behold, in the next bin we found stuffed ring-tailed lemurs!!!? What are the odd chances?!! So Auntie Colleen got one for Vivi, and found a great anatomically correct (2 fingered that is) T-Rex for Tonito (whose name is appropriately "T"). The 2 kids are in heaven with their new toys, and sleep with them every night, make food and feed them, and even make them go potty on the toilet. The animal doctor kit they got for Christmas is really being put to good use!!! THANK YOU AUNTIE COLLEEN!!!! What great presents!!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

NY Sister Weekend!

Being tourists in Time Square

Subway sisters

Our beautiful Statue of Liberty (or "Livery" as Vivi says)

Shopping sisters

Crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge

We had a really fun sister weekend in NY visiting Christy and walking around Manhattan and Brooklyn! Emily and I took the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, we walked around Times Square and Central Park, stopped in at the Museum of Natural History and of course the Met (Thanks for the quick tour Colleen- how I wish we had days to explore it!), and saw different neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Manhattan. It was really nice to relax- I even took a bubble bath one day, and read more over these 4 days than I have read in the last year. My favorite part of the weekend was just sitting around and having girl-talks, telling crazy stories, and catching up. It is the first time I have been away from the 3 kids and I really, truly missed their hugs and kisses and the chaos... I'm NOT saying I regret going, just that it felt perfect to come home to their little smiles and arms squeezing me telling me they loved me and missed me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


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I am amazed at the relationship between our kids. They love each other SO much and are so kind with each other. Obviously the older 2 argue and fight over toys, etc, but the majority of the time they are genuinely good to each other, and both are so nice to Maya- even as she is bossing them around in her own way. The other day Tonito was playing with his new T-Rex and Maya wanted it. She walked up to him with her brow furrowed, grabbed the T-Rex and then proceeded to hit him over and over on his face. Tonito looked at me, looked at Maya, and then looked at me again (while blinking his eyes to protect himself). It would not occur to Vivi or Tonito to ever, ever lay a hand on Maya (although this limitation doesn't apply to each other). Our new tactic with Maya is to ask her to "Be Nice," and on command she will caress whoever's face is involved.

But really you can see this symbiotic relationship between the 3 of them throughout the day: Vivi will fall down and Maya will come and give her kisses. Maya will be crying when having her diaper changed and Tonito will come over to hold her hand and rub her head. Maya during dinner asks for "bumbee," which is from a song you can sing when eating "Bumblebee, bumblebee, up in the apple tree, when it comes down it goes zoom!" So you make the food on the fork fly around and then zoom it into her mouth. This little song has enticed Maya to eat everything from curry to couscous. Well now her new thing is that when she is really crabby because dinner is late and she wants to go to sleep- she only wants Vivi and Tonito to feed her. "Bumbee bumbee To-to!" she'll demand, banging her fork on the tray. Smiling from ear to ear Tonito happily complies with her wishes while Vivi sits on the edge of her seat waiting for her name to be called. "Bumbee-bumbee Vivi!" Maya shouts, and then it's Vivi's turn to shuffle to the high chair and deliver her song and forkful to Maya.

I don't know how long the older siblings will dote on their baby sister, but I am (and she certainly is!) enjoying it while it lasts!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another Chinese New Year Celebration!

We had so much fun at our adoption group's Chinese New Year celebration!! The women who organized it did a FANTASTIC job: we had tons of CNY crafts, and a dance show with the lion dance giving out red envelopes, some of the little girls performing and some older girls and a professional dancer as well. Each family brought 2 dishes, one kid-friendly dish (chicken nuggets, goldfish, fruit, macaroni, yogurt, you name it!) and then one Asian dish (some ordered from restaurants, some made homemade delicious dishes!). We brought dumplings (I cheated, they were from Trader Joe's) and raw veggies and dip. They had games all around the huge community hall that they rented, and even kareoke. Seeing the adorable little kids parade around in their fancy, satin-y, silky duds all dressed up was adorable!!! We met up with our friends Bob, Sally, and their cutie Ben as well (the last picture). It was so fun to share this cultural event with other families like ours: for Tonito AND for the girls.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Spending time with Mommy

Waking up after hibernation, er a nap. They look so tired!!!

