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.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Scrambling up the Walls and Aladdin

At our new healthclub they have a climbing wall! Tonito was a little spiderman, and made it over halfway up- look at that first picture of him!!?? This is his first time rock-climbing, and he was awesome. All of the other parents were asking how old he was, and then nudging their 10 year olds to "try harder- even a 4 year old can do it!" What made us proud is not how high he went, but that he persisted in trying, even though he was a little scared. Tonito has a great personality in that he is a very determined kid, who works to overcome challenges without getting frustrated. He might get scared, but he doesn't let that bother or hinder himself- this willingness to try is what will make him successful. Vivi was a little more scared, but still tried to be a "spiderwoman" and got nearly as high as Tonito after many attempts.
After rock-climbing we ate dinner outside in the town center, and then headed to the square for a children's drama troupe performance of "Aladdin." It might have been the kids' first time seeing a play/musical, and they really enjoyed it. Here they are in the front row:
Quite a big crowd sitting on the very hot pavement in almost 100 degree heat:
Maya had the best seat in the house- relaxing by sucking her thumb and twirling her hair:
The grand finale:
Pictures with Princess Jasmine and Aladdin:
The genie:
After a fun night the kids are now all asleep and in bed!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Transporting Water and Maya's new sayings

Finishing up our unit on the oceans, we made and tasted salt water, played with our ocean animals in the bath, and experimented on the best ways to transport water. I gave the kids about 10 different "tools" they could use to carry water from one bucket to the next: baggies, paper towels, spoons, a sponge, slotted spoons, a straw, a dump truck, etc. They had to determine which was the "best" and which didn't work so well. I loved their observations:
Me: Vivi, try this one (giving her a slotted spoon).
Vivi: (dipping it into the water and watching the water slide through the holes) Oh man! The water fell though mommy. It can't work!
Later, me: Tonito try this one (again, the slotted spoon).
Tonito: (dipping it several times and watching the water fall through). Mommy. There's holes. It doesn't work.
They voted that the sponge and baggies were the most fun and carried a lot of water as well. Maya had a BLAST. Seriously, she was working so hard, running from bucket to bucket as if she were on an important mission. She was so busy scurrying around and spilling water everywhere, and had a furrowed brow as she marched on the sidewalk holding the teaspoon perpendicular to the ground, dripping down her arm. Arriving at the bucket she would bang the teaspoon on the ground, trying to pound out any water left in it, smiling as she accomplished her duty. Had I only known that 2 buckets of chilly water and some spoons would have kept the kids busy for an hour in 100 degree heat (but we were in the shade!:)...
Maya's most recent phrases:
Maya is a little parrot, talking more and more every day. Someone asked the kids how old they were. Vivi and Tonito each answered "I'm 4." Then Maya did too "I'm 4." "No silly, you're one!" "NO! I 4." "She's 1." "2!" she argued. Already lying about her age. But the truth is, she thinks she is a big kid; in her mind she is another 4 year old and wants to do *everything* the big kids do. She is obsessed with Lion King, and every night wants "bebe Nana" (baby Nala). Or "Mommy Nana" (mommy Nala). She doesn't like Simba and says "Scary!" while shrugging her shoulders. She asks us to read the Lion King book (Nana book) 100 times a day, though she really just wants us to point to the pictures and name the characters.
Maya now asks for help in the sweetest voice: "You 'elp me, pease?" (she doesn't say her "h"'s). So adorable because she pauses and takes a breath after "me." She also says "I love you Vivi." "I love you Toto." etc. She even does it for Boudicca and Mingo, and then she laughs as if it is funny that she loves them. In the car she lists everyone in her little world that she knows, as if she is taking inventory. From the backseat I'll hear her shout "Gamma! Gampa! Co! Mimi!" and then she laughs "Leo! Sophie!" Everytime dogs are involved she thinks it is hilarious. She lists Timo, ah-een (Colleen), Didi, 'ita, 'ito, etc, etc. Copying Vivi and Tonito, she wants to buckle the top part of her carseat by herself and INSISTS "I do-ed it I-self!" She is very good at it. She loves princesses and can identify all Disney princesses "pin-cess." She calls her self "Maya pin-cess." When she wants her shoes off she says "shoes out." Every time she sits in her booster chair she insists on her "seatbelt" and won't eat until she buckles it. Then at the end of the meal she says "Seatbelt out (=off). all done."
If I am rushing around while she is still at the table with food, she throws it all to Boudicca. The only problem is that Boo cannot catch handfuls of soup, rice, mac and cheese, etc. Handfuls. Her fur gets covered, the rug gets covered. Did I mention we are in a rented apartment?
So when Vivi and Tonito get mad at each other, they tell one another: "I'm not your friend now," until they make up and then they are "best friends" again. The other day I almost choked on my breakfast when I heard MAYA saying "No friend Vivi!" She was telling Vivi she wasn't going to be her friend! Monkey see, monkey do- and this definitely is a house of monkeys!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day at the Beach!

We spent the whole day Sunday at the beach in Galveston, which is an hour away by car. Everyone from Texas has told us that it is not a good beach because we get the silt from the Mississippi River delta. Apparently the farther south you drive, (ie the farther from the mouth of the river), the "cleaner" looking sand and clearer water you get. Since we are from the midwest the brown sand, strewn with hundreds of little shells, was fine! We collected shells, made sand castles, and played in the water. The water was warmer than bathwater, and the waves were not too strong. Both factors cured Vivi of her ocean phobia, and enticed all the kids to run and jump in the waves for literally hours.

