Monday, June 27, 2011

Word of the Day

The dictionary defines "surly" as:
irritably sullen and churlish in mood or manner


(And for good measure, the dictionary defines "churlish" as:
a lack of civility or graciousness; difficult to work with or deal with)


I define "surly" as:
 my 13-year-old daughter


It's days like yesterday that force me to remember that sometimes, you can't make it better. Sometimes you just hold your breath and wait for it to be blessed bedtime.

I also have to remind myself that she's being exactly what a 13-year-old girl is supposed to be -- downright surly sometimes. She's good at it.

And here's a special message to my mother: I apologize for all the times I was a surly teenager.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Can My 4-Year-Old Read?!?

Here's just a quick anecdote, since my last post was all about reading, reading, reading...

Last night I asked Lin to read a book to me. It was an "easy reader" book from the library, a kids' book, and Ruby was sitting with us. Lin was doing great, she understood the words and was doing fine with comprehension. She came to a word that stumped her and said "What's this word?" To which Ruby promptly answered "Cupcake." And she was right! Lin and I both looked at her and said "Did you read that? Can you read this book?" And Ruby smiled, picked up the book and "read" it, nearly word-for-word! Obviously, I know it was just by memory of hearing it before, buy holy cow! It was freaky!

But it solidified for me that by reading to Lin, she will become a better reader. I always tell Lin, reading makes you smart. But she responds by saying that if I'm doing the reading, that's not making her smart. Oh, you're wrong, girlie. And yes, I will keep reading to you.

Just a little while after that I picked up "Charlotte's Web" to start reading to the girls. I already read the first two chapters to them on Saturday night, and when I picked it up last night I said, "Do you remember what happened in the first two chapters?" and Lin was able to answer me, after I prompted her just a bit. So she is comprehending books when I read to her.

(Now if I could just convince her to let me read the "Harry Potter" series to her... but so far, no luck...)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Last Day of School ... Finally!

Well yesterday was finally the last day of school for Lin. It seems like our school district is the very last one to let the kids out for summer, but the day finally came.

Here's Lin on her last day of school ... What a goofball:

And here she is back on her first day of school:

Hmmm, that's odd... She was a goofball back then, too...

Her final report card for the year is all A's!!! She's such a hard worker. We're so proud of her. But I did tell her that even though regular school is done for summer, she's still going to have school at home, only this time, I'm her teacher (insert evil laugh here). I really want to work on her reading and comprehension over the summer. Her ESL teacher was great and Lin really liked her, but Dave and I both felt like a lot of the work was over Lin's head. Her homework often consisted of worksheets on identifying adverbs and pronouns, present and past participles. But Lin's reading comprehension is at nearly a Zero. Doesn't she have to read first, then work on the proper grammar and stuff like that? Any teachers out there want to chime in? Cindy, I'm talking to you! :)

So anyway, here's my plan. First I will read to her. All the time. I want to read all kinds of chapter books, to both Lin and Ruby. My hope is that she will pick up on the language just by listening, like reading to a baby.

Second, I want Lin to read to me. At the library I picked up a handful of easy-reader books and I want to see how much Lin can read to me, and how much she understands. The frustrating thing for her will be that these books are very baby-ish. But she's got to start somewhere, right? And the quicker she can improve her reading at this level, the quicker we'll move on to more fun stuff geared for her age.

And third, workbooks and flashcards. I want to get workbooks starting at a kindergarten reading level and go through them from the beginning, starting with the basic building blocks of reading. And we're going to work on phonics flashcards and sight-word flashcards.

Now, of course, I'm not going to be some kind of reading ogre over the summer. It's just that I love reading so much and I want my children to share that joy. I cringe a little bit when she plops down in front of the TV or computer to veg-out. We're fine with letting her watch TV, but knowing that she is unable to sit down with a book -- either in English or Chinese -- well, it kills me. She's proven how smart she is when given a chance, and she didn't get that chance in China.

But that story will have to wait for another post...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Yearbook Time

Lin got her 2010-2011 school yearbook yesterday, and it was so cute to look through it with her. All this year I've been a little worried that she doesn't seem to have made any friends. I didn't realize that making friends would be so difficult for her. At home she's so funny and cheerful (most of the time) and just friendly. I would look at her and think, how is this wonderful girl not surrounded by a group of girls at school, chattering away like girls do? But Lin would always insist that she doesn't want friends, she prefers to be alone at school.

Well, it seems that maybe she has more friends than I thought. She was so proud to tell me that lots of kids had signed her yearbook! And she signed lots of yearbooks! Three different girls wrote their phone numbers down for her with instructions to call them over the summer. As we looked through the book together she would point out a picture here and there and say the kid's name and what class they had together -- kids I've never heard her talk about before. And she got to one picture of a girl and said "that's my friend." I'm just so happy for her! It will be my job to see that she stays social over the summer with some of these kids, so she starts 7th grade feeling like she belongs.

I mean, come on, look at that face... doesn't this girl belong at someone's slumber party?

