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.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Earth Day and a Vivi update

Happy Earth Day! We studied the 3 r's and recycling, and learned about the water cycle. There is a story on-line that explains the water cycle in a really simple way:

It was fun to boil water and collect the condensation on a glass pie pan until it "rained." We also played with cotton balls (clouds) and and saw how they soak up water until they become so full that they rain. (but even more fun is splashing each other with the "clouds" until your pj's are drenched). There are some great Earth Day books geared towards little kids that we took out from the library that show why we should recycle, what happens when you recycle paper and they reuse it to make new paper instead of cutting down more trees, pictures of garage dumps, and ecological reserves. Vivi was SO impressed that she had tears in her eyes and said "people are cutting down the trees and the lemurs won't have homes! We have to plant more trees for the lemurs, mommy!" I had never mentioned anything about lemurs, but anyone who knows Vivi's absolute passion for animals (especially her beloved lemur) can imagine the wheels turning in her head, and the logic that led her to her desire to go to Madagascar. She asked if we could move there to plant trees.

Speaking of Vivi....

Vivi is a great combination of girly-girl and tomboy. She loves princesses and dresses, dressing up with jewelry and tutus, and everything PINK. But then at the same time, she loves to wrestle and rough-house with Tonito and digging in the mud for bugs. Her passions are all things animals, and reading books (many times about animals). She has an enormous imagination and makes her animals talk (in a very high-pitched voice) and act out dramatic and very detailed stories (usually someone getting stuck somewhere and the others come and rescue). Another favorite toy is the vet kit, especially now that we added some real bandages. When not saving the creatures of the world, she likes to draw elaborate (abeit stick) pictures of them. I hope to scan and post some of her illustrations soon!:)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring is here, and an update on Tonito

I love my garden in the spring: daffodils, tulips, and then so many varities of rhododendrons! The orange flowers on our tulip tree, magenta flowers on our crab apple tree, and many, many more! If you notice behind Tonito, there is a little wire garden fence the old owners put in meant to keep out the bunnies. All 3 years we have been here there has been a bunny nest *inside* this fence, and this year is no different! Mr. Fatty (the kids named the mommy bunny) had her babies, and they are enjoying eating my flowers and herbs that came back, while being protected from the dogs inside their little fence. It's almost cute to see how Mr. Fatty teachers her little ones where my cilantro and parsley grow as they hop through the grass and clover (that I would prefer they snack on!).

Tonito's recent tricks
Tonito has been going to a local college for speech once a week, (in addition to the speech he receives at preschool with Miss Bethany). He is improving SO MUCH!!!! He has so much more to say, and people can understand him! It is fantastic. Our biggest development has been "initial clusters" as they call them: sp- like spider, st- like stop, sc- like scar. When he started he absolutely couldn't make the sounds. We bought him a SPiderman t-shirt and pajamas, and practiced saying it over and over using the techniques that his speech teacher had showed us. I can tell you that he is the expert at "sp" now! He also has improved his "length of utterance"- how long his sentences are. With his newfound ability to communicate, Tonito now is learning to give his opinion more, share stories about school, and slowly he is learning to ask for things that he wants ("Can I have more milk please mommy?"). We are so proud of him and so excited to get to know his personality even more. He is still the sweetest, nicest little boy, who adores cars, trucks, trains, construction vehicles, and Lightning McQueen. The first thing he does every morning is he hugs me and snuggles. Tonito LOVES to sleep and take naps and takes a little while to wake up. He likes to help me empty the dishwasher and empty the bathroom garbages, and he is proud to be in charge of taking out the recycling when it is full (I'm not taking this for granted because I know he is almost out of this helpful stage:). We are working on sharing and speaking up even more, but really developmentally he is a typical 4 year old boy who loves his mommy, papi and sisters.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We're hot dogs!

One rainy and cold day- which we had been planning to spend at the zoo!- we went to the Chicago History Museum. It isn't necessarily designed for little kids, but we found enough to keep them busy. Here they are as a Chicago-style Vienna beef hot dog, love those tomatoes! We are getting very close to moving to Houston, and so we are trying to enjoy friends, family, and beautiful Chicago as much as possible before we move!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Houston Zoo and going home

Saturday, April 11:
One of the kids' favorite places in the world is the zoo, so no matter where we travel, we try to incorporate animals of some kind. So of course we couldn't leave Houston without a trip to the Z-O-O. We saw the usual lion, tigers, and bears (promoting Wizard of Oz), and also got to see a colony of flamingos, a hidden red panda and rioting meerkats when someone else's kids threw popcorn into the cage; we pretended we were eagles and prairie dogs, and got scared by the komodo dragon when it bumped into the glass (the kids thought all dragons breathe fire and were relieved that this one did not). It was humid but surprisingly cool, so the splashy parts were closed- but we did enjoy the palm trees and tropical foliage that was so different than our Midwestern landscapes!

