Saturday, February 27, 2010

New experiences

As of tonight, I was just sure I would have pictures to upload and be able to announce that at least one or hopefully both girls, had won in the science fair. Neither did, but that just shows me how tough the competition is because my girls' experiments were brilliant and deserved a prize. OK, probably bragging, but I know they deserved a prize for perseverence and getting the work accomplished and in on time! That was a HUGE accomplishment and took ALL of us working together.

One of the things I have been fretting about is my inability to show the girls about varied sports, careers, and overall experiences.

My life is fairly boring without the part with the girls, and I have never done sports, been good at any outdoor activities, like camping, and my jobs have usually been marketing and/or social service types of things.

Dad and Mom do a good job of broadening their experiences, but sill there is just so much that grandparents can do too.

But thsi week has provided them with LOTS of new experiences.

Last Friday night, Grace chose not to go with Annabel and I to meet the older girls from China for dinner and then to the Chinese New Year's festivities at the Crow Museum. This was our first experience out together and we had a good time and got to see up close and personal how to do paper cutting and other events.

Then SAturday, the girls went with their school to the University of Texas for Girls in Engineering Day to introduce them to the potential of being an engineer when they grow up.

On Wednesday we stopped by to visit a friend who is raising chickens. They each got to chase one and catch it and hold it. Grace did a great drawing of one afterward.

Then today, a friend and her daughters dropped off the Girl Scout cookies we had ordered. While here, she taught them to do some basketball shots and how to do a somersault, neither of which I can do.

Annabel wants to join the Girl Scouts and their next meeting is a camping trip!

Maybe we can find LOTS of new and different experiences just by looking to our friends!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yippee! Or why I LOVE Dr. Seuss!

Please celebrate with me as I proudly announce that Annabel is now interested in Dr. Seuss books!

While on the surface this may not appear to be worth celebrating, for me it is a HUGE milestone!

For the last 18 months, I have tried to find any book that Annabel might seem even remotely interested in reading or trying to read or want to read badly enough that she would begin to read.

I have bought beginning books.

I have bought Chinese/English books.

I have bought beginning chapter books.

I have bought books on dogs.

I have bought books on China.

A friend loaned her Hooked on Phonics.

We looked at computer programs.

We bought pre-K workbooks.

But she showed no interest in reading.

I would not let Grace sell her Dr. Seuss books because the rhymes and the stories are classics and I kept hoping there would be a time that Annabel might get hooked by reading just one.

Grace would sit with her and try to read them.

I worked with her on reading them.

Her English teacher tutors her regularly.

Her ESL teacher tutors her often.

But still NO interest in reading.

Sunday, she snuck Grace's Dr. Seuss books in her bag to go to church.

Then it happened!

She sat there and tried her best to read the book to Mom!

OK, that might have been the problem - I did not get her to read to Mom!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sex sells!

"Mom, how many 'Sex Sells' do we have?"

I was asked this on the way home from work today and since we have been buying books for our library I quickly did an inventory of the more recent books delivered to see if I had ordered something that was titled that way.

My response was, "Huh?".

Brilliant, right?

So she asks it this way to make sure I understand it, "Mom, how many 'Sex Sells Jeans' do we have?".

I personally only have 2 pairs of jeans, none of which I think would sell anything!

If you are familiar with Dallas, I am on Loop 12, heading south right where it intersects with Interstate 30, which requires crossing a lot of lanes, traffic, and much manuveuring!

My brain is going into over time. I always think about the films showing how your brain looks for files and mine was spewing files from all drawers trying to think of why my little darling is asking such X Rated questions!

On the way to school they received a LONG lecture on not keeping secrets, that it is always better to ask me about things rather getting in trouble for doing something they should not, and overall that if I let them go with their school group to Austin on Saturday, I do expect perfect behavior that even a Sunday School teacher would approve of.

AND NOW THIS????

Is she testing me to see if I really will talk to them in a realistic way if they are just honest with me??

Finally she helps me understand.

On our science test today I think I got the answer wrong on how many sex cells we have and do you think they have matching pairs of genes?

