Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A boy and his dog

Lambchop toy didn't last long...
A few weeks ago, we adopted a dog.  Some of you might be thinking, "But wait--didn't you just move a few weeks ago?"  Yes, we may or may not have gotten a dog one day after our household goods arrived. :)  As spontaneous as it may sound, this goal has been a long time in coming. I remember when Lo Lo was born, our landlord in Massachusetts had just gotten a dog that he was calling his "Baby" (which I, having just given birth to a real human child, thought mildly ridiculous).  He remarked that he and his wife weren't ready for a child yet; too much commitment.  But Jerry and I have always felt the opposite!  We could easily imagine having children right away and carrying on with life.  For example, children are allowed tenants at most apartment complexes.  But dogs aren't.  A dog has always seemed in the long-term goal list.  More of a capstone accomplishment than a whim to enter into lightly.  And apparently we have arrived!  
 Meet Kuma (Japanese for "bear" which is a cool name, the title he came with when we adopted him).  He is an awesomely unique solid black purebred German Shepherd Dog.  He can destroy a fluffy squeaker toy in seconds, shred a tennis ball in minutes, and became our loyal protector in a few days.  The first night he visited our home, he pretty much ignored us.  His gaze was fixed on his owner at the time, Mister J.  I love this aspect of the breed; German Shepherds are adoring to their families and aloof with strangers.  It makes me feel special to be the recipient of highly selective love.  He isn't like the labs and goldens who are friendly to a fault; Kuma intimidates most people when they first meet him.  I take him jogging and feel invincible.  I sleep at night with peace knowing Kuma is nearby watching over us.  More than once, people have asked me if he is a wolf, including my next door neighbor, who is a canine aficionado and breeds mastiffs.  Yes our dog fights through the fence with the beefy neighbor dogs.
Probably the most delightful part about dog owning at this stage in our lives is that the kids are young enough to be wholly enamored by their canine buddy.  They spend most of the day tagging along together, playing ball, brushing, cuddling, and "teaching tricks" to Kuma.  They have taught him such useful commands as "Lick," (he will lick a hand) and "Cross the Street."  (He walks across the street on a leash).  Kuma comes everywhere with us, waiting in the car if he isn't allowed in a particular store, but coming in if it's a store like Cabelas, D&B, or PetSmart.  He sits in the front seat of our little Nissan Versa Note--because it is the only part of the car he will fit in.  He pokes his head out the window while we drive.  I've also had him in the back of my dad's big Dodge pickup truck a couple times, and he gots a lot of honks and stares.  He is such a gorgeous, striking dog.

Because Kuma is a classic GSD, we are needing to constantly reinforce training.  He has a strong prey drive, and could play fetch for hours--but we are cautious to break up the ball throwing with obedience practice.  For example, when he brings a ball back to be thrown again, I first have him sit, lay down, or shake a paw before I throw the ball again. We are still working on him leaving slack in the leash while walking.  He stays a lot closer to me off-leash than on-leash, ironically.  I'd also like to see him be a little less barky, but don't have much hope of training out that part of him.  He is a German Shepherd afterall.

Anyway, we are totally thrilled and feel like all our dreams have come true.  Oh, and I should add that Jerry and I are referring to ourselves as Kuma's "Mommy" and "Daddy."  It really does feel like we added another kid to the family.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Father's Day Cake

The kids and I made Jerry a Father's Day Cake, Chinese style.  It had six eggs, two cups of cream, and only about one cup of sugar in it.  Oh, and lots of fruit.  The kids even cut the fruit, spread the custard filling, etc. Also, I made a second version of the cake with just me decorating it:
We gave this one away of course.  I was so proud of how it looked, how could we eat it all by ourselves?  ;)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hijab Mini Version

We live in a diverse area, so it isn't uncommon to see women in hijabs, the traditional Muslim head covering.  Babies don't wear them--except for my baby.  :)  She was crying about the wind blowing her hair into her face (her hair has gotten so long!) and I'd forgotten to bring a clip or hair tie for her.  Handily enough, I had a scarf to remove from my neck which held her hair back in a most capable manner.  I was impressed how well it stayed in place, even with her romping around the playground.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Donuts and Danny the Dragon

