Monday, December 29, 2008

Our Homemade Christmas

Being away from home for Christmas has had its ups and downs but one thing I liked about this year is that we made all of our own decorations.

I copied an idea from a friend of mine that did an advent activity calendar with her kids this year. Thanks Claire! Instead of the 24 days, we just did 12. 24 seemed too much with Nutcracker practices and exams. For probably 6 of the 12 days we made some kind of Christmas decoration. We made Christmas ornaments for our itsy, bitsy tree, a wreath, stockings and a gingerbread house (from scratch).

For ornaments, we did cardboard gingerbread men, foam and wite-out candy canes (Riley's idea), foam Christmas lights, shrinky-dinks, and a popsicle stick star (also Riley's). A couple of my favorites are Amelia's Marge Simpson gingerbread lady and Jane's shrinky-dink manger scene.

The wreath I had started at Relief Society. It's made out of crepe paper.

We made stockings out of felt and Jocie joined us for that one.

The kids said they liked the gingerbread house the best but I thought it was an aweful failure. I've never made the house out of actual gingerbread. Usually graham crackers, but they are not available. I had a recipe for the house, but I think I didn't cook it long enough. It just crumbled under the pressure of dozens of m&ms. I even tried to prop it up with a cake mix and juice boxes to no avail.
Teaching the kids about Charity

Most every Christmas, we set aside some money to do some sort of charity at Christmas. I had almost forgotten about it this year with everything going on, but Laura asked if I wanted to help her take some toys to an orphanage. It was very last minute, so at church we let the Relief Society know what we were doing and asked if anyone wanted to donate or go with us to deliver. Some donated and two others wanted to go with us. So this afternoon, one of the other women, Norah, and I took my kids to some stalls by the lake and the tianguis to look for some inexpensive toys. My kids were the best help in the "what would you want?" department, because they insisted they needed about half the toys themselves. I continually had to remind them that the toys and other things were not for us, but for some kids without any parents. I think they may have considered that a fair trade; parents for toys. After about 3 hours and 2500 pesos were spent, we felt like we were ready to go.
I was pretty excited. I have never been to an orphanage before and had no idea what to expect. This one has about 70 kids between the ages of 6 months and 16 years old.
When we arrived the kids gathered around and seemed very excited by the 2 pinatas we brought for Christmas Eve. We handed each of the kids a toy and I was pretty impressed with how polite and grateful they were. There was very little complaining about what they got, or even trading. We didn't spend very long there, but I hope my kids were impressed by how small and crowded it was. We asked them what they thought and Riley said it was kind of stinky. Amelia said she would not want to live there with all those kids and Jane said nothing.
How do you teach kids to be grateful for what they have and want to help others that aren't as fortunate? I just don't know. This was our stab in the dark.
The Nutcracker

The kids have been practicing for a performance of the Nutcracker that their school does every year before Christmas. Both Jane and Riley were cast as candy dancers. Riley was very mad that he didn't get to be one of the candies on Heelies, because we left his at home.
I have to admit that it was much better than I had anticipated from a bunch of school kids. They go all out on the costumes and the dancing was uncomplicated, but kept the spirit of the ballet.
After the 2 performances, Jane, Riley and I attended the posada afterward, where we could buy food and socialize. They had my favorite, tamales, and some other simple foods. I was surprised to see them selling tequila alongside the sodas. Could you imagine that ever happening in the states? I noticed that they did check IDs.

Jane is still repeating her dance and teaches it to Amelia often (as per Amelia's request). Riley might have blocked it from his memory.

I'll post the video and some pictures as soon as I get them from Dave.
Fireworks in Chapala

I'm going to try and catch up on my posts before we leave for Puerta Vallarta on Wednesday. Sorry to bombard you.

The second week in December, the city of Chapala decided they were going to start a new yearly event celebrating fireworks. Sounds like something weird to celebrate, but we were very excited because they were supposed to have fireworks every night for 4 nights at the church in Chapala and out on a barge in the middle of the lake. We looked up the schedule and every night the fireworks were supposed to start at 8pm. The first night, we had to study for exams so I sent Dave out to check out how crowded it was and what might be a good vantage point for attending on other nights. He have back about 9pm and said the fireworks hadn't start yet. Shortly after we could hear them start. So the next night we went out to dinner in Chapala and met some friends in front of the church. There was an English language choir and the fireworks started at about 8:30pm.

Reminded us a little of the fireworks over the Disney castle.

Milli with her friend Ella.

Not too bad. It was fun, but we heard the next night was supposed to be more impressive with the fireworks on the lake. So we headed out again, sat by the lake on the boardwalk and waited. And waited. Finally one or two went off. Then we waited some more. A few more. Finally at almost 10pm, we gave up and took tired kids home.