I hope my heart has finally slowed down!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sex, inherited traits, and family trees

This post is out of order, but have been meaning to talk about this for a while.

Science is a subject that both girls really enjoy.

But somewhere in science class you always come around to inherited traits.

Birth parents have been a hot topic on the yahoo groups recently for the parents of adopted children. Many mention that their child(ren) have had lots of questions about their birth parents and many want to "find" them.

This amazes me as my girls did not seem to even be aware of the idea of birth parents. They are not who they talk about. They have no idea who they were and there is no connection there. That's why I am surprised that other children even bring up the subject.

Mine girls do talk about their foster families quite often. Grace seemed even surprised the first time I brought up the subject of birth parents.

No, we do not know who their birth parents are. There was nothing to indicate who they were when they were left, or abandoned. I get the impression that most birth parents would prefer to stay anonymous until they are SURE they can safely identify themselves. Or maybe the circumstances were such that it will never be something they want to do.

Anyway, we were driving along and Annabel announced that she had learned we all have 46 sexes.

Thank goodness they ride in the back seat!

I asked if she meant chromosomes rather than sexes, and she thought she might!

For science they had to do a family tree with inherited traits to determine dominant/submissive traits.

Annabel had asked me lots of questions about Mom and Dad and myself, about rolling our tongue into a taco, ear lobes attached, color of eyes.

She had done her tree with all of us on it.

Grace on the other hand had explained the situation to her teacher and had just made up characteristics of her birth parents. She did not show me her project so not sure what she did.

She did not ask me any questions about what I thought her birth parents were like or why she has dimples, or the color of her eyes. She did ask me the other day if I thought she looked Chinese. I've tried to explain that China is very diverse and there are a lot of different ethnicities within the Chinese population and contrary to most beliefs they are a very diverse nation.

I'm not sure it means much yet. I am curious as to what their teacher thought about the way each handled it. I'm more curious as to when or even if questions will be asked about their birth parents.

Valentines and Chinese New Years = El Fenix!

The big question yesterday, that Grace asked repeatedly was, if it is Chinese New Years and Valentines, why are we going to El Fenix?

Dad had invited all of his "sweethearts" to lunch at El Fenix and none of us were going to turn that down, but only Grace felt there was something not quite right with that picture.

I was up early trying to prepare lunch for my boss who just had a baby. I have cooked a lot of meals for a lot of people, but for your boss it is just different. I fretted with what to cook, especially since she is a vegetarian, but decided simple was the best and made potato soup, salad, and cookies for dessert.

But trying to do all of this made me late to church. The girls had gone with Mom and Dad and when I arrived they were not in their usual places. Annabel has been complaining of a stomach ache and I immediately feared that she had gotten worse and they had rushed her to the emergency room at the hospital and how would I know which hospital they went to, and why didn't they call me, etc, etc.

I used to do this a lot if someone was not where they should be when they said they would be there. I think it stems from a time when Mom was not there to pick us up from school because my grandparents had been in a really bad accident and she had gone to the hospital to see about them.

Now I wasn't 3 or 4 for this memory, but actually in junior high, but for a long time always associated someone not being in the right place meant they were in the hospital!

I'm very glad to report that they had decided to sit in another seat, which threw me off completely and especially since Dad was not up leading the singing, a sure sign that something was very wrong.


We dropped off lunch for a church member and my boss before going to El Fenix. Marcie had made me a yummy cake, plus El Fenix provided their delicious strawberry sopapilla for dessert in addition to plenty of chips, hot sauce, and Mexican food!

Afterward Grace and I went to the movies, alone!

She read the whole Percy Jackson series and had been asking to see the movie since it was announced it was coming out.

Annabel does not like shows like that and is very scared of Harry Potter, so she went home with Mom and Dad while Grace and I headed to the movies.

She pretty much told me the whole story of the book on the way there, explained it to me during the movie, and then on the way home told me all the movie had left out! She would make an excellent tour guide as she does not leave out ANY details. I do not feel I need to read the books now! But it does not seem they stayed very true to the book, which actually sounded better than the movie.

