Monday, May 28, 2007

May's Getting My Craft On

Ooooh the sweet smell of backpack redemption. After last month's back pack fiasco, I had to redeem myself in a flowery sort of way since this month's Get Your Craft On challenge was flowers. Since I've decided that I am in need of a summer backpack to tote around diapers and pool passes, this little cutie should do the trick.

I saw this pre-quilted material and could not resist. It sort of screamed SUMMER to me in the store in a preppy 1982 sort of way.

I used the McCall's pattern 4118, and believe it or not it was fairly easy. It even has a zipper entry in the back if you don't want to mess with the draw string top entry.

I've been on a bit of a fabric buying binge lately. I'm not even sure what will become of it all. But I'm picking up summer designer weight fabrics on sale and cannot seem to stop myself. I have a few friends who have summer birthdays and they might be receiving little copycat backpacks or other summer purses. Whether they want them or not.

Check out the yellow goodness on the right. I'm a yellow sucker. Purse handles were on sale too...need I say more?

I'm coming up empty on what to pair the blue and white floral with. Any suggestions?

What's up with the summer batiks and tie dyes you ask? They were clearanced at $1.00 a yard. Next weekend the Muffin Man and I have ridiculously invited the neighborhood to a backyard cookout. Yes, the entire neighborhood. All 25 houses are invited. What are we thinking? Ok, I admit it was sort of my idea and the Muffin Man had no sense to smack me on the head and say, "My God woman have you lost your last marble?" These materials will theoretically adorn the multitude of card tables that will be scattered throughout the backyard accommodating 50 people. (In my defense I 'm not cooking for all these folks, the cheaply distributed and poorly written invite clearly stated we'd front the hot dogs and please bring your best summery dish to share Mid-Westernly potluck style. I'm planning on topping off the colorful tables with clear bowls and vases filled with lemons and limes and oranges and then filling with water. I saw it done in a magazine once...tres chic. The Muffin Man thinks this idea is stupid and doesn't understand why we wouldn't run to Costco for some flowers to set up as centerpieces. He's a good egg all around, but creative vision. I promise to take pictures of the neighborhood clan next weekend and the 85,000 children if I am not sitting in the corner of my backyard rocking wildly and pulling out gray hairs one at a time.

So, that concludes Perrin's May GYCO tour de force. Peace to the people.

All Smiles

One more vacation picture I couldn't resist. After testing the waters (literally) for a few days Liv decides the pool is the place to be.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Doll Quilt

I have seen so many crafty blogs displaying doll quilts recently. I'm not sure why I'm a wee bit obsessed with quilting right now since :
1. I am not a big "country look" person and
2. my first attempt at quilting material was a complete bust.
However, when I saw my girls playing with the stuffed animals and dolls (we hardly have any dolls since Ava shunned them like like a polar bear in the hot summer sun) before Liv came into the big picture. Alas, perhaps she just needed a doll playmate? Now the girls seem to like to carry them around the house and of course give them super fast rides in the doll stroller going 30 mph around the sharp edges of the end tables in the playroom. My heart grows two sizes bigger as I see them play together and Liv really has a sweet way with those stuffed dogs and the scary Baby Mulan doll. She feeds them milk. Come on, doesn't that deserve an obligatory ahhhhhhh?

With all of this said, of course they need a proper doll quilt. Here were my criteria for this little project.

1. Cannot purchase one thing. I certainly have enough pink"ish" material around here collecting dust to craft up a small doll quilt or 20.
2. Must be uber easy. I haven't exactly proven myself quilt worthy yet. And I'm less of a perfectionist that the creative spirit type. (Quilts require math people.) I had to use 3rd grade multiplication, enough said.
3. Must be quick. As I am not a country craft gal, I might lose interest and start with the handbags again. You just never know.

Here is what I yanked from the sewing room closet last night. See what I mean about the pleuthera of pastels? I'd like to go on record as saying I'm hardly a pastel type of gal either, but almost 5 years in raising girls and you can get pretty pink'd if you're not careful.

