Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sophie, musical genius

A few weeks ago, I started singing Itsy Bitsy Spider to Sophie and she immediately started up with the hand motions. Then, while she was sitting in the desk chair one day, she stood up and I grabbed both her hands and said "Down" and she immediately plopped down shouting "Down!" with such glee that I suspected she knew Ring Around the Rosey. I tested that theory and she did know it. One morning, I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and she opened and closed her hands in a twinkling fashion and then made a diamond shape with her chubby little fingers and raised them over her head when I got to the part about the "diamond in the sky".

The final installment had me laughing so hard. Since I'm running out of songs to sing (my repertoire has been severely limited since EJ discovered Hannah Montana), I somehow pulled "I'm Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee" out of the cobwebs in my head. Not only does she know the hand gestures, she yells "Ow!" at the appropriate time when the bumblebee stings! I was in tears. Now, I'm working on teaching her to bark on cue for "How Much is that Doggy in the Window?"

EJ loves music too, especially musicals. We watched "Hairspray" last night, and she said she might even like it better than "High School Musical"!

Invention Convention update

This year, EJ invented the "Fluffy Snow Wetter", a contraption to erect in your backyard to make fluffy snow sticky so that you can make snowballs, snowmen, and forts. Here she is with her display at the convention:

Here's a list of some other clever inventions we saw:

  • A bookholder (made by EJ's best friend) that reaches the book out over your bed
  • A dog bowl that allows people in wheelchairs to feed their pets without bending over
  • A jewelry holder that doesn't take up a lot of room on your dresser
  • A multi-art tool, a pretty clever modification to a multi-tool to hold your art supplies
  • A nail holder so you don't hit your fingers while hammering
  • A remote-controlled candy dish so that you can bring the candy to you (I ordered one to bring me candy from my boss's office)
  • The Sibling Stopper 5000 (invented by EJ's friend) that throws a pie when a younger sibling tries to steal "secret things" from your dresser drawers. According to the presentation, complete with a self-produced video running on his iMac, one can load the pie tin with the filling of choice. Broccoli, asparagus, or brussel sprouts were suggested.
  • A more interesting stroller to keep your kid busy. I think this one had potential, as Sophie kept trying to crawl into it

This year, the Engineering class from the local high school served as judges. EJ was awarded a Thomas Edison award for "demonstrating a bright idea".

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Weird science

Remember this post? Well, get ready. Tomorrow night is the invention fair at EJ's school. Be prepared to be dazzled and amazed at what some of these kids come up with. No sneak peeks at EJ's project. You'll just have to wait.

And Sophie decided to get into the act as well. She got a toy for Christmas that's basically a bunch of sea creature pieces and parts to create silly combinations. She starts by giving me one of the big pieces (a body) and then just randomly picks each consecutive piece from the box and hands it to me while instructing "heh!" I just attach the body part wherever and then we see what sort of silly sea monsters she has invented.

You can dress her up...

Tonight, Miss Sophie decided to get into her big sister's hat and purse and parade around the house saying "Bye bye" and waving and blowing kisses.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hey Jude!

Found this today posted on an adoption-related site. Very cute video...made me smile.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Our Sweethearts

This photo makes me smile! Yes, they're in matching dresses...they have quite a few matching outfits. Since EJ is almost 9, I know I won't be able to get away with it much longer, but for now she's more than happy to oblige. I must have taken two dozen shots, but this was the first one and it came out the best. Sophie started wiggling around after this one and it went downhill from there. She was just thrilled to be holding a candy box...she didn't know it was empty! Her smile is just priceless! And EJ is adorable as usual. They are such sweeties!

Monday, February 11, 2008

About those winter storms in China

Here is a link to a story about a relief mission to the Chenzhou orphanage in the Hunan province. Some of the children in our travel group are from Chenzhou, so it was an interesting read. Half the Sky is a well-known charity that aids children in China. The story is three pages long, with a lot of great pictures and gives great detail about the challenges in getting supplies to the area with the recent snowstorms.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What a party!