Today was a holiday for the girls and a vacation day for me. I think we have been inside too much or dread getting back into our routine today as everyone was quite grumpy! The girls had a lot of homework to get and I am fighting off a cold, probably as a result of being in 29 degree weather Saturday morning for several hours!

I hope this shorter week will feel like a short one!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy New Year!

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year's!

Chinese New Year's is a huge celebration in China and there are lots of traditions attached to the celebration.

One year I messed up greatly and had my hair cut on new year's and then swept the house! Grace was distraught! I have to admit that was one of our harder years, especially financially and sweeping your house does represent sweeping out your good fortune, if done on New Year's DAy. It is required to do it the night before, but have to admit, I am too tired to sweep!

It has been a long day as I volunteered to help with the new "farmer's store" where our organic co-op is delivered. If you volunteer, you get a credit toward your purchase and I thought it would be interesting to see the process.

But when I volunteered, I did not know you had to be there at 6:00 a.m. and that it would be after a record snow fall AND there is NO heat in the place!

Since I was sure I would oversleep, I guess I decided not to sleep at all! So after my two hour shift I was ready to call it a day! But of course SAturday requires more than a couple hours of work!

One of the traditions with Chinese New Year's is to buy children new clothes, preferably something red, but since neither girl will wear red I knew that was not going to happen!

We have been so fortunate with people giving the girls clothes that we really and rarely do buy any. But this was different and I wanted to start some traditions for us, so we headed to the mall exactly when everyone else in Dallas decided to go.

As soon as we got in, both girls became quite glum and complained loudly about shopping! You want to scream and yell or something, but I just ignored it and thought if I could find something they liked, it would turn things around.

Annabel and I worked together, but Grace wandered off by herself. Both found the "exact" things they wanted and I even splurged for a new necklace for each.

When it came time to find something for me I decided I did not have that much energy!

We headed on to the Chinese market with a stop first at a favorite Chinese restaurant known for their dumplings.

As we waited for our table, the girls spotted pork feet in the refrigerated case in the front. Their mouths began to water.

Now I only have a few rules in my life and they all have to do with food.

Rule 1: No organs, which I am going to expand and now include the feet of any animal and/or the head.

Rule 2: No game

Rule 3: Nothing unborn. Think veal, eggs.

Now with kids, I might have to insist that everyone at the table follow my rules!

But trying to be the good mom, I ordered the pork feet, which Grace corrected me were not pig's feet. Oh wait, pork and pig are the same. Yes, they are!

This was followed by an order of spicey seaweed, pot stickers, dumplings, and orange chicken. They provided a serving of "Chinese" style rice, which was served on a contraption with a stick in the base so you could pass it without burning yourself. It looked a lot like refried beans and rice, but I am such a chicken on all of this, I would not try it.

I have to make a true confession:

I really am not much of a fan of Chinese food.

There, I said it!

I like Panda Express, but that is like saying that Taco Bell is Mexican food!

These items were the real deal and as my girls chewed on their pigs' feet, I mean, pork feet, I began to lose my appetite!

We came home with two additional servings of the spicy seaweed so they each could have their own as a special treat, as well as two of the sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

We also bought traditional Chinese candy, which is to be eaten in an unlimited amount tomorrow, as well as four of their favorite pastries covered with dried pork.

So after a much longer shopping excursion than I meant to have, we still needed to clean the house before tomorrow morning! But my girls were forced to take showers or the other choice was cleaning house! Easy choice for them!

I have a bag of traditional decorations that need to be put up, dollars that need to be put in their red envelopes and slipped under their pillows, AND I have volunteered to cook tomorrow's meal for my boss who just had a baby!

Good night! Oh and Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

Yesterday was my birthday, which usually is not my favorite day. But when you are surrounded by such good people, it is hard not to enjoy it!

The day started long before we woke up as snow began falling. It made for a beautiful drive to school for the girls! As I dropped them off I was pretty sure there would be no way they could have school today!

Then at work I was greeted with a beautiful huge arrangement of red carnations from Mom and Dad, and Gloria bought me my new favorite drink, Caffe Americano, and we had a book fair in the lobby. Who could ask for more! Plus I got to see one of my two favorite little boys, although he had to go see the doctor.

