Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Feel Wicked!

On Valentine's Day, Lyle and I had our "Wicked" getaway! Here is Lyle arriving at the L.A. airport. This sign greeted us right when we walked off the plane. Obviously we're in the right city!

We got to our hotel, had just enough time to change, and then we got a ride out to Hollywood. I'm glad we hadn't cut it any closer because the drive there took a good hour, although it was only about 12 miles away! It was so fun to see flowers blooming and oranges growing on the trees! This winter has seemed so long and we can't wait for spring!

We had a wonderful (and QUIET!) dinner and then walked to the theater. The whole walk there was on the sidewalk where entertainment figures have their "stars". There are an amazing number of them!

Our seats were on the 4th row and it was so neat to be that close. The woman playing Glinda, Megan Hilty, was the same actress I saw playing that role with the touring company in Seattle. I thought she was great the first time, but close-up, I thought she was fantastic. She really steals the show. The Elphaba character was played my Caissie Levy, who is new to the LA company. I thought she was great too, but I preferred Shoshanna Bean, who I saw in Seattle. This was the first time Lyle had seen the play and he loved it. The whole trip was very short, but so perfectly fun. Thank you to the Towers and Haws for watching our kids! And a HUGE thank you to Lyle who has earned major brownie points in my book!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Closet Gymnast

When I say that Maya is a closet gymnast, I don't mean that she hides her talent. I mean that she literally does gymnastics in our closet. It started a couple of weeks ago when I heard Maya exclaim from the closet, "Wow! That trick so cool!" I investigated and found that she'd pushed the clothes aside on one of the lower hanging rods in our closet. She hung from her arms, walked her feet up the wall, effortlessly swung her legs under and then up over the bar, and shocked her mom with all sorts of tricks. She even performed a couple of different "flipskies", as she called them. At one point, she was hanging from her arms and obviously trying to do some sort of pull-up. She was putting quite a lot of effort into it and grunted, "tummy!...up there!" So, I helped her get her tummy up on the bar, and she proceeded to spin around the bar!

Our three older kids have always been fairly cautious. And really, I wouldn't call Maya a daredevil, but she seems to be very coordinated and limber and she appears to be confident in what her body can do. When Madeline was about 8 years old she took gymnastics. She mostly enjoyed it, but one day after I picked her up, she seemed on the verge of tears. I reminded her that she can't expect to be the best at everything she tries. She sobbed, "It's not that I'm not the best. I'm the WORST!" So, she decided that gymnastics was just not her sport.
As Lyle and I watched Maya perform her closet gymnastics the other day, Lyle commented, "Hmmm. That's got to be genetic."

Walk feet up the wall, get legs in position.....

Make Mom very nervous!

Another picture from that same day. I LOVE the pigtails on Maya! Abby said, "People will know for sure we're sisters with our matching hairstyles!"

And one more pigtail shot. She looked so pretty on Sunday in her Chinese New Year dress.

And one more because she was in a pretty, girly girl mood.

She's definitely not always in a girly girl mood! This is how she'd like to accessorize her Sunday dress--with brother's basketball shoes. Also, notice Abby's backpack on the floor behind her. She LOVES backpacks, especially Abby's! There is a song on one of her favorite videos that's all about backpacks and she sprints to find a backpack whenever the song starts. She so wants to go to school. I put in an application for her to start preschool in the fall. She'll just barely have turned 3, but I know she's ready and she's just giddy about all things related to school. The other day when she was loading up a backpack and pretending to go to school, I couldn't help but think of how limited (and almost non-existent) her educational opportunities would have been had she stayed in China. Such a sad thought. She has an amazing mind and I know she's going to put it to very good use!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Chinese New Year

Welcome year of the rat! Last night Lyle and I inched out of our comfort zone a bit and hosted a Chinese New Year dinner. There were 3 families here for a total of 14 people. One of the guests was a woman that I visit teach who just moved here from China. It was a little intimidating to serve my somewhat Americanized version of a Chinese New Year dinner to someone who really knows how Chinese New Year should be done! Thankfully she was very sweet and complimentary, and most importantly, she kept a good sense of humor! Here is Maya, (our girl born in the year of the Rooster) modeling Madeline's New Year's dress.

Red and gold are the colors of Chinese New Year. The banner on the door says something like "Wealth and Prosperity" (or so I was told by the teenage boy who works at "Party City". I'm sure he's an authority on such things!)

A woman from Lyle's office gave him the decorations of the boy and girl. I can't remember their exact symbolism, but I know they represent something good!

Maya had so much fun "helping" me to get the decorations up. What probably should have taken an hour literally took all day. She was too excited about the party to take a decent nap.
We hung a curtain of Chinese characters and symbols in the entrance to the den.
I should have taken a picture of the delicious food! We had:
Chinese pickles
Jiaozi dumplings
Spicy bean sprouts
Asparagus salad
Char Sui barbequed pork with hot mustard sauce
Stir fried pork and noodles
Fried rice
VInegar fish (the WHOLE fish---head, eyes, tail...) It was served on a bed of rice and bok choy and was quite impressive.
A fruit platter
Nian Gao Chinese new year cake (it has a layer of red beans in the middle!)

It all turned out so well. Even the new year cake, which made me a little nervous, was actually quite good. It kind of tasted like a rice pudding. Everyone helped get things together, but Madeline was a lifesaver. As soon as she got home from school, she just rolled up her sleeves and got things done! She's a girl who always appreciates a good theme party!

You can see the mandarin orange on each plate. Citrus fruits are always served at the new year and they represent prosperity and health. The noodles represent longevity so they must not be cut! The fish was served whole because the head represents a good start to the new year and the tail a good finish. Serving foods whole also symbolizes family togetherness.

The girls looked lovely in their dresses. No amount of pleading will get Adam into traditional Chinese clothing! I don't know if you can see it in the picture (although she is sporting her toothy picture face), but Maya hit her mouth and now has a very gray front tooth. "...The old gray tooth, it ain't what it used to be...."

Maya is such an American toddler, that any Chinese celebrations feel just as foreign to her as to any other American. When she sat down at her seat, she picked up her chopsticks with a quizzical look and yelled to me in the kitchen, "Hey, Mom! I need a fork!" She said it with an expression like, "Someone accidently put sticks next to my plate. What's up with THAT?"

Maya is getting more amd more brave around Chinese women and actually sat on my friend's lap for a couple of minutes. This was really big for her! It didn't last long though and when my friend spoke to Maya in Mandarin, Maya burst into tears and clung to me for a good 5 minutes. I'm sure she doesn't have any memories, but when she hears Chinese women speaking Mandarin, some feeling deep down is brought to the surface and she gets weepy and very clingy.
It was interesting talking to my friend who, like Maya, is also from the south of China. She said that Maya has a very typical southern Chinese look about her and that the women from the south are generally much more quiet and shy than northern women. Hmmm....Either we were mistakenly given a northern girl, or we've Americanized those characteristics out of her!
The dinner was wonderful and I'm so glad we did it. There's so much to love about the different cultures of the world.