Friday, December 23, 2011

Train-riding kid

My boys went to Boston to visit friends and ride the T.

I stayed home and... uh... untangled yarn. And listened to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And not a whole much else.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cats - an anniversary (and now that I've added these pictures, I'm kind of shocked at the difference)

Nervous Riley

Comfortable Riley

Skinny Ban Lu

Healthy Ban Lu

December 23 is the two-year anniversary of the day we brought Riley home. Getting a cat two days before Christmas is a really crazy and stupid idea, I know - but it actually wasn't that bad. The proximity to Christmas was mostly a coincidence - Trixie had died close to Thanksgiving, which was also a coincidence, and letting a month pass between your old cat and your new cat is a reasonable thing to do.

My husband's school vacation started around then, so we were all available to go down together.

Riley's shelter was in Rhode Island, and we were planning to be in RI that day anyway, to see family members and visit graves.

Most of the Christmas festivities weren't even at our house, so Riley and our other cat Melody didn't even have to endure a whole day of crinkly paper, loud children, and tons of people-food.

Also, AwesomeCloud had only been home for three months. Three months between Cloud's entrance into the family and Riley's! We were keeping the festivities very low-key for his sake. In a certain way, it was the perfect Christmas for a new cat.

And then a month later we brought home Ban Lu. We had offered to take them home together, but Ban Lu was being held at the shelter for medical reasons, and the shelter then contacted us in January saying he was terminally ill and were we still interested? Yup, we were. What's a terminally ill cat on top of a crazy hyperthyroid cat and a newly adopted toddler?

Obviously, the story has changed now. Ban Lu is still with us, and he's fit and healthy. It's not that the shelter vet was wrong; the vet's diagnosis was mostly accurate. His digestive system really was going to kill him. It's just that we found a way around that, and once he was able to eat normally, he was also able to live normally. And Riley still has hyperthyroidism, and we still think of her as crazy, but actually she's improved tremendously.

And AwesomeCloud... well... I don't think we could have a Christmas as low-key as that one anymore.

I still miss Trixie, though. She's not the only loved one I've lost near Thanksgiving. She's not even the only beloved cat who passed away near Thanksgiving. And there will surely be more in the future.

Maybe this is one reason why I'd like to get into fostering cats. Foster cats hardly ever die in your possession. They move on quickly, replaced by more and more foster cats; they do not live with you for 15-20 years until you can't imagine life without them before dying. I have no problem saying goodbye to someone going out into the world, on to bigger and better things. But I'm not so good with grief.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We went Chinese house!

Today was a mostly Chinese-themed day. I've been lax in introducing Hanyu into the household, so today I looked up a bunch of verbs in the dictionary and tried to get AwesomeCloud to practice them with me.

pǎo - run
tíng - stop
tiào - jump
- kick

He wasn't very interested when I tried to do it at home. He mostly just wanted to watch TV.

But this afternoon he had a kung fu class, and we somehow arrived several minutes early, so while we waited, I had him running around the kwan and following my newly learned Chinese verbs, and then he started to get into it. I think that more practice will help. He responds just fine to words that he's learned before, although he speaks very few of them himself, and is a little resistant to coaching. If I just keep trying, the Chinese vocabulary, what little of it I can offer him, will sink in.

Kung fu itself is a lot of work, as well. The class is taught a little above his age level, most certainly above his maturity level, and he's expected to work hard and practice high levels of concentration. The older kids who take kung fu seriously are good classmates for him, and help him focus a little bit better. (The 'older' kids are four years old, five at the most. So we're not talking much of a range of abilities.) I'm trying to make the work easier for him by psyching him up for class before we arrive, and by practicing at home.

And yes, I realize that no matter what I do, AwesomeCloud is still a three-year-old taking kung fu. He is clearly more humorously adorable than he is fantastically skillful. In his little kung fu uniform with the little orange belt... he makes everyone fawn and giggle at the same time.

But life is full of difficult tasks for people to overcome, and teaching oneself Chinese is definitely a very difficult task, requiring a lot of self-discipline. If Cloud learns a tiny crumb of self-discipline at age 3... I'm not saying he'll be fluent in Chinese in no time, and able to kick the butts of anyone who looks at him funny no matter how big... but if he learns a tiny bit of self-discipline now, he'll open the door to learning a lot of self-discipline later.

And he probably will need it. It's a big ol' world out there, and I can't teach him everything.

It would be really cool if he learned kung fu IN Chinese, but that's not really what this kung fu studio is about, and that would be kind of too much of a niche market for our area, anyhow. (I bet there are a few in Boston.) It's not about being Chinese there; nobody else there is even Chinese. (All those moms who worry that there are only three other Chinese students in their kids' kindergarten class... yeah, we can't do that here. Here, I inwardly cheer if there's a kid who's not blond, and even that doesn't happen every time.) It's about learning kung fu for the self-discipline, and using the self-discipline to learn other things, such as but not limited to Hanyu. And he will get the extra bonus of being able to say that he's studied kung fu (as opposed to tae kwon do or peewee hockey or Suzuki piano or whatever). Now, whether it will bother him that all his kung fu teachers have been non-Chinese people... that will be up to him.

I just want him to have some Chinese people in his life, in some context. And not just in restaurants. Someday, when he's old enough to understand, or probably before, I'll explain that the Asian population has a majority in the world, and that Asian-type people outnumber us pale-type people by almost 3 to 1. I will also tell him that thanks to human migration, he and I have a common ancestor who is not all that far back. But I also want Asian-ness to feel normal to him, and that's quite an achievement around here.

Fortunately, it's not impossible. You see, after kung fu, our family had the great honor of dinner with the Chinese students from my husband's school. They were delightful. They loved AwesomeCloud. They answered my questions about speaking Hanyu. I went over my newly learned verbs with them, and they reinforced and slightly corrected my efforts. They even managed to coax a few words out of Cloud.

When we left their dorm, Cloud happily referred to it as, "Chinese house!"

I'm always glad when he uses the word "Chinese" with a positive tone. He told our friend at the restaurant that she was Chinese, but he said it proudly. If he's not always interested in learning vocabulary when I'm practicing it on him, at least he seems to feel that Chinese things, and being Chinese, are good.

I will be sad and angry when he hears people state otherwise. I'm sure that's coming soon. I hope that maybe non-China-loving people will try to be diplomatic when they're around him when he's a little older. I hope he doesn't allow any anti-Chinese sentiment to sink in until after he's developed a sense of cultural and individual pride.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Traditions that are dying a painful, ungraceful death

I'm going to miss door-to-door caroling. I've actually been door-to-door caroling. Someone even gave us hot chocolate. It's a memory I'll always cherish. Has anyone else ever been door-to-door caroling?

The tradition was well on its way out when I was a kid. It's not like I did it every year, nor did my house ever get carolers when I was growing up. But it's the principle of the thing. Nobody carols anymore. Nobody likes strangers anymore.

Maybe they think that "We want some figgy pudding" is actually a euphemism.