We had a great time at our agency's Chinese New Year party yesterday. The party seemed to be "smaller" than two years ago when we were there. I say "smaller" because there were "only" 1300 or so people there! I think 11 or 12 of the 20 kids from our travel group were there, so it was so nice to catch up with everyone! Here's a pic with the older siblings:

There was a lot of great entertainment - musical presentations, dancing, etc. There was a Chinese buffet for lunch, followed by an ice cream sundae bar for dessert. Sophie loved the ice cream! Some representatives from the Chinese Consulate in New York were special guests at the party, and they brought gifts for everyone. We got a little Chinese drum and a book about Chinese geography. A tradional lion dance closed out the show:

There were plenty of vendors selling things. Most were donating at least a portion of the proceeds to CAWLI's Rainbow Fund, our agency's charitable fund. We bought a DVD about Chinese New Year, and EJ selected an embroidered lavender silk purse.

While all of the proceeds from the party always go to the Rainbow Fund, this year it was especially important, as the agency's director, Lillian, announced that all of the money raised would go to the relief effort from China's devastating snowstorms. Many of the orphanages are without power and water, and help is desperately needed. We just found out this week that CAWLI has the ability to route donations to specific orphanages or provinces, so we plan to make a donation to Sophie's.

A raffle and silent auction offered some really great gifts. We bought a lot of raffle tickets (EJ had her eye on a number of things!), and we were surprised to find out that we won TWO prizes. EJ won a Little Mommy doll and carrier - she talks, holds a teddy bear or bottle, etc. And we won another terrific gift - a full set (7) of Mei Mei Hu's Learn to Speak Chinese DVDs, as well as an audio CD and a set of Chinese character-writing notebooks. They were worth nearly $200! We'll have to check them out later today.

I was joking that I should have put the blog name on my name tag (I didn't!), but I had so many people approach to tell me that they read the blog regularly. (I think many recognized us from the red silks we wore in the holiday photos). It was nice to finally meet some of them. I even got to meet some other CAWLI bloggers whose sites I visit regularly. And, I also volunteer as a travel trainer for parents who are preparing for their trip, so it was nice to see that some of those folks are now home with their newest family members!

After the party, we decided we hadn't had enough craziness for the day, so we drove to the Wrentham outlets and did a very quick shopping tour (I love the Williams-Sonoma outlet there). Sophie was getting a little fussy, as she either wanted out of the stroller to play in the snow or she was getting a little hungry. She was much happier after dinner at the Cracker Barrel...and she slept through all the heavy snow showers on the long drive home.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Thursday, Feb 7th, is Chinese New Year. EJ will be taking hongbao (red envelopes) to school tomorrow to pass out to her classmates. They're filled with some trinkets - fake Chinese coins, pencils, rubber and beaded bracelets, and temporary tattoos with Chinese characters. I wrote up a description of the holiday for the teacher to read to the kids. Here it is, if you're interested in learning about the holiday:

Last year, on EJ’s 8th birthday, we traveled to China to meet her new sister, Sophie LiLei. While traveling in China, we enjoyed learning about its history, food, and customs.

Today, February 7th, is the start of Chinese New Year in 2008. Chinese New Year, sometimes called Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is as important as the Christmas holiday in the United States. The date for the Chinese New Year celebration changes each year--it begins on the day of a new moon. The celebration lasts 14 days. The last day of the celebration is called the Lantern Festival, which occurs around the time of the full moon.

In China, many people travel to visit their families, usually their parents or grandparents, over this holiday. Respecting one’s elders is a very important aspect of Chinese culture. Usually, family members share a large meal. Fish is often served to symbolize abundance, or having extra, for the coming year. Dumplings are also eaten to symbolize wealth. In the evening, fireworks scare away bad spirits.

Often, people wear new clothing to signify the new year. Red decorations, usually with gold trim, symbolize good luck. Many decorations include a diamond-shaped pattern with the Chinese character for Fu, or luck, in the diamond. These decorations hang around the house and on doors. The Chinese Fu character is usually hung upside down, since the Chinese word for “upside down” sounds the same as another Chinese word that means “arrive”, meaning that anticipate the arrival of luck, happiness, and prosperity.

Another tradition in China is cleaning your house from top to bottom in the days before the celebration to sweep away the bad luck. It is also important to have your life “in order”, meaning you should resolve your disagreements and disputes with others.