We used to live across the street from this darling amusement park/zoo so of course we got a membership and went countless times.  Now, we live an hour or two away (depending on traffic), so we won't be renewing our membership.  A few weeks ago, we went for what is probably the last time.  I felt nostalgic and decided it was worth braving the crowd to wait in line for the signature "Danny the dragon" ride.  It turned out to be 45 minutes in line.  The kids got a little boisterous, but Jerry played games with them and we all endured relatively well.  I must seem to obsess about it, but can I yet again mention how the crowds in this area put a damper on all there is to do.  Traffic, parking, waiting in line...when I think of our time in the Bay Area, the word "suffocation" is prominent in my mind.  Who knew I'm actually a country girl at heart??
Another line we waited in recently: the Donut Line! For National Donut Day, or whatever it's called, we stopped by Krispy Kreme and the kids loved watching the glazing line. This line was only about 30 minutes long? :)  Sorry; I'll stop complaining now.  We really did have fun and it was all worth it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What I Love about the Bay Area embodied in one photo

Sometimes (aka most times) I would relocate almost anywhere else in the US if given half a chance.  The SF Bay Area is expensive, crowded, and frustrating on a variety of levels for this Idaho girl.  But I know if we moved almost anywhere else, these are the points I would most likely miss:

  1. Best Climate Ever: We can hold birthday parties in November at a park and not need to have backup plans in case of inclement weather.  Yes, the above photo was taken in mid-November at Lo Lo's 5-year-old party during which all the kids spontaneously splashed in a creek and half of them went shoeless.  Now that it is March, it feels positively summery, but when summer officially arrives, it won't be much hotter.  It is almost always a good day to be outside here in the Bay Area.  I love it.  
  2. Diversity: My son's good friends in the photo above are Thai, Japanese-Mexican, and some other interesting mix...remind me to ask her mother next time we chat.  And this type of ethnic/racial diversity happens naturally in nearly every group setting in the Bay Area.  It feels like a spot of heaven, making me imagine how it must be someday when we come home to Heavenly Father with peace between all people of the earth.  
  3. Friends: we have moved three times in the Bay Area, and in each place, made remarkable friendships.  True, wonderful people reside anywhere.  But it's been a blessing that in the Bay Area there are enough job and school opportunities that we would never have to leave the area if we wanted to avoid uprooting our family entirely.  We could always stay geographically within an hour or two radius.  Does that make sense?  For example, we are still geographically close enough to stay in touch with old friends from the two previous moves.  Anywhere else we have lived, the moves have necessitated us going geographically too far to ever see our old friends again.  At this birthday party pictured above, we had 8 attendees from Lo Lo's former preschool--plus 4 "new" friends from our new neighborhood.  I like the idea of not having to really say "good-bye" when we have to move again.  The Bay Area increases likelihood of that happening.  
So there it is.  My three loves of this area.  I honestly could add a few more, like having awesome beaches just a few minutes drive from our home, or the Chinese culture appreciation opportunities, and hmmm...what else.  I have to keep reminding myself what there is to love here.  Because we're feeling pretty stuck here for the time being...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas Break

