Vivi LOVES to dance! She asks every single morning if it's ballet day and she can't wait to start the class where you wear the "very shiny and very noisy black shoes".
Vivian has loved the idea of ballet every since she heard it existed. I think the outfits have a lot to do with it as well as the general fanciness of the whole thing. This girl loves to be fancy! In the summer Adeline and Vivian put on lots of "ballet shows" for me, complete with sets and costumes and choreography and always accompanied by music by Tchaikovsky. When I asked Vivi if she wanted to take a real ballet class in the fall she replied with a very enthusiastic YES. Viv waited a long time, but her day finally came...
The teacher takes all the little pink ballerinas behind a closed door for the class, so we've got no idea what goes on in there, but Vivian is loving it!
September was quite the month. Whew. HUGE changes for all of us as Vivian went off to preschool for the first time and the transition from summer to school proved to be a challenging one for Adeline (and for me too, to be honest). But it's October now and we all seem to have settled into the new routine. Vivian had an absolutely picture perfect start to her school days. She happily strides off through her classroom doors each day and after a few hours I pick her up and she runs out grinning, gives me a huge hug and says "I missed you Mama! School was so much fun!". Her school and her teachers are absolutely wonderful - I couldn't imagine a safer, happier, more nurturing place for her to be. Adeline started out the school year not wanting to go, which is TOTALLY UNLIKE HER. She was sad to say goodbye to her family in the mornings, but once she was there she had great days and after a couple of weeks she returned to her enthusiastic self.
And now it's October. October is my month.
That's right, dayS. BOTH my babies were off to school today. We have had a truly fabulous summer and I suppose I'm ready (maybe sort of) to get back into the school year routine. All of us are going to miss staying up late and sleeping in, playing all day and relaxing with nowhere to be day after day. Now we're back to packing lunches and alarm clocks and spelling lists and walks home from school and all the other stuff that goes along with the school year... It's going to be an adjustment, especially for me, I think!
Adeline has been looking forward to grade two since grade one ended in June. She is back in her same classroom with one of her teachers from last year and she's super excited to make new friends and get to work! This girl LOVES school.
Today was Vivian's first day of preschool as well. Even a year ago I never would have thought my littlest would have been ready for preschool just after she turned three, but Viv has absolutely blossomed in the last year and she's become much bolder and much more confident recently. She was a little worried in the weeks leading up to today though. She would frequently say "I'll be all alone at school". When I would reassure her and tell her that she wouldn't be alone because she would have her teachers and lots of nice friends she would look at me very seriously and say "But I'll be all alone with no Mama...". Today on the way out the door she wanted reassurance that the same Mama that dropped her off at school would be picking her up. I had said "And when preschool is done, your Mama will be waiting for you" and she grabbed on to the bottom of my shirt and said "THIS Mama?" with a bit of a worried look. Once I made it clear that there would never be any new Mamas for her, Vivian was ready to go and she didn't look back as she strode confidently into her room. David and I basically circled the building with cellphone in hand in case anything went wrong, but she met us with a big grin at the end of her hour and told us it was "GREAT!" and "SO MUCH FUN!" and when I told her she gets to go back tomorrow and have more fun she pumped her fist and said "Yesssssssss!". She told us all about her teachers and declared them "Really really nice". Vivi said she liked playdough and circle time the most. Each day this week gets a little longer until she finally does her full half-day on Friday. I think she's going to absolutely THRIVE at this preschool. Of course I'm a little sad that our baby season is over and it feels very strange to me that my little shadow now has a big part of her life that I know very little about, but at the same time I'm so proud of Vivi and so happy to see her so independent and ready to take on the world!
... and what happened to summer? The leaves are turning, the sun is going to bed earlier and earlier and my inbox is being inundated with panicky emails telling me that I am FAILING at back-to-school if I'm not shopping NOW NOW NOW. Summer has been really good to us. Day after day of Adeline and Vivian playing mostly happily with each other, jumping on the trampoline, eating strawberries from the garden, running in the sprinkler and drawing and dancing and singing and giggling...so much giggling! My girls had lovely birthdays and I'm still in shock to be the Mother of a seven and three year old! We had a fabulous holiday at the beach (where I wish I was RIGHT THIS MINUTE) and some other adventures close to home. There's been camping in the woods, violin daycamp for Adeline and lots of busking downtown where the tourists stroll, pony riding, library programs for both the girls and lots and lots of just plain relaxing. Vivian has had her first sleepovers at her Nana's and David and I spent our first night alone in close to three years. It's all been good. Well, apart from Vivian giving up napping, the car crash (not at all David's fault and luckily he wasn't injured) and the impetigo that got diagnosed on Monday...other than that, SUCH a good summer.
Did I take pictures? YES.
Did I feel guilty about not blogging? YES.
Will I catch up in my blogging and swear to do better? YES (but you know how it goes, right?).
My thought is to go back in digital time and publish the pictures in posts on the days when the pictures were taken rather than do a big catch-up post here. I've always seen this blog as our family record and want to be able to go back and see our summer unfold as it did. So watch between my last post and now there are likely to be a few or possibly even many new posts. I might even sneak a few into May and June as well. I just deleted a huge time waster from my life (a digital obsession...I'm not proud) so now I can do all the other things I've put to the side.
And thank you to anybody who is still checking us out, hoping for an update. Your loyalty should be rewarded.
You can't dispute that seven is squarely in big kid territory. I know someday we'll look back and think "Oh, wasn't she little and sweet and innocent at seven?" but for now I look at her with amazement sometimes and wonder where this long-limbed big kid came from, because surely Adeline was a wee three just heading off to preschool a month a or two ago, wasn't she?
