Saturday, 2 November 2013

A twist on trick or treating... and a royally good time

October 31st has in recent years not been a day I look forward to.  I guess I have a hard time getting excited about a day that probably brings God more sorrow than any other day of the year.  I understand that for many people it is an innocent time of costumes and candy...I do not judge anyone for feeling it is a great day. For me personally, it is a day I am happy when it is over for another year. 

Before the evening's events, the kids went to my mother-in-laws for their annual trick-or-treating. 
This year, Grandmaman surprised the kids by arriving at the door dressed up as an old lady in a showercap, cane, low-lying spectacles, and a housecoat.  Li Lin was even a bit scared of the get-up! Lin Lin was clinging to big bro, Logan. Then, in a weak, faltering, voice Grandmaman beckoned them to come in and sit around her and her fireplace as she read to them a costume story with an absolutely surpising and hilarious ending. They enjoyed their large treat bags and then the older two kids stayed home with Dad while the younger two left with me.

After an open offer from a friend on Facebook, Hudson, Li Lin and I joined her, her children and another family for a visit to a local Christian nursing home.  We all brought along goodies, and with the kids dressed up in costumes (as well as two dogs in costume) we went from room to room and offered up fruit kebobs, baked treats, and chocolates to the residents.

My friend's motto she teaches her kids is that "it is more blessed to give than to receive".  Seeing the look of pure joy on the seniors' faces definitely bore that out.  The older people just loved seeing the children dressed up and loved petting the friendly dogs.  It was a fun way to go door to door without having to contend with a stash of candy later (Li Lin's teeth can't handle much candy) and much more rewarding.  Giving is way more fun than getting! We were definitely blessed by my friend's desire to do this for others.

Today, we planned an afternoon of visiting the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.  We took along a couple of friends including a couple visiting from China.  It was especially fun for the kids to pet and feed goats, watch livestock being groomed for showing, check out prize-winning vegetables- including a 960lb pumpkin, and watch some cows in  competition.  We also watched some more unique shows like "Goats on the go" and a rabbit jumping show.

The rabbit show was, well, entertaining in a not so good way.  Steph and I were splitting our sides watching these rabbits absolutely bomb their jumps, try to "go on strike", and basically mess up constantly. Not to mention, every rabbit did the very same "trick".  It was one of those rare  moments when I was happy our Chinese guests spoke no English.  At least they did not have to try to make up some compliment of thanks for the rabbit show.  I would have felt sorry for them if they felt they had to comment in a positive way about the show.  One positive comment could have been, "Well, I was thrilled it only lasted thirty minutes!"  It was a bit embarrassing for us to take them to see a show that was so pathetic.  I am sure they were thinking, is this what Canadian's find entertaining?!?

I guess the answer was "yes" because Steph and I had been howling with laughter.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Fall happenings

Well remiss would be an appropriate word to describe my blogging this fall.  Yes, I fell off the bandwagon.  I guess when we get busy, blogging just goes out the window.  That's my excuse anyways:)

The kids have also been busy.  Here's the rundown.


Our eldest has done such an amazing job settling into her new high school.  On top of rocking her semester she has taken on a very big challenge this year.  Mandarin.  It is a one night a week course that lasts the whole school year through and will ultimately give her a ninth credit this year if she continues in it.  It was listed as a beginner Mandarin credit course.  Since it is offered in the board just north of us, she had to wait to join once all local students were given the chance to join the course.  This meant she joined two weeks later than everyone else.  On top of that, all the other kids except for two others, all speak fluent Mandarin!  These kids in Rykauna's class are not taking the Mandarin course for native speakers because they do not read/write Mandarin.

So yeah, Rykauna is at a huge disadvantage.  But... she managed to comfortably pass last week's test!  Not bad for a girl who does not speak, read, or write mandarin.  The teacher was very impressed.  This course is going to stretch her brain more than any other class she takes this year!  We are pleased she is willing to work so hard at learning this language.  Having Rykauna studying Mandarin has been a great encouragement for Li Lin to learn mandarin too.  After all, what little sister does not want to be like her teenage big sister.