We did not travel or have Jerry take vacation time this holiday season. But our holiday was still bright. I collaborated with my siblings and parents to do a "Family History/Genealogy Calendar" which turned out to be one of the most meaningful projects we've ever done as a family. So I felt close to family, even though I was geographically not near most of my family. Jerry and I have kids that are old enough now anyway that we can have Christmas with just the four of us and it feels exciting.
Baby Ro is hilarious these days.  She loves bandaids, for one thing, which is a curiosity to me because Mr. Lo has always abhorred them (as well as hating stickers, finger-painting, and anything else...sticky).  Anyway, Ro burns through about a pack of bandaids per week, so I get casual about just handing her one when she shows me an imaginary injury.  In that photo above, Ro had asked for a bandaid at bedtime, saying her eyes were hurting.  I figured her eyes were just hurting from being tired, but unthinkingly handed her a bandage in her crib to pacify her and then left.  She fell asleep quietly like normal.  When I got her in the morning, I found to my chagrin she had a bandaid on one eye and was crying--not because she wanted it OFF, but wailing that she wanted another bandage to cover her OTHER eye!  I finally gave in and let her do it. Yes, she stuck them both in that exact placement all by herself.  She smiled the sweetest look of contentment afterward.  About an hour later, she asked me to take off the bandages, saying "Take off--see a little bit better."  Of course she screamed horribly when the adhesive pulled at her eyebrows and eyelashes.  But then said simply, "Thank you, Mommy."  Two-year-olds really are funny, funny, funny.
We made gingerbread (graham cracker) houses at a special library program on Christmas Eve.  Jerry wasn't there because he had to work.  :(  Note Baby Ro has a bandage on her forehead.  No, she did not get an injury on her head.  She just stuck that bandaid on for fun.  Other interesting places she has put bandaids: her ear, her hair, and her toes (taping all toes into one bundled package).  Sidenote: I was proud of Mr. Lo during the gingerbread project because he only ate Hershey chocolate, marshmallows, and pretzels--not any M&M's, gum drops, candy canes, jelly beans, etc. because we are doing a strict "NO Red 40/Yellow 5 artificial food dye policy" for him.  He has a clear behavioral reaction to those toxins.  He's remarkably self-sustaining on this dietary change, carefully asking anyone who hands him a snack, if it looks red/yellow/orange/green/purple etc. "Can you check the ingredients please?"  And sometimes when I've told him in a moment of weakness, "Oh, you can have a little food dye something or other," he says, "No thank you."  He has learned to feel the negative effect of the food dyes on his emotional state and tries his best to avoid it.  I'm so proud of his personal integrity to do that.  His preschool teachers tell me he is careful even at school when I'm not there, always asking before eating the snack to check if it has any food dyes.
Another activity we did during Christmas break was visit a local fun spot, Hop N Play.  It's too expensive for "everyday" fun, but since Jerry was working so much and all our friends were out of town or visiting with their own families, I got desperate and had to take the kids somewhere.  Lo Lo loved this oompah loompah inspired playplace.  He is athletic, strong and daring.  He did all sorts of gymnastics and romping around at this outing.  Ro seemed a bit overwhelmed by it at times, but had fun too.  I don't have many pictures because I was trying to keep a close eye on the kids to make sure they were safe.
The last fun activity we did during Christmas break was a visit to our local zoo/science center.  Why yes my kids were doing outdoor water play in December.  Gotta love California.  Ro and Lo could have stayed at this sand/water table for hours, but I dragged them away to look at the otter feeding.  We had a friend join us at this activity and had lots of fun.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cake 4 Kids

This 17 yr. old girl requested "cheerleader brownies" instead of a cake.  When I googled it..."cheerleader brownies" are "pot brownies."  Hmmm...I'm as drug-free as a person gets.  So I found some cheerleader themed cupcake papers and pics that looked like megaphones to use as decoration.  Three different varieties of brownie, because she didn't specify and "brownie" has a lot of options!  It's hard to pipe lettering on a non-smooth surface.  
The past year, I had a goal of baking once per month for the charity Cake4Kids.  I can't get the link to work. so just go to www.Cake4Kids.org.  While I skipped a couple of months, I did some other charity baking to make it all even out so I feel successful in reaching my goal. Here are some of the results (not necessarily all my favorite success stories, but the photos that I could locate quickest).

Apple cake with real caramel topping.  I free-handed the logo.  

These cupcakes were the only submission that earned me a "thank you" and report back from the social worker.  She said the 7 yr. old boy was thrilled with his requested LEGO cupcakes, carrot cake just like he asked.  

First time doing fondant.  I love it, but don't have the KitchenAid to help me make it on a regular basis.  No, I am not going to try hand-kneading the stickiest mixture on earth (marshmallows and Crisco).  I'd add a nice big eye for the middle "Mike Wyzowski" (sp?) layer if I were to do this cake again.  

top view through the cake box plastic looks cool.  :)  Like a nightmarish sunflower.  :)

An "emergency cake" i.e. the night before delivery was due, the other baker got sick and I accepted the last-minute role to fill-in.  So I wish I'd had time to pick up a soccer form pan from the cake library.  It's harder to free-hand soccer pattern than I first thought.  Pretty much everything about cake decorating is harder than I thought.  

