Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our Very Own Karate Kid

A week ago, Saturday the 22nd, Kai had a Karate Tournament in Grappling. Grappling by definition, in martial arts, combines techniques that rely on grabbing and controlling the opponent using body leverage as a way of achieving the supremacy through take downs, pins and submissions, as opposed to striking martial arts, that focus on knocking out and/or hurting the opponent. Along with many other skills, Kai has been learning these techniques for the last 6-8 months. He has competed in a few informal tournaments against his classmates and done pretty well.

On this weekend was a tournament where all of the students from the Little Elm Karate School competed against all of the students from the Carrollton Karate School. The students were matched according to their belt rankings and then matched as closely as possible to size. Kai is a green belt and he was competing against other green and orange belts (which is one belt class below a green).

Each match was 3 minutes long. Each maneuver, pin or takedown was scored at 1 point. There was a time keeper, a score keeper and a referee. The referee determined who scored the point. In Kai’s first match, he was up against a boy very close to his size and at the same belt class. At the end of the match we were tied 3 to 3. We went into a 1 minute over time. At the end of the first minute we were tied again, now 4 to 4. We went into another 1 minute over time. This time, neither boy scored, thus we were still tied. We entered our 3rd one minute over time and both boys scored 1 point each tying the score at 5 to 5. I am telling you, I was on the edge of my seat.

These boys were tough! They were growling, red faced and sweating. Both of them wanted it. Both of them knew that in a tournament, the first time you lose, you are out. Considering this was a first match for each of them, neither was giving up without a strong fight. The referee, judges and instructors consulted one another. They were perplexed in how to proceed because they had not anticipated these boys continuing to tie up the score. The agreed we would move into a sudden-death round. This is where there is no time limit and the first boy to score a point is deemed the match winner.

Talk about pins and needles. I never expected to be so “into” Kai’s Grappling but this was fun and intense! I knew he had it in him to win this. He is really, really good at this aspect of Karate. In the sudden-death round, Kai was tired and it was starting to show. Jeff and I just kept rooting him on. “Stay strong, son, you can do it! Keep moving.” Next thing we knew, Kai had the first point and he won that match! Whew! I was exhausted and proud!

Kai went on to match up against all of the rest of his class. He is one of the younger and smaller boys in his class but he did not let his size hold him back. He continued to prevail until the last boy was standing. This boy was somewhat bigger and was 3 belt classes ahead of Kai.After a tied match we went into two overtimes and took 2nd place. We were so proud of Kai. Not for winning but for the attitude and determination he maintained throughout. Below is a picture of him giving a High-5 to one of the boys he just beat.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Trip to the Dentist

We visited the dentist this past Tuesday. Here are the twins in the waiting room with the "look of impending doom." I felt so bad for them. It really wasn't fair. Our appointment was scheduled for 9AM and I made sure we got there, not a minute sooner. I didn't want them to have to wait and worry about what was going to happen. However, they were already behind schedule 20 minutes. We sat and waited our turn. The more time that passed the more worrying they did.

Kai and Elli have been to the dentist a few times for cleanings, x-rays and sealants. This is the first time that they had been where they were having fillings. In Kindergarten last year, there was a little girl in their class that had a lot of dental work. Apparently, it was a bad experience for her because she went to class and told all of her classmates about the horrible and painful shot she got in her mouth. Since then, Kai & Elli have been so scared to go back to the dentist

Kai and Elli have been to the dentist a few times for cleanings, x-rays and sealants. This is the first time that they had been where they were having fillings. In Kindergarten last year, there was a little girl in their class that had a lot of dental work. Apparently, it was a bad experience for her because she went to class and told all of her classmates about the horrible and painful shot she got in her mouth. Since then, Kai & Elli have been so scared to go back to the dentist.

I scheduled them to use the laughing gas to calm them. I spent time explaining that the doctor would use a numbing gel before giving them a shot and that they would only feel a poke and some pressure. Considering we had this 20 minute wait, the kids sat and pondered over the shot part of our discussion. Finally, they called Elli back. Kai seemed somewhat relieved that she had to go first!

Elli's heart was racing and she was breathing heavy. She was a trooper though; she only had a few tears and no big fit. I stood beside her while she climbed into the chair and she squeezed all of the blood from my hand. My skin was very white around her little grippers! The Hygienist said "I am going to ask Mommy to leave now and I am going to get things ready for the doctor. I plan to tell you all about this cool stuff." I didn't think Elli was strong enough to squeeze harder but she did. I asked the hygienist, "could I have just another minute with her?"... I could not believe my ears when she replied, "No, we are on a tight schedule, we have to keep moving and we are behind schedule as it is. You will need to wait in the waiting room." Elli said "Mommy, I want Kai." The hygienist explained to Elli that Kai and Mommy had to stay in the waiting room.