Now that I'm a "pro" at successfully travelling alone with 3 kids (haha) the "short" flight was a piece of cake. Well, let me rephrase that. It was a lot easier to travel to and from Houston alone, than to travel internationally with Maya's ear infections. The kids were pretty good, and we were prepared with lots of snacks (the key to good behavior) and coloring pages, play-dough, books, etc.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Woodlands

Friday April 10:
We had heard about an area north of Houston called the "Woodlands," and it sounded like a fun place to spend the day with kids. It is extremely forested compared to southern Houston- trees everywhere, green, gardens, rivers, lakes. It is very family/kid-oriented, and there is a nice mall in the downtown that has a Children's Museum. It was perfect for 4 year olds with lots of pretend play and dramatic play areas. Check out Vivi and Maya doing "surgery!"

After the Children's Museum, we brought our picnic lunch to a little park in the downtown area of the Woodlands. What a nice area! It is a walkable downtown right in the middle of a forest, with a meandering river and riverwalk, and little boats take people through the canals. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and we ran around with a beach ball and bubbles (2 toys that pack well for vacations!:) and enjoyed the gardens and fresh air.

Love to snuggle in a soft and cozy hotel bed!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Horse-back riding and the Children's Museum!

Thursday, April 9th:
My alarm this morning sounded something like this: "Mommy- we HAVE to feed the ducks! Look-" (opening the curtains to show me) "they are waiting and they are HUNGRY!" So we quickly ate breakfast and I looked around for something to feed the ducks. Yesterday we finished the last of the bread.... then I saw the conspicuous blue family size Frosted Flakes box, that Tonio bought in a nostalgic moment in Walmart, reminiscing about his family vacations as a kid. There was no way we were going to finish the HUGE box, so we decided to share our sugar with the ducks. (OK, Tonito and Vivi shared and Maya just had a second breakfast;).

Our resort had a little mini-golf course, which the kids enjoyed with 'ita and 'ito while I went running:

The resort where we were staying also had horseback riding! The big kids, especially Vivi, was SO excited to ride a REAL pony. With Vivi (led by me) on "Cricket" and Tonito led by 'ito on "Peaches" we walked the trail. Their smiles could not have been bigger as they clutched the reins for dear life, and then slowly relaxed and enjoyed the bouncy ride.

I had read that the Children's Museum was free on Thursdays from 5-8- which was the perfect opportunity for Tonio to meet us there after work! One great benefit of having such warm weather year round is that you can have activities and stations outside. They have an awesome water area that was packed with kids enjoying the heat.

Shopping for food:
Amazing water play area!

Watching the little chicks hatch.
Outside the green house...
Dance party! Catch the lights!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Old Town Spring

Wednesday, April 8:
Today we woke up and fed the ducks, and then went to a cute old railroad town filled with little specialty shops. The toy store alone could have entertained us the entire day, but we also visited a candy store, and a phenomenal Asian antique store.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Duckies and the Science Museum

Tuesday, April 7:
We woke up hearing the ducks quack, and so we had to feed them breakfast! I think this was the first time Tonito and Maya had ever fed ducks, so I psyched them up telling them the ducks were really hungry, and were waiting for us. They could stand on the balcony and see them sitting by the side of the lake, and the kids were quacking at them for a half hour before we were finally ready. Maya wasn't scared at all, even though the ducks were coming right up to us and trying to eat out of their hands. However, she wasn't very interested in sharing her bread (she would "fake" throwing it and then quick eat it).

This picture below has a story with a scar to remember. I had the good idea to take a picture of the kids hanging- but I told them to wait until I was ready before they hang so they wouldn't have to wait a long time. So I get the camera ready, both kids are holding onto the rings ready to lower themselves down, and I tell them to go ahead. Vivi started to hang. Then Tonito let go of the ring, took a step back, and then took a flying leap with his eyes closed, and of course missed the ring completely and literally belly-flopped flat on his face on the little stones. The side of his head was all cut up but he got back up and kept playing after some magical kisses. Poor little guy!

The Houston Museum of Natural Science had a free night, and we took advantage of it to meet Tonio after work. The dinosaurs were a big hit, as were the animals.

Forecasting the weather with the blue screen.