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.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dance Party and Possum Update

Here are some silly pictures of one of our evening dance parties. Vivi has high heels on. HIGH HEELS!?!?! My pre-tween also designs purses at preschool with her BFF Kaily (elaborately drawn on paper). She loves to dance and is begging me to get her into ballet, so as soon as things settle down and we see if Tonito needs OT, etc, we will get her and Maya into some kind of dance class. What is cuter than little girls in tutus??:)

So since we moved in, we randomly hear noises above our head as we are lying in bed. The first time it happened, Tonio went up to the attic above our room and didn't see anything. We assumed it was squirrels on the roof above the attic. We heard the noises a couple of other times, always just in the early morning. The last time, we heard the animals again. They sounded heavier than squirrels- maybe a cat-size. They were running back and forth right above our heads, and would scratch at the wood in the corner, and then run back. I woke up Tonio and we sat there looking up at the phantoms above our heads. He went up to the attic and didn't see anything. But when he came back down, the animals came back. It was nerve wracking to know there was something on our roof or in our attic, but we couldn't figure it out. I asked Tonio to sneak up and try to catch the bugger. He tiptoed upstairs, quietly opened the attic door... and saw the possum!!!! It looked at him, and disappeared in a hole that looked like it led into our bedroom. When we explored outside, we discovered a 10 inch diameter hole behind our air conditioning, where the cables lead into the house. No cover, no insulation, just a hole (pipe). I read on-line that possums eat cockroaches- welcome to the open house, all you can eat buffet! No wonder we were finding cockroaches in our office, the first stop on the tour. Since we blocked off the huge entrance, we have had no more visitors! For good measure, we did get a cage from animal control and prepare a sardine feast to see if there were any stray possums left behind. Vivi thought we needed to make the trap "more cozy mommy, so he'll want to stay." She also assumed we would keep him for a pet, so Boo and Mingo would have another sister (hmm, I';m not sure that the dogs would be as friendly as Vivi is imagining). If we did catch the elusive-and quite ugly- pests, the possums would be relocated to a nearby park. I was hoping they would blindfold them and spin them around 10 times so that we would have time to patch up the hole before they find their way back. I don't mind them hanging out in our yard and munching on any cockroach they find- it's just the climbing through our walls, ceilings and attic that was a little freaky.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sisterly Love

Maya's first night in the big girl bed! We got bunk beds that have a full bed on the bottom for the girls, and also for any guests. After many preps, I asked Maya "What are you going to do when Maya turns off the light?" Her response, with the biggest smile possible: "PLAY!!!!!" At least she is honest.

What do you get when you put 5 year old and 2 year old sisters together in bunk beds? A lot of late nights and early mornings! We, as a family, are learning about sharing bedrooms. It (sometimes) works well when we can get Maya to sleep earlier... well, it works when Vivi doesn't then wake her up to play. The first night of bunk beds they insisted on sleeping together. That lasted until 9pm when the giggles floated downstairs. We got Vivi back up to the top and they soon fell asleep. Another night, we were lying in bed at 10pm and Maya exuberantly bounces into our room: "I wake up!" By the time we scooped our smiley pink little elephant-clad baby girl, curly Vivi comes traipsing through the door with her squirmy smile. She knew she shouldn't have woken up Maya, she knew they shouldn't have been playing... but the temptation of princesses and castles was too much! We have explained about sneaking into bed at night, and then sneaking out of bed in the morning, and so far we have about a 50% success rate. This picture was taken one night, well after bedtime. It was a joint venture, although only one of the partners allowed us to photograph her.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Vivi! (and Tonito!)

When we started planning Vivi's birthday, Tonito reminded us that we hadn't had a birthday party for him. We had just moved in and didn't know anyone, and I promised him we would have one later with his new friends (once he acquired them:). So we found a gender-neutral venue, and invited Vivi's girl friends and Tonito's boy friends. Everyon ran around the bouncey houses and inflatable obstacle courses, ate pizza and cake, and left tired and happy.

Siblings and parents were invited too, and it was great to have extra eyes and hands to watch over all of the monkeys:

Of course 1 birthday boy and 1 birthday girl means 2 different birthday cakes: in this case, Lightning McQueen and Princess Tiana:
I found out (after I already picked up the cakes) that Whole Foods makes vegan cakes, AND they are the same price as a 1/4 sheet at Target! They also sell individual slices, so Vivi was able to enjoy egg-free birthday cake on her birthday with everyone else. The party was so much fun!! I really like all of the kids' friends, and get along with their parents as well (and that doesn't always happen). We had never had a party that wasn't at home, and coming home to a clean house was definitely a big perk:). All in all, this party was a success. I am officially the mom to TWO big 5 year olds (and one mini 2 year old).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pucker Up Furry Friends...

