Sunday, January 4, 2015

Grandma Blankets

Steve's mom has been making knitted blankets for relatives for many years. Steve has one. His brothers all have one. The oldest grandchildren each have one and some have had a second, since they wore out the first. This year, Judy realized that she had never made blankets for the 5 younger grandchildren, so she made them for Christmas gifts. My girls were delighted!
The blankets are soft and fuzzy and the girls have slept curled up in them every night. Grandma even made them in their favorite colors.

 
Thank you, Grandma!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rae's View

My Rachel makes me laugh each and every day. She is a very literal interpreter of language and looks at the world differently than many people do and the results are often highly entertaining. She has had several interesting observations lately.

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[We were in the car listening to The Twelve Days of Christmas]
Rae: What's a partridge?
Joy: It's a bird, kind of like a quail.
Rae: What's a turtledove?
Joy: Another kind of bird.
Rae: Oh.
[Several verses pass - French hens, calling birds, swans a swimming]
Rae: Why does this song have so many birds? And why would anyone think they'd make a good present?

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Rae: My teacher said my brain was on fire. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Joy: A good thing, I think. Were you being really smart?
Rae: Yeah. It was during math. I knew all the answers fast.
[A few minutes pass.]
Rae: Mom? Does my head look okay?
[It is at this point that I realize that Rachel thinks her brain is actually in flames! She knows fire and knows it can be bad and her brain seems like a really scary spot to have a fire! The next day I tell her teacher that Rae isn't ready for metaphors yet.]

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The kindergarten teachers at Rachel's school each had an Elf on the Shelf. Rae was quite interested in the elves and their antics and checked up on them every day. She asked me several times why we didn't have an elf and I just answered that we had other Christmas traditions. (I have never liked the idea of a Naughty List or telling kids to be good or Santa will bring them coal. And I certainly did not want to have to come up with an Elf message every day!) About ten days before Christmas, Rachel cornered me in the car and asked, "Can I please have an Elf on the Shelf? Everyone in my class except two have one and they talk about it all the time. I know it's not real. The Elf doesn't talk to Santa and you hide him. But I want to have something to hide, too." This was too reasonable a request to just ignore. After more discussion, I determined that it didn't matter what we hid, Rae just wanted to find something every morning. And she wanted to be in on the hiding sometimes, too. So, Rudy the Reindeer joined the Christmas fun. We all took turns hiding him or setting up little scenes for him. Rachel was so delighted she's still hiding Rudy two days after Santa came.

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Rachel did some serious questioning of Santa Claus this year. Several times she asked me if Santa was real. I was pretty evasive, just returning the question with "What do you think?" Rae is only 7, so I was reluctant to admit the truth, especially since I couldn't tell where her thoughts were coming from. Did she hear older kids at school discussing Santa? Was she using logic to figure out that Santa's feats were impossible? She is so tuned in to the emotional messages behind words - did she hear the untruth in people's stories of Santa? I didn't know. So I did nothing.

On Christmas Eve, Katherine helped Rachel write a note for Santa and they left the usual milk and cookies. Rae wanted to add carrots for the reindeer, too. So we did. Rachel went to bed zinging with excitement about Santa.

On Christmas morning, Rachel and Katherine found a letter from Santa and plenty of presents. After all the gifts had been opened, Rachel surveyed the paper strewn living room. "Santa brought me a drum!" she exclaimed. I could hear the amazement in her voice. Never in her wildest dreams had she thought to ask for a drum. She shook her head. "I guess the Naughty List isn't real after all..." I don't know if that was the basis for all the Santa questioning, but she was clearly worried that she had done something bad!


Light Show

We went to the botanical garden's annual Christmas light displays. Trees, fountains, walkways, and buildings all over the gardens are covered in hundreds of thousands of lights. Some are even choreographed to music, blinking and flashing in time with songs. It was amazing! Also, rather cold and terribly crowded. I love visiting these displays, but I do wish that I had a private showing...
 
 
 

New Wheels

The girls got gift certificates for Christmas and were eager to spend them on some new wheels, so they went shopping yesterday and finally got to try out their purchases this morning.

Katherine has talked about getting roller skates for months. After trying on different styles, she decided on in-line skates and all the protective gear. She's still a little wobbly, but she can skate!

Rachel wanted a new scooter. She had declared her old scooter too babyish and it was too small. So a new scooter, complete with light-up wheels, was in order.
I have a feeling that these gifts will travel many, many miles!
 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

We spent the last few days before Christmas baking, delivering goodies to neighbors and friends, helping our pastor prepare the church, and sharing the excitement of what was soon to come.