Middle school has gone extremely well for Logan.  He too has settled in well.  Logan has managed to have very little homework so he is a happy guy!  With all his free time, Logan is often a big help around the home.  He can bake, cook, clean... I  tell him that one day some woman will be so thrilled to have a hubby (like mine) that is so helpful around the home.  He still much prefers to shoot a ball around or play video games, but he capably, and willingly helps me often for which I am grateful.


Hudson has been running cross country for most of September and into the early part of October.  He has shown amazing dedication to the sport (that you couldn't pay me to join as a student). 

Yup.  Every single school day in Sept and early Oct he ran during his lunch recess to train for the meet.    He told me one day that he was the only grade three boy that was trying out for cross-country.  I asked him when he plays with his friends.   "During the other two recesses.  But, at lunch I run cross-country."

A couple of days before the race I was concerned he was coming down with a cold so I sent him to bed early one night to try to stave off the cold. He happily agreed to head to bed because, as he said, "Mom, I have to run.  I am representing all the grade three boys from my school." :)

I had told him that no matter how he did during the run, Steph and I were proud of his efforts and dedication.  As I was unable to attend the run, my in-laws thankfully took him to the run and watched him race.  When I saw Hudson later in the day, I told him we should text Steph and tell him about  his run.  This is what he texted Steph from my phone. "I am proud of myself. I came in 123."  

Out of about 300 grade three boy runners...very good indeed. On top of his swimming lessons, which he takes just after Li Lin, Hudson is in no danger of being under-active this fall.

Li Lin

Li Lin is loving kindergarten.  She evens admits to liking it now.  Other than coming home with new  pets  like snails and ladybugs (in hands or pockets) , all is going well on the school front. 

She adores one of the little boys in her much so, that I have had to teach her not to kiss him or hug him anymore. :) 

A couple of weeks ago she had a dental check-up.  I was not expecting the results I got.  She needs over $2800 worth in dental work on her teeth.  On top of that, she will need to be put out under general anesthesia for the multiple fillings, cappings, etc.  The dentist asked me if I feed her lots of candy.  I told him we did not as we were aware that cleft-affected children tend to have poor dentition and are cavity prone.  We have definitely upped our dedication to thorough flossing and brushing with her though, since this appointment. On the upside, our insurance company is covering over $2700 worth of the cost.  Thank God...especially since she is having the work done just before Christmas.  It might have been a very lean Christmas for the family had we had to pay the bulk of the cost.

Li Lin also started speech therapy again.  I am much happier with the speech therapy program she is in now.  It is specifically geared to kids with cleft-related speech difficulties.  I am hopeful that this one-on-one time with a therapist who only works with cleft kids will really improve her speech.  I understand 99% of what she says but adults her do not know her sometimes struggle at times to understand her.  Interestingly enough, other children have no problem communicating with her.

Her Mandarin studies this year are taking the form of Chinese family immersion once a week.  One of my dear Chinese friends from our church has offered to take her for a couple hours a week and have Li Lin "hang out in a Chinese family, eat dinner with them, and just live normal everyday Mandarin stuff like, book reading, cartoons, and talking.  The bilingual family only speaks Mandarin while she is there thus encouraging her to use her Mandarin (which she is reluctant to speak).  My friend has told me that she already can see a big difference in Li Lin's speaking in only a couple of weeks of visits.  Since she spoke fluent Mandarin at adoption, we know it is all there in her mind, we are just trying to pull it back out.  Thankfully, it seems to be working.  I like the fact that she is learning traditional Chinese family life at the same time.  She likes my friend and looks forward to seeing their pet rabbits once a week.

So that is about it on the kid front.  We had a busy Thanksgiving weekend with both family and friends.  Although we feel exhausted at times, we both feel very blessed and thankful to our Father in heaven for the many blessings He has given us.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

First Week of School Thanksgivings

Well the first week of school has come and gone and I can say I am truly thankful for so many reasons.  Here are a few.