So, off to work I went. The girls tucked in their beds with visions of pink sugar plums dancing in their heads. Ma in her kerchief holding back the almost grown out bangs, serious business began. (For posterity's sake I should post a picture of my over grown bangs. Ava keeps asking me what I am doing with them they are so bad.) Note to self: Must call for hair appt. Two hours later I had this.

At the last minute I decided to top sew some ribbons which I think might have been a mistake. I think I might have liked it better before the ribbons. Oh well, it is a doll quilt for two little girls. It's not hanging in the Smithsonian.
I left it downstairs for Ava to find this morning. She brought it to Olivia saying, "Hey, look we got a quilt!" Olivia replied with "Da?" Meaning where is my father?
Ungrateful little mite.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sea Turtles, Manatees and Dolphins

Who knew that Captiva Island was such a playplace for animal and humankind alike? The place is paradise I tell you. I did not take my sunburnt butt of the little island for 1 whole week. I did not ride in a car, rather turning all grocery shopping duties over the to menfolk, since let's be honest they got the chef gene anyway. My dad and the Muffin Man made a mean Iron Chef team as they cooked and grilled their little hearts out making shrimp pasta, pork tenderloins, fresh salads, and to die for hamburgers.

I walked from the house to the beach each morning by 9:30am with my treasure trove of children, beach chairs, umbrellas, colorful assortment of buckets, rakes and shovels, plenty of snacks, sun hats, sunscreen in 4 different numbers, and towels. I pushed the baby down to the ocean and we plunked ourselves there until naptime at 11:00am or there abouts. Then back to the house for nap, which she easily obliged each time due to copious amounts of playing and sun. Then after a yummy lunch of whatever the men made for dinner the previous night it was back to the ocean where Ava, Grandpa, and the Muffin Man were inevitable still playing beachy games. An hour or two later we moved the mountain of stuff to the neighborhood pool where we languished in bath like water until....happy hour. We flipped an imaginary coin, us adults, and loser got to make the cocktail run back to the house to bring the goodies back to the pool.

Rum and fruity punch tastes so much better while surrounded by H2O. It's a fact, look it up.

When Ava was 18 months we took her to the Carolina Shore. We rented the nice house, bought expensive plane tix, and couldn't wait until we could show our precious little one real ocean and sand and all the fun that comes along with the package. Want to know what she did? She screamed when her tootsies hit the sand. Yucky, she said. Yes, she was talking at 18 months and she truly did say Yucky. Needless to say my expectations were lowered with kidlet number 2's first beachy experience. No worries though, this kid was born on the South China Sea after all. Look at her face, she loved every minute of it. As long as you would let her shovel sand on your freshly Coppertoned body, she was happy to play along.

Ava of course was in her element since large amounts of playtime with larger than life beaches and pools were surrounding her 18 hours a day. She quickly obtained a brand new LBF little best friend named Jordan. I made the snap decision to slip Jordan a $5 bill in return for constant entertainment of Ava. Turns out, she was willing to put in the time for free. Jordan was a generous one. Not only did Jordan have a big brother named Jared, no I do not make this stuff up, but he could catch fish with his bare hands. Houdini, I tell you. Buckets and flower vases lined the shoreline with starfish, pencil fish, wormy things, and small spotted gills by the end of each day. The only competition was the ultra tame but emboldened herons who would follow the children and eat the catch right out of the buckets. Funniest thing watching those indignant children yell and chase those robber baron herons down the beach yelling, "Those are our fish, we worked hard for them."

If you were a heron would you mess with her?

When life got a little too dicey at the beach we would head on over to the marina across the street for manatee fun. The large sea cows would congregate to drink from the natural spring located at the base of the marina. They are federally protected so no petting was allowed. However, they were social and would approach us in mass. They would push their little nostrils up for air every 3 minutes giving us a close up glance at the barnacles on their backs. Truly amazing animals if you ask me. I could have watched and sat with them all day. But then I would be reminded that there were star fish to catch and sea turtle eggs to see. Believe it or not a mother sea turtle came up one night and laid her eggs on the beach right next to where we usually parked our chairs. (Ah, the nerve right?) Then next morning we were greeted by the conservationists yellow tape roping off the federally protected area for the next few months until the eggs would hatch. What were we to do but to Google Florida coastal sea turtles to see when the eggs might hatch. Not for another few months.