We went to church on Christmas Eve. It is always the most beautiful service of the year.
The girls made each other gifts, as they have done the past couple of years. They opened them after church on Christmas Eve and were so pleased. Rachel made Katherine a fuzzy blue owl.
Katherine made Rachel a neon hair bow. Rae liked it so much she hasn't taken it off in two days!
The girls were up early on Christmas morning. Katherine had asked for building toys and got them.
Santa brought Rachel a drum. She had never thought to ask for one, but she was thrilled! Steve told her it was proof that Santa exists, because he would never, ever have bought her a drum.
The girls opened gifts of clothes and books and a few toys. Then we brought out an unexpected family present - an i-pad from "the best Dad in the whole world". Kate's face says it all...
We spent the morning enjoying our new things. Rachel and her doll Jessica, who has a whole new wardrobe, read for a while. Rae has suddenly moved from early reader books to the "chapter books" she has longed to read for years.
Kate curled up with a new extreme dot-to-dot book.
We had lunch at Granny and Poppy's, with Robie and Brandon and the Chicago cousins. We ate and visited a bit and then it was time for round two of gifts.

Katherine had asked for cowgirl boots. She and Granny went shopping over Thanksgiving break, and Kate has been patiently waiting ever since to wear her new boots.
Granny knows Rachel is in love with all things Frozen, so she gave her Anna and Elsa dolls. Rae was quite pleased!
My sister spent a lot of time trying to find gifts for Katherine. She's at an awkward age and doesn't even know what she wants. As usual, Robie was right on, as this is how Kate spent a good chunk of the afternoon!
Christmas evening, Steve's family gathered for more food and round three of gifts.

Steve's mom has made all of her grandchildren knitted afghans. This year it was my girls' turn. Rachel's blanket is pink and purple.
Katherine's blanket is turquoise and gray. They were both really excited about these!
It was a long, full, exciting day. My girls were able to spend time with all of their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and first cousins in the same day and that is something special. Merry Christmas!







Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Star of Wonder

Our church Christmas program was Sunday morning. The kids of the church had been working hard their songs and parts since Thanksgiving, practicing during Children's Church and again every Sunday afternoon. They knew their lines. They knew the songs and the actions. This pageant was amazing!
The play was about a group of cleverly named stars (Lucky Star, Falling Star, Rock Star, Shooting Star, etc.) looking down from heaven and watching the nativity story unfold. It was funny and sweet and energetic and made everyone cry, as Christmas pageants often do.

Katherine was North Star. She was supposed to be old and cranky, which she kind of liked, and she had to wear a curly gray wig, which she hated. She also thought her star costume looked ridiculous.
She had lines to say and memorized them quickly, as always.
She also sang as part of a duet and later, a quartet. Her voice is strong and clear and she sings with such confidence. It was one of those times that I was in awe of her...
Rachel started the show as part of the star chorus. She sang and did the actions and even danced a little. My stage fright girl is learning how to be a performer!
Later during the show she was an angel. She loved this costume!
The first time the kids practiced in full costumes, with Mary and Joseph and a real baby, some of the angels were so awestruck by Baby Jesus that they stopped to watch and had to be coaxed away to their places.
There is just something magical about little kids in ragtag costumes acting out a story over two thousand years old. I love that we choose this way of teaching to pass on our faith.







Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Gathering

My mother comes from a big extended family and they all get together at Christmas time. Last night was the annual event. My uncle and aunt hosted and over 60 cousins and kids showed up.
Rachel loves this gathering for the social opportunities that it brings. There were around 20 kids there and she wanted to play with each and every one. She wanted to skip dinner to play, so she and her dad had words!
Katherine, on the other hand, loves this gathering for the food. Everyone brings snacks and Kate tried them all. My great grandparents and their six children left Holland for North America 100 years ago. Once they were in America, they gave up all of their Dutch customs except one. Oleykoek. This is an apple and raisin studded fritter, fried in oil and tossed in powdered sugar, that is made only at Christmas. It is messy and unhealthy and tastes heavenly! My Chinese children are more than happy to honor their Dutch roots if it involves sugared doughnuts!

Katherine was trying to figure out who all of the people milling around were. She knew my aunts and uncles and my cousins and their children, but who were the rest. It was only when I explained that the little boy across the room was Granny's cousins' cousin's grandson that I noticed just how "extended" my family is!
Santa has been coming to this Christmas gathering since before I was born. This year he brought Mrs. Santa, too! She read the kids a story and made little comments about Santa's yearly weight gain from eating too many cookies. She suggested that the kids set out carrots for Santa this year! Santa just smiled and handed out presents.
Like my girls, I always look forward to this gathering. I love the food and the fellowship and the tradition. And I love the big, loud, confusing wonder of family.



I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters

Sisters

Sisters
Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way