1. Rykauna's first week of Grade nine at a high school where she did not know anyone went amazingly well.  Our dear eldest made the difficult decision of opting to go to the closest high school instead of remaining in an academic enrichment program that would require her to take a nearly 1.5hr one way city bus commute.  Realizing the extra time saved would prove valuable, she chose to start grade nine the hard way... with no friends to accompany her.  Although she misses all her great friends at the other school she is comfortable with her choice.  She has quickly made some new friends and even had one come over Friday after school to hang out and have supper with us!

2.This school year is starting out on an exciting note for Logan because the new middle school he just started attending on Tuesday has lots of extra-curricular sports going on.  Last school year the teachers were on a "work-to-rule" program and all extra-curricular programs were cancelled until about May.  For an active boy like Logan, this was a real drag.  Although Logan does well academically, he is not really fond of school work.  The 'other' stuff is what makes school enjoyable for him.  Hopefully this year will be really enjoyable.

3. Hudson started grade three in typical Hudson-style... very little fanfare, just going 'cause that is what you do'.  No big complaints, no big excitement.  The only change for him has been the bus.  I have in past years opted to drive him instead of putting him on the bus since the bus would pick him up at the local English school.  The distance to the English school is not much less than the drive to his French Immersion school so I have always driven him.  This year, with Li Lin attending the local English school, and him attending the French school, I had to put him on the bus as their start times are too close together to drop both of them off.  I have managed to figure out a way to pick both of them up though.  It requires me leaving with her as soon as she gets out but it saves him an over one hour bus ride home!  The actual distance by car is only about five minutes.    I am SO thankful we worked out a way to pick him up.  The poor boy was coming off the bus looking exhausted and telling me matter-of-factly that the "air circulation on the bad wasn't the greatest."  Yup, that is as upset as he gets.  No other complaints.  His face lit up though, when after two days of the afternoon bus, I told him he would not take the bus home anymore.

4. Li Lin.  I had been dreading this week all summer.  Mainly because I was not looking forward to the drama of settling her into a school routine.  She told me frequently since registering her in June that she "hated that school", was "not going to go", and that she wanted to go "back to my Chinese school".  Yes, that is the Chinese preschool that she complained about almost every time I sent her.  She actually loved it there but would complain anyway even though she would not necessarily want to leave right away when I picked her up!  I knew she actually secretly liked it and my feelings were confirmed because when I took her out in June she cried saying she "loved her Chinese school."   Two nights before English school, she started crying in her bed and telling me she was "scared to start school", did "not want to be away from me", and the next morning even told me she was "stupid, not smart."   I  comforted her as best I could during these times and reassured her that kids who learn to speak fluent English in under a year are definitely smart!  She looked at me with the "Oh man, even that excuse failed", look  and my dread levels definitely soared.  The night before school, I was optimistic that it would go well though because in her bedtime prayer she asked God (while speaking in the third person), "Please help Li Lin not be scared when she goes to school tomorrow."  She woke up Thursday morning full of energy and ready for school.  When I dropped her off she quickly, confidently, walked into the class alone , put her shoes in the correct cubby, then turned to me timidly to wave good-bye.  I was afraid she might lose her resolve to stay there, so I quickly said a goodbye and left.  It was unbelievable!   No tears.  No drama.  The bedtime prayer of a little girl was definitely answered in front of my eyes.  She has not looked back either.  She even begrudgingly admits to liking it.  It was so heartwarming yesterday to pick her up from school and see her happily skipping across the school yard.  I am a thankful and a happy mom seeing her so happy attending school.
Just before heading off to school.  The other children had already left for school.  The other kids were not keen on a photo today.  I think they thought it was more a little kid thing and didn't want it to have their pic taken. 

5. Thankful to have more time to spend with God.  As much as I thoroughly enjoy having my kids home with me in the summer, I do like the routine the school year provides.  With everyone including Steph off their usual routine in the summer months, I sometimes find the chaos of a lack of routine makes me more inefficient with my time thus resulting in less personal, quiet time with HIM.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Summer in a blur of pics...