As you can tell, Captiva delivered and a good time was had by all. A special thank you to my father who truly made this break in our normally scheduled chaotic existence a reality for us. Now we are home. For me it is in body only. My soul is still at the ocean. Swaying gently in the breeze and calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

I leave you with my favorite memory and sight of last week.
Two of the cutest kids in the world, without a care in the world, surrounded by paradise.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Back Soon

We are off to build sand castles, sip fruity drinks, and eat shrimp.

Back soon unless I decide to become the pineapple princess, buy a little grass shack and play the ukulele while searching for Frankie riding the big wave. Afterwards we could play beach blanket bingo while toasting marshmellows with the gang.

Do you think the gang would mind if I brought my two small children?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

LBF Goes To The Mall

Yesterday, in my infinite wisdom I decided to take my two perfectly behaved and mild mannered children to the mall to do a Land's End return. (Bathing suit top needed in smaller size...notice it wasn't bathing suit bottom needed in smaller size...sad.) Anyway, did you know that you can return Land's End catalogue stuff at Sears? Me either. But you can. Schwing!

In addition to my children accompanying me, because I am the mother that can go NOWHERE alone...I also had LBF with me. LBF is Ava's little best friend. I've mentioned LBF before but to catch anyone who needs a refresher up to speed...LBF was adopted on the same day as Ava in a hotel in Hunan. They live 10 minutes up the street and are pretty much inseparable. I'm beginning to wonder if they are indeed Lao Tong, "old sames" from Chinese legend. They are sometimes freakishy close even for 5 year olds. So, LBF was mine for the afternoon and that bathing suit top needed to be returned before we leave on Saturday to pick 1 million grains of sand out of our toes and other crevices for a week. I popped her in the Dodge and off we went.

Have you as a white person ever taken a slew of little Asian kids to the mall in the Midwest? I've certainly taken one and now even two little kids...lots of stares and a few comments. Here's the deal breaker, three little Chinese girls twirling and singing at the top of their lungs being chased by moi really can attract as many wide eyed stares, head nodding, secret giggling and unsolicited comments as say a bald Brittney might walking down past the Wetzels Pretzels in high heels and a gold tone handbag.

I bribed them to act sane with pennies to toss in the fountain. This worked for 2 minutes until we drew a small crowd. Apparently two 5 year olds explaining the finer points of toss and wish to a coy and semi-reluctant 18 month old is far more interesting than the free cell phone minutes being dolled out by college drop outs from Sigma Chi at the kiosk next door.

Next, a bribe of ice cream for anyone who will walk quietly while holding civily onto the stroller. Ava shouts "Uh, I'd prefer a strawberry smoothie, it's much more healthy." LBF responds 16 decibels higher, "Are you crazy, girl? We are getting ICE CREAM. Which then leads to a rousing rendition of the old I-scream, You scream, We all scream for I-c-e-cream. Ugh.....Old people are now stopping us telling us their neighbors adopted from Korea in the 1960's. Teenagers are giggling, encouraging them to twirl as they sing. (I might add here they did seem to have almost perfect harmony as far as 2 5 year olds singing go.) I am trying to smile politely while practically spitting at Ava to move quickly and quietly.

New strategy. Hang back with the baby and let Sonny and Cher perform their little hearts out 100 paces in front of me. Perhaps mall security will pick them up and I can hit the Gap all by my lonesome, or with the baby, whatever. No such luck, I'm dragged to the ice cream stand. More questions about ethnicity and sisterly bonds of love while ordering 3 small swirl cones.

After icecream I'm done. $52.50 has been wiped off my credit card while a large size bathing suit top is on its way to a clearance rack near you. We head off in search of a black Dodge. We wave the Queen's wave to their adoring fans.

I silently promise to eat my own toenails before taking children to the mall again.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Chinese School One More Year

This weekend Ava completed one more year of Chinese School. In addition to her regular three morning a week preschool we have her enrolled at the local Chinese Community Center's Chinese language school. The class she attends is Chinese as a Second Language. (Their term, not mine.)

