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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Random Daycare Daily Report #5

Sophie was in a really happy mood and had a great day with her buddies! Sophie was saying "Thank You!" a lot- so polite :) Sophie also asked to read the book Oops! over and over again. She just loves those David books! Have a good night!

And an adorable thing that happened today during both drop-off and pick-up: goodbye and hello hugs. It's not like we've had a hard time dropping Sophie off but in the past, she would sometimes need to be distracted in one way or another (breakfast, toys, being carried by her teacher, etc.) when we said our goodbyes. But today, when it was time for bye-bye, Sophie just walked to me, hugged my legs, walked to Jude and hugged his legs, and then went off happily to the toy corner to play with her friends. It was amazing- both the individual goodbye hugs and the breezy, easy manner of it all. It was like her way of saying, "I know the routine now, Mama and Dada. Don't worry about me- I'll have fun. You take care too. Bye!"

And when we went by to pick her up, it was the same thing- she saw me walk in and broke out into that heart-melting smile of hers, waddled to me, and gave me a tight hug and a snuggle. Then she caught a glimpse of Jude, beamed even more widely, stumbled into his arms, and laid her head on his shoulders plus a few loving pats :) And then she just sat down and waited patiently as we put on her jacket while yabbering on about something (I assume she was telling us about her day and the pizza she had for lunch...) I was about ready to tear up! I'm not quite sure how to begin explaining why these hugs mean so much- I think it's more what they represent than the actual hugs themselves. It's her growing up and having developed the trust and faith that her parents love her and will always come back to get her at the end of the day, her joy when they do, the confidence and contentment with her surroundings, and a level of independence that we're beginning to see in her in other ways as well. She's made a transition and I'm so proud of her. And while there's an element of wistfulness once in a while for a time when she never wanted to leave our side, I know this is all part of her journey to toddlerhood. We just have to allow her to grow up...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sophie meets Christmas Elmo

Sophie loves Elmo. With a fervor we don't comprehend. We've never deliberately introduced Elmo to her, or bought her Elmo toys, or showed her Elmo videos. It just happened that we have that ONE Elmo book (well, now two) and her toothpaste happens to have Elmo on the tube. And she loves him. With a deep and abiding love. So much so that she has gone from calling him Mo-mo to calling him by his proper name, "Elmo!" (yes, always with an exclamation- Sophie is not one to do things in small measures...)

And so imagine her glee when we encountered a singing Elmo at Borders this evening. And not just a singing Elmo, a singing Christmas Elmo which jives. And so what is an almost 16-month old to do in the face of a jiving, singing, Christmas Elmo? Well, jive along of course! (note that her dance moves are right now an eclectic combination of drunken sailor, hip-grabbing burlesque performer, and that nervous teenager who only knows how to bop up and down in the middle of the dance-floor. It's interpretive dance- we're working on it...)

And then she gets distracted by Ni Hao, Kai-Lan from the corner of her eye...

Friday, November 26, 2010

We are thankful for...

Rest of Thanksgiving photos here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What are you thankful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thanksgiving nosh

It's 11.30am and I just got home. After dropping Jude off at school almost two hours ago. And why, you may ask, did it take me 120 minutes to get home? Is it because someone once again decided to do Thanksgiving grocery shopping the day before Thanksgiving? Or could it be because someone naively believed that a store up on North Campus and the Asian supermarket would somehow be less crowded than anywhere else? Perhaps, it might be because someone decided to throw in a couple of errands to run at the same time? Yes. To all three. Me. Why? Why do I do this to myself every year? Whatever the case is, I'm survived the insanity, am home, warm and toasty, and ready to do some Thanksgiving dinner prep.

For the first time in 5 years, we won't be having our traditional deep-fried turkey at Thanksgiving. Rick and Emilee will be at Emilee's parents' in Wisconsin for the holiday and while they wonderfully invited us to join them, we don't think Sophie's going to do very well on a 7-hour car ride there and back. And so we'll be here in Ann Arbor celebrating with our friends, Nathan and Anna. It's potluck and our contribution this year is sweet potato casserole (Emilee's grandma's recipe and too awesome for words) and for something different, Chinese sausage, sticky rice, and roasted chestnut stuffing. It's something we're really familiar with back home (it's usually wrapped in lotus leaf for dim-sum) and we thought it'll be fun to bring something non-conventional together with the traditional sweet potato dish. Besides, it's probably going to be quite an international crowd and we're expecting the stuffing to be well-received.

