Sunday, November 23, 2014

Home with Sniffles


We stayed home from church today, opting not to spread the germs of my two youngest in the confined areas of the Sunday School rooms. I'm gearing up for the next birthday of the season tomorrow. Luckily, the first cake was all gone day-before-yesterday so the cake stand is clear for the next one. Here are some pictures of Apple that I took this last week.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Layered Up, Chinese Style



I bought these jammies in China on Jie Jie's adoption trip. They were a little too small for her so I put them away until now. I can hardly believe Apple is wearing them. She's growing like crazy and is so mature for her age. She watches us all intently and perfectly imitates us. She is going to be a highly skilled young lady and go very far in life if she keeps this up! I'm one very proud mama.

She's also got a giggle to die for. I wish I could bottle it up and take it out and listen to it any time I want. Her sense of humor is endlessly creative. I love that she's starting to smile when asked to for the camera.

Cooking 101


It's been hard to figure out how to teach the girls the cook due to several factors. First, with 100+ degree summer weather, we tended to stick to hearty cold salads most of the time. Second, with three girls and limited kitchen space, it was hard to figure out the logistics. Third, they each have varying skill levels and abilities. Fourth, by dinner time, I'm just a tired mama who want to put a meal on the table. So, I gave it some thought. Serious thought, because some of my best memories are of cooking with my mom and grandmother.

The more I thought, the more I remembered the things that I could first cook and one of the very first was macaroni and cheese out of a box. I figured this was a great way to begin, so I bought some organic varieties and introduced the girls to the instructions on the back of the box, which was hilarious because they'd read the small print and not the bold print - as in the main verbs, such as Add, Stir, Sprinkle and Combine. And they'd read part of the instructions, stop, figure they needed to do something, but not read the rest in order to figure out what that might be.


Part of our lesson also involved what the abbreviations TBS and tsp. stood for, lessons on caution around the hot stove, how to stir effectively, other crucial information about food safety and hygiene, what boiling meant and that it took several minutes for a pot of water to actually boil.

The process was fun and confidence-building for the girls and they thought their results were delicious. This was the first time they'd ever had mac and cheese from a box since I always make it from scratch.


Blossoms ending was fitting for her. "Mommy, should I keep the box?"

"Why?" I asked.

"So I can know how to make it again."

"Honey, what did the macaroni come in?"

"I don't know," was her befuddled reply.

"How did I buy it when I was at the store, did I scoop out the macaroni into a plastic bag then pour it out everywhere?"

"Yes," was her answer.

"No, that's not how I bought it. I bought it already in the box. When I buy it again, it will also come in a box. It will look exactly the same as the box you are going to throw away now, just like when I buy the same kinds of cereal."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Homeschooling: What We've Been Doing


As I've gone through exploring the option of public school, we've continued to homeschool, of course. I'm sure a lot better at it now than when we first started and now that the girls speak and understand English, it's easier for all of us, though I sure miss hearing Mandarin as much as I used to.

Each girl has a laptop. They do IXL math and language arts and CTC Math online. They've learned keyboarding online and also read and answer quizzes using Razkids. We have several workbooks that re-enforce math, grammar, spelling, and phonics, and workbooks to help teach social studies. I've subscribed to some church, family and kid magazines to teach a variety of subjects including nature and geography. After all, those people and animals live somewhere and we can look it up and learn about where in the world they are! For several months now, they begin their day rolling 12 dice with letters on them. They use the letters that come up to make words, check that the words exist in the dictionary and then write a sentence using each word. This has been the single best activity for improving their writing and spelling skills that I've come up with so far. We've even reached the point where all words have to be at least 4 letters long.

Today, much to their delights, I started to teach them to write in cursive. During the summer, they also memorized The Articles of Faith and will continue memorizing scriptures, which has also improved their English. The Pledge of Allegiance is next for memorization and we'll be starting basic American History this year, hence going to the Civil War Re-enactment last month.

I've focused heavily on reading and writing and it's paid off. Their writing skills have improved ten-fold! It has also revealed that Blossom thinks in huge amounts of data, which helps explain why she talks SOOOOO much and how she processes what she sees and experiences. I think that she will enjoy expressing herself through writing and will develop very strong writing skills in the future. Sissy's composition skills need a lot of work, but her spelling is coming along very well and she's zipping through the grade levels on the math programs with 90% or higher in all areas. Jie Jie's strength is in seeing the relevance of her school work to real life. She can learn something, draw it and write clearly about it. She is having speech and language processing issues that are slowing her down, but with continuing and additional therapy that's been approved by our insurance, she will make rapid progress.