We live in a town that gets a lot of tourists. Hordes of them, at times. Many locals steer clear of downtown in the summer because of it, but not Adeline - she's down there every chance she can get, busking! She goes with her violin teacher and a group of kids that changes depending on who's available and they play all their upbeat fiddle tunes and the crowds LOVE IT. Some of the kids do it strictly for the money, but for Adeline it's all for the fun and for the joy of performing and she does like the ice cream you get afterwards and to see the numbers on her bank account climbing!
At one, Vivian didn't even want to sit on the pony. No way.
At two, Vivian was ALL ABOUT riding the pony, right up until it was actually time to ride the pony and then she just couldn't go through with it.
At three, Vivian rode they pony! All by herself, while chatting to the cowgirl the whole time.
Turning three has really had a profound effect on Vivian. It was almost like a switch was pulled on her birthday and being three has really made her bold, in all sorts of situations. It's amazing and wonderful and makes my heart so happy to see my girl who was so frightened and so closed off for so long, to be so at ease in the world and so open to new adventures!
From two very proud Canadians!
I have plans (okay, you can all laugh along with me now, because we all know what THAT means) to fill in the blogless past soon. So much good stuff since my last post - my birthday, Father's Day, the end of the school year with concerts and field trips and a report card that made me almost burst with happiness, the summer violin recital, busking downtown, the first couple of weeks of summer holidays when the girls invented their own country, complete with maps, a state bird, a wildlife guide, a flag and a very exclusive explorers club, a camping trip where Adeline lost a tooth eating a marshmallow... So much good stuff. Will I get to posting about it? Resolutely YES. But admittedly not soon. We're busy through a lot of July with holidays and day camps and birthdays for both the girls (THREE and SEVEN? impossible).And of course busy with all the sweetness that summer brings - jumping on the trampoline, sleeping in the tent in the yard, running in the sprinkler, listening for the ice cream truck...those sorts of things that are nothing and everything all at the same time. Lots of good memories being made at our house!
So Vivian runs up to me while I'm loading the dishwasher after breakfast and says "Quick, Mama! Get the camera! I need to see what this face looks like!" and then she makes this face and holds it until I go get the camera and take a picture for her to see.
Oh how I love this girl! She makes me laugh every single day!
Once again, I'm bursting with pride. I love watching Adeline perform. Adeline works very hard and performing is where it all pays off for her. She loves to be on the stage and I love to see her so happy and proud and in her element.
This video is long, I know. I tried to just hit the highlights and it was still long...
Two years ago we were in Hanoi for the days around Mother's Day with our sad, sick and scared little one. Vivian cried for most of her waking hours and I walked for miles back and forth in our hotel room and sang the ten songs I know over and over and over again. We didn't take many pictures as it just seemed disrespectful to someone in so much pain, but sometimes Vivi would be watchful and quiet and we did get a few fleeting smiles and giggles that would let us know that her light was dim, but it was there. Now? Vivi is FULL of giggles and smiles all day long. She is a bright spark of joy! She is bursting with love and fun and songs. Being Vivian's Mother and watching my daughter come to life, slowly and not always easily, over the last two years has been one of the great joys and honours of my life.
Adeline participated in an adjudicated arts festival at the end of April. She did two classical pieces as well as performing with some friends in a fiddle group. They did a choreographed medley of traditional klezmer tunes and it was fabulous! Unsurprisingly they won an award and were asked to perform at the Honours concert, which was on Mother's Day. There are no videos or pictures from the performance (they are very serious about this rule!) but we were allowed to snap a photo as they received the award. There was a cash prize and a plaque that has a complicated traveling schedule so that each girl gets an equal amount of time with it before it needs to be returned next year, but really Adeline was just so thrilled to get a chance to perform with her friends for a very enthusiastic audience. Adeline is rarely excited to practice, but she loves to be on the stage! The concert was a great way to spend part of my special day. I'm so proud of Adeline and all her hard work and dedication. Even when things don't come easily (grapevining while playing the violin is REALLY HARD) she keeps working until she gets it.
I just realized that I didn't post about our spring break adventures which are almost a month ago now. Vivian and I were both very sick with the flu for the first week and Adeline was just recovering, so that was a pretty quiet time with lots of visiting Nana's house for Adeline and lots of couch time for me and Viv. The second week the girls were feeling better, David was off work and I was able to at least fake being well for periods of time, so we went out and had some fun and visited some of our favourite old places and found some new ones.
Adeline discovered a deep love for mini-golf. She briefly abandoned her plans to be an ornithologist who helps save endangered birds in the Amazon and was looking into professional mini-golf careers...
We went down to the marina and fed the seals and otter. Our hands smelled like herring for days as did the inside of our car, but it was totally worth it to get up close to the wildlife. Well, mostly wild - no fear of humans but also likely pretty aggressive if you didn't toss the fish and QUICK. Adeline is so enamored of otters right now that she was glowing with excitement when this guy popped up from under the dock
Adeline kept trying to get closer and I kept trying to pull her back. At one point they almost got in nose-booping-range despite my best efforts, but luckily nothing happened. Adeline was thinking "SOOOOOOO CUTE!", the otter was thinking "I SMELL FISH. GIVE ME FISH" and I was thinking "VICIOUS SHARP TOOTHED BEAST ABOUT TO TEAR THE FACE OFF MY DAUGHTER". But it was all good and after the initial excitement Adeline did give the otter his space which stopped the heart attack I could feel coming on. Adeline still declares this the absolute best thing she did on spring break.
Vivian liked it too, although the raw and bloody fish was too much for her and she let Adeline do the feeding and she tired of watching the seals sooner than Adeline and went for a walk down the dock with her Nana.
We also went the aquarium where Vivian was fascinated by the jellyfish...