My heart was racing and my blood started boiling. In my head, so many scenarios of next moves are playing out. My inclination is to first tell her where to get off and then grab my children and tell her that I am going to fix her scheduling issue and instantly put her way ahead! But I resolve to standing just outside the door with my arms folded and eyeballing her every move. I told Elli, "Honey, mommy is going to stand right back here in the hallway. I can see you and I am right here." Elli seemed ok with that. The hygienist gave me a disgusted look but didn't say anything. She spoke softly to Elli and went on to explain everything. She put the mask on her and told her to breathe through her nose. Elli is still so upset she is not listening and she continues to breathe through her mouth. I am still watching and waiting.

You see in my mind, I am thought I would traumatize Elli more by creating a scene than to see if this less than friendly hygienist would realize the error of her ways. My patience did pay off. The hygienist realized the longer Elli remained upset, the longer she would breathe through her mouth and the longer she breathed through her mouth the longer it would take before the doctor could begin to do the fillings. The hygienist got a chair for me and sat it next to Elli and then she politely asked me to see what I could do to get her calm and to take whatever time I needed. I wanted too much to do the nanny-nanny-boo-boo-stick-your-head-in-doo-doo dance but I didn't. I even refrained from the i-told-you-so smirk that I love to share with people!

I sat with Elli and talked about what our plans were for the day, the week and the weekend. We talked about shopping and clothes and my personal favorite.. Hannah Montana (said with huge sarcasm!). Before long, Elli was giggling and telling me she felt silly. She said she couldn't feel her feet and then through her legs up in the air and said, "MOMMY! Are my shoes still on?!" I laughed and told her she was fine and her shoes were still on.

The hygienist returned to the room when she realized Elli was calm. Which, by the way, it only took me just 5 minutes of conversation with her. The doctor came into the room soon after. I returned to my place in the hall with my arms folded and watching them with my Eagle-Mom's eye. Kai kept running into the hallway to see what was going on and I kept sending him back to Pop-Pop. I didn't want him to see anything that might scare him. He was so worried for Elli. It was very endearing.

Soon, I gained confidence in them and my nerves settled. Then I returned to the waiting room. Here and there, I spot checked things but never let Elli know I was around. I could hear Elli getting upset and when I would return to my spot in the hall, I could hear the doctor reminding Elli to breathe through her nose. The hygienist and the doctor both ignored the fact that I was not following the rules and they continued to treat Elli with soft words and kindness. It is a hard concept for a 6 year old to breathe through their nose when their mouth is open. Because of this, Elli would sober up, so to speak. Constant reminders would return her to her tipsy state.

Before long it was all over. Elli was finished. She had 3 of 6 cavities filled. We will have to return later to do the rest. I think she was relatively surprised at how simple the procedure really was. She kept repeating, "it wasn't bad at all, it really wasn't.... i worried for nothing." I took Kai back to see Elli. She told him it was a piece of cake! With confidence, Kai ran off to the other room for his turn. I sat with Elli for a minute or two while she sobered up and then I took her to Pop-Pop. Then I went to be beside Kai. He was so brave. I could tell he was scared but he didn't want me to know so I pretended not to notice. I rubbed his head and told him I was proud of him for being so brave. His tough exterior faltered for a moment and his eyes welled up with tears, but he called them back and pulled himself together before any fell. I assured him I would watch from the same spot in the hallway and I reminded him to keep breathing through his nose.

I stepped into the hallway for a few moments and then returned to the waiting room. A few minutes later I noticed that the doctor had shoved a chair into the hallway. He never said a word about it. He just quietly pushed it into the hallway. I wonder how many annoying Mommies he has to deal with on a daily basis.

Kai had to have two baby teeth cut in half on either side of 2 permanent teeth on the bottom. His permanent teeth were stacked one in front of the other like shark’s teeth because there was no room for them. The dentist removed half of the teeth on each side to make just the right amount of room for the permanent teeth to move in to the space he was making. In addition, there were two cavities that needed to be filled.

Kai's procedure was over quickly, as well. I sat with him as he sobered up and the first thing he asked was about his teeth that were cut in half. Extremely concerned, he asked, "Mommy, will the Tooth Fairy still give you money when you have only half of a tooth under your pillow." I had to laugh, Pop-Pop answered before I could and said, "Of course, Son, but you will only get half of the money." Kai looked very disturbed until he realized Pop-Pop was teasing him.