Apple is about to graduate from her early intervention program. She's developing at a rapid rate and will catch up to her peers. Her weakness is her inability to speak, but she's making great strides every day. She is starting to watch specially designed videos to help her and it's working well. She feels like such a big girl when she gets to do "school" with her sisters! She's learned to climb into the car and into her carseat and booster seat at the dinner table. These are great feats due to the limits of her fingers, hands and arms. Her fingers are short and do not bend so she cannot grasp to pull herself up. Her upper arm bones are also shorter than normal so she doesn't have the leverage most kids have. Yesterday, she opened the drawer and handed me her bowl by herself. I didn't even realize she knew where her bowl was. She's definitely ready to be a "big" little girl now and she's doing so in super smart and appropriate ways.

Halloween 2014



We started the festivities early with dinner at our favorite buffet restaurant. Kids in costumes ate for free! Then, we hit the streets trick 'o treating. The big girls are pros now and Apple got it down right away. She carried her bag of candy all by herself the entire night! We had a fairy (Blossom), a kung fu fighter (Sissy), a firegirl (Jie Jie), and Raggedy Ann (Apple). Yes, I did wear the banana costume for the picture.



Apple's first loot! She like Kitkats and lollipops.

Our church had a Halloween party the Wednesday before Halloween and we'd kept Jie Jie's costume a secret from My Fireman. He knew she was going to be a firegirl, but he didn't know that a few days before, we'd found a perfect costume at a thrift shop. He was on duty so we went to the station to show all the girls off and right as we got to the door of the engine bay to take pictures, a call came in and all the guys had to suit up and roll out. So, if you look carefully, you'll see firefighters in the background getting ready and My Firefighter's hands are blurry in this first picture because he's suiting up. Then off they went.


At the party, Apple got her first lollipop. She loved it! You can see the drool all down her dress.


Pumpkin Carving


Because My Fireman was on duty, I loaded the pumpkins into my wagon and walked us all across the street and we carved our pumpkins at the fire station. There is a community room there that anyone/organization can reserve, so he reserved it for us. Sissy carved her pumpkin completely by herself! Jie Jie needed a little help. Blossom's fine motor skills and artistic expression as well as simply taking more time and care need to be further developed. Apple was into the pumpkin innards.


His


Hers


Sissy & Apple


Jie Jie & Blossom

Monday, November 3, 2014

Friends Forever



Sissy's best friend from her orphanage, and room mate / crib mate, came for a visit. It was the first time they've seen each other since their adoptions. It's hard to imagine these girls are a month shy of turning 16, but it's true. Watching them together was such fun and listening to so much Chinese again was great!

We went to our favorite park...


And we went to our favorite buffet...


Of course, we went to the fire station...


The next day, we went to the zoo...


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Yosemite Hike 1 & 2


After my Half Dome Hike, the girls were interested in seeing Yosemite so I took them up and promptly got sick with food poisoning, threw up here and there around the park and managed to drive home without the girls seeing much at all. The following week, My Firefighter came with us and we had a great time and the girls got to go on their first "real" hike to the top of Sentinel Dome.


My first attempt alone with the girls. I got REALLY sick!

We began the day at the Mariposa Grove where the giant sequoias are and found out that they are taking out the roads and this is the last season of the tram ride through the forest. The weight of the cars is compressing and compromising the root systems of these great trees.


The tram through the forest. Excited and cold!


The Fallen Monarch.
These are the roots of a fallen giant sequoia.

The Giant Sequoia named Grizzly Giant is between probably 1900 to 2400 years old: the oldest tree in the grove. It has a volume of 34,010 cubic feet (963 m3), and is counted as the 25th largest tree in the world. It is 210 feet (64 m) tall, and has a heavily buttressed base with a basal circumference of 28 m (92 ft) or a diameter of 30 feet (9.1 m); above the buttresses at 2.4 m above ground, the circumference is only 23 m. Grizzly Giant's first branch from the base is 2 m (6 ft) in diameter.


Standing inside a living tree!


It's all about....


...perspective!

Next, we went to Glacier Point and I was able to see the entire path of the hike I took up to Half Dome. I cannot believe I hiked all that way! If I'd seen it first, I'd never have thought I could make it.


After seeing Glacier Point, we hiked 2.2 miles round trip to the top of Sentinel Dome which gave us a 360 degree view of Yosemite. Jie Jie is part mountain goat and was the first up and first down, much to My Firefighter's surprise. It was the first time he's seen this side of her and I was glad he did since he's still learning how her special needs affect her abilities. Blossom was able to control her reactions to her sensory issues and make the climb and even climbed the "victory rock" for her picture. A major first for her! Sissy enjoyed the experience and is looking at Half Dome with a little more curiosity now. Apple climbed all over Glacier Point on her own, but conked out in the backpack on the hike.