She goes Sunday afternoons from 1-3pm and sits in a high school classroom chair with her big girl backpack complete with Hello Kitty notebook and printed Powerpoint lessons. Her teacher sends the lessons via the internet each week and we print them off acting like we practice the 20 minutes per day that is strongly suggested. In actuality we practice Mandarin phrases and songs on the weekends right before she enters the class. There were a few five year olds in the class this year but mostly there were 6-8 year olds who are reading. The five year olds were at a bit of a disadvantage with the lessons since most of the 6-8 year olds cheat when Lao Tse asks them questions in Mandarin and look off their Powerpoint printed lessons to read the answers. The five year olds must try to memorize all the words and phrases since they don't exactly read English pinyin yet. So, overall I've been fairly impressed with her ability to hold her own.

I've remained pretty relaxed this year about pushing her to practice. I operate in whatever mode due to the fact that I just want her to go without kicking and screaming and expecting bribes of ice cream for attendance and good behavior. She has readily complied in untypical Ava fashion and pretty much goes without too much fuss each week. She reaps the rewards of knowing something interesting and unexpected at her regular preschool telling everyone who will listen that apples are ping guo and laughing while goading the boys with Ni jiao shen ma ming zhe? Wo jiao Ava Jing.

At the end of the semester I was asked to attend a planning meeting for next year. Some of the school's board is interested in what the Chinese as Second language (CSL) parents think and want to be accomodating. (For the record most not all but most of the CSL families are indeed adoptive families.) What has happened is that the CSL class has for all intents and purposes turned into an adopted kids class. Not much integration happening. (Honestly, I have been highly motivated to keep going in hopes of integrating more with the Chinese families. But it is a slow process, that I am not making any faster by bringing my knitting and comfortably sitting with the other adoptive families while Ava is in class.)

Some parents want some history and culture in addition to language instruction in the CSL classes. The board members running the school are completely baffled by this this request. They are very hesitant to take away any time for strict language instruction. They feel the children are hardly being exposed enough with 2 hours a week and any true level of competency can hardly be reached with the way things are, never mind adding culture only curriculum. I see their point, they are offering Mandarin lessons, not This Is The Cultural Revolution 101 lessons. At this meeting there was a divide among proverbial nations. Around that table the American parents wanted fun but educational learning opportunities so it will be easy for us to convince our kids this is the best thing since sliced bread and the Chinese parents who simply roll their eyes at our obtuse parenting styles. To them it is easy, study hard do whatever you need to do to achieve greatness. Period, end of story, no whining, stop sniveling.

So then, where are we? Some parents actually believe their child can achieve Mandarin fluency in 2 hours of instruction a week without serious reinforcement at home. In my opinion this is sort of a joke. Probably isn't going to happen. I speak from experience here and it takes a heck of a lot more than 2 hours a week and minimal practice at home to truly learn a language where no one has proficiency in the household.

What is the consensus motivation for us American white folks sending our Chinese born kids to the classes in the first place? I think that is a question that the Chinese Community Center has been asking us for a while. My observation is that there is no true unified consensus. Each family has their own slightly different motivation for spending the better part of Sunday afternoons at the school.

1. Language instruction
2. Cultural subjection for the children (or perceived cultural exposure)
3. Place for children to be in racial majority
4. Ease of guilt after children were pulled from native culture (this may be controversial but I'm calling them as I see them)
5. supplemental avenue for academic achievement

This list encompasses a fairly wide range, thus making it hard for all of the people to be happy all of the time with one or two language class options.

Where does this leave us for next year? I wrote the check and signed Ava up again. I loved her teacher this year. She did a phenomenal job balancing her bosses requests for traditional Chinese language rote instruction and the American families request for Western teaching style. I'm banking on her staying another year.

Because integration with Chinese families and children are important to me I've decided to ask Ava if she wants to take the after school dancing class in addition to the language class. The dancing classes are heavily populated with Chinese children and very few adoptive children have signed up so far. This means another hour at the high school.

