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.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I think there is such a tight bond between brothers and sisters and I wish I could capture their silly moments.. and their lovey moments. The boys and the girls have these special relationships, with secrets and giggles and squeezes. Now don't let these pictures fool you into thinking it's all roses and rainbows- these angelic smiles also wrestle, fight over toys, and say mean things to each other. But that's how they work out how to make and keep friends- they practice on their siblings and observe what makes the others sad or happy. Fortunately families are forgiving and the second the mermaid or pirate is handed back, life is back to normal. Here are some every day driveway moments, captured and preserved....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nian Gao

For our Chinese feast, we had dumplings (crescent-shaped Jiaozi are a symbol of wealth and prosperity because they resemble ancient Chinese money), a mushroom dish, fried rice, and baby bok choy. For dessert we made a rice cake...

In getting ready for CNY, I got out some books from the library. One of them we read was this book: The Runaway Rice Cake" by Ying Chang Compestine. Then we followed the included recipe and made the rice cake (Nian Gao). The story is like the Gingerbread Man, except it is Chinese New Year in China, and the rice cake runs away.

Here is the recipe from the book- we made it tonight and it is SO easy and the kids loved it. I got the 2 rice flours at an Asian supermarket (ok, randomly I had them in my pantry bc I made this rice flour play dough last year for CNY- but I guess the flour was still good!?:) I thought you guys might like it! Xin nian kuai le!:) It is really, really good, and very sweet- I doubt you will find a kid who wouldn't like it.

1.5 c glutinous rice flour

1 c rice flour

1 c sugar

1/4 c dried cherries (I used cherry-flavored cranberries)

1/4 c raisins

1 c nuts (I used almonds)

1 c water

Combine everything except water. Add water.

Spray a pie tin with Pam. Pour batter in pan.

Put the pan in a steamer (I used my veggie steamer that has 2 separate compartments but you could rig something up in a big soup pot.)

Steam fo 20 min until the nian gao is translucent.

Remove it onto a plate and cut into wedges when cool.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chinese New Year at preschool!

As we were getting ready to celebrate Chinese New Year at preschool, Ricky goes "When is Africa? I Africa, no China." hahahahaha. Don't worry, Ricky- we'll get more involved in Ethiopian events this year... Anyway!
Xin nian kaui le! (Happy New Year!) We first read a book by Karen Katz called "My First Chinese New Year." Before reading it, I handed out props for the kids to hold. When we reached their part in the story they got to stand up and show their prop (Chinese lanterns, fireworks, red envelopes, drums, plum blossoms, new clothes, a Chinese dragon, and a broom for cleaning, etc). This is a class of squirmy 3 year olds, so they appreciated a hands on activity with some moving around.
After reading the book, the kids got to have their names written in Chinese characters by the mom of one of the students. Then we painted quince/plum blossoms:

Here are the kids with some of the props:

For snack, I ordered chopstick helpers on-line, and bought panda bear cookies. The kids were *awesome* with the chopsticks!!!

This was sort-of my practice run, before I do a similar lesson with the kindergarteners! I'm a little nervous to do the bigger kids because about half the class is actually Chinese, and I hope I don't say anything inaccurate!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Books for our China Unit

Here are the books that we read this month about China. If you only read one, read Ruby's Wish- it made me cry and is based on the author's grandma. Another of the kids' favorites was the Project Panda book (of course, they love that series).

Brett Jan Daisy Comes Home
Bridges Shirin Yim Ruby's Wish
Capucilli Alyssa Satin Panda Kisses (easy reader)
Chang Margaret and Raymond Da Wei's Treasure: a Chinese Tale
Chang Grace Jin Jin the Dragon
Chen Chih-Yuan Guji Guji
Cole Joanna Ms. Frizzle's Adventures: Imperial China
Compestine Ying Chang The Runaway Rice Cake
Compestine Ying Chang D is for Dragon Dance
Compestine Ying Chang The Story of Paper
Flack Marjorie The Story of Ping
Gibbons Gail Giant Pandas
Harvey Miles Look What Came from China
Heyer Marilee The Weaving of a Dream (for a little older than kindergarden)
Katz Karen My First Chinese New Year
Lin Grace Bringing in the New Year
Lin Grace Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Louie Ai-Ling Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
Lumry Amanda Project Panda (Adventures of Riley series)
Mahy Margaret Seven Chinese Brothers
Marx Trish Kindergarten Day USA and China
Mosel Arlene Tikki Tikki Tembo
Muth Jon J. Stone Soup
Noyes Deborah Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk out of China
Pennypacker Sara Sparrow Girl
Souhami Jessica King Pom and the Fox
Thong Roseanne Gai See: What You Can See in Chinatown
Thong Roseanne One is a Drummer: A book of numbers
Tsubakiyama Margaret Holloway Mei-Mei Loves the Morning
Wang Xiaohong One Year in Beijin
Williams Brenda Lin Yi's Lantern: a Moon Festival Tale
Yang Belle Always Come Home to Me
Yi Hu Yong Good Morning China
Yip Ming Mei Chinese Children's Favorite Stories
Young Ed Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China

Big Bird in China (VHS)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Country Projects

Tonio and I decided for 2011 that we would choose a different country every month and I would teach the kid about it- read some books, make a little food, maybe watch a movie from that country, learn about important people, the land, art, or something important about the country. So here is our big list: (please give me any suggestions!)
January- China
February- South Africa
March- Spain
April- Ethiopia
May- Australia
June- Peru
July- India
August- Argentina
September- Egypt
October- Mexico
November- Ireland
December- Japan

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

9 inches

My idea of 4" and the stylist's idea of 4" were miles apart. When Vivi saw my hair she cried and said now I don't have her hair, I have Maya's hair (which absolutely thrills Maya!). She was also worried "If I get lost, I won't be able to find you because you look so different." It's just that curls scrunch up the shorter they are.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Arizona Shooting

Last week we saw a white Catholic male Republican judge murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year-old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean American combat surgeon, and this all was eulogized by our African American President." ~ Mark Shields, PBS

Monday, January 17, 2011

Soooooo sore!