This summer, like all summers it seems, went really fast.  It was enjoyable in many ways and hopefully memorable for the children.  Since I have been terribly remiss in blogging I am going to catch up with a little photo storytelling.  A picture is worth a thousand here is my wordy post thanks to Rykauna's photography.   She took most of the pics.

We began the summer up in Northern Ontario at a Bible conference.  We spent the long weekend there and enjoyed meeting up with some family and friends we hadn't seen in a while.  Our niece S, came back with us and visited with our family for the better part of two weeks.  She was lots of fun to have around.  Too bad we somehow did not take many pics during that time.
Niece S, and Rykauna made us all orea-stuffed croissants one day.  I wish I had taken a few more pics of her;(

We took in the beach on a few afternoons.  For the record, the lady in the top left is unknown...not me.

 Steph and Rykauna helped out at a Vacation Bible School for the second week in July while the other kiddos, including S, went as campers.  We then headed to the Ottawa valley area where we camped in my parents' trailer for a few days, while attending some special gospel outreach meetings my father was speaking at in the evenings.  The weather was pretty wild, but the kids loved getting a chance to hang out with their "cousins" (actually their very young aunt and uncle, K and J).

The following week, Steph and his brother, helped out at another church day camp while our boys and K (our niece) attended the camp. The next event of the summer was a family reunion of Steph's mother's family.  It was the first official Godin Family reunion.  It was lots of fun, staying at the weekend resort, and meeting family members from near and far.  There was lots of family vs. family competitions including a t-shirt competition. I won't say who won, except that the red team dominated ;)  Steph's brother and his wife were in the country for the better part of the summer.  It was nice to spend some time with them before, during, and after the reunion.  We don't see them much, but when we are together, we just pick up where we left off.  The kids really enjoy hanging out with these cousins too.

In the middle of August, we took a little "nuclear family" time and did a road trip to Boston.  The kids are great in the car (thanks in part to technology;) and love seeing new places and learning about new regions.  It was fun being tourists and sight-seeing fun stuff like the old state buildings, Harvard University, Boston Tea Party Museum, The Children's Museum of Boston, USS Constitution, and fun shops like the Curious George Store.
Rykauna took some alphabet art around Harvard University

The kids are sitting on little brass ducks...relating to some famous Boston children's duck story
Loads of huge painted globes

Massachusetts State House is sporting some fantastic architechture

Steph and the kids cooled off in the heat.  Some of the kids were more than dipping their feet... pretty much swimming:)
The world famous swan boat tours

Desperate measures to avoid passing out.  As soon as I got on the Swan boat I felt like I was going to pass out from the intense heat.  I could feel my heart pounding and knew I was pretty dehydrated.  The others had taken a dip in the above pond so thankfully this shirt was nicely cool and wet!  We quickly ate and drank after disembarking and all was fine.

Not to be outdone...;)

We became Harvard groupies!  The three oldest kids wanted and bought Harvard clothing!

Niece T, I put this up for you...Who knew official Harvard wear is made in Nica?!?
'Chillin' at the Aquarium...pun intended

Group shot after the seal feeding presentation

Sea turtle <3>
Voted Boston's best we tried it :)

Took a short ferry to another part of Boston

USS Constitution. Involved in wars against pirates, Brits, and wars for freedom

Saw this guy give a walking tour to a couple as he slowly led them to the Pizza Parlour...LOL!

All the kids, big and small, loved this store!

Night in the city

This place was lots of fun.  The kids got to throw the "tea" overboard in the reenactment of the Boston Tea Party
Rykauna had fun taking some low light photography with her Maritime cousins

After leaving Boston, we made our way to Saint John, New Brunswick and took the 11pm ferry ride to Digby, Nova Scotia.  We arrived at my sister's home at the grand hour of 2:30am!  Steph, Rykauna and Logan were only able to stay at her place for two days as Steph was helping out at an overnight teen church camp for the following week in the Halifax area.  I stayed at my sister's with Hudson and Li Lin and thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of spending time with my sister and her girls.