For lunch they had Corner Bakery delivered, my absolute fave, which probably says a lot about me that a good sandwich is one of my favorite meals! And for dessert? No plain old birthday cake for me! A plate of whoopie pies! Which if I knew how to make, I would be as big as a barn again!

Then they sent home all the leftovers! Yummy! Black Currant ice tea on an icey, snowy day! Another one of my favorites!

The school called once to announce that afternoon activities were cancelled. Then they called again to say they were closing early and come up your kids NOW! The drive was slow, but not bad and the snow just kept coming down!

When we finally made it home, it was just enough time for snow ball fights, attempts at building a snow man and just getting out and enjoying the rarity of snow!

For dinner Mom made another one of my favorites, her soup! Yum! It should be canned and sold so everyone could enjoy it! My brother used to say she should can her gravy, as it was the best he ever ate!

Then for dessert? An absolutely delicious pound cake! WITH Blue Bell Strawberries with Vanilla Ice Cream! At that point you know that this is a fantastic birthday, but it got even better!

I had a short list of things I wanted this year, a pair of rain boots, a pitch fork to stir my compost, and some socks! Did not get the socks, but got REALLY cute rain boots, so I can garden in the mud, a way cool pitch fork, and $25 for Red Lobster or Olive Garden!

Added to all of this enjoyment from the people around me, I got a lot of birthday greetings from all my old friends on Facebook, people I have not seen since high school, for the most part. Wow! That was great!

Now to all of you that contributed to making this day so great, I have to be honest and tell you that Annabel out did you all!

She made a birthday card, addressed to Jerri and Mom. Inside she had her friends and teachers write me a note for my birthday. Each told me she was very excited about my birthday!

It made my day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Personality types

One of Grace's earliest and funniest Chenglish expressions was she was full of her hands, rather than her hands were full. She still says this some times and I completely know what she means.

Lately I have been not only full of my hands, but my heart and my head.

We spent most of the weekend at an adoption seminar that helps you explore your personality type, as well as your children's to learn to better accept and understand what your driving forces are.

The children were told the different personalities by animals and the adults by numbers. To me, the description of the "turtle" was a PERFECT description of Grace, especially when she described that a turtle will stare straight through you when you ask them a question. They like to work in groups, which is what Grace chooses every time in class, rather than working alone, and also described as having characteristics of a sloth, someone who is not ruffled by much and prefers inactivity to activity.

Grace however saw herself as the lion, the one who is noticed and makes sure everyone notices them when they walk into a room.

So we still have work to do there.

But Annabel immediately saw herself as the rabbit. This is the person who is anxious, scared, and very unsure of the world around her.

I had seen these traits in Annabel, but really thought it was still her anxiety and adapting to her very new environment, but instead it is just her. She worries about strangers on the street trying to get into the car, whether I will be mad about something, whether she has remembered all the things she needs for school each day.

She has been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately and waking up from nightmares and not being able to go back to sleep. This was really driven home by a nightmare she had this week. She dreamed that someone was pulling her away, taking her away from us, and that Dad came out of the house to confront the man. When he did, the man shot his gun and killed Dad. As if that was not enough of a nightmare for a child, she dreamed that Mom hated her then for being the cause of Dad being killed.

Last night I was intent on helping her get a good night's sleep and gave her half a benadryl. She was sound asleep before I could even tell them good night. She still woke up during the night, so I know we need to do more work there.

I know it is a long process to build that sense of security that both need so much, but I think it is so obviously secure, I cannot imagine why they don't feel it, but I know it is so much more complicated than that.

I've also been actively trying to get our community garden off the ground or in the ground I guess. All I wanted was a place for Dad to get to garden.

I didn't say which animal I thought I was in the personality enneagram, because I wasn't sure. I recognize myself in the kangaroo because as soon as someone says, "I need" I am trying to find a solution for them. So Dad needed a place to garden, so I was intent on finding him one, which has been a LOT more work then just putting plants in the ground!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Julie, Julia, Grace, Annabel, and Jerri

Right now, in my kitchen, there is not a clean pan, bowl, spoon, spatula, sieve, grater, mixer, or surface that is clean!

