Friday, February 24, 2012

To the Theater!

When AK and I went to see The Nutcracker in December, we picked up a flyer for a production especially for 2-4 year olds.  AK was thrilled that there might be a "show just for him!", so I bought tickets for B3 and me to have a day at the theater.  The show was Hello, Elly!, based on the book, The Elephant and the Tree by Jin Pyn Lee.   I admit it; I was a little skeptical; the ad said we'd all be sitting on the floor.  A room full of 2-4 year olds on the floor who are expected to sit and watch a show?  I had my doubts. 

Today was theater day, and I think AK was more excited than anyone else; she's been telling him for days about the elephant  play he gets to see.  Her last words to us as she got on the bus were, "Have fun at your elephant show!".  We took the bus, which is a thrill for B3 any day, so we were off to a great start.   We were a little early, and B3 immediately started asking where the elephant was.  He's not particularly fond of the elephants we met at the zoo, so I was a little concerned.  He was definitely happy to be there, despite the promise of elephants.

I shouldn't have worried. Once the show started, he was completely thrilled. The show took place all around where we sat, and we the three actors were fun and engaging.

The forty minute show managed to tell a story about friendship while exploring the ABC's with a little tree-hugging thrown in for good measure.  He loved it!  There's another show for this age group in April, so we'll explore that one, too  Perhaps we'll go on a Saturday and take AK with us. 

Evidently, he was worn out by our morning adventures because his nap hit harder and earlier than usual. But not before the tractors were played with and Pancake was snuggled. 
Maybe I just can't resist a picture of this boy while he sleeps. A favorite quote from a favorite author comes to mind....
"There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.”
 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Party Time!

AK turned six last week, and we celebrated on Saturday. She invited 12 friends, and ten joined us for an afternoon of beads, games, and sprinkles.  I've learned that nearly everyone invited to a party will attend; it's not like anyone will be in the next city visiting Grandma or anything like that. 

We made cupcake necklaces.

We played games.  Loud games. I've never heard such noise. It was a happy sound, but boy, they were loud!

And then, we finally got to the most important part of the party. Cupcakes!  The girls were given plain cupcakes,
 and we had lots and lots of pink and lavender icing for them to decorate with.

Here's my favorite cupcake of the day. One sweet girl completely emptied the icing dispenser onto her cupcake, and she did so quite well. Her mother was mortified, but I was prepared. We had lots of icing. 

 Then, the sprinkles appeared. Tons of sprinkles! We had cows, dolphins, stars, chicks, pigs, and other animals. There were at least 20 different kinds of sprinkles, and they were sprinkled liberally.

After the decorating, it was time to celebrate!  Each girl decorate three cupcakes:  one to enjoy at the party and two to take home. 

Even the little brother enjoyed the party.  He sat patiently and waited on his turn to decorate,

And he was a quick learner in Duck, Duck, Goose (never mind he just 'duck'ed everyone  - even when he wasn't 'it').

The girls had a great time, despite my anxiety about the day. As much as I enjoy planning and preparing party foods, the games and entertainment aspects of the party made me nervous.  Five and six year olds are a tough crowd!   

I also learned a valuable lesson last week as the party approached. Never, ever try to prepare for two parties (we had a Sunday School gathering as well- that means four recipes of icing, three kinds of cake, cake pops, and sausage balls [which required making both sausage and baking mix]) without a dishwasher and potty train a Boy when your husband is out of town.  Not Fun. Thankfully, I think we'll have the potty training behind us by the time the next party comes around.  At least, I certainly hope so.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Three Years

Today, we celebrate our favorite boy's birthday.  He's three today.  I can't believe it's been only three years since he joined our family; it feels like he's been with us for longer than that.  Some say the early years fly by with the blink of the eye, but let me assure you; we've felt most every moment of the last three years with this one.  (Just kidding.  Mostly.) 
4 days old and trying to learn to eat and keep himself warm in the NICU

He announced his intention to join our family five weeks before we expected him to, and then he took his sweet time actually making his grand entrance.  Twenty eight hours.  But who was counting?  He's still following his own schedule, and we love him! 

We celebrated his birthday while in Georgia over the holidays.  AK is having a party here in Singapore, but he doesn't have any friends yet to invite to a party.  So, we hastily put together a little celebration.   If you've seen him in person or in pictures during the last year, you'll know that the his party was perfect for him. 

PaPa surprised him with John Deere tractor balloons, which he loved.

He was a little shy when we sang to him, but he enjoyed every minute.

We were thankful for the grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles who joined us for the celebration!

The kids had a ball.  There's a certain squeal of joy that is contagious when you turn five kids loose in a wooden floored hallway with a dozen bouncy balls.  It's a game I loved as a kid, and from the sounds in that hallway, so do they.

B3 spent a little quality time with his old friend, Daisy.

 And cousins from both sides enjoyed a wagon ride around the yard, compliments of PaPa.  (The Birthday Boy wishes PaPa's tractor was green, but he's not one to pass up a tractor ride, no matter the color!)

He was thrilled with all of his gifts, but the green and yellow ones with tires and hitches were his favorites. 

He obviously loves All Things John Deere, and he rarely leaves the house without a car of some kind in his pocket.  He lights up at the sight of Lightning McQueen, and trash trucks and police cars cannot pass without commotion. He thanks God for Duck Boats and Cable Cars at every meal (I still need to blog about those), and he adores all types of transportation. He currently loves to wash dishes play in the soapy dishwater whenever he can. One of his favorite books is The Smash Up Crash Up Derby, and he's still singing Jingle Bells every day. 