And to Butterfly Gardens to visit our favourite bird... The girls are desperate for him to walk on their arms but he only likes women and it seems he recognizes me now and if I offer my hand he walks right up my arm to my shoulder and gives me kisses. I never considered myself a bird-person, but there is something awfully nice about it.
We went on a "bunny hunt" at the gardens. It was crowded, but the girls loved it and Adeline has declared it our new Easter tradition. Even though we were busy hunting for the bunnies hidden all around the gardens we still had time to stop and enjoy the vibrant green beauty of early spring...
...and to ride the carousel. This was Adeline's first solo ride and you can see how happy and proud she is. For a long time she was too scared to do anything but be hugged on the bench as the carousel went around and then last year she finally got up the courage to be held tightly while riding an animal and now she's finally ready to enjoy the ride on her own. Adeline will loudly declare that she isn't scared of ANYTHING, but it's just not true at all.
The bunny hunt prize was a bag of jelly beans or chocolate which was the perfect end to the visit for my sugar bunnies. Our week together made me really look forward to the summer when I'll be home with both my girls. They get along so well (most of the time) and I love to see all the love and fun there is between them.
Our week also had lots of bike riding, visits to parks, and plenty of hanging out at home just enjoying each other. There was a post-haircut pho lunch and Adeline learned how to use chopsticks and to tie her shoes over spring break! Quite the memorable week!
Last week, Adeline performed in the 20th Annual Grade One Puppet Show and it was FABULOUS. Her class sewed their own puppets and worked together to make the scenery and did an extremely spirited rendition of "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly". Adeline was a blue macaw ("How absurd to swallow a bird!") and she loved every minute of it and was very proud of the great show she put on for the packed room of families and friends. My girl was the only kid who absolutely couldn't resist peeking up every once in awhile to see how the audience was reacting. Adeline loves to be on the stage and she loves the feedback of seeing an audience enjoying her performance.
David and I are both only children and my Mom is the only grandparent that the girls have. Our family is SMALL, but we're so glad it includes David's Mom's sister, Anne. Adeline and Auntie Anne had an instant connection despite their almost eighty year age difference, and there is so much love and fun in the air when those two are together. It takes full day with a lot of car travel to go visit Anne and we always plan to do it once a month but then sickness and busy-ness and stuff needing to get done around the house and garden gets the better of us and then it's once again been way too long since we've gotten together. Vivian is finally starting to warm up to Auntie Anne. I hope they will have many years together to build their relationship.
Neither Adeline nor Auntie Anne are fans of posing for pictures, but Adeline told me on the trip up that she wanted me to take a picture of the two of them to put up in her bedroom. I saw them sitting on the steps of the woodshed and in just a couple of frames got some lovely shots that I think really capture something about the feelings they have for each other.
Vivian is a very affectionate girl, especially at bedtime. I know all the hugs and declarations of love are partly a stalling tactic, but how can I resist when she's so sweet? Last night she threw her arms around me and said "You're my best Mama in the whole world! You're my best Mama in the whole wild west! You're my best Mama in the whole deep sea! You should have a shiny golden trophy. I love you so much!".
Whew. That time sure flew by, didn't it? A lot of it was taken up with every member of my family being sick, first with some wicked colds and then just as we were recovering we were all hit with the flu AT THE SAME TIME. I had lived in fear of this ever since I became a Mom, and YES, it was as bad as I thought it would be. For days on end I had a fever of a 104 and every muscle and bone in my body ached, and I was so exhausted I wanted to cry, but I still had to take care of two very sick and surly girls and a husband who should have been home from work but wasn't. Adeline bounced back first but is still coughing, Vivi wasn't her wiggly giggly self for weeks and would just sit and stare for long periods of time and I probably have progressed to pneumonia or bronchitis or something as I'm still feeling pretty lousy. In the middle of all that my Mom went into the hospital for very minor surgery and ended up staying a few worrying days. So yeah, there's all that. I don't think I took a single picture in February or the beginning of March. Valentine's Day and our 11th wedding anniversary and the first week of spring break fun were all cancelled. Adeline has a violin thing coming up in April and she's taken on a BIG challenge and I'm having huge amounts of worry as we've lost a few weeks of practice. I can't remember the last time I cooked a real meal although with the amount of dishes sitting on my counter you'd think I've been entertaining every night. The house is really and truly filthy and all I can think about is whether my screen-time guilt will allow me to put on yet another episode of the "The Octonauts" for Viv while I lay on the couch with my eyes closed.
Whew. That's a LOT of whining. Sorry.
But the good...we are all on our way back to health (I think). It's still spring break and David is taking next week off so we'll have some family fun (hopefully in the sunshine) and celebrate Easter and make some good memories. Spring is truly here and despite my illness I'm itching to get out and feel the sun on my back while I work in the garden. Happier times (and more blogging) are ahead, I'm sure.
And just because I can't have a post without a picture, here's lovely Miss Vivian, taken yesterday as we baked some cheese scones together. Because she was so sick I had to cancel her appointment to get her hair done, so she's pretty shaggy, but she's looking so grown up to me lately. Vivi is so funny these days. I love that she's been telling me her dreams lately - the other night she woke up around 1 and when I went into her room she was sitting up and grinning ear to ear. She said "Oh Mama! I dreamed a COOKIE was sleeping on the edge of my bed! He was so cute!". She also talks in her sleep - mostly mumbles - but the other night as clear as anything she said "Look at that! There are MARSHMALLOWS on that building!". Cute cute cute.
Adeline was drawing at the easel and starting producing a series of very expressive blue horses, using no outlines only shapes. I said "Wow! Your blue horses really remind me of some famous paintings I know! I'll find a picture of them to show you". She turned to me and said as if it was no big deal "I'm drawing blue horses like Franz Marc. He was an expressionist". We went on to have quite a conversation about different genres of art and why a blue horse was so revolutionary in it's time. Have I told you how much I love Adeline's school???