Our family plans to celebrate Chinese New Year by eating Chinese food for dinner. Maybe we’ll use the pretty porcelain chopsticks we bought while on our trip! We also bought a new Chinese New Year decoration for our house.

This weekend, we will attend a very large party with all the families from our adoption agency. Nearly 2000 people will be there! We attended the party two years ago when we first started waiting for Sophie to join our family. In addition to delicious Chinese food, there will be a lot of musical and dance performances, including a lion and dragon dance to close the party. It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the deafening sounds of the cymbals together with the face of the dragon or lion dancing aggressively can evict bad or evil spirits.

Each Chinese year is associated with one of 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac. Each animal has its own characteristics. This year will be the Year of the Rat. Some of your zodiac signs might be:

· 1997 (Ox): Dependable, calm patient, hardworking, ambitious and logical, but might also be stubborn or demanding.
· 1998 (Tiger): Unpredictable, powerful, daring, and sincere and generous, but might also be restless, impatient, or selfish.
· 1999 (Rabbit): Gracious, sensitive, kind, and artistic, but might also be moody and lazy.

A very popular tradition for Chinese New Year is to pass out hongbao (hong-bow) or red envelopes to youngsters as a symbol of prosperity. The envelopes often contain money, usually an even amount. EJ has some envelopes for you today to help celebrate the holiday.

Kung Hei Fat Choi (kung-hay-fat-choy)! Happy New Year!!!

Ni hao Kai-lan!

Tomorrow, 2/7, is the premiere of a new show called "Ni Hao Kai-lan" on Nickelodeon. This show is supposed to be the Asian version of a Dora the Explorer. We're very anxious to see it. Here's some info from the NickJr. website:

What the Show's About

"Ni hao!" That means "hi" in Chinese--and that's how Kai-lan greets you every day! Kai-lan Chow is an exuberant Chinese-American preschooler, almost 6, who wants you to come play with her and her best friends. Kai-lan's world is infused with Chinese culture and is brimming with magical sights and sounds, and everywhere you turn there's something amazing and beautiful to see. Along the way, she and her bilingual buddies speak in English and Chinese, but they always need kids' help to find creative solutions to the daily dilemmas that come their way!

Meet the Characters
  • Kai-lan Chow is a playful, adventurous preschooler with a big heart. She is almost 6, speaks both English and Mandarin Chinese, and is super excited to share her language, her culture, and her playtime--with her animal friends and children at home!
  • YeYe is Kai-lan's grandpa. He lovingly passes on his rich and colorful world full of Chinese customs and traditions to his granddaughter. YeYe provides Kai-lan with gentle guidance, leading her to find her own answers, at her own pace.
  • Tolee is a 5-year-old panda-loving koala who puts his friends first. He's the thinker of the group, and Kai-lan and her friends can always rely on him for good ideas and to think before he acts.
  • At 3-years-old, Hoho the monkey is the youngest of Kai-lan's friends. He's full of boundless energy, he's super good at jumping, and loves to DJ. Nothing makes Hoho happier than being the center of attention.
  • Rintoo is a rambunctious 5-year-old tiger who's best friends with Kai-lan. Rintoo has a thirst for adventure and thrills, but beneath the bravado he's a sweet and caring tiger who looks out for his friends.

Kai-Lan's Curriculum

Ni Hao, Kai-lan is the next generation of preschool television programming that introduces the psychology of biculturalism. If Dora and Diego popularized bilingualism, Kai-lan will weave together being bilingual and bicultural. Ni Hao, Kai-lan reinforces the idea that being bicultural and bilingual is being American.

The show will familiarize the viewing audience with elements of Chinese and Chinese American cultures to promote multicultural understanding in the next generation and goes beyond featuring "culture" as only ethnic food and festivals. Instead, it celebrates growing up in an intergenerational family, having friends from diverse backgrounds, and "habits of the heart" that are Chinese American.

Monday, February 4, 2008

My Mardi Gras cutie...

Grandma H sent these cool Mardis Gras beads for my big sister EJ. I think they're very pretty and sparkly. And they looking stunning with my Elmo shirt. But, alas, mommy thought they were a strangling risk and put them way up high after she took this picture. Phooey.