After the camp, we drove to Fredricton, NB for two nights to catch a few zzz before the long drive home.   While shopping, we ran into some good friends that were originally from around here and we enjoyed a good visit with them.  After a swim at the hotel, and a lovely BBQ at our friends' home, we started back home the next morning after church.

Once home, we quickly kicked ourselves into high gear in terms of school preparation and getting Rykauna's orthodontic treatments started.  After getting two teeth pulled on Tuesday, she started her Invisalign Braces on Thursday... just five days before starting high school.  Rykauna is still getting used to talking in them, has 'lost' them briefly already, and is not really fussed on the extra cleaning and chewing on what she calls "Mr Chewy" the grape-flavoured chew toy.  (Some rubbery looking, grape-flavoured, two-inch long, mini cigar-like shaped, chew toy she is supposed to use at regular intervals to make these removable braces fit better.)  It doesn't help that she finds the flavour nauseating.  At least she realizes that it looks better than metal braces so she knows not to complain.  The orthodontist figures he can fix her teeth problem better with these clear retainer-like braces than with metal braces so he is charging us the same price as he would for the "train-tracks".  This made our daughter very happy! :)

Today was the first day of school.  I was going to blog about it, but thought I should blog about the summer events first.  I will try to do another post soon, God willing.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Li Lin's preschool graduation

The 28th of June was a special day for many reasons.  Not only was it Li Lin's preschool graduation  but it was also my sister, Pamela's 36th birthday!  It was a big day for Steph too, as it was the beginning of summer holidays for him.   We had plans to head to Northern Ontario to attend a Bible convention over the Canada Day weekend, so after going to bed really late to finish the packing, myself, my mother-in-law and the kiddos all headed over to Li Lin's preschool for her graduation.  I was told to bring her dressed up.  Li Lin  wanted to wear her blue "princess dress" so that is what she wore.  You won't see it in any of the pictures though. When we arrived with her, she was whisked away by one of the teachers into another room to get the graduates all organized.

A few minutes later, to the beat of a tambourine, all the grads came marching out in matching outfits.  The boys is turquoise sparkly caps and the girls in cutesy little pink "prom dresses".  I am guessing the decision to match all the children was made after I was told to dress her up :)

The children sang a few mandarin songs with actions then marched back out.  I figured the production was over... NOT!

Next came a little choreographed dance by the girls (minus Li Lin).  Li Lin only goes two mornings a week as opposed to full-time so I realize she was not around for most of the practices.  The dance was adorable!

Following the dance, there was a play done by some of the children in mandarin; "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf".  The children knew their lines well and spoke loudly.  It was obvious lots of work had been done by the teachers to prepare them for this production. 

What followed was a familiar song preformed by the junior kids...  "yi sheng yi sheng yan jing jing".  You likely know it too. It is "Twinkle twinkle little star".

I thought surely we were wrapping things up now, as the juniors marched out.  But no, wrong again.  The tambourines clanged again and in marched the graduates in black cap and gown.  Li Lin was not impressed to be wearing this bulky mass over her pretty dress.  It showed all over her face.  She was clearly embarrassed.  Since neither Logan or Rykauna's grad ceremonies incorporated the traditional cap and gown she had never seen these black gowns before.  After a few minutes she relaxed and got into singing the "thank-you song". It was cute to hear these kids giving credits and thanks to their parents and teachers.

When it was time to give out the certificates, Rykauna, who was "womanning" the camera, had a very difficult time getting a shot of Li Lin.  Li Lin was so embarrassed by her 'dreadful attire' that she kept putting the certificate up to her face so that Rykauna could not take a photo!

After the photo op with her teachers, Li Lin told me she wanted the ugly hat and dress off. LOL!  I guess compared to the beautiful gown she was wearing underneath it, the black robe was very plain and boring.  

Next came a speech by one of the parents, singing the praises of the staff, and saying what a wonderful place this preschool is.  The lead teacher then said a few words about how they were going to miss this kids that were graduating.  She broke into tears at this point and wound up her speech as she was so choked up.  It was touching to see that these Chinese teachers truly love the children they look after.