A blue horse by Franz Marc, German Expressionist painter of the early twentieth century...
Blue horses by Adeline, First Grader of the early twenty-first century...
Did I ever tell you that I should have been an Art Historian? I was confused in my University years and afraid of change and having a LOT of fun as a Theatre major. I really should have taken the passion I felt in my art history classes and the easy excellent grades I got in all those classes as a sign that I should have re-thought my plans, but I didn't (regrets...I've got more than a few). So you can understand I was pretty excited to be discussing art with my six year old!
Today Adeline has been at her new school for 100 days. Every single one of them has been a good one. Have I told you how much I love Adeline's school??? Every day she bounces off happily to school in the morning and she bounces out of her classroom at the end of the day, declaring her school day "Excellent!", "Awesome!", "Amazing!", "Great!", "Fabulous!" or "The BEST DAY EVER!". She fakes being well so that I won't keep her home when she has a cold and she counts down the days until she can go back to school when she's on holidays.
Why do I love Adeline's school? Here's just some of the reasons...
Oh how I could go on. I could probably think of 100 things I love about Adeline's school - one for each day she's been there!
So happy we found this special place. I wish it was free, of course, but it's worth the sacrifices to have our girls spending so much time at such an amazing school where they will learn so much and be encouraged to really be themselves.
Don't my girls look as lovely as spring blossoms? Every time Adeline puts on her ao dai she starts posing like the very elegant dancers we saw on the stage when we were in Hanoi in 2014. Those beautiful young ladies definitely made a big impression on Adeline. Adeline KNOWS she looks good in her ao dai. She even wanted to wear it to school for their Lunar New Year celebration on Friday (have I mentioned I LOVE Adeline's school???).
Tet is the Vietnamese New Year and the start of spring in Vietnam, so I've decided to decide that it's spring here too despite what the calendar may say! The weather we've had the last few days has proven me right and we've had a few chilly but sunny days where you could even take your coat off for awhile and feel the sun on your back. Ahhhhhhhhhh.
We had a lovely long weekend to welcome in the year of the monkey. We decorated our whole house on Friday, we went to a big party with friends on Saturday, we made banh chung and banh tom for our family feast on Sunday which we followed with making as much noise as we could to scare away the bad luck from our house and then staying up reallllllllllllllly late (Adeline made it to 1 am!) to welcome in the new year. We weren't done yet - Monday we continued the celebrating and had a day of family fun in the sunshine.
And yes, I'm SO HAPPY that January is over!
Oh, January, how you bring me down each and every year. At least it's happened so often that I now know it's coming, not that I seem to be able to do anything about it. It's dark. It's cold. It's wet. All the sparkle and shine of Christmas is gone from the world and spring still seems an eternity away.
January also gets me thinking big thoughts about CHANGING EVERYTHING, but of course once saner heads prevail in the sunnier month of February I usually realize I've got it pretty good.
Last year I was in such a dark place in January. Much darker than this year. Over Christmas was when we realized that public school wasn't what we wanted for Adeline but we hadn't found the right school for us and January was the month when we found the right place but were told that there was no space for Adeline. I was so desperate last January I was even considering homeschooling which I know can be great for some families but I just don't think it would have worked for us. This January we're making some decisions about preschool for Vivi (seriously - can you believe that???). She turns three in the summer (what??? my baby girl??? three???) and could start in the preschool program at Adeline's amazing and fabulous and wonderful school, but there are some buts... It's five half days a week and that just seems a lot to me for a wee three with a stay-at-home Mom and money is a big issue as well, as paying tuition for two is DAUNTING and can't be done on David's salary alone no matter how we crunch the numbers. I don't want to go out to work just to pay for Vivian to be in full day care and am hoping to continue being at home until she's in school full time at six if I can. Preschool is only slightly less than elementary even though it's half days, so it's a pretty big number. David has started work to get our basement ready for renters and I've moved all the junk from renovated a corner of our office/computer area/giant closet into a workable if not pretty crafting space, so I hope to earn half or more of Vivian's tuition by doing one or more craft fairs next Christmas and by resurrecting my etsy shop. It's hard to work after dark once the girls are in bed, but I'm going to have to find the motivation. And of course to go to school you have to be out of diapers and finished napping, and I don't know if that will happen by September. Our registration needed to be in by the end of this month so we've gone ahead and signed her up, but there is still time to make a final decision by the summer. We attended an Open House last week, and Vivi did seem very ready. Vivian marched right in and made herself completely at home, she chose activities from the shelves and worked on them with a lot of focus and most amazingly, she made conversation with all the teachers! Viv has really only said a couple of words to people outside our little family and she still often scowls at strangers who talk to her or she hides behind me, but on the Open House night she was obviously completely comfortable in her potential classroom as she was chatting away with the teachers and administration, and laughing and smiling with people while I just blended in to the background and watched her. This was HUGE for me and it almost brought a tear to my eye, thinking of how far she's come and feeling so grateful for the amazing school community that she'll be joining when she's ready. My baby girl was so sad and so scared for such a long time, but that night for the first time I saw her sparkle without me and I knew that she will feel safe and happy at school and that in her heart she finally knows that I'm not going to leave her.
Have I every told you that toilet training has been the WORST parenting job I've had so far and I am DREADING going through it again. Sure, maybe it will all be different with Viv but it was ...years... of drama with Adeline. I vowed never to go into the details here in a public space, but yeah... Whew.
January has also been a month of colds with two back to back ones for Vivian and David and one that seems to drag on endlessly for Adeline. At least I've stayed healthy so far...