We are a little bored with winter. Every time we go outside Maya takes off her mittens and plays in the snow and refuses to put them back on until her hands are frozen and we have to go inside. To defy the weather's attempts to incarcerate us inside, besides preschool every morning Vivi and Tonito have Chinese, gymnastics and soccer, Vivi also has ballet, Tonito goes to speech, and Maya-boo is spending lots and lots of time with me, going to the library for her storytime and running lots of errands with me! Miss Vivi does not take naps anymore, and so she likes to cook with me once in a while. On this day Tonito helped us make these berry and pudding desserts.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Disney on Ice

Our cousin got us tickets for Disney on Ice- Thank you Robyn for the tickets!!! We didn't tell the kids where we were going or what we were going to see, because I couldn't really think of how to explain it: a big ice rink with Simba and Tinkerbell skating around?
We pulled up and parked and in the freezing cold made the kids run to the doors. They had no idea what was going on, but saw tons of kids and so they kept hustling in. We finally found the door to our seats and discovered were in the 5th row!!!!! We were SO close, and it was just starting- the spotlights, loudspeakers blaring the Cars themesong, and all of a sudden before we even sat down Lightning McQueen came out and Tonitostopped walking down the stairs in disbelief. He was pointing and staring, and screaming "That's Lightning McQueen, mommy!" We hurried them to their seats and their smiles could not have been bigger, their eyes could not have been wider, the shock and surprise and intense excitement was better than Christmas (check out Tonito's smile). They thought they were seeing the "real" characters and believed the waves and salutations were personal and directed only to them:).

At intermission, Vivi started to cry and ask if we could watch it again. We explained to her that we still had half of the show left and she wanted to know if we could stay here "FOREVER." I would say it was their dream come true, but I don't think they could have dreamt of this. How fun! The show was pretty cool, but I enjoyed watching the kids expressions more- you should have seen their extraordinary attention- they were motionlessly glued to the skaters, with huge gleeful smiles. I can't wait to take them to Disney World- I hope we can go when they still believe...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winter blahs

Sledding- check. Snowball fight- check. Snowman- check. Many, many, many days playing in the house- check. Lost mittens, tired boots and winter coats that are a little too small now- check, check, check. We are READY for spring!!!!!

The kids got "Yoga Pretzels" for Christmas, and we love practice our poses. Vivi and Tonito each pick out 5-10 cards, and we all do the yoga together (including Maya!). They call them their "exercises." When I go work out and drop them off in the daycare at the club, they walk past the huge aerobics room filled with "moms doing exercise." Vivi aspires to be one of these moms, and claims she will exercise just like them when she is older (5) and a mommy.

Here's little Maya. She is still the little stinker, pulling things out of cabinets and drawers faster than I can keep up, dancing whenever she hears music or singing, crawling into my arms for hugs and kisses all day long.

Cutie-pie Tonito eating some leftover Chinese New Year grub, yum! He decided he needed his "China hat" to eat his "China food."
This is the post-haircut picture. Can you believe this is only Tonito's 2nd haircut since he came home? His hair must grow really slowly (well, that will save us in haircutting expenses!:). Vivi got hers cut as well, and it was also only her second haircut.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chinese New Year Traditions

The week of Chinese New Year (January 26th was the CNY and it lasts for 15 days) we studied the holiday and looked at books of China. From the library I got some of those beautiful coffee table books about China- the photographs are huge and stunning, and the kids would flip through them. Tonito would proudly say "I'm from China too!"

Here are some traditions we learned that they might do in China to welcome the New Year with a clean slate:

  • houses are cleaned top to bottom to remove traces of the old year and its misfortunes , and to bring good luck for the new year
  • gates are repainted, windows washed (but no sweeping in case you sweep away all the good luck)
  • new outfits and haircuts for the kids and adults
  • bills and debts are paid before the holidays begin because according to tradition old debts cannot be claimed after new years
  • cases of flowers, representing rebirth and new growth, are placed around the house
  • the knives/scissors are put away so as to not “cut off” the good luck
In our house, we cleaned (well, the truth is we clean every weekend since our house is on the market- but I told the kids this time it was for Chinese New Year:), the kids got haircuts (so cute!) and we brought out their beautiful traditional clothes we got for them in China. I think next year I will get bunches of fresh flowers:).

The Kitchen God (whose picture many Chinese households have in the kitchen), watches over the household and an offering is placed in front of him with the plumpest and most delicious bits of food and sweets. Then just before the New Year holiday the families slather his lips with honey so that only sweet words will come out of his mouth. He watches the family all year. At year’s end the family burns the picture, returning him to the spirit world. There he reports on the family’s behavior. On NY’s Day, the family hands a new picture of the kitchen god to welcome him back. We don't have a kitchen god in our kitchen (maybe that explains some of my disasters in the kitchen?)...

We learned from the books we took out of the library that Chinese New Year traditions began thousands of years ago as a way to scare away a monster (Nian) who was attacking the people. Nian was afraid of noise, light, and the color red. The people built fires, hung red signs, and longago Chinese burned red bamboo to drive away evil spirits and bring prosperity. Then gunpowder (invented in China) was stuffed into the bamboo stems and fireworks evolved. Red banners are hung in the doorways black on red paper that convey hopes for the upcoming year. Nianhua are pictures hung in the doorways and around the house with symbols such as:
  • fish (for abundance)
  • dragons (for power)
  • butterflies (for longevity)
  • bats (for good luck)
  • seeds, melons (for children).