The rest of the morning Pop-pop and I kept reminding them not to bite their lip. They were both still numb from the injections and would play with their face. Elli would wipe her face on her shoulder repeatedly because she thought that she was drooling. At one point I caught her touching her cheeks while smiling and then unsmiling and then smiling again. I asked her what she was doing. She replied, "Am I smiling on two sides or just one?"

My oh my, what an adventure. We go back again in two weeks for Elli's remaining fillings. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Budding Artists

Recently, we visited the Imax Theater and Museum of Nature & Science at Fair Park in Dallas. During our visit we saw a lot of really neat things. I will be posting a few different stories about this trip in various other postings. For this posting I am going to focus on just one aspect, the Art Museum booth. On the particular day that we went to the Museum, there were exhibits from the Art Museum. A table prepared outside where they displayed sketches from local artists. The ladies that hosted the display also instructed visitors on various sketching tools and mediums and then provided them a kit to sketch a picture. The idea was to use the immediate scenery as inspiration to sketch a picture.

Kai would not step up to the table because he was having a shy moment. Elli listened intently and was very interested. The lady explained how to use pencils, water colors, chalk and charcoal. She then showed Elli a book of reproductions from a famous and deceased Dallas area sketch artist. His drawings were of landscape and farm animals. The book was amazing and Elli was so into it. She asked lots of questions about what she was seeing. I think the ladies were impressed with her inquisitiveness as they kept asking me how old Elli was and what grade she had just completed. They seemed shocked when I told them she was 6 and had completed Kindergarten.
Elli excitedly, took her kit and found a place to sit in the shade. It took her just a few minutes of looking around before she spotted the big paddle boats across the way in the pond. These paddle boats were large white swans. She decided that she would start with the paddle boats and the water and let her ideas just come to her.

This was something that she took very seriously. She wanted a really great picture. She took her time to plan what she was going to draw before she began.
Kai finally decided that he would like to join in and talked Jeff into getting a kit for him. He didn't want to listen to the mini lessons they were providing. He just wanted to quietly receive his kit.
He contemplated and pondered and solicited ideas. He stared this way and that. Nothing seemed to inspire him. We tried to encourage him and we did offer ideas but to no avail.

Meanwhile Elli was still focused on her inspiration. She wasn't too interested in any one's ideas. She had her own thoughts and then she began to illustrate them.
Kai still struggled and at this point began to beg Jeff to draw something for him that he could color. Jeff told him "no" and suggested that he try to draw a car, a gun, a truck or an airplane. He continued the encouragement but it was hot and becoming aggravating and Jeff gave in and drew a picture for him to color. Need I remind you that we are outside, in August and in Dallas ??

Once Elli's idea and plan was firmly established in her little mind, she began to draw like no body's business.
Kai was happy to have his drawing to color and took pride in how well he could stay in the lines, even with paint! He did require that Jeff stand with him because once again he was too shy to approach the ladies at this table. I am not sure why Kai act so shy about some things but he shows no fear in other things, such as Karate. In Karate, he must memorize patterns and give/receive the respect of his Sensei. This seems so much harder to do than approach a couple of ladies from the Art Museum.

It must just be that he is confident in his abilities to perform in Karate. Whereas, Elli is confident in her abilities to draw. Because, you cannot get Elli to participate in Karate. The Sensei has tried to encourage her for almost a year now to no avail.

Sometimes these twins are so similar it gives me the goose bumps. But other times, they are as different and unpredictable as can be.
The details that Elli took the time to include were amazing. She drew water, fish, flowers, birds, the swan (paddle boat), purple stone work for the cement wall, where she carefully placed her daddy wearing black boots and catching a fish!
Kai finished up his water coloring and was very content to have participated. He actually was not able to finish coloring even half of what Jeff had drawn. Being the perfectionist that he is, he spent way too much time coloring a small area. He assured us that the fact that half his drawing remained uncolored was on purpose. It was "supposed to be white."
When Elli completed her drawing she returned the kit to the Art Museum ladies. They were so impressed by her drawing that they asked for permission to take a picture of Elli with her drawing to place in their museum scrapbook! Elli was so proud and so were we!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

No Lifeguard on Duty

The other night the kids had a friend over. All day and into the evening they begged me to go swimming. I had so many things to do and sitting outside and watching them swim was not on the list. They continued to beg and were just not going to give up. Finally, I told them they could swim unspervised for 45 minutes! You should have seen the looks on their faces!

It was so shocking that I would actually let them swim alone with no supervision. They are really good swimmers but I have never let them swim without an adult watching. So, this was the most exciting thing that had happened to them all summer long! Kai said, "we get to do this because we are really good swimmers now, right mom?" Elli said, "of course bubby, we did all of our lessons and mommy is proud of us now. Right, Mom?" "Absolutely," I said.