Meanwhile, our Ruby had her gymnastics recital last week. She did great! Although she would much rather be taking ballet classes than gymnastics, and tells me this regularly, she always has such a good time at her gymnastics class. And really, how cute can she get???

Ruby is going to her very first friend birthday party today. It's a princess party, starting at 11:00am. Let's just say, Ruby has been wearing her princess dress and crown since 7:30, and she keeps asking "Is it time to go yet? Can we go now?" Just a few more minutes, kiddo...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fun at Camp

Ruby and I had an absolutely great time at "My Mom and Me" camp this past weekend! If you live anywhere near West Michigan, or have the means to travel here, I cannot say enough to recommend Camp Newaygo. It was everything you want a good old-fashioned summer camp to be. We sang songs, went swimming, kayaking, built sand castles, played games, went on scavenger hunts, made new friends... It was just great and I can't wait to go back again next year -- "My Mom and Me" camp is for kids age 3-6, so Ruby and I have two more years. We were there only about 27 hours, but I wish it could have gone on and on. This is the same camp that Lin will be attending later this month, and all the counselors are ready and waiting to make her first camp experience the best it can be.

Enjoy the pictures!

Here's Ruby on the steps that lead down to the lakefront.

Our home-away-from-home for the night -- these are the original cabins built when the camp started in 1926.

Ruby got to sleep on a bunk bed!

The lake -- the water in the sectioned-off swimming area was shallow, only up to Ruby's chest...

... although Ruby was far too busy building sand castles to do any swimming.

Kayaking -- I'd never gone kayaking before, but now I'm absolutely hooked!

During the animal class, the kids got to see turtles, goats, a chinchila, a geko... and baby bunnies!

Ruby really did shoot this arrow, with a little help from one of the counselors.

Saturday night ended with S'mores at the campfire.

Picnic lunch at the lake on Sunday afternoon.

See you again soon, Camp Newaygo!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One Year Ago!

On June 7th, 2010, we became a family of four as Lin Guo Chu walked into our lives and our hearts. She was dragging a Hello Kitty suitcase and wearing a nervous smile. Here is a link back to our travel blog from that incredible, unforgettable day...

Our first meal together!
We spent our first day together walking through a beautiful park

Lin's referral picture...
... and our gorgeous girl today!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Weekly Update

Sorry it's been over a week since the CONCERT and I haven't updated you all on how GREAT it was!

It... Was... GREAT!

Man oh man, I screamed just like I did the first time I saw the New*Kids in person, back in 1989 (although this time I didn't cry like I did back in 1989...)

Oh, and for the record, my favorite is Joe from New*Kids! He's just as cute now as he was then!

Anyway, Lin also had a great time. I had been trying to prepare her ahead of time for what she would be seeing. I told her that it would be loud. That people would be screaming loud. That I would be screaming loud. But sure enough, she still was not fully prepared for the craziness. When the lights went out and the New*Kids came out on stage, Lin looked at me and said "Oh my goodness! You're crazy!"

Waiting for the show to begin

Woo Hooooooo!!!!
Lin also took her camera and took quite a bit of video of me enjoying the concert (in other words, screaming my fool head off). Let's just say, I will NOT be sharing said video here!

In other news, we spent Memorial Day at Dave's mom's pool. It was 90 degrees outisde but the pool water was freezing!! We spent the afternoon eating Dave's wonderful smoked ribs and having a gigantic water fight. Dave got thrown in the pool, fully clothed; his brother-in-law got shoved in also, and even those who didn't get in the water were still soaked by the end of the afternoon. It was so much fun!

Mmmm... meat.

Ignore the look of terror on her face... I think Lin was the one who actually started the water fight!

What could be cuter than a little girl with swimmies on her arms!
After we left the BBQ we visited the cemetary where Dave's grandparents are buried. It was a new experience for both girls, but we kept it light-hearted. Neither Lin nor Ruby could really get a grasp on the concept of burial and both girls had some questions. We talked with them honestly and I got to talk to Lin a bit more about Heaven and God and what happens when we die. But like I said, we kept it light-hearted, too. At one point we laughed so hard when Ruby, God bless her, said (and I swear this is exactly what she said), "Okay, I'm for real now. What's in there??"

And today Lin got to go on a school field trip to the zoo. Look how cute she is!

Just look at my girl, wearing shorts and a sleeveless top. It's amazing... She's been home almost a year now, and yet I still see changes in her as she becomes more comfortable in her new home. Last summer I could barely get her to wear shorts and most days she actually wore a jacket over her shirt, even in the hottest weather. It didn't occur to me then that she was uncomfortable exposing herself, like she felt that by protecting her skin she was protecting her whole self, you know? But look at her now, totally comfortable and absolutely cute as can be!

Tomorrow morning Ruby and I leave for Mommy and Me camp! We're all packed up and ready for a great time. Dave and Lin also have a busy weekend planned, and when I say "busy" I mean "sitting-on-their-fannies-watching-movies." It should be a great weekend!