Then on Friday, we have another dinner planned and this time, I'm going to try something I've been meaning to tackle for the longest time- Momofuku's famed pork-belly buns. I made their renowned Crack Pie a couple of months back to some success and decided it was time to foray into an entree. We've never had the original pork buns but have been loving the ones at Tomukun Noodle Bar here in Ann Arbor that are fashioned after them. If the recipes online can be trusted (and they all say they're based on Momofuku owner, David Chang's cookbook), I will be rewarded for my efforts with delectable, golden brown, pillowy-soft, melt-in-my-mouth-amazing pork belly. Just thinking about it makes my knees weak...

Watch this space- you know I'll post an update :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Time to put away childish things...

For the past 5 years, we've always been lucky enough to get tickets for the opening midnight showing of the Harry Potter movies, complete with long lines to get drinks, even longer lines to get into the theatre, and people dressing up as their favorite characters (my favorite was two guys, one dressed as Harry in his Quidditch uniform and the other, in a gold outfit with wings, like a snitch!). And the cinema was of course, always packed, to the point that last year (2 weeks before Sophie was born), Jude, Libby, and I all had to sit separately throughout the whole movie (see here for a photo of the line that snaked around the parking lot after the midnight screening of Half-Blood Prince.)

This year, we couldn't possibly attend the midnight screening but didn't want to miss seeing the movie on opening day. And so thanks to Sophie being in daycare, Jude and I made a lunch/movie date out of it and caught a matinee screening. Things were much saner, no lines for concessions, and there were plenty of choice seats in the theatre. How refreshing...

As for the movie, I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't watched the movie or read the books, but suffice to say that we both felt a real sense of despair at the end of it. Not that there is much death in this installment (there was more of it in Half-Blood Prince I think), but the note of sombreness and sadness was so palpable throughout the whole film that it was hard to shake off even as we walked out. It's tough to say if we "loved" the movie- 1) we've technically only seen half the movie, with Part 2 opening only in July 2011; and 2) thinking about it as the beginning of the end of a wondrous series that we've been following for more than 10 years adds another layer of melancholy to the whole experience.

There is still plenty of magic in Deathly Hallows but not of the same kind of magic that delighted and enchanted us in the earlier movies- the magic now is darker, of deeper import, no longer about levitating a feather, but about being shielded from evil. And the helplessness, loneliness, and stark desolation that was slowly building since Goblet of Fire has reached a fevered pitch (or abyss, depending on how you want to look at it).

So yes, in the words of A.O. Scott, in his NYT review of the movie, it is time for young wizards to put away childish things... :(

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursdays with Mama

Thursdays are my days with Sophie and we've gotten a nice routine down every week. In the mornings, after a leisurely breakfast, we go to the library for story time at 10.30. It's only a 30 minute session but there's music, singing, and props that go with the story and Sophie really enjoys it (which she shows by sitting really still in my lap the whole time-- a remarkable feat for her, hands on her own lap, transfixed by Story Time Lady). They then take out toys for the children to play with and we hang around for another 45 minutes or so, and then borrow a couple of books before we head home for lunch. Sophie takes her one nap at around 12.30 and usually sleeps till 2.00 or a little after.

And then, it's mommy group time. Since she was 5 months old, Thursday afternoons have been spent with our mommy group, which started in January as a Lamaze-organized thing. The group met through Lamaze till May and then we took a break over summer. I missed them when we were in California- even though we only met once a week, we saw our babies through some of their most important developmental milestones-- sitting up, solids, teething, crawling, standing up, etc.-- and we had all become good friends (I'd like to think so did our babies). And so when I came back in September, we all made it a point to continue meeting during our usual time. During those warmer weeks in September and October, we met at different parks around Ann Arbor, and now that it's getting cooler, our default meeting place has become the Hands-on Museum, a wonderful, wonderful space for children of all ages. Today though, we broke from our routine and met at My Urban Toddler instead, an indoor play-area for infants and toddlers in Saline, a 20-minute drive away. It's not as big as the Hands-on Museum but it was still very nice- with different rooms (like a Library, the Market, the Fire Station, Fine Arts corner, and a Kitchen) all stocked with props and playthings for the best kind of imaginative play possible. Sophie had fun pretending to cut up fruits and vegetables, pushing dolls around in baby umbrella strollers, and also discovered her musical side:

I love my Thursdays with Sophie- even through that last insane leg of my dissertation-writing, Thursdays were sacrosanct days where I did no work as long as Sophie was awake. On Thursdays, I'm all hers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Random Daycare Daily Report #5

Sophie has been so chatty and friendly today. All through lunch she kept looking up and smiling and saying "hi!" :) Sophie really enjoyed taking a stroller walk around Olsen Park. She kept pointing to the geese on the water ("duck!") and the trucks on the highway. We also read Oh David! (again) and on the dirty diaper page, Sophie put her hand over her nose and said "P.U.!"