Other January stuff... Adeline is doing skating lessons at school and has managed to skate approximately three inches, but she never gives up and she never stops having fun! I love that about her! She had wanted to go back to Rhythmic Gymnastics and was all signed up but then the class was cancelled so she decided to try karate instead. Adeline likes it a lot and seems to be picking it up quickly, but I must admit that at least where she's taking it it's way too violent for me. She loves to try new things - I think if I offer her something new after karate she'll be happy to move on.In January Adeline also prepared for and totally rocked her Grade One Royal Conservatory of Music exam. I was really proud of all the effort she put into it and how she never complained even though it felt like we spent WEEKS AND WEEKS just polishing her scales and arpeggios! Adeline has got a lot of violin happenings this spring and her playing has really had another great leap forward, so I'm excited to see where she's going to take it this year.
One of the bright spots in January has been how great Adeline and Vivian are getting along and how SUPER FUN their shared play has been for both of them lately. I love watching them play "Cockatiels Save Christmas" or "Karate Cats" or "Baby Animal Rescue". I love hearing them laugh together.
Six more days in January. I'll make it. Barely. February will be better, right?
I just looked for a photo to include with this post and realized I haven't even taken any pictures since Christmas. Now we know there's something wrong with me!!!
The weeks leading up to Christmas were hard for us this year. First Adeline and I had colds and then Vivian was VERY sick. Just a virus, but one that brought with it a lot of coughing and congestion, some fever and a whole bucket-load of MAD. When Viv is sick she gets absolutely out of control - nothing like her usual fairly sweet and easy personality. She has full on tantrums complete with laying on the floor kicking and screaming many times a day, she cries at every perceived slight or when she is told no, she wants to be held all the time but then you're not doing it right and she cries, she wants to be carried around (which she is too big for), she doesn't eat or drink or sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time and there's SO MUCH CRYING all day and all night. Oh my ears. I have so much compassion for her, but it's exhausting for everyone around when she's not well. By Christmas Day she was down to just a really runny nose, a bit of a cough, a prickly attitude and just some crying rather than all day crying, so it was a little better and she did rally in the morning for present opening. Poor thing. She was sick last Christmas too. My dream isn't for a white Christmas, it's for next year everyone to be healthy from December 15th through 30th!
Just a few pictures from our Christmas. I'm having a very needed hour alone right now while David takes the girls to an indoor play space, so I want to get off the computer quick and do some relaxing!
Do you think Adeline was excited for Christmas Eve?
Oh yeah. SO excited. Despite her plans, she slept until 8 on Christmas morning and then she woke us all up so the fun could begin! Yes, in the second picture down that IS a gummy rat in Adeline's mouth - it was her breakfast. We have a rule that you can have anything you want for breakfast on Christmas and Adeline has chosen gummies three years in a row now.
The girls got lots of musical presents this year so we all had a great time making a "family band"! Despite Vivian's being under the weather we still had a really lovely day and we've been enjoying some pajamas, treats and new toys days ever since Christmas. Unfortunately David goes back to work on Tuesday (BOO) so it's about to get less fun around here and back to school is just days away. It all went far too quick this year.
We didn't know how it would go... Vivian cried SO MUCH last year and she's still very unsure of new people, but this year she's been really into reading books about Santa and has watched a few television shows with Santa and she knows he brings you presents and candy. We had put it off to the last minute as we kept hoping Vivian would start feeling better, but by the 23rd we knew that this was Adeline's last chance. We were in the kitchen making plans for David to take Adeline to the mall and for Vivian to stay home with me, but Vivi overheard us and wouldn't stand for it. SHE was going to see Santa and she wouldn't have any further discussion. We didn't know what to expect, but she was happy and humming with excitement and wanted to show Santa the fancy dress she had picked for herself. She was pretty snotty and had a terrible cough and had been crying off and on all morning, but we knew Santa was probably used to that sort of thing. As we got ready to go we realized that Vivian thought we were going to the North Pole and she was most excited to see the reindeer. Her enthusiasm waned a bit when I explained that Santa had come to see us, so we weren't going to the North Pole, but she was still eager to go. We got lucky and there were only a handful of kids ahead of us in line, so the excitement lasted through the long walk through the busy mall and the wait to see the big guy.
Isn't Vivian's dress quite something? I went to the store to pick out a Christmas dress and David was supposed to keep Vivian occupied until I had picked out and paid for something classic and lovely, but they showed up early and Viv turned her nose up at all my understated picks and chose this sparkleriffic dress. Her favourite colour is blue and it is COVERED in glitter and it has a big twirly skirt, so it really is the right dress for her. Adeline has never cared one bit about what she wears, but Vivian has had some really strong opinions on it from the start.
So back to Santa. They were peeking through the set at Santa and Vivian was wide-eyed and Adeline was hopping with excitement. I STILL didn't know how it would go, but when it was our turn Adeline launched herself at Santa and I took Vivi's hand and walked her over. I asked if she wanted to sit on Santa's knee and she said yes, so I put her up there and stepped a few paces back. Vivian looked worried but she was brave and she sat up there to have her picture taken.
Once the picture was done I suggested that Viv get down and stand in front of Santa as I knew she'd be more comfortable there. Vivian didn't make conversation with Santa but she couldn't take her eyes off him and she was listening intently. Adeline was happy to do the talking for both of them and as we were leaving Viv gave Santa a high-five and thanked him for the candy cane. As we walked away Santa ho-ho-hoed and Vivian broke out in a big smile and she said to me "I made Santa laugh!". I'm so glad Vivian wouldn't allow herself be left out. The picture and the memory are precious to me and we obviously made some Christmas magic for both the girls.