I am so sore from the marathon, as usual, but life with 4 little kids goes on! When the kids came home from school I tried to have them play downstairs by me doing puzzles- it lasted about 15 minutes (they are too fast! we need new puzzles!!). I let them go upstairs and they screamed and wrestled and who knows what else upstairs for almost 2 hours. I was way too sore to walk upstairs- and probably too scared to see the mess that awaited me. It would have done no good because I can't bend down to pick anything up anyway!
In other news- Tonio called me into the garage and told me he knew what kind of animal was in our attic!!!! I was terrified he was going to show me something to do with rats but instead he showed me a huge pile of eaten pecans. The kids had collected bucket loads and left them in the back corner of the garage, forgotten. When we moved some big things out of the way, there were the shells. Just to be sure I googled squirrel poop and compared the evidence (you never can be too sure). Tonio found some openings from the garage into the roof and patched them up, and that night we didn't hear any dance parties above our heads. Amazing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We finished the marathon!

No pictures, but plenty of sore muscles:). We woke up before dawn to get to the start line, only to have the race delayed by 45 minutes because of rain (which made the dark night even darker). The race was long and slow, with really heavy winds, and hard rain the 2nd half. The first half we ran really well, 10 minute miles, no walking, barely any water/bathroom breaks- I felt great. As we were looping around the second time it was a bit lonely. The huge majority of the runners were only doing the half marathon, so by our second loop there really weren't any spectators and even some of the cones had been removed, allowing cars to whiz past us- pretty dangerous considering the rain. I ran really, really slowly the second half- 12 minute miles, a few water/bathroom breaks, and stopping to stretch once or twice. By the last mile, Tonio and I were squinting at each other through the heavy rain that was beating at our face, and laughing at the situation: what are we doing??? and why are we the only ones doing it??? Our last mile was a 15 minute mile, which really is just walking but doing the motions of running- but at least we were moving. I felt like the wind was actually pushing us backwards and I asked Tonio if in fact we were moving forward:). It was crazy, but we finally finished. Like my old cross-country coach used to say: Pain is temporary, pride is forever. Marathon #6- my last marathon... maybe?:)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Flat Stanley

We hosted Flat Stanley for our cousins, and the kids had so much fun "showing" him around: we walked by the bayou, went to the Science Museum, and had a sleepover with s'mores. They even played soccer by the moonlight with my shrieking and squealing and happy kiddos with their papi.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Silly kids

Me: You guys have to clean this stuff up before dinner!
Maya: Mommy, you're a mean guy like Rapunzel's mommy!:)
Vivi: "Tonito dropped his tiger in the toilet, but don't worry, we dried it with the towel" (said as he is hugging his damp tiger)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back in the swing of things!

Coming back from the long trip, we got right back into the daily grind, except with several suitcases of dirty laundry. I started to read the kids' very first chapter book: "Little House in the Big Woods." In the first chapter, Laura hears wolves that "eat little girls," Pa shoots at a bear trying to steal their pig, and Pa kills a deer and they all eat venison. Let's just say from her reaction Vivi would not have made a good pioneer woman. I was contemplating changing the book (because I was already changing some of the scenes), but I ended up sticking with it. The rest of the chapters weren't as gruesome to my animal-loving Vivi, and the kids really enjoyed the book- to the extent that they know play "Laura" outside. We collect acorns (pretending they are food) and look for wolves by the bayou, pretend our dogs are cows, and have picnics outside in the grass. In the midst of reading the book, we have had some animals move into our attic. I'm not sure what they are, but when they scamper above my bed it sounds like the will literally fall through the ceiling into my room. We got a trap from the city, and laced it with peanut butter (to no avail). I read about what animals it could be, and came up with either squirrels or sewer rats- let's just say I am praying for the former!!!!! We will be sitting reading on the couch, when all of a sudden I hear them- look up to the ceiling- and freeze.. whispering "ssssshhhhh, they're back. No one move." Then I ran outside like a crazy person and throw tennis balls at the roof. It's crazy. I'm crazy. I feel like I'm hearing voices, but instead of voices it's teeth chattering and rodents dancing about above my head. Just for the record, we already rid our attic of possums last year....

Children's Museum and doing puzzles!:)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Heading back south

For brunch, my mom and dad came over and brought the kids so we could play one last time. My girls have so much fun with their cousin- Vivi is extremely nurturing and wants to do anything to help Maevey. Maya is adoring as well- but fortunately doesn't smother as much as she smothers Ricky:).

After New Year's brunch, we rushed back home to pack up the car: Christmas presents, clothes and suitcases, toys for the drive, DVD's, pj's for the hotel, etc. Then we stopped at my mom's family Christmas party for a short time just to say hi to everyone.

The next generation of cousins:

It is so sad to say good-bye- especially since we had been here for Thanksgiving and now three weeks for Christmas and New Years. The kids had so much fun with everyone- it's so weird that we will leave and jump back into our regular school/activity routine. I hope that these trips back to Chicago will be forever embedded into our kids memories- not only the 20 hour drive, but all of our fun adventures with our family, and the outpouring of love the welcomes us everytime we make the journey..