Boudicca (aka Boo, Booty, Boosie) is half Golden Retriever, half Border Collie. She is "my" dog. I had a bad car accident when we first moved back to the States after our stint in London. My neck, back, and shoulders were really sore, and so to cheer me up Tonio took me to an animal shelter near our house. I saw 13 little black and white puppies pouncing around, and one more huddled in the corner, scared of all of the big dogs barking. I am THE softy for underdogs (I'm an ESL teacher and a Cubs fan, what can I say??), and this time the under"dog" was Boudicca! I asked to hold her, and told Tonio he needed to go to an ATM and take out cash because we were taking her home. I sat there and cuddled her- she was trembling either from the cold (it was January) or because she was scared and I put her in my jacket and fell in love.

For the next couple of weeks she warmed me up on the sofa while I recuperated from my accident. I remember our first house's windows were single pane, metal framed, cheap 1950's windows with ice on the INSIDE of the house. The curtains blew in the breeze sneaking around the metal frames where sunlight shone through the cracks that opened our living room to the outside elements. Seriously. Boudicca and I would wrap up in an afghan and watch TV together while we waited for Tonio to come home from work. Fast forward 7 years and kids have taken Boo's perch on the top of the totem pole. She is the most loyal, obedient, hoping-to-please-you dog. She is terrified of storms and is our own personal barometer, letting us know it will rain in the next couple of hours by hovering in the corner and shaking tremendously. Tonito is her protector when it rains, Vivi likes to play vet with her, and Maya dresses her up. She drives Tonio crazy with what our vet calls "submissive urination" (I'll let you google that). She sheds like crazy and sneaks onto the couch when we're not around- but she is a very good guard dog and does not like when any strange man comes near us. At the same time she is SO good with the kids, and lets them crawl all over her and dress her up, or lead her around the house pulling her collar.

Mingo is a Heinz 57 dog: part Husky, part German Shepherd, part Collie?, part Lab? (this is what the shelter told us, but who knows about the last 2?). She is "Tonio's" dog. We went to the same shelter maybe 10 months later and saw a litter of *white* and grey puppies (husky colored). One of the dogs had "weird" blue and brown eyes, German Shepherd coloring, and was jumping on all of the other puppies and biting and wrestling with them. Tonio immediately saw this frisky dog messing with the other ones, and fell in love. I tried to convince him to get one of the cute white ones cowering in the corner, but he was already leading Mingo out the crate towards the exit. Mingo is almost completely blind, but has an amazing sense of hearing and smell and can tell that someone is walking past our house even if she is inside in a far room. She adores Tonio, and does not leave his side when he is home- sleeping on his feet if he's working in the office, or waiting outside the bathroom for himwhile he showers. Mingo's personality is the opposite of Boo's: if they were people, Boo would be a nervous tax account on April 14th, startled at loud noises. Mingo would be a surfer dude with long, sunbleached hair. When I yell at Mingo to get off the couch, she lazily stretches, moans, does a couple of yoga poses, and then slowly gets off the couch. I am definitely not her alpha male, nor am I remotely dominant in her world. Mingo is a very good guard dog, and would give her life for any of us. She also has her vices, such as digging in my yard, anxious chewing (though plug-in phermones have changed our lives and eliminated destruction!:), and at times she doesn't seem potty-trained. And she eats grass, which might end up revisiting us. And she sheds like crazy. But she is a very good dog with the kids, and nippy or aggressive behavior is the one thing I wouldn't tolerate.

Our dogs get a LOT of love (from the kids). It balances out the times they get in trouble for doing things dogs do. I hope that they live a long time- and Tonio's hopes to clone Mingo for the future...hehe.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Visiting the preschool classes! Vivi and her violin!

We were so excited to show ita and ito the kid's preschool! The teachers graciously invited us in and let us read books in each of the kids' classrooms. Here's Tonito's classroom, with Miss J- they are taking turns being meteorologists, and discussing the highs and lows of the day. They also are learning to count to 100 and are already in the 70's. Tonito fits in really well and it amazes me that a year and a half ago he didn't speak any English!

In his classroom he has a nature/science table (see the aquarium I donated?:) and he loves to look at the bugs and pinecones, seeds, acorns, etc. They have some great magnet manipulatives too, and some fun texture boards.

Here is the reading corner- each family made up a little poster of family pictures so when they are reading they can be surrounded by loved ones. Tonito prefers the computer next tot he reading center:), but he does like to show people his picture. He also loves to play with the cars with his buddies, and likes to build things with the blocks. He's a little bit of a class clown because he is so silly, although his teacher says he is good at listening too.