He's firmly entered the land of "Me, Too!" and wants to do any and everything his sister does - from painting his toenails, doing homework, buying Disney Princess souvenirs, being punished, dancing, and eating candy. Obviously, we sometimes offer him alternative activities.

He's growing a little; his 18 month shorts are just now beginning to fit.  We can tell he's grown an inch or so taller since we've been here; he can push the 11th floor elevator button with ease while he struggled in August.  I'm not complaining about his size; it's definitely convenient that he's small when he's in his current phase of "Pick me up!".  It's still easy to cuddle and snuggle him, too - when he's willing.  I suppose soon enough he'll grow out of that, and I'll be chastised for calling him "Sunshine" when he's 12.  Until then, I'll take what I can.

While he still has a considerable speech delay, his non verbal communication skills are excellent.  He's finally asking some "Where?" questions, and I'm actually looking forward to the day of the endless "Why?".  We've just started therapy with our second speech therapist since we've been in Singapore, and we think she'll be an excellent ally as we continue to help him find his words.  I know that three year olds are notorious for their non-stop chatter, but his words are probably 90% important - communicating a need or want or asking about what we're doing, where we're going and how we're going there (train, taxi, or bus).   When the day comes when I'm looking for ear plugs, I pray I remember how far we've come and how thankful we are for his voice.  We've got a long way to go, but we'll get there eventually.  Look at how far he's already come. Obviously, he's still on his own schedule, even three years later.
Happy Birthday, B3! 

First Birthday - 2010

Second Birthday 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hong Kong Holiday (#1)

Back in the Fall, I realized that we didn't yet have any plans for the week of Chinese New Year (CNY).  AK would be out of school for the week, and Ben's office would be closed for the 2 official days of holiday.   I heard time and time again that it was already becoming too late to book a trip if it hadn't already been done.  Did we want to go to the beach?  No; airline tickets seemed to be scarce and inflated 100-200% if available at all.  While looking for inspiration on a travel site, an ad for cheap(er) tickets to Hong Kong popped up. 

Well, why not?  It was only a 4 hour flight, and Hong Kong is in our time zone.  Hurray for no jet lag!  We began to plan.  Ben has been to Hong Kong a few times before for very quick business trips, so he would enjoy being a tourist.  He mentioned that he'd love to see the Tian Tan Buddha at Po Lin Monastery. I had been intrigued by the idea of Disneyland in Asia.  A plan was hatched. Part of AK and B3's Christmas present involved Princess and Lightening McQueen water bottles, Jessie and Lightening T-Shirts, and a note from Santa telling them to enjoy Disneyland.  They had no clue what a Disneyland was, but they were still excited to be going on a trip last Sunday as we boarded our plane.

We flew on Jetstar, which is Quantas' budget airline. In this case, 'budget' means food and beverages are available, but for a price. There was no extra leg room, and no blankets or pillows.  But for 4 hours, it was do-able.  It was a morning flight, so we were checking in to our hotel around 2  in the afternoon.

I didn't really know what to expect at the Hollywood Hotel; it was the lower priced of HKDL's two on-property hotels.  I shouldn't have worried; everything was perfect.  From the overly helpful bellboys when we arrived to Mickey's voice announcing our floor in the elevator, we enjoyed every detail.  Well, some of us enjoyed it.  Ben declared that he'd be tired of Mickey before we left, but I think even he would now admit that the entire experience was well worth our time and effort and money.

Our room overlooked the water (because that's all that was available when we finally made reservations), and someone enjoyed seeing the many ferries pass each day.
The hotel grounds were beautiful, but it was too cold to really enjoy them.  Waaaay too cold.  Had I not stuck in long johns and warm hats as an after thought "just in case", we would have been all wearing furry Goofy hats trying to stay warm. 

There were orange trees everywhere to celebrate CNY.

The hotel was decorated in an art deco theme, and these cars were along the walkway.

 In nicer weather, we would have enjoyed walking along the water. Maybe next time.

As is always the case at Disney, it was All Mickey All the Time. And I loved it.  Loved it so much that someone made fun of me for taking pictures of the ubiquitous Mickey silhouette. 

We saw Mickey on park benches... espresso and in ketchup...

...and on our hotel, decorated for CNY.

It's fairly easy to tell which subway train goes towards Disney, too.

I've never ridden a subway car with glass-enclosed bronze statues before!

Of course, eating Mickey shaped ice creams was a priority.  I loved them as a kid, and I was looking forward to those chocolate ears.  Anna Kate enjoyed a Minnie Ice cream, which was strawberry, banana, and vanilla ice cream and chocolate on one side.  She obviously needs more practice eating ice cream from a stick, though.  Maybe next time, the last 15% of her dessert won't end up on the floor. 

Unfortunately, B3 had to settle for a dairy free orange juice bar instead of a delicious Mickey. He didn't seem to mind; he enjoyed every lick!

Visiting during CNY had some unexpected bonuses.  The hotel was decorated elaborately in oranges and red. One day as we returned to the hotel, we could see that a lion dance was about to be set up.  B3 enjoyed the front row view, while AK's little fingers couldn't mash her ears closed enough to block the drums and clashing cymbals.

The dance was a lot more involved than I thought it would be; I didn't expect acrobatic, salad eating lions.  Honestly, I'm not sure what I expected, but it was impressive.  (You can read all about the salad at Wikipedia. Of Course.)

Here's a video.  It was even louder in person, but it's still loud.  Beware.  It's a little long, too.  I'm not into editing, so just watch a little.

At the end of each of the three days we were in Hong Kong, Ak and B3 crashed. 

Stay tuned for pictures from our fun filled Disney Days...