These nianhua bring blessings and good luck; some families hang pictures of door gods outside the front door to guard against ghosts and bad luck.

Inside the houses, families decorate altars with pictures and food to honor family members who have died. The altars remind the families of their past as they look towards the future. This reminds me so much of Dia de los Muertos in Mexico!

There is a LOT of traditional foods for Chinese New Year, and it seems that each type of food represents a different type of blessing for the new year:

Guests are served tea with sweet-meats, red and black melon seeds, and fruits and delicacies such as puffed rice cakes, dump-lings and deep-fried round doughnuts. In addition, liquor and tobacco are offered. From what we read in the books we learned:
  • Spring Rolls: represent gold bricks
  • Vegetables: cut in the shapes of coins to represent prosperity
  • Tangerines, kumquats, oranges: good luck
  • A whole fish (yu- sounds like the word for “surplus”) or a whole duck or chicken: symbolizes bounty
  • Tray of prosperity: six-sided platter with sections for candied melon (growth and good health), red melon seeds (joy, happiness, truth), lychee nuts (close family ties), kumquats (wealth), coconut (togetherness), peanuts (long life), longnan (many good sons), lotus seeds (many children)
  • Jiaozi: dumplings. 400 year old tradition of serving them at the midnight meal on New Year’s Eve. Traditionally: ground pork, garlic, chives, and cabbage. They are boiled, steamed, or fried (crusty and golden like golden coins)
  • Noodles: not cut! Symbolize longevity, long prosperous life. In some families, birthdays were not celebrated until they new year, and noodles are always eaten on birthdays.

Sleep is discouraged at the Chinese New Year party. It used to be believed that the longer the kids stay up, the longer their parents will live. At dawn, the front door is opened and the master of the house says a blessing of prosperity for the coming year.

Before leaving, the well-wisher present gifts of money wrapped in red paper to all the unmarried children of the family. These are the "red Envelopes," (hangbao). Vivi and Tonito received some hangbao from the Mandarin teacher at their school!

On the 15th day of the of the New Year, the full moon rises and that is the Lantern Festival. At night, people parade through the streets carrying lanterns. Young men do dragon dances, and firecrackers go off. The New Year season comes to an end. This year that is February 9th I think.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chinese New Year in Chinatown!

2009: Year of the Ox (Bull)! We celebrated in Chinatown- nice weather, delicious food and a colorful parade! When we first got to Chinatown, Tonito said "Wulumuqi!" (Urumqi, his hometown). I'm not sure if he was confused by us saying we were going to Chinatown, and maybe he thought we were driving to China? (wow, only 20 minutes away by car!). We had been learning about China and Chinese New Year at home, and maybe he thought we were going to visit? He actually asked if his friends (Drew, Gillian, and Luke) were going to be here. I wonder if unconsciously he smelled familiar spices and heard familiar sounds? He can't read, so being surrounded by signs in Chinese would not have convinced him. Who knows? :) I can't believe he has been home 9 months and this is the first time we took him! Shame on us. But is was really fun and we will be back.

(above) The entrance to Chinatown, and Maya is the Year of the Pig

Both of my "monkeys" (2004).

Tonito loves, loves dragons. We are trying to learn and teach him the difference between the lions (left) and the dragons (right).

(above) Lots of colorful mosaics and street art. The picture on the left "Welcome to Chicago's Chinatown" is a replica of gate in Beijing.

After we walked around for a little bit, we went to lunch. Joy Yee's Restaurant ( was a fantastic recommendation- we could have been back in the hutongs of Beijing:). We ordered WAY too much food because the pictures were tantalizing us from the menu. The smoothie's are fresh, tropical, juicy and AMAZING.

Something that Tonito continues to mention is that his dream or goal is to be "the dragon head" in a parade. Imagine his excitement when the dragon looked our way and passed by in front of him as he sat on Grandpa's shoulders.

At the beginning of the parade we were back 10 people deep, but slowly people left- either to meet their family members/parade participants, or to quick make their dinner reservations. So by the end we were right in the front row! Vivi said she still wants to be the tail, and if Tonito doesn't want to, she can be the head.

Here are some little snapshots of the parade- you can click on them to see the details.
What a fun day! After the parade we walked around some more and the kids each got to pick out a souvenir: Tonito picked out a litle dragon figure and Vivi got a pink umbrella. Walking through these trinket stores that were more crowded than the subway, with Maya on my back grabbing at the dangling masks, lanterns, decorations, etc- this was not an easy feat. We survived and just at the point of meltdown we headed home for naps. It was really fun for Tonito and Vivi (and I think even Maya enjoyed it!). Vivi even practiced some Mandarin in on of the stores- she said Xie xie ni (thank you) to the shop owner when she bought her umbrella:).