Friday, February 29, 2008

Reading Like a Pro

Ok, this is one of those brag-on-my-kids post. If you get annoyed with those, you should just stop reading right now.

The topic of this post is Megan reading. Some time in the fall I checked out a book called Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo, who also wrote Because of Winn Dixie and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane which is absolutely wonderful. Mercy Watson is a pig, for the unenlightened. Well, the kids liked it so much that two weeks ago I checked out Mercy Watson Fights Crime. The kids usually plunk down on the living room carpet and browse through our books when we get home, but Megan didn't just browse Mercy Watson - she started reading it. She read the whole thing. It's a chapter book! She's not even 6! Now, by Singaporean standards she should have been doing this by age 4 at the absolute latest, but I'd say that's pretty good.

So we returned that one and got Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride and Mercy Watson to the Rescue. She read both of them in an afternoon. I'm a little baffled as to where to go from here with her. If anyone has some suggestions for books around that level, I'm sure she'd be happy to read them.

Ethan (just to balance out my bragging) is immersed in Magic Tree House research guides and Magic School Bus chapter books. He's evolving into a walking encyclopedia as a result. It's so fun to see my kids take off in reading and love it!

We Have an Eight Year Old!

Ethan's willing to give me a smile while he waits for his cake

This picture's a bit blurry, but hey, it's an action shot! Truth be told, my photo skills were lacking this day. But do you see the red balloon about to hit the birthday boy? Way to hold him Aaron!

Seems like just yesterday I finished watching The Truman Show with friends, started doing dishes, and went into labor. (I don't believe either of those activities influenced me having contractions). But apparently it's been eight years since that night! Ethan requested a "Star Wars Lego" birthday party. We bought Star Wars party supplies in the States last summer and made do with sticking Star Wars Lego figures all over his cake. He was satisfied.

The great thing about an eight pack of party supplies is that it limits the number of guests. I'm all about small birthday parties with no games. Thankfully, this is what my son also enjoys. So he invited seven good friends over for a swim party, a water balloon fight, cake and ice cream, and gifts. His wish list - Mars Mission Legos and Transformers. He got both and some Star Wars figures to boot so he was mighty pleased.

Singaporean spring

For the month of February, it seems, it is spring in Singapore. The rainy season is over but the clouds are still covering the sun, and nice breezes come from . . . well, somewhere. It is a time we wish would last forever, when we leave our windows open almost constantly (thereby enjoying lower utility bills) and wonder why anyone wouldn't want to live here, or at least visit.

Then, overnight, it is over. This year it happened last Friday night. We woke up Saturday, shut the windows, and started sweating again. We'll stop sweating maybe next November, when the rainy season hits again. The upside of this time is that the pool becomes much more enjoyable and necessary. The downside is that some mornings the need for air conditioning hits at about 6 a.m. It was good while it lasted!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Words of Affirmation

Our daughter's love language is words of affirmation. She's always been one to cheer others on and affirm them without prompting. Then again, she can take that sweet little tongue, turn it around, and use it in quite unholy purposes. But that is another post.

For some reason lately she's been on a roll with the encouragement. Each night I get a litany of how I'm the "goodest mommy in the world" or "this is the mommy I love the best!" or "I love you more than anything!" Ethan and Erik are also affirmed in their roles as brother and daddy, but I'm usually the one tucking Megan in so I get the lion's share. I'll admit, if it's just her way of getting me to linger over bedtime, it's working.

Look, mom, a satellite!

Ethan and I have a running joke about how every time we think we see a star, we realize it's just a satellite. We've always lived in very urban areas where stars can't be seen. And aside from one time when he was small, we've only been in the U.S. during times when the sun goes down too late for him to see stars.

In the Mae Sa Valley last week, we were walking back to our cabin after dinner, and we realized at the same time that we could see thousands of stars. I got to point out Orion to him, which he kept calling Ryan (it's the only constellation I know besides the big dipper). The next night he found it himself.

Next winter we plan to go back to the U.S. for several weeks. I'm looking forward to doing a unit on astronomy with real stars! Until then it will just be, "Look, mom, a satellite!"

Mae Sa Valley day 2

Our resort offered a variety of handicraft activities, so our three families chose papermaking for the morning. We picked leaves and flowers, flattened a ball of fiber over a screen, and made patterns in it which what we'd picked. They took it from us and set it out to dry. Then we stirred a huge vat of fiber filled water and took turns scooping it up with a screen, which makes thinner paper. We got to take our creations home (yay! Another carry on!). As I watched my kids stirring with wooden paddles I thought, "Yeah, I didn't do this as a kid. We're really blessed in a unique way."

After another painfully slow lunch, we spent the afternoon at the stream. Well, most of the kids did - I spent the afternoon with Megan playing garbage, this new card game we learned. She was surprisingly happy to stay back at the cabin and play. I think she just enjoyed having me or Erik all to herself.