This whole thing is sort of life in a test why not try it? I'm often asked by other parents why we go to Chinese school and how long do we think we will stay and continue to take classes. A few years ago I was naive and stated it was so important to us and we are in it for the long haul. Now, it is day by day semester by semester. I have no idea what the future will hold. I have no idea how to balance her American upbringing with her Chinese heritage. Sometimes Chinese school and what it represents serves to confuse me and make me doubt my parenting choices. (I'm sure this would be reassuring to Ava if she were old enough to read this or begin to comprehend.) Perhaps her autobiography will be one day titled "One Chinese American Life: My Life As A Lab Rat"

Only time will tell....I'll be sure to report back in 20 years. Maybe I'll know more then.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Three Wheeling

I love this photo. The Muffin Man took it as the girls were settling in for a jog. Yes, it's my sweetie pies Evita and Pink tilting their little heads for the camera as if to state clearly we are cute and we know it. Now give us Dora The Explorer popsicles. But that is not the reason I love the picture.

I love it because they are close. Look at them all smooshed up next to each other in the double jogger/biker. Could you score a better hand-me-down gift that the double jogger/biker?

I love it because they really do enjoy being all smooshed up next to each other using the backyard bench cushion to pad their bony little butts. They share snacks, they pass water bottles back and forth and Ava will put her arm around Olivia and make sure she has her pink blanket when she gets tired. They really enjoy each other's company. Or perhaps Ava is always just so desperate for human companionship she is truly grateful for the warm body. Or maybe Livi just sees , ahhh big sister gawdess who has an uncanny ability to negotiate cookies from parents. But I'll take it, no matter the root cause or intention.

For right now it is sisterly bliss. Ava asks if Liv misses her when she comes home from preschool. She will push Liv around the backyard in this stroller stopping to attend to Liv's needs when she utters a groan. Liv in return will hold her hands up to Ava when she sees her stating, "PPPPPP". Which in Livi-ism means "Hi, Up pick me up."

It makes me wonder, when will the back biting, hair pulling, she got this and I want this start? I know at some point they will fight, tease, jab and cajole each other, all siblings do. But right now either they aren't sophisticated enough for the complexities of sisterly disfunctionality or maybe they are still young and sweet, bringing out the best in each other.

Either way, when they do decide to fight someday I'm holding on to this photo and this memory. I will use it to show them how sweet they are together.

These are the good old days. That's what I'll tell them.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sad Little Backpack

Did you have have a home craft project go terribly wrong? And you knew it was going badly before 1/2 way through the project and yet you persevered in denial thinking..."Well, maybe I will be surprised and it might turn out ok?"

Yep, this is the little backpack gone bad. Sad little backpack.

I had a pattern. So I can't blame it on not being able to figure it out. I even had nice fabric, which thankfully I scored on serious sale or I'd be even more depressed than I am now...backpackless and a wee bit mopey.

Here is what went wrong. I listened to this lady who really looked like she knew what she was doing at my favorite J store. I have some issues staying away from the J store. Anyway, I was grumbling about the price of pre-quilted double sided fabric since I wanted to make myself knock off Vera Bradley bags. I like some of these handbags but I'm not $90 in love with them. So, I strike up a conversation with this employee at the J store who tells me "Don't pay $17.00 a yard for pre-quilted fabric, honey. Quilt it yourself." She goes on and on about how easy it is and if I have any experience with fabrics and my sewing will be a cinch.

Ha, crazy J store lady was indeed on drugs. It wasn't a cinch. It was a nightmare. Trying to get the batting evenly in between the two layers with out bunching was time consuming and frustrating to say the least. I have serious holes in 6 of my fingers.

After, 1/2 ass quilting the material I tried to use it. Perhaps I used too much batting. It was too thick to fold and double fold and then try to get into the machine. I broke 6 needles on this project from hell.

I just couldn't come out of denial that it would be a wash after all that work. So, I persevered. And I tried to fix by hand sewing some pieces. I finished it this afternoon, took a picture, wrote about it and will be cutting off the expensive D rings to use for a later project. I plan to also cut off the straps and make a little tote bag out of some of the scraps.

Sad little backpack project. Chalk this one up to live and learn.