The next night we absolutely forgot about them until we heard them at about 10pm. They sounded great. Oh well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We miss you all and hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Love the Reeds

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New family pics

So I finally found a photographer here. My friend Laura did all kinds of research for me and found Enrique Mora in Guadalajara for me. His website isn't great, but the photos looked better than any I had seen so far and time was getting short. I wanted to have it done by Christmas. So we booked him. Enrique doesn't actually speak very much English, but his partner Raul did, so we were able to communicate pretty well. I think that some of my friends and family that are photographers could have done a better job, but they didn't turn out too bad. I'm not going to share my favorite, because it will be my Christmas Card, but here are some of the others. I am glad I was able to get a family picture while we were here. And don't you love our Mexican attire?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nothing exciting to report

Not your usual entry, but this last week has been so busy, though not very exciting. Jane and Riley have exams this week, so we've spent every evening studying. We were going to go out of town this weekend but canceled because we had so many other not exciting things going on. I made a crepe paper wreath at church and Milli has been making endless 4 year old Christmas decorations for the house. And I've spent way too much time on Facebook. Never thought I would get into that. A couple of friends from my mission invited me to join and friends from here told me how much fun it is. So I did it. And it's very addicting finding out about long lost friends and realizing how old we all are. Warning: don't do it unless you intend on neglecting something else. Like life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The everchanging world of Charlie

As is true for most 2 year olds, the things that Charlie does changes from week to week and almost day to day. But I'll try to fill you in on the things he's learned and his many, many obsessions.

Charlie has learned to walk much better than he did at home. Everything is tile here, no carpet, so his late-blooming walking has been perfected and he's moved on to running and even jumping. He's learning to go up and down stairs if he's got a good handhold. He is saying a few more words now, but rarely volunteers them. It's always a surprise when he says something that I didn't coach him to say. Mom (or mommymia) Up and Why are his favorite words right now. He also answers virtually every question a stranger asks him by putting up 2 fingers.

I think as a consequence of moving, Charlie has become a blanket-boy. He always wants his blanket when he gets out of bed in the morning and at various times during the day. If he's suddenly quiet, often I will find him on the ground laying on it. Luckily he's not obsessive about it, so we can leave it home when we leave.

Charlie had taken up various crafts as a result of Amelia's example. His first was pens and pencils, writing little marks on paper (and sometimes furniture). Those evolved to circles and then circles with marks inside which we think were his attempts at happy faces. After drawing, he became obsessed with cutting paper into little bits. We even had a few power struggles with him at dinner time when he wouldn't stop cutting to eat. I can't tell what his current one is yet. It may be folding paper. But he hasn't gotten obsessive about it yet. He would do the others for hours everyday.

He also enjoys swinging on the swing, kicking a ball around the yard, playing his own version of hide and seek, and riding on a scooter while someone pushes him (though that usually results in a fall). His "throwing every ball available" obsession ceased when we got here, but he still throws a mean ball when he's in the mood.

He has become a bit of a couch potato, too. Whenever he wants to watch, he says "Bob" which means anything on TV, though he like SpongeBob almost as much as Amelia.

The kids still adore him and are great helps with him, but even they have commented on his developing "twoness". Oh well, nothing lasts forever.
Amelia Bedelia

As we know, Amelia is always full of energy, words and will. Still true, yet I have seen a bit of a calming occur since we've been here. And I'm grateful for it.

Maybe it's, in part, because she is addicted to TV. Mostly SpongeBob. She would watch it all day long over and over if I let her. We have about 50 episodes recorded and she has watched them all till they are almost memorized. She can even quote a couple word for word. I know I shouldn't let her watch it so much, but when I'm doing hours of homework with the kids everyday and Dave is still working, it's the only way I've found that keeps her out of our hair. We recently limited her to 1 episode of SpongeBob a day, but she can watch other PBS shows during homework time.

Or maybe it's because we have been doing a lot of crafts. She especially loves painting and has ruined at least 3 shirts. We use cornstarch to make goop, make homemade salt dough, play with playdough, popsicle stick crafts, foam crafts, beads, glitter, whatever we can find at the local Papeleria. There is no such thing as a craft store here, so we take what we can get.

As said in Jane's post, Jane and Amelia do lots of make-believe together, but Jane is usually busy from 7am to after 5pm or later when homework is finally done. So Amelia also has started to play with Charlie some. Right now in fact she's pretending to read a book to him. Usually their play consists of running around the kitchen table screaming.

Amelia had also been busy at piano. Every time we go to the church to practice, she insists on her 5 minute long practice too. She's learned where all of the C's are, how to say the notes from A and not say H, what a middle C note looks like and we're currently working on what a whole note looks like and how many counts it gets. That one is tougher than it sounds for a 4 year old.

Amelia is also animal crazy. And there are plenty of animals here to keep her on the subject of a pet pretty much every day. To give her an animal fix, every so often we head to the animal shelter and let her torment the kittens. We have been meaning to take one of the dogs for a walk, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Right now we are trying to decide if we should send Amelia to preschool in January. The current improved exchange rate makes the tuition cheaper and she is so bored at home. But a part of me has liked to spend oodles of time with her. (And I mean oodles, she takes no naps). We get on a little better now and I sort of feel like I'm giving up on that. At first she wasn't too keen on the idea because "they speak Spanish", but then I told her she would get to take a lunch box to school and that clinched it.

We still have a lot of laughs and a lot of tears with Amelia, but I think she's growing up a bit.