Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chris' 8th Birthday

Chris' birthday was on May 20th. Grandma and Nanna came over for a family party that night and we gave him our gifts. Two days later we brought two of his friends with us to Nikiski Pool and water slide. Then we we went to Cold Stone for ice cream. Below are the photos of Chris hamming it up in all of his glory.

As you can see, he is quite a little goofball. He is very loud. He is also very funny. He has a quick wit like Matt. He also got Matt's math abilities. Some kids just "get" math, while others have to work at it. Both my boys "got" math at a very early age. They would know the answer to problems before they could explain how they knew it. He loves science. He likes to get on the internet and look at bugs. He also googles things like: the strongest man in the world, the biggest dog, the biggest snake, etc.

Chris' interests are very eclectic. When he was younger, Matt was worried that he had not found a "niche". In fact, he had too many interests to narrow it down to one or two. Riley was obsessed with balls and sports from the age of 9 months on. Chris was not ready for organized sports until a couple of years ago. I think part of it was that he was frustrated that he couldn't do things as well as his big brother. He seems to forget that he is 3 years younger than Riley. In his mind, they are only 12 to 18 months apart. Although he is following in his brother's footsteps, playing hockey and baseball, he does it his own way. He has an advantage over kids his own age because he has been trained at the school of hard knocks: keeping up with Riley and Bradley. They don't cut him any breaks. They usually put themselves on the same team opposite Chris.

Chris is the hardest working little kid I've ever met. He will usually help out with whatever we are doing whether we are digging post holes or planting a garden. His favorite jobs are cutting down trees and making burn piles. He helps Nanna with jobs around the house. He helped Uncle Michael pull a refrigerator up a flight of stairs and put together two wardrobes. He has a hole on Nanna's property that he has been working on since last summer. He told me this morning that he wanted to work on his hole. I asked him what the hole was for. He said "I don't know, I just want to dig a giant hole."

Chris loves dogs. The first thing he does every morning is come upstairs and lay down down on the floor between the dogs. Either he's petting one with each hand, or one with his hands and the other with his feet. Sometimes he curls up on the floor next to our bed and falls back to sleep on top of the dog bed.

The greatest thing about Chris is his compassion for others. It's hard to see is sometimes because he acts so tough and macho. Underneath all that false bravado, he is a big marshmallow. When we first brought Maya home, he was very kind to her. One time she was crying and we couldn't figure out why. I think someone accused her of crying for no reason. Chris said "Nobody knows how Maya feels. Only Maya knows what's like to be Maya." He recently told me he feels sorry for Maya because she is always getting hurt.

The first PG-13 movie I let the boys see was Avatar. When the Home Tree was being bombed and all the Navi were running for their lives he said to me "This is really sad!" The older boys were more focused on the guns and the bad words. After the movie they kept saying "We're mated for life" and giggling. I told them only Chris got the point of the movie. Riley got it, too but didn't express it in front of his friends.

Sometimes we forget he only a little boy. When Riley was little, he watched Pinocchio and Dumbo. But by the time Chris came along, all he saw was Air Bud and The Sandlot. When Riley spends the night at a friend's house, it's nice to spoil Chris and treat him like a little boy.

Opening presents

A dragon from Maya

A ball and bat from Riley

At Nikiski Pool with Cole and Ethan

Ice cream at Cold Stone

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

See you later, Bill and Ly

A few weeks ago we went to visit Bill and Ly. They are moving to Texas. Bill has serious health problems and wanted to be somewhere warm and sunny more than 3 days per year. Ly will come back to Homer every few months until their house sells. We hated to see them go but hope that Bill will feel better there. They were our main link to Vietnam. We had hoped that Maya could grow up hearing the Vietnamese language in person, not just on CDs. I guess we are going to have to go to Texas or Vietnam more often. Ly gave Maya a box of toys and Bill gave her a transistor radio. The same radio she used to play with when she first came to Alaska. It is a very special gift. See you later Bill and Ly; Never Goodbye.

Yi Ly and Maya

Maya holding Bill's transistor radio

Mother's Day, 2010

For Mother's Day this year I got to sleep in. Then Maya brought me a pretend cup of tea. Then the boys gave me their presents. Riley gave me project he made in school. It was a copy of Time Magazine, with me on the cover! He had drawn a picture of me and the cover of Time. Inside there was an article about me. He said the most important thing he learned from me was "Never give up unless what you are doing gets boring." Not exactly what I said but close enough. The funniest part was my world record. He said I hold the world record for longest time spent shopping at Costco: 4 hours. I beat the previous record of 3 hours 30 minutes.