Once the gown was off, it was time for a quick birthday celebration for one of the graduates.  This girls' kind parents bought a big cake to feed everyone in attendance.  They also gave loot bags to all the preschool kids.  Rykauna was in awe of some of the cool Chinese pens in the loot bag, specifically a pen that looks like a hand lotion container.

It is hard to believe where this school year has gone.   A couple of weeks ago, after struggling through Li Lin's frequent complaints about not wanting to go to school (preschool)  I was thinking Li Lin would be pretty excited when I told her she would not be going back there next year.  Instead, she burst into tears and said, "But I love my Chinese school, I like my teachers and my friends there.  How will I keep learning my Chinese to talk to nai nai when we go back and visit China when I am bigger?"

I couldn't have been more surprised.  She has frequently told me she doesn't care if she keeps her Chinese language.  Nai nai can learn English.  She doesn't like school.  I knew she did like it  though because as soon  as she was dropped off she would happily run off to play with her friends.  She would also take the time to finish her meal when I arrived to pick her up at noon.  So guess what she says now?  "I don't want to go to English school. I want to go back to my Chinese school.  I miss my Chinese school.  I miss my friend Christen so much."  

As the saying goes, "It is a girl's prerogative to change her mind."  I need to pray she has another change of mind before September. I briefly thought of  schooling her myself for this year, but teaching her would be incredibly challenging.  She already knows it, or so she thinks, and gets very frustrated if you insist that yes, six, is necessary.  It is tough to explain to a four year old that just because she doesn't want it in the line-up of 1-10 it still is there.  

I was shocked tonight though that she sat down at the table and let me teach her some more letters and sounds of the alphabet.  Usually if I am teaching her something, it needs to be heavily cloaked in play or else it doesn't go down at all.  Tonight she actually said to me excitedly, "Hey mom, it is like you are being my teacher!"  It is with mixed feelings that I say my little girl is growing up.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Rykauna's grade 8 graduation

If you have just read my last post, you know that this is the second graduation we have attended in four days.   This year is a milestone year in terms of schooling.  Rykauna graduated from grade eight  today and will be a secondary school student next fall.

Hard to believe.  I remember doing this myself.  Now I am one of those moms watching my daughter walking across the stage and praying she doesn't stumble in her high heels!  Thankfully she did not :)  It was a hot humid day but despite the lack of a/c in the auditorium it wasn't too bad.

Rykauna was relieved to listen to her name called and hear the "with honours" phrase after her name.  She has worked hard for  her honour roll status.  We are pleased.  Both Steph and I realize she has worked much harder this year than any school year we ever did.  (Except maybe Steph's third year  of his University of Waterloo Chemistry degree).  Her drive and determination are impressive.  Anything this girl decides she wants to do, she will do.  Even if she has to try ten thousand times.

The grad culminated with a dinner banquet celebration at a local golf and country club.  It was a great way  to celebrate with her dear friends that she will be parting ways with in the fall.  Since there are so many high schools in the area, students choose a high school like we would choose car models.  Different schools are known for different specialty programs, but at the end of the day, or four years in this case, they all grant a diploma.  The school she will attend is not the same one as any of her friends.  The school most of her friends are planning to attend, would be over a one hour commute for her.  She thought and prayed about this decision, but in the end chose to attend the neighbourhood high school that is walking distance from home.  We all know the first few days of school will be tough because she will have to make all new friends, but we are also confident she made the right decision.

Here are a few pics of her big day.
Just before leaving home we snapped a quick pic with Grandmaman

Getting her green honour medal

Sorry pics not too clear... we were far away

My firstborn is turning into a beautiful young lady

Rykauna and mom

I love this daddy/daughter pic!

Now only one grad left.  The preschool teacher told me today that Li Lin is expected to show up for her graduation from preschool on Friday.  Never a dull moment.

Last week, Rykauna took an overnight class trip to Niagara Falls, and Logan graduated.  This week Logan is on an overnight class trip to a camp nearby while Rykauna graduated. 

Today I found out about Li Lin's "grad".  I wonder what Hudson's teacher has forgot to tell me?