Miss J took a picture for Tonito with his ito and ita- he was so proud! It a read a book about cars and Tonito told the class how he drove in a car for a loooooong time to Mexico. I wonder how long 24 hours in a car feels for a little kid? It must feel like forever:).

Next we went to Vivi's room. Vivi was showing us the different centers and I forgot to take pictures! Her favorite activities are the art projects, drawing pictures and writing letters, the easel, the puzzles, and pretending things with her friends. She likes to organize situations ("let's pretend the cat broke his leg and it's an emergency!"). Both Vivi and Tonito love having friends to play with!
Maya is the baby of the class, since she has an August birthday and because she is a little peanut. Despite her little size, her teachers say she likes to have long conversations with her 2 girlfriends (who knows what they are talking about!?:). Her classmates look enormous next to her! Of course she wanted to sit in my lap the whole time, so I sat on the rug and sang songs with them, and ita read a couple of books.
Her teachers are saints. Seriously. Every single time I go into read (which is at least a couple of times a month) there is always one kid crying about some invisible problem, someone just peed in their pants and needs to be changed (this is the age of getting rid of diapers- imagine potty training 12 kids at once!!??), someone is tired because it is already 1pm and they are ready for nap, someone incessantly is asking for their mommy, and then 4-5 kids sit with me and listen to the books. When circle time turns into pandemonium, the best turnaround activity is for me to sing- in my loudest voice- one of the greatest hits: twinkle, itsy bitsy spier, abc, wheels on the bus, head and shoulders, etc.
After naps, it is time for Vivi's violin lesson. Vivi has been asking to play the violin since she was 2 years old and saw a Cri-cri video of little animals playing the violin. She used to pretend play it with her arms when she could barely talk! I had been promising her that I would find a teacher that would teach her, and finally I found a great woman who uses the Suzuki method, and agreed to take on Vivi. She is still on the kleenex box violin (and has been for a month) until she learns the different twinkle variations, the notes, the rhythms, the parts of the violin, how to take care of it, how to stand and hold it, etc. It is hard work! Suzuki method is very parent-involved, and every day I need to practice with her how to hold the bow and the posture of the violin under her chin, etc. Vivi really, really, really likes it and begs me to practice with her. She wants a really violin so badly its like a magnet in class. Her hands can't stop touching her teacher expensive violin and we have to focus her attention and what she is learning, and promise her that soon we will rent a real one (she asks me every day when she gets her real one). With all of this practice at home, Tonito is now begging to play the drums. Our promise to Tonito after much negotiations: when he gets his cast off he gets to do 3 things. 1) take swimming lessons 2) take kung-fu (he is way more excited than I am about this one!) and 3) learn to play the drums. He came up with a challenging list for mommy to fulfill!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our Desert Projects

After our museum trip, we came home and made a desert scene. The kids *beg* me to do "projects." In their mind, a project is something that makes a big mess, includes various medias, takes a long time, and they are "in charge" of most of it. I put out plates of brown paint mixed with sand, and blue paint, and they "set the scene." On separate papers they made their cacti (we had learned about saguaros and pincushion cacti) and then cut and paste them onto their deserts. Then we went on-line to google images and grabbed all of their favorite desert animals that they had been learning about: rattlesnakes, kangaroo rats, foxes, coyotes, pumas, roadrunners, scorpions, falcons, golden eagles, hares, etc. The each cut out their favorites and placed them in the night desert. The cutest part about the projects is how proud they are. We are almost done with the letter "d" and next is "h..." I need some "h" project ideas!!!

Butterfly Center

We took ita and ito to the Natural Science Museum! Instead of IMAX, this time we did the planetarium. I think I am subconscously trying to get my kids to be scientists when they grow up. The buttefly center wasn't as filled with butterflies this time, although the vegetation is always lush- I guess the season isn't ripe for caterpillars?

My budding entymologists study the carcasses of creatures I would not want to find alive in my house (well, the butterflies would be OK, just not the roaches as big as your hand. We have enough of those already).

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!!! Feliz Anio Nuevo!!!

We took the kids downtown to see the kids new year's sights (Dinos on Stilts, graffiti artists in action, and a mediocre DJ). Then we put them to bed at 8, because they don't have a clue what New Years is! hahaha. We made tapas and paella and had rioja, and talked about our resolutions.
I hope this year is healthy and happy and not stressful, that we spend a lot of time with family and that we keep laughing and loving our kids.
Here are the Top 10 Resolutions
•1. Stop smoking
•2. Get Fit
•3. Lose Weight
•4. Enjoy Life More
•5. Quit Drinking
•6. Get Organized
•7. Learn Something New
•8. Get Out of Debt
•9. Spend more time with the Family
•10. Help Others
Which of these apply to you!??