Adeline helped with quite a bit of the baking and candy making this year, but there was one recipe she did all by herself. The only thing I did was empty the pot of melted chocolatey/peanut buttery goo over the cereal, but she did all the melting, stirring, and coating in icing sugar to make a big batch of "Monkey Munch". This recipe is usually called "Puppy Chow" or "Muddy Buddies", but Adeline found those too "icky", so she renamed it "Monkey Munch". It's a fitting name as it's pretty addictive and you just want to keep munching and munching!
And in case you're wondering, unless they are putting on shoes, my children never wear socks. It actually REALLY bugs me, and their feet always feel cold to the touch, but I've long ago stopped trying to get them to wear socks or slippers in the house.
"The Fang" came out at about three in the morning. Adeline felt it rolling around in her mouth and woke up, so it didn't get swallowed as I really expected it would. I'm really liking the "First Grade Vampire" look much better. Super cute and now she can sing "All I Want for Christmas are my Two Front Teeth!". Adeline is thrilled that she can still whistle and she loves sticking her tongue through the hole.
I thought all families did this, but David's didn't, so maybe it's not as universal as I thought. I have great memories of my Nana and I sword-fighting through the house with empty wrapping paper tubes and laughing until we fell over. We gathered up our tubes and today it was ON. It was an epic Jedi/Ninja/Knight battle for the ages. Vivian was more interested in using her tube as a telescope, but she did manage to get a few good whacks in. Adeline and David battled it out until their swords were shredded. SO much laughing and so many great faces from Adeline - even though she's laughing she takes it pretty seriously!
Poor Vivi was so sick in the weeks before Christmas, but she did manage to help with the gingerbread house. At first Adeline resisted Vivian's help, as Adeline wanted to do it in an orderly and precise way and Vivian wanted to do it like a two year old, but with just a little reminder, Adeline was able to be very gracious about it and they really worked together to make the house. I love to watch them work together and cooperate. Sometimes the four year age difference can be a challenge, but they really do get along so well. They both had a lot of fun and remarkably ate very little candy, and we've enjoyed our little house all through Christmas.
So Adeline refuses to give her baby teeth any help to fall out. Which leaves us with this...
We call it "The Fang" or "The Travelin' Tooth". Adeline is a gorgeous girl, even with the fang, but It's just hanging there driving me crazy... It creeps a lot of people out, but for some reason Adeline is really into it. You can see her adult teeth are already mostly in behind it and it's just hanging by a thread, but she wants it to stay like that, thank-you-very-much. The last couple of weeks she's had TWO crazy teeth going in two different directions, but Lefty finally came out a few days ago after she accidentally whacked herself in the face. All you want for Christmas is your two front teeth? I just want the fang out of here!
Once again, Adeline was amazing at her winter violin concert! Adeline always looks beautiful and confident on the stage. She always works hard and she's very proud of how she's growing as a violinist. She's half way through Suzuki Book Two now and she also knows lots of other repertoire including some great fiddle tunes which she'll play at the spring concert. Once time we'll have to make a list of all the pieces Adeline knows - I think we'd be surprised at the number! Adeline was chosen to play two solos and then she performed with the ensemble for almost an hour, as she played a few pieces with the more advanced group, she played with her own group and then she stayed on the stage to help make the beginners sound fabulous. Although she was a little nervous beforehand (which translates into quiet and prickly if you're Adeline) once she was up there she was in her element and her energy never flagged. I'm so proud of Adeline. She's really learning that hard work and persevering through challenges has great rewards.
I hope this guy never stops going all out for Christmas! He's made his yard such a magical place for little ones and you just can't help feeling Christmassy when you're there! Adeline called it "The Million Light House" when she was little and that name stuck for us, but I hear it called a lot of other names in other families. We usually go a few times over the season, but this was our first trip this year. We had the place to ourselves as it had just stopped bucketing down rain. It's been a VERY rainy December for us - no chance of a white Christmas for us, but a wet Christmas? Definitely
The rest of November was a blur of surgery recovery, fevers, more than a few tantrums, walking home from school in the rain, rehearsals for the big violin concert, and as much snuggling down for home-style family fun as we could get.
But now it's December! Yay!!!
Already we're decorating - Vivi calls these "candy kits" which is almost too cute to correct.
And of course we're crafting - David gives a quite-probably-sarcastic "yay" for the return of glue and glitter.
And the girls are spending hours in their "Magic Christmas Box". It was absolutely NOT magical to have our washing machine conk out and flood the laundry room, but the new washer came with an A-MAZING box, which Adeline and Vivian have transformed into a Christmas wonderland, complete with festive lights, blankets and pillows, a book shelf, lots of stuffies, original art lining the walls and some homemade cinnamon ornaments to get rid of that cardboard box smell. You can't really tell from the picture, but Vivian is reading a book to her favourite feline friend Zephyr in the box. Adeline said this evening "It's just the box I've always wanted! If I didn't already have it, I would ask Santa for a box just like it and I wouldn't need any other presents!"
Yes, December comes with it's share of stresses, but it's so so much fun to share all the sparkle and magic of this time of year with my two daughters!
Adeline didn't want her and Vivi to wear their bird costumes to the school party. She told me "I just want to feel magical", so she picked out poufy pink princess dresses from our costume box for them to wear. Vivian was thrilled. She's always up for a big fluffy dress! They had a great time at the party, although Adeline told me that the "Haunted Hallway" should be rated "Aged 66 and above".
Here's a little look at the dancing...
Sorry the posting dropped off so suddenly there. Poor David (who just can NOT seem to catch a break lately) ended up having some minor surgery that ended up being slightly more than minor. It's all good and at not even two weeks post-surgery he's feeling pretty good and he'll be returning to work next week, albeit a little slower and more tired than he should be.
Even with everything else going on, we still managed to carve pumpkins, decorate the house and have a lot of fun!