No, I have not had an explosion or someone who broke in rummaging for jewels.

Instead, I have had my first experience with French cooking!

Tuesday night Grace casually mentioned that she needed a French pastry for her World History class on Thursday.

That's easy as there is a La Madeline right around the corner of the school.

Oh no, life is not that easy though, as this had to be made by Grace.

You may recall that this is the same school that I volunteered to make a Chinese dessert for, which caused days and weeks of trauma until I finally bit the bullet right in the middle of our kitchen remodel. Thanks to having my parents next door, that dessert was a success! And Mom's perfect timing of when to take something out of the oven.

I had asked Grace what she would like to make, not really knowing what a HUGE assortment of desserts were considered French, BUT the most important factor was that it had to be a recipe that Julia Child used.

Even without seeing Julie and Julia, I know that Julia Child is not French, so I cannot explain why we had to use a Julia Child recipe for this assignment.

We had talked about Pots de Creme like we had this summer at a nice restaurant.

Oh yummy! We thought that would be fabulous to learn to make.

This afternoon in the VERY cold, wet weather we stopped at Sam's to get enough ingredients to make LOTS of Chocolate Pots de Creme, even purchasing special cups to pour it in to make delivery to school that much easier.

I had checked out both of our Julia Child cookbooks from work and even a third French cookbook. I had scoured the internet for the best recipe and thought I had found it.

Since I did not take the recipe in and have absolutely no sense in quantities needed for things such as this, we came away with enough cream, chocolate, and cups to serve most of Dallas their very own pots de creme!

Mom and Dad had their own difficult day unfolding at their house as they attempted to replace their original doors with something newer and stronger and hopefully better insulated. When we got home and there was no door on their house we knew it had not gone well and the temperature outside was continuing to drop.

Under those circumstances it is really hard to ask your mom to take over this task that is facing you, but I have to admit, I was tempted. My mother can whip up a banana pudding from scratch before I can get my hands washed. I have seen her use two forks and whip evaporated milk to make whipped cream. She is world renown for her chocolate pies, roast beef dinners, and anything in between. French cooking I don't think she has ever tried, but cannot imagine it would be a problem!

But when I heard the story of the problems with the door, I could not ask her to take over and I firmly reminded myself that I am the mother and no longer the 11 year old!

We do not have quick dinners. Somehow I can plan to make something as simple as spaghetti and from the time I start the meal until Annabel is finished eating, it can easily be 2 hours.

In between I am trying to help Annabel understand how to determine the radius of a circle, which I do not know, answer questions for Grace on the book, "The Giver", wash a load of clothes, and load the dishwasher.

When we finally began our Chocolate Pots de Creme, Grace decided we could not make that.

WHAT????? We already have the chocolate chopped up, the eggs are ready to be beat, the cups are ready to be filled.

Can you guess why?

Well the main criteria of the dessert to be prepared is that it had BUTTER in it, as Julia Child's favorite ingredient. It was written on the assignment sheet! Pots de Creme does not. It has millions of eggs and a ton of cream, but no butter!

OKAY, slowly trying to adjust my thinking, not being familiar with French cooking that is not available at a pastry shop, I jumped on the internet and googled Julia Child+chocolate+butter and came up with her cake, Le Glorieux! Actually I came up with several mousse recipes first, but someone else was making that, so we had to go to plan q or are we up to plan r by now?

It took all 3 of us chopping, stirring, sifting, preparing the pans, and a mad dash to Mom and Dad's to get Mom's handheld mixer, but the cake is in the oven.

The time has gone off and one of the layers doesn't even look like it has been in the oven and the other smells and tests done.

No I have to make the filling quickly before the girls get out of the shower or I might get help again!

Actually I know we need to do more baking together as neither had a clue on how to "grease and flour" a cake pan. Oops! I'll work it in next time. Right now I have to melt more chocolate, chop more butter, and beat the tar out of it until it is the consistency of a smooth mayonnaise!