This one was for my visiting teachee's kids, not the usual Cake4kids foster/homeless recipient.  Her twins were turning 2 and I begged her to let me do the cake.  She said, "the only word they know how to say is DOGGIE, so they'd love a cake having something to do with a dog."  And I love how this one turned out.  Very cute!  

This has been a very rewarding hobby. However, it has also make my family eat 10 times more baked goods than we otherwise would have consumed, because I tend to always bake a little extra, or do a "practice cake" if trying a new technique, etc. So I think I'll be taking a bit less cake decorating projects for the year 2015. Maybe try for every-other-month?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

homeschool musings

Christmas cards/letters are not happening this year, mainly because we moved this past September and I'm still reeling. Do we ever have a year when we do NOT move?? We are all still adjusting and truthfully I've been battling some depression/anxiety flare-up. It doesn't seem to matter how many times we move, I'll always feel overwhelmed about having to get new doctors, dentists, shopping places, schools, congregations, friends, favorite parks, libraries, etc. So I've noticed this past move went better for a month or so, because we kept strong ties to Santa Clara. I kept driving an hour each way to take Mr. Lo to school out there, because we'd already paid tuition for the term and loved the school so much. But now that we no longer go back to our old neighborhood on a regular basis, I've started to feel the reality of the move sink in. Ugh.
My kids with two of the "joy school" classmates on my day to teach
Lo Lo did FOUR different schools in 2014. We did a homeschool "joy school" type of co op January through May, followed by Wilson Parent Participation Preschool in the Fall. Also, I did concurrent enrollment in Ocean Grove Charter Homeschool (OGCS) this Fall. He's considered Transitional Kindergarten in this state and could have attended 5 days/week in a regular elementary school TK classroom. Then, after our move, we enrolled him in another parent co op preschool (I'll forego specifics on the name for security reasons, because he is currently attending). I am in a total quandry about what to do for school next year. I need to decide soon... Homeschool is great because we have a lot of support (i.e. funding) through OGCS. And I love that he could move at his own pace, with the benefit of one-on-one instruction. But, lately I've been so overwhelmed with just the basics of life like dishes, laundry and meal prep, I have a hard time picturing how I could manage to direct my son in any type of educational pursuit. Jerry is a lot better at getting our son to be excited about reading/writing/rithmetic. He is young still, I know, but I want him to move along and learn if he's ready--and sometimes it seems that the group momentum in a classroom setting really helps him stay motivated to keep working and learning with joy. He is the most extroverted person I have ever met. So I wonder if I could fulfill his HUGE quota of social need in a homeschool setting. There are not many homeschool co ops in our area where we could hang out with other kids his age.
All my siblings, their spouses, kids and my parents--the whole family in one place!  It will probably be years before that happens again...
Last month we traveled to Boise for my brother's wedding. Which brings me to another benefit of homeschooling--freedom of schedule. I would love to be able to plan trips, doctor appointments, etc. without any consideration for my children missing class. In fact, the trips would often turn into enhancement of their curriculum! It's such a wonderful concept. I love the idea of homeschooling. Just not sure if I'm the capable sort of person who could handle doing it. *sigh* Oh, and one more thought on homeschooling: most of the homeschooled kids I've encountered have been amazing. In a noticeable, shining light sort of way, they stand out from the crowd. I don't have statistics on that sort of subjective observation, but I cannot deny the impression I've received that homeschooling can bring out a child's glorious potential in ways that herd-style public education cannot. I'm a product of public school. I turned out "fine," graduated from college, had only a few years of being bullied/friendless, and mostly loved my teachers and classes. I think my kids would be "fine" in public school. Probably. But they likely would have some special benefits from homeschooling. I hope I can do it. Being prayerful and hopeful.
We visited Chinatown and Lo Lo started speaking Chinese because all the kids there did not understand English.  Behold the power of positive peer pressure...maybe I need to find him another good Chinese bilingual school...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Is a smile too much to ask?