Yes, Sophie loves the Oh David! series of books by David Shannon. We're a little disturbed since it's all about a rambunctious, mischievous child called David who gets himself into all sorts of trouble. But she loves it when we exaggerate all the different naughty things he does- like run around without his pants on, spilling milk on the floor, dragging muddy shoes all across the living room, etc... Right now, we're reading No, David! and It's Christmas, David!, both of which Sophie can read (or make us read to her) over and over again, sometimes, back to back. She remembers where certain pictures are on the page, will point to them and label ("dog!"), and knows to wait till we're done reading before she turns each page, which makes me think she's really listening to and retaining the way the story develops.

In the last two weeks or so, Sophie has started to show more interest in books with longer narratives and a more sustained storyline. She still enjoys her board books like Hug and Let's Play, but she's also developed a little more concentration to sit and listen to longer stories. These days, our bedside table has become a mini-library, with a stack of her favorite books that we throw on the bed to read every morning when she wakes up and before she goes to bed. She'll pick whichever books she wants, says either "read" or "book", and then crawls into one of our laps and tucks herself in there, ready to be read to. It's adorable, really :) Some of our favorites right now:
- Old Bear: a beautifully illustrated story about hibernation and the changing seasons. The colors are truly stunning in this one and Sophie likes pointing out to things like "flowers" and "trees".
- Llama, Llama, Red Pajamas: I can read this story back to back four times over and Sophie would still ask for "more!" I think she identifies with the impatient baby llama who yells for his Mama after she has put him to bed.
- Knuffle Bunny: We've always loved Mo Wilems' Pigeon books and Knuffle Bunny is just as gleeful and delightful. Sepia-tone photographs of a Brooklyn neighborhood provide the backdrops for his hand-drawn artwork and the story, the perfect capture of toddler distress :)
- Froggy Gets Dressed: I get so thirsty reading this because it has to do with a little frog who tries several times to dress appropriately for playing in the snow. It involves putting on all manner of winter clothing which starts to become a mouthful after about six pages...
- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie: Jude often sings this story (he makes the tune up) which is wonderfully hilarious in and of itself :) It does get a little long towards the end but Sophie will sit through it and sometimes laugh at the parts where we laugh out loud too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to be a good dinner guest

Last night, we celebrated our friend's Rick's birthday with dinner at the Common Grill in Chelsea. Because of Sophie's bedtime and the fact that Chelsea's about a 25 minute-drive away, we had early reservations, at 5pm. And as we sat through dinner-- drinks, appetizers, salad, entrees, small-talk and all-- it occurred to both of us how we took for granted that Sophie would be OK through it all. And she was. She sat in her high-chair dutifully, played with the crayons and coloring paper she was given; started eating her pasta, carrots and fish-sticks while we looked at our menus; occupied herself by starring around the restaurant, smiling and flirting with the waiting staff while we put in our orders and had appetizers; fed herself fistfuls of strawberries when the salads arrived; and happily jabbed and swooshed away on the iPad when we ate our entrees. Give her some oyster crackers (thanks one of the many waitresses who fell in love with her) at the end while we chatted and settled the bill, and Sophie was the absolute paragon of perfect toddlerhood. She didn't whine, never fussed, patted Jude or I on the arm when she wanted some attention and kisses, but then always went back to whatever she was doing. And at the end of dinner when I carried her out of her highchair and let her walk around the restaurant a little, an elderly couple who was sitting at the table next to ours sweetly said, "She's a doll!" I beamed with such pride... :)

Maybe it's because she's so used to sitting at the table with us as we all have dinner together, or because we literally take her everywhere we go that she's accustomed to sometimes having meals outside, but we've never had to worry that Sophie won't do well in restaurants. From simple diners and cafes to white tablecloth places like the Common Grill or Cafe Zola, as long as Sophie has her own food that she can feed herself with, the iPad or her favorite books to flip through, and her Mama and Dada within arm's reach, she's a happy camper. We've learned to quit while we're ahead though and having appetizers and entrees is just about as much as Sophie can take. No desserts for us. We attempted to do that while we celebrated my defense at Cafe Zola and that probably stretched her attention span a little more than she was capable of tolerating. We only narrowly managed to avert a mini public meltdown by distracting her with taking a walk outside.

But now we know better- secrets to a successful meal out with a 15-month old: a good afternoon nap, a variety of finger foods, good media for distraction, some good old fashioned love and attention from Dada and Mama, and splitting the joint after the main course. Priceless :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Did you have this much fun at lunch today?

Don't ask me what was so funny about lunch but Sophie clearly finds sweet potato and spinach porridge utterly hilarious :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm calling it

sen·tence, noun \ˈsen-tənz\
a word, clause, or phrase or a group of clauses or phrases forming a syntactic unit which expresses an assertion, a question, a command, a wish, an exclamation, or the performance of an action.