Tonito had a BLAST playing in the sand- his first real beach experience!

In the afternoon when the beach had less people, the dogs ran and played in the waves (Boo was terrified but obsessed with the driftwood stick, Mingo just jumped in the water oblivious to the stick).

We were so happy that Maya was not afraid of the water! Vivi at this age would yell "adios! Go away" to the waves. Maya just sat down and played even when a wave would come and wash her over. Obviously we kept a good eye on all the kids!

They loved jumping over the waves. Tonio took the big kids farther out and they LOVED it.

Tired and tan Tonito:

Vivi the Little Mermaid:

Sand Princess Maya:

Around 3pm we decided to drive along Galveston Island to check out other beaches. There aren't many rules that we could see about dogs or cars or bonfires, etc. On many beaches, people would just drive their cars onto the sand and have almost a sandy-tailgate party right there. They all had tents and umbrellas, grills, dogs, toys, we saw horses, etc. So here we come with our IL plates and minivan and try to drive on the sand to see the beach. You can guess what happened next:

Very stuck. I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt. We were the sideshow on the beach, even a police car pulled up next to us to watch Tonio try to dig us out. It was almost like quicksand, the more the tires spun, the deeper we sank. (that is wood Tonio tried to put to give me some traction- just for the record, I was not driving when we got stuck:). Finally some teenage boys and their dad came over and helped to push us out. Any tips? What do you do when you're stuck in the sand? I can get a minivan out of the snow using sand... but what do you use in the sand?
Anyway, we had a really fun day and no one got too sunburnt or dehyrated in the extreme heat and sun. Besides the last mini-adventure in the sand, it was an awesome Father's Day!:)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Welcome to Texas

One of Tonio's extremely nice co-workers made us a "Welcome to Texas" basket, complete with tortilla chips shaped like the state of Texas (I'm not kidding). Yum, really good Tejana salsa, bottles of Texan red and white wine, Texan beer, some candied nuts and Swedish fish in Texas containers, and lots of goodies for the kids! Even the dogs got gourmet biscuits (although after Mingo's recent antics of chewing the walls in our rented apartment, I'm not sure if they deserve them!). The red, white and blue lei's, bubbles and chalk are already being put to good use, and we will be opening the wine this week! Thank you so much Nicole- the items were so unique and "Texan," I'm still smiling about the chips. We really appreciate you taking the time to put this together, and look forward to meeting your kids soon!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


We went to Sea World- San Antonio! Friday night we drove the 3 hours to the dog-friendly hotel (Boo and Mingo got to come along). We all went to bed after eating quesadillas, watermelon, and carrot sticks in the car. When we got to Sea World the next morning, I was amazed at how BIG and Disneyesque it was- I had no idea!? Also, in case you ever go, the daily admission price is the exact same price as the "funcard," which gives you unlimited admission the rest of the year. Perfect! We headed to the sharks and coral reef exhibit first. The kids were very impressed with the huge sting rays flying through the water, and the even bigger sharks in the next dark aquarium:

Next we went to the Shamu show- but we were scared enough by their multiple warnings of being soaked that we did not take out our camera much. We did in fact get wet, which freaked out the girls. Vivi told us that she likes when whales swim in the sea instead of in the Sea World and it broke my heart. She is the forever compassionate animal lover! We told her that Shamu is here to teach other people how to love animals so that they will protect the oceans, and she seemed OK with the answer. Wasn't there a movie about a kid rescuing a whale?

After Shamu, we went back to the hotel. It was 105 degrees out and time for a cool nap. Tonito slept from the moment his head hit the pillow, Vivi slept about 10 minutes, and Maya about an hour. It was way too exciting to be in bed with either mommy or papi (we kept switching her to see what would work). After a couple of hours, we headed back to the park, this time with a schedule and a plan: playing in the spray park, roller coaster, the pirate show, dinner, crocodiles, the finally, sea lion show. The pirate show was scary, and Tonito was in heaven.

Here is Vivi and Tonito's first roller coaster!!!! Smiles from ears to ears!!!

We rented a stroller the first day, which was well worth it. I miss my double stroller so much!!!!

Day 2: We got to Sea World early, and went straight to the dolphins. You can buy a "tray" of fish for $4 and then lay on your stomach hand-feed the dolphins.
This was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I love dolphins and might have been more excited than the kids to be able to interact with them for a couple of minutes.

Maya wasn't quite sure about it, but she liked to watch when I or the kids fed them (and actually got mad one time I took her down off the rim of the pool).

Look at these gorgeous creatures- honestly, this dolphin is smiling!

After the amazing dolphins, we walked over to the penguin exhibit and found some characters along the way (missing Maya was too scared).
Another ride on the roller coaster before we left, this time braver Vivi wants to sit by big brother instead of mommy or papi:
Our hotel check-out was at noon, and since the dogs were relaxing in the air conditioned room we had to rush back to get them. It was a fantastic weekend, so fun, so nice to leave our apartment without cleaning it for a showing or an open house! ha! But also just to enjoy the 5 of us together experiencing new things together, aaaah.