Chris gave me book of coupons that I can redeem if I want an easy morning, help at meal time, or a peaceful bedtime. They were pages he had cut out of a Scholastic News for kids. Each page had lines for them to write their own ideas for that topic. In addition to helping prepare the meal, set the table and clean up, he wrote: "And I will not eat all the food so you can have some."
After church we went to the beach for our first beach cookout of the summer. We brought hot dogs, chips, snap peas, grapes, and of course: graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate for S'mores. Sarah, Grandma and Nanna joined us for a nice sunny day on the beach.

A few days later Matt and I went to Anchorage with Sarah to consult a specialist. Sarah's tumor was 99% "borderline cancer" and 1% epithelial carcinoma. Borderline cancers are not usually invasive and surgical excision is the cure. Epithelial carcinoma is invasive and we needed to know what to do about it. Dr. Higdon did not think she needed to go in for more biopsies. She just wants to monitor Sarah closely with tumor markers (blood tests) and ultrasound every 4 months for 2-3 years. We are relieved that she does not need anymore surgery so she can get back to normal life.

After the doctor appointment Matt and I went to Costco. I was so proud of myself for remembering to bring the flier with the new coupons. Matt needed new tires for his truck. There was a coupon for $75 off new tires. We set the coupon down in front of the sales girl and she said "Those coupons are not effective until tomorrow." Sure enough, the date said May 13 and it was only May 12. We tried to reason with her: "But we are from Homer and we can't come back tomorrow." No good. Then I tried to threaten her: "Fine, I'll send my daughter back tomorrow with my Costco card." She assured me that they do look at the photo on the Costco card every time to make sure the person matches the card. Finally, I pulled out my last weapon: "But I hold the record for the longest time spent shopping at Costco! I'm on the cover of Time Magazine!" She still did not budge. So I had to prove it to her, by presenting over $100 worth of dividend checks, both from shopping at Costco AND from using our Costco American Express Card. Guess I showed her!

Bradley, Riley and Chris

Maya at the beach

This is one of those days that makes us put up with Alaska the other 300 days per year.

Cinco de Maya

On May 5th we celebrated our second anniversary with Maya. She doesn't really understand the significance of this yet. To her, it's like another birthday. In the afternoon we went to a birthday party of a friend. Then we had a special dinner for Maya. My mom made her a pink cake with 2 candles that she got to blow out. At bedtime instead of the usual books we looked at a photo album of our trip to Vietnam together. She loves seeing the pictures of herself. She has not started to ask any hard questions yet. I'm sure those days will come.

After 2 years together, we are much better adjusted. Looking back I realize that it took us almost two years to get used to each other. The first year was really hard. The boys had to adjust to sharing their parents, grandparents and their home with another little person. I had to learn how to manage 3 children (now 4 at home). Maya had to learn how to eat and talk. She is now potty trained (during the day), goes to preschool, plays with lots of friends and speaks in full sentences (most of the time). She still loves books, music and electronics. She is still very feisty, sassy, willful and headstrong. She is also very curious, smart, sweet and affectionate.

She asks endless questions. It can be very exasperating. I have to remind myself that she is learning and wants to know everything about the world around her. Sometimes she asks questions she already knows the answer to just to talk, or keep us engaged. Sometimes I don't know what she is really asking me. For example: I showed her a feather that I found. She asked me "Why it feather?". What does that mean? So I asked her, "What do you mean? Why did I pick it up? Why did the bird lose a feather? Why do birds have feathers instead of fur?". Then I say, "Birds have feathers so they can fly and stay warm." She seemed satisfied and says "Oh." Sometimes when I don't get the answer right and she cannot reform the question, she says "Never mind!". I guess she gets exasperated with me as well.

She loves all animals except for flies. She is still terrified of flies. She likes baby worms but not big worms. She prefers playing with dinosaurs to playing with dolls. She loves to swim, especially in the hot tub. She still loves to be in tiny spaces, like boxes and closets. She loves tools of all kinds. She loves to jump on trampolines. She loves water slides. She would probably love roller coasters if we had one. She is not afraid of anything, except flies. She cannot take our word for anything. She has to experience it for herself. That scares me when I think about her as an adolescent. I think my biggest challenge will be finding ways to channel her energy in creative and positive ways, so that she doesn't have to rebel. As her preschool teacher said last week: "I try to avoid power struggles with Maya, because I know who will win."

Love the boots Grandma! Love the dress Nanna!

Maya attends a birthday party on May 5th, done completely in Cinco de Mayo theme