For dinner we thought we'd try something down the road thinking it would be faster. Think again weary travelers! We found a roadside place that looked promising, until we realized that their English was non-existent and so were many of the items on their menu. The first family got their food within a reasonable amount of time, although one person did get a green Fanta when a Sprite was ordered. After more than an hour, I started realizing how people on reality shows like Survivor get so petty and shallow - they're hungry! The kids were going a bit stir crazy, and then the waitress came out and said, "All done?" to which we all protested vehemently. Turns out when they brought the Pad Thai for the first order, they crossed it out on all three, and so on for all subsequent food. Long story somewhat shorter, we got there at 6 and left at 8. So much for fast.

After the kids went to bed, we adults entertained ourselves playing Bang (card game) and watching season 3 of The Office. It's a funny show to begin with, but when you're watching with others, it's even funnier. I'm tempted to launch into a string of quotes from the show, but I'll abstain. Thus ends day 2.

Mae Sa Valley

After weeks of "are we or aren't we?" waffling, based mostly on our inability to contact any resorts near Chiang Mai, and compounded by Megan's accident, we decided to spend our extra four days after the conference in the Mae Sa Valley outside of Chiang Mai with our friends, the Hausmans and Olivers.

We were a little afraid that Megan's foot might slow us down, or limit our activities, but she's been taking her cast in stride. We were a little daunted when we saw that our resort is built into a hill (lots of stairs!) but it's beautiful and fun. A little like being in a hobbit village, with all its cute little bungalow topped with straw. It's a bit primitive, I'll admit, but kids don't seem to notice much and we just pretend we're doing high end camping. The kids were surprised by the temperature - after living in Singapore, they can't conceive of places that are in the 50's in the morning and then warm up later in the day. So we've been somewhat unprepared for that aspect. Funny that the Singaporeans dwellers have to come to a cold place to vacation for a change.

Mae Sa Valley day 1
We spent a little time exploring the grounds, and the kids decided the river was the most appealing fun. Ethan has never met a river he didn't want to cross. Once they'd all taken turns falling in, we went for dinner. There's a nice little restaurant there, but the number of tables was deceiving, as it appeared they only had enough cooking equipment to serve one family at a time. Our six adult, eight child group overwhelmed them, as did our inability to speak Thai. Erik's always mocked my mime background, but it sure does come in handy in those situations. As the temperatures dropped, we retreated to our cabins and were thankful for thick comforters.

Mae Sa Valley day 3

Thailand and elephant rides seem to go hand in hand. So we piled into our rented car and threw some extras on motorbikes and headed down the road to the Mae Sa Elephant Camp. We were late, so we thought, "We'll just ride the elephants now and come back later for the show" which turned out to be a good idea. I knew that the thrill of elephant rides has worn off for me when within a minute of starting I sighed and rested my head in my hand. Really, it does get old.

The show in the afternoon was mildly entertaining, though trying to keep our kids from running out in front of the wandering elephants afterwards proved nervewracking. We thought about going to a nearby waterfall, but realized the kids would be just as happy playing in the stream again. The men even got into it and tried to dam it. I'll give them an A for effort.

We adults had a brilliant idea for dinner. The Hausmans took the early shift for dinner from 4:30-6:30 while we and the Olivers watched all the kids. Then they put a video in for the kids while the rest of us went out to dinner. We ate at a place near a waterfall, with beautiful umbrellas lit by lanterns, and I thought, "I love my job!" We get to live in this amazing place and travel to places I never dreamed I would be. The food was great, although it could have been stale and tasteless and we probably would have been happy just because it came right away. We asked for a dinner menu which was all in Thai aside from "caramel custard" and "homemade ice cream." Erik asked about another one, and all we could make out from the broken English was "beans" and something that sounded a lot like, "raw meat." We passed, but they brought it anyway! No raw meat, but kidney beans and some other questionable items floating in a warm sweet soup. Very common in this part of the world.

Before bed, we spent an hour talking about what we learned at our conference, then, to counteract that depth, we watched a few more episodes of The Office. Oh, and the Hausmans found about 1,000 ants in their bathroom, starting from the corner, running down the wall, across the back of the toilet, and having a hey day all over their toilet seat. That's enough to make you want to hold it for a good long time.

Pictures to come when I find my card reader.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Dangerous Crocs

The next time your dear little one is heading out the door wearing Crocs, you might want to remember these pictures. Here I thought that it was a blessing Megan was wearing Crocs when her foot got caught in an escalator, since I thought her wearing open toed shoes might have caused more damage. Turns out she probably had the accident because she was wearing these. Granted, the escalators were not up to safety par in anyone's opinion, but look at her shoe! My daughter's foot was in this. You can't see it too well because the material bounced back, but when it first came off her foot, the top part was twisted 180 degrees away from the bottom (see those cracks on the inside?). Her toe was broken in multiple places and she had stitches on three sides of it. Several nerves had to be reattached and one tendon was severed and couldn't be fixed. She'll have a cast for a total of five weeks. I'm not normally one of those doomsday moms, but this is one of those things that is so easily avoided. It may only happen to one in a million, but believe me, you don't want yours to be one of them.

Oh, and no, we aren't reporting this to Crocs. Why? Well, because it was a fake Croc and I'm guessing they don't care about that. But people have told me that the fake Crocs are actually a stronger material than the real ones, so I suspect it's more likely that the real ones could be caught in a moving floor. There, I've done my duty to society.