Halloween was a truly epic two week event this year - there was a big street fair downtown where Adeline's violin group performed, a school party and dance, a house party with some friends and of course trick-or-treating! The girls had a FABULOUS time and enjoyed all the costume fun and of course, the CANDY.
Of course Vivian wanted to be an owl this year, and inspired by her latest obsession favourite movie, Rio, Adeline wanted to be an endangered Blue Spix Macaw. I had a lot of fun making their costumes and they were both thrilled with the outcome and wore their wings, heads and tails as much as I would let them in the weeks before the big night. Halloween night we went to a party and then there was a little trick-or-treating afterwards. Adeline was worn out and she actually asked for it to be over fairly quickly. The two girls still had a fine haul of candy which they finished up in a couple of days. Vivian was pretty thrilled with all the candy in those two days and it's been hard for her to come down off her sugar high. When she was a baby anything sweet would make her cry and cry (trying to feed her a banana seemed cruel, she hated it so much) but now she's got a bit of an obsession with sugar going on. Adeline could take it or leave it, but Vivi likes the sweet stuff a bit too much. We're back to regular eating now, until the candy onslaught of Christmas comes along. Oh Christmas, I'm SO looking forward to you this year. It's going to be GOOD.
Every year we go out to the boulevard on our street and rake up all the lovely red maple leaves we can find and instead of putting them on the compost pile like reasonable people, we fill our back yard with them and then we rake them into a big pile again and again and again to have some fun.
Adeline has always loved this and as soon as the pile appears she is immediately tossing huge armfuls of leaves over her head and at anyone nearby. Adeline rolls in the leaves and asks to be buried in them, she kicks them over and bellyflops into them - laughing the whole time, of course.
Adeline loves any experience that gives her lots of full body sensory input! Vivian is more of a full body sensory input avoider, so it took her a little time to warm up and while she would hold the leaves and loved to have them fly down over her she absolutely would NOT sit or lay down in the them and the thought of being buried in them was pretty offensive to her! That's not to say she didn't have a lot of fun though, it's just different fun than her sister!
Vivian kept saying "It's snowing! It's snowing leaves! This is so fun!" and she loved the leaves falling all around her as we all threw them at each other and made it "snow".
Adeline has decided that she does want her picture taken sometimes and has been working on her posing...
Adeline is always beautiful, but I still prefer a picture of a real smile and shining eyes showing the joy of having fun with your family!
The weather can just stay like this until we get snow on Christmas Eve and then January 1st spring can start. I get to be the boss of that, right?
October is totally my month. Add "playing in autumn leaves" to the list of things I love about this month.
Thanksgiving has come and gone in a hurry. After a slow, leisurely summer, autumn is WHIZZING by. It's been a great weekend and our family turkey dinner was the best yet. I'm sure it tasted better than ever because I didn't need to cook this year and just showed up at my Mom's house in time to make the gravy and mash the potatoes while I picked the crispiest bits off the resting bird. Yum.
I'm always thankful for these two -
and all the laughter and fun and worry and mess and chaos and frustration and joy and stickiness and hugs and warm fuzzies that they bring. I'm even thankful for their rapidly growing collection of stuffies which seem to be on every surface of my house and piling up in the corners in furry drifts lately. And of course I'm always thankful for David and what a good husband and patient and kind Dad he is. Lately I've been having trouble feeling like we have enough. I'm not feeling a lack of stuff in my life as really I'd like to back up a truck to our house and fill it with about 70 percent of our belongings, but I'm feeling like our budget is so limited because of our school choice and our choice for me to continue staying home with the girls awhile longer that things like trips and home renovations and new furniture are all completely out of the question. But really, we don't need any of those things and I know it. Not only do we have enough in all areas, we have an abundance of all the important things - health, home, happiness, security, fun, family, food, education...everything. We have everything. I am so lucky to have a loving husband who puts his family first every day, two great kids who are healthy, happy, smart and filled with love for each other and for their family. I have a house that might be falling down in places (literally) but that keeps us warm and dry and safe all winter long. The furniture may be stained and cat-clawed and sagging, but it couldn't be more comfortable for snuggling up under a blanket to read books. And the best part of any trip is being there with the people I love, right? So what more do I need? Nothing. Nothing at all. I have everything. I'm a lucky, lucky woman and so thankful that I have been given so much in this life.
Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating this weekend!
October is the month of the year I wait for. The weather is absolutely perfect for me, my neighbourhood looks its loveliest right now, I love the return to snuggling under blankets, homemade soup, sweaters and scarves and making plans for Halloween always makes me happy. I love the warm light and the lack of bugs and the smell of fall and anticipating being thankful with my family next weekend. Maybe most importantly, by October we've all settled into our daily routine and things just seem to be easier in October.
Last weekend was the absolutely perfect October day and we took advantage of it with a trip to the gardens to run around in the sunshine, ride the carousel and eat our fill of gelato before the end of the season.
Such a good day.
The rain is coming, but for now I'm going to soak up as much October sun as I can. I know it won't hold me through the grey gloom of November, December and January, but for now I feel like I can't get enough of it.
We had a great Moon Festival weekend. Lots of family fun, a great party which culminated in an epic pillow fight, many homemade mooncakes and as the perfect ending, taking our lanterns to the beach to watch the super moon/blood moon lunar eclipse Sunday night. Both girls loved dressing up in their ao dais, but Vivian was mad and didn't want her picture taken as we were leaving for the party because she wanted to jump on the trampoline. I did manage to get a few shots though, despite Vivi's non-cooperation. Adeline knows she looks beautiful in an ao dai and she really wanted her picture taken and she wanted it to be a nice picture of sisters hugging or holding hands and Viv would have NONE OF IT and started to cry the second Adeline got too close. She wanted everyone to know she wasn't happy about the no-trampoline thing.