"Hi Dada!"

"More, Mama..."

"More milk."

I don't care if it's just two words, Sophie's speaking in sentences, and that's that.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Conversations with a 15-month old

[during lunch]

Me: Sophie, would you like more porridge?
Sophie: No.
Me: What about apple?
Sophie: Ah-ple.
Me: You want apple?
Sophie: No. Fjeutn bgydndodle gsf [jibberish]
Me: All done?
Sophie: Mama... ah-ple.
Me: You want apple?
Sophie: [signing more] More, more.
Me: OK, Mama get you some apple. [cuts up some apple] Here Sophie, apple.
Sophie: [takes one piece and bites on it. Chews.]. No, no. Nytbdtqp woetdbfs [jibberish]. No, no.
Me: No apple?
Sophie: No, no.
Me: What do you want, Sophie?
Sophie. Mama... No, no [Shakes head and flays arms]. Waaaaaaaaah!! Besd qm lskn bggcvxds [jibberish]
Me: Sophie, no no crying. Tell Mama what you want.
Sophie: Mama. Water, water.
Me: You want water?
Sophie: Water.
Me: [brings her her water bottle]
Sophie: [grabs bottle, sips excitedly, and empties it. Smacks her lips. Smiles.] Mama...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Random Daycare Daily Report #4

Sophie has had SO much to say today. She's been saying water, telling her friends, No, and I even saw her "talking" on the phone saying Hi Dada! So cute :) Sophie and Lucy are also such best buds- this morning in the gym, the two of them had lots of fun taking turns looking through the little door then giggling!

Speaking of Sophie talking, we've been jotting down all the words Sophie's been adding to her vocabulary and so far, at 14 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, we have:
(for her teddy bear- don't ask... we don't know why either)

duk (for dog, duck, squirrel, pretty much any animal she sees...)
night night
sit down
(抱抱 ("bao bao", which is "carry" or "embrace" in Chinese)
ah-pool (apple)
cheese (which is weird since she's never eaten cheese before and can't)

We're really encouraged by Sophie's verbal development. In the literacy project I worked on, we learned that toddlers start making common consonant sounds like t, d, w, and n by around 16 months. Learning to make these sounds is a pretty profound event, one that evolves into the rapid vocabulary spurt at around 18 months. At this stage, they're supposed to mostly still be just sounds, so the fact that Sophie's using them in meaningful words at close to 15 months is really exciting. It's been so wonderful watching her and listening to all these new words she's picking up (even listening to her talking jibberish makes us so happy). Everyday, she's a little more able to verbally communicate with us and I think it exhilarates her as much as it does us. Each new word is a tiny epiphany for her as she realizes that the sound she's making means something to us, and that she can use it to articulate her wants and needs (which is both a good and bad thing, of course...)

It's just too awesome :)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Our Daughter Totoro

I am the world's least crafty Mom- I can't sew, I don't scrapbook, and I have no clue how to put together a Halloween costume. And so, I retrofit.

This is Sophie's first proper Halloween- she was way too little last year to join the annual neighborhood Halloween parade and so I was excited to put her in something both fun and adorable. We've known we wanted to dress her up as Totoro since, oh, I don't know... forever? It's our favorite Miyazaki film (and character) but it is almost impossible to find a ready-made Totoro outfit here in the U.S. Then I serendipitously stumbled across the etsy site, Ami Amigos, and discovered that the designer, Kyoko, is as huge a Totoro fan as we are, and that she was selling a hand-crocheted Totoro hat. I decided to buy the hat (I justified it by telling myself it'll double as Sophie's Fall hat too), raided her wardrobe for everything gray (sweater and leggings), and sewed on the white plush tummy on my own (cutting an oval piece of fabric and simple tacking, I can do...) And voila! Our Daughter Totoro!

[more photos here]

Sophie had fun, I think, walking around with all the big kids. Literally. She's been walking by herself for a couple of weeks now, albeit a little unsteadily and only for a few steps at a time; but today, she resolutely refused to let us hold her hand and insisted on walking all by herself, even at the risk of being trampled by the mob of candy-crazy children. She did good though, walking for long stretches, sometimes even running, and all the time, clutching on to her precious toadstool bucket for dear life (even when it was empty). In the end, we busted out her push cart just so she would have more stability and could also use it as an offensive weapon in case any older kid tried to get in between her and those Milk Duds (not that she can eat any of the candy she collected because of her allergies).

Most importantly, Sophie was happy, smiling and laughing, waving and saying "hi" to anyone and everyone. She has no clue what candy is and that it's even edible, but I think she enjoyed the attention she got with her costume, hanging out with other children, and just being part of the festivities.