Friday, January 22, 2010

Year of the Tiger--Let's Party!

We got together with some of our school friends in the area and celebrated "Chinese New Year." It's not technically until Feb. 14 this year but we've got to give Valentine's it's due.
First the kidlings gathered round while we learned a few facts about China:
  • it's the 4th largest country
  • population 1.3 billion (holy smokes!)
  • capital: Beijing
  • home of the largest mountain: Everest
  • language: Mandarin

Next we learned about some Chinese inventions. I had items in a bag that kids volunteered to come and pick out.

  • toothbrush
  • paper
  • silk
  • compass, etc....

Unfortunately some of their inventions I couldn't bring: fireworks, cannonballs, gunpowder...

Then of course we got busy learning how to celebrate New Year's:

  • sweep the whole house to get rid of bad luck
  • get some oranges (they're very lucky)
  • visit your ancestors (and bring them oranges) Serious bad luck if you don't...
  • get a haircut, new clothes, and new shoes (I personally love this one)
  • wear red (it's very lucky)
  • celebrate for 15 days with family, parades, and lots of food (like shark fin soup)

The kids were very willing to celebrate when they found out about red envelopes called "lai see." Parents, grandparents, relatives, put money in them and give them to all children. We gave each parent enough for each child to get one sometime at home.

Everyone had to find out what animal they were according to the Chinese zodiac and wear their name tag e.g. rooster, ox, snake. We learned about how long ago Buddha called all the animals together for a council and only 12 animals showed up. He thanked them by naming a year for each of them. All the kids (and adults) had to act like their animal and organize themselves into same animal groups. The Chinese believe that whatever year you are born in you will have characteristics of the animal. I happen to be a snake: restrained, tricky and subtle:)

Next we rotated into groups.

The girls started with writing Chinese calligraphy. They were to choose 2-3 different "characters" which I had printed out on cards and make poems out of them to hang in their house. e.g. they might choose house, love, dog. Then they tried their hand at writing the Chinese characters for these in black marker on their red papers.

The boys gladly went to the "tasters table" where I had some sliced oranges and fortune cookies. A few brave boys were willing to try the gingered plums and tea nuts I picked up from the Asian market. They also read a story about New Year's from the library called, Happy, Happy New Year!

Everyone went home with chopsticks and a zodiac calendar and enough "lai see" for the family!

Gung Hay Fat ChoY!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Coming out of Hibernation

After a nice long...yawn...yawn... Christmas break we were back at it today.
I felt recharged. Did the girls? Kate had a come-apart when she saw 7 assignments on her to-do list. Brynn was just glad she only had 4. Adrie--who thought she was going to "real" preschool starting in January but I just couldn't justify spending $ for something we already do at home, so I convinced her that it would be extra super-fun with Mom and Dad this year--was excited to get right to work on her 4 things.
I felt like a busy bee running around and teaching Brynn how to capitalize proper nouns and Kate how to write a book report. Cannon miraculously managed to make it through the morning without creating any disasters. Everyone was done with their math, handwriting, etc. by lunch and with only minor complaints.
At 1pm we had our read-aloud time. We are reading Rebecca Rubin, the American girl. After that they had 30 min. of quiet reading time. Even I joined in on this. Of course, I'm the one that needed the quiet time! Cannon is supposed to be napping through this but he just learned how to climb out of his crib. He toddled out, threw a book in my lap, and plopped in for his own story-time.

The only real glitch came in the afternoon when it was time for Brynn to practice violin. She didn't want to play Twinkle Twinkle again. We had listened to the CD all morning and apparently, playing that song over and over again can make one angry. Angry children and delicate instruments do not mix well so I quickly removed both the violin and bow and put them out of reach on top of the piano. What happened next? I had to leave to take Adrie to dance class. I left her with the warning, "If anything happens to that violin, it will be your birthday present."
When I returned I could hear Brynn still ranting as I came in from the garage. Kate ran to meet me as if to block me from the bad news.

"Is it really true that Brynn's not going to get a birthday present?" She showed me into my bedroom where the violin was sitting on my bed...only it wasn't the same shiny taught-stringed violin it was before I left. It was missing the little bridge and the strings were there but floppy and lazy looking. Between sobs Brynn explained that she had tried to "tune" it. But I wasn't buying it. The fact that she had climbed up to the piano to get her violin when she was angry to me was like pre-meditated murder.
Wouldn't you know, just then her neighborhood friend came skipping over to see if Brynn could play. I told the friend that Brynn was not going to be able to play until age 32.

Fortunately the bridge can be put back in and the strings re-tightened. But, I will let her violin teacher do that when she has her lesson in a few days. Until then, Brynn will not be able to practice and therefore will not be able to play with anyone --which to her will seem like 26 years!