The party was a lot of fun and our homemade mooncakes were very appreciated! Adeline will tell you that absolutely the best part of moon festival this year was the pillow fight! Once it got dark we all walked down to a lantern festival taking place in a nearby park. Adeline had the best view of the lion dance from up on her Daddy's shoulders.
That night Vivian was up until 10:15 and Adeline until after midnight, so the next day we were all feeling kind of low and slow. Even though it meant another later night, we wanted to keep our tradition of going to the beach to make our wishes to the harvest moon. Of course, this being not only the harvest moon, but a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event, the beach was packed which made it less of a quiet, reflective family time and more of a party. The blood moon was less impressive to the littles, but I thought it was a very cool thing to see. I guess when you're young so many things in the world are new to you that it's just one more new thing, but to us, we've never seen the moon look like that before, so it's fascinating.
This weekend is Tet Trung Thu, or the Autumn Moon Festival. In Vietnam it's a holiday centred around children and families - a time to reconnect and have some fun after the harvest is in. THE food for the Autumn Moon Festival is the mooncake and year after year we have dutifully bought a beautiful box of mooncakes to each take a bite or two of and then throw away after the holiday is over. You see the problem with mooncakes is that they don't taste very good. But making them? Whew. No. Nobody makes them. They are very intimidating - rolling, filling, molding and unmolding, a multi-step baking process... When we were in Vietnam I bought some traditional mooncake molds which are big wooden paddles with the cake mold carved in them and thought that someday I would tackle mooncakes, but I didn't. Then I saw a much friendlier mooncake mold like this -
See how friendly looking it is? I thought anything that looked that much like a playdough toy couldn't be scary so I ordered a set from China via ebay. On Friday I took a deep breath, gathered my ingredients and began. My first thought was to make unbaked snowskin mooncakes as those looked easier, but I couldn't find the ingredients. I'm glad I went with a baked cake. I think ultimately they're tastier. I used a recipe I found online but I had to tweak it a little. My dough was far too crumbly and I had to add a little extra oil and a smidge of water to make it come together smoothly and my filling was completely soupy and I had to cook it down for a looooong time, but in the end mooncake making was actually pretty easy and fun! My Mom came to help and we all worked together. I made the dough and filling, Adeline loved weighing out the components and my Mom is a whiz with a rolling pin. We took turns stamping them out with the mold as that's the really satisfying part.
The unbaked ones were so pretty all lined up on the pan. Our first few were a little wonky, but once we got the technique it all went together easily.
Taa-daa! Our finished mooncake! I have to say I'm pretty impressed with us. But did they taste good?
Oh yes, they taste VERY good. The pastry is kind of like a soft shortbread cookie and the golden syrup gives it a beautiful golden colour and a caramel-y taste. The filling is a classic mung bean paste, but I substituted butter for the oil and some of the white sugar I swapped for brown sugar, which made the whole thing rich and delicious and much more palatable for us westerners. We shared one to test it yesterday, but were saving the rest for our party on Saturday and our family celebration on Sunday, but it was hard to leave them alone. We were all actually craving mooncake, which is something none of us has ever felt before. We used to dread having to get down a tiny wedge of mooncake and now we're all trying to figure out how we can sneak one without getting caught.
Next year Adeline wants to have a mooncake-making party with all her friends from Vietnam and China. I think it's a fabulous idea!
On the Labour Day weekend David decided to make one of Adeline's dreams come true and do two nights of REAL camping in one of our nearby provincial parks. I didn't know how she'd do with the outhouse, the bugs, the cold, the dirt or the many other inconveniences of camping, but she loved it and can't wait to go back! I didn't know how David would do either, as this was his first real camping experience since he was the world's cutest Cub Scout. Vivian, Nana and I just came out until after the campfire and then went home to sleep in our own beds, but hopefully next year it will be David and the two girls camping. Me? Not so much of a camping fan. I did it a lot as a kid and have good memories of it. I also have a lot of memories of being bored in a tent listening to the rain because it ALWAYS seemed to rain and of laying in bed desperately having to pee but not wanting to walk in the dark to the outhouse. And the bug bites. Oh the bug bites! Mosquitoes have always loved me. It had rained hard every day in the week before Labour Day, but we got lucky that it only rained overnight on one of the nights and the tent kept them dry. Also lucky was that our summer long fire ban had just been lifted - the campfire is the only part of camping I really love.
Vivian spent most of her time like this, hoping to spot an owl in the trees. She knows owls live in the forest and she was in the forest, so she was pretty sure she was going to see an owl ANY MINUTE. That girl LOVES owls.
But Vivi's stuffie was the only owl there...
The girls loved having the freedom to run and explore in the "forest" (really just the wooded area between the campsite and the outhouse, which was totally visible to us, but which felt a little dangerous and exciting to them. Vivian is an outdoors kind of girl so she was completely in her element.
S'mores are always wildly popular. We make ours with Nutella instead of chocolate, as the chocolate just never melted. So yummy.
I don't know if it was all the fresh air or all the sugar, but the two girls were so affectionate with each other. Although by the time this picture was taken, it looks like Vivi has maybe had enough of the hugging.
I understand why Adeline likes camping with her Dad. If I went I would make people put away the video games and read books or look at nature, I would insist on more sensible bedtimes and fruit, I would bring milk instead of juice and limit the candy and tell people that just froot loops isn't enough of a breakfast. I would even make people wash their faces, brush their hair and clean their teeth. I think instinctually Adeline knows all this, so she's just fine with me not being a camper.
I'm glad that Adeline and her Dad have such a fabulous time and I hope next year that David and his two girls will be making memories together while I have a weekend at home alone. Everyone is looking forward to next summer already - Vivi would like there to be more owls though.