My kids are very smiley. But after two different sessions for family Christmas card photos, we ended up with nary a toothy grin. I'll forego posting the Christmas card photo just yet, but suffice to say baby Ro looks like one of those pioneer photos--somber and starving. And Lo looks like somebody told him to smile but he didn't want to. Oh, wait, that isn't just "what he looks like," that's reality. All I wanted was a few cheesy happy faces--why are they so much easier to capture on the fly? Observe:
The photography studio was playing Tom & Jerry in the waiting area. I eventually asked for a change of video, because MAN that show is violent--but I wish I had filmed Mr. Lo's reaction before we switched to Dora the Explorer. He was watching the cat and mouse antics with all the energy of a crowd at a championship game. He leaped off his seat, cheering, screaming in delight, giggling and crowing with abandon. Everybody in the waiting room was watching HIM instead of watching the show. :) I think it was his first time to be exposed to "old style" 2D animation. There is something extra entertaining about the classic stretch effects, slap comedy, exaggeration, etc. that makes me convinced 3D animation will never quite replace 2D. Anyway, of course all Mr. Lo's smiles faded the instant we left the waiting room and got our photos taken. :/

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Let the Blogging Resume!

Baby Ro's morning hair and Lo's "American Symbols" wall for homeschool (he can tell you all about Mount Rushmore and the Star Spangled Banner)
We went about a year using limited internet, so now that we just got "regular" internet, I'll probably start blogging again with some regularity. Yay! Not sure how to handle the backlogged photos and news. I'll start by just giving a semi-recent photo of each kid and brief update on what's new with them.
Her favorite ride at Happy Hollow
Baby Ro is not so much a baby anymore, though people often guess she's younger than her real age of nearly two. She's short and has a big head (aka cute) and makes us laugh all the time with her efforts to communicate. She usually talks in sentences that contain a 2-5 words with good enough pronunciation that strangers often know what she's saying. She talks herself to sleep at night, which I know from listening on the baby monitor--very amusing to hear her chatter on to herself about her friends, what she did that day, etc. She's a stationary sort of girl, loving to sit and watch her brother at gymnastics, sit at the library storytime, sit in the grocery shopping cart, sit in the stroller, sit and color, sit and read, sit and...think? She pens the most elaborate drawings, even starting to do a classic circle with a cross in the middle (a developmental stage of drawing). She is naturally conscientious about putting the cap back on the marker when she is done using it. She has a tender heart and if she sees someone crying attempts to give them a hug or toy, etc. to cheer them up. Her favorite song is "I am a Child of God," which she sings! Her singing is so adorable! It sounds something like, "God...Child...Ahhh..." and she repeats those words a bunch in a melodious manner. :) The first words out of her mouth each morning are something along the lines of "Daddy awake? Ge Ge awake?" (Ge Ge means "older brother" in Chinese). She is old enough now to have some good playtime with her brother each day.
Since we don't have a yard, we have a liberal indoor play policy. 
That Lo is still as intense as ever. He has activities every day, from preschool to gymnastics to swim class. However, we are also homeschooling him through Ocean Grove Charter, because he could have done transitional kindergarten this year since he turns 5 in a month. At his preschool, which is the parent-participation type, I am always proud to respond when people ask, "which child is yours?" He is a noticeable child in the classroom, in a good way. He is enthusiastic, confident, and a good friend. By the second week of class, I had multiple parents approaching me to say, "Your son plays so cute with my child--when can we set up a playdate?" Besides his social development, I delight in noticing his mind growing and expanding. His view on the world is original and thoughtful (as is the case with all people I suppose?). Recently he was fighting off a cold and told me, "There are lots of germs in my belly. But I'm KILLING them with water! Because water is some kind of medicine." :) He listens to the Book of Mormon stories which Jerry put onto an old phone for him (Lo uses it like an MP3 player). He takes it with him to the park, in the car, etc. and knows the stories so well now, he corrects his parents sometimes on the order of scriptural accounts, like the fact that the king-men rise up before the Army of Helaman, and THEN comes the Pahoran/Moroni exchange. He sings church songs to himself at random times--while falling asleep at night, while in the car, etc. which always melts my heart. The songs I hear him sing most often are "Our Father has a Family, It's me...It's you..." (what is the real name of that song?) And "Army of Helaman."

This was actually a whole year ago at gymnastics.  I don't have an updated photo.  But he's still at The Little Gym, learning the same basics skills.

I am overall feeling at peace about how our family is doing, though I am prayerful and concerned about the effects of our moving so much and having limited outdoor play opportunity. I am thankful the Lord has given our children healthy development and so many natural talents that help them succeed through the challenges of life.