They quickly donned their suits and raced outside before I had an opportunity to change my mind. As soon as they made their way out the back door, I grabbed my camera and headed for the window by the couch in the family room. I could see them but they could not see me. I sat there and watched them while they played. It was the cutest thing. I was really amazed that they didn't try anything crazy. They had every opportunity to try all of the things that I always say no to. Instead, they were cautious and smart and careful.

A couple of days later, I showed them the pictures that I took through the window. They said "MOM! you were really watching us!!, that's no fair!" I explained that I needed to see how safe they could be. I also told them how proud I was for their behavior around the water and that I could tell they were growing up to be smart big kids. They liked that!

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Kai & Elli's Brief Encounter with the WWW

Kai's intellect has always amazed me. From a very early age, I taught both he and Elli how to use the computer. Of course, at 2 and 3 there was very little for them to do except play on Elmo's World because they provide lapware. This is where the child can hit any key to perform an action. As they grew older between 3-4, I provided them with access to our home PC. I created windows profiles for each of them with their own logon and password. They learned early how to identify their names and how to identify their letters. I made their password the letter "a" so they could easily logon.

Once they were logged on, they would see their own desktop. Kai has a Transformers wallpaper while Ell has Minnie Mouse. I have provided each of them with shortcuts to internet sites that were age appropriate. I then associated each of the shortcuts with an icon. This helped them learn and remember the associated icon with the site they wanted to play on.

Before long, they were launching the sites and playing the games on Noggin, Nickelodian, Sesame Street and StarFall. They learned to Exit a window or application before they could properly say the word "exit". For the longest time they were "wexxing" their windows! I taught them the proper lingo, minimize, maximize, close, launch, etc. Kai always seemed to remember my mini lessons and Elli was never too interested.

They completed Kindergarten and are getting ready to enter first grade in a couple of weeks. Both of them can read the early readers and have learned their sounds and can write pretty well. I love to pick up their drawings and writings to see what they have tried to spell. It is so darn cute to see how hard they try to communicate in writing.

This summer they have spent a lot of time playing new computer games online, like ToonTown and Club Penguin. In the past few days they have made their way to YouTube and have enjoyed watching the "Charlie bit my finger" video. I wasn't too sure how they got there but figured it was a link from one of the kids sites to the Charlie video.

Yesterday after a brief moment away from my laptop, I noticed a Google search page was open with an odd entry. I knew right away Kai had been playing. I began to decipher what was in the search bar and as it became clear, I got the biggest laugh at his phonetics! It is very obvious what he was searching for... Sponge Bob Square Pants.

In speaking to him about this, he informed me that he uses the internet to get to clubpagwin (club penguin) and youtube. Google suggests the correct spelling when you spell it wrong. He sounds the words out the best he can and then enters them into google which happens to be our default home page.

I showed Pop-Pop my search page. He got a big laugh too and that's when he realized he had been finagled by two 6 year olds. Pop-Pop proceeded to inform me that he inadvertently helped the boogers get to YouTube! Kai had earlier approached him and said "Pop-Pop, how do you spell "you". Of course, Pop-Pop says y-o-u". A little while later, Kai returns and says "Pop-Pop, how do you spell the word "tube". Pop-Pop, not putting it together until now, says "t-u-b-e".

Soon after, I snuck up on Elli and found her on YouTube watching a romantic music video. I suprised her with "What are you doing!!?" She jumped and "wexed" all of her windows. Wow! how did she know what she was doing was wrong or that I would not approve? And, how did her reflexes work so fast as to "wexIT" so quickly?!

She replied with a quick, "nothing". I said, "young lady, you were watching a video, what did you see?" She said very quickly and with a tearful, nervous voice, "I don't know. I saw nothing. I don't know what I saw, Mommy, what did I see?" In a firm voice, I replied "Elli, we are not playing around, this is serious and I need to know what you were looking at and why you closed everything so quickly." Elli proceeded to inform me that she no longer wanted to play on the computer and that she wanted to go watch TV. I repeated myself. This time she buried her face in my stomach and said with a muffled voice "I saw a boy and a girl laying down kissing."

With the straightest face and firmest voice possible I told her it was inappropriate to be watching YouTube vidoes and that she should go find something else to do. She ran away quickly! I sat down at that very moment and locked down the internet. I should have done this a long time ago. Who knew these kids would be so sharp!

I must say, they are very disappointed that they cannot get to Google. Instead they can get to search page which does not do quite the job with helping them spell or assuming the site you want. However, will only direct them to kid sites and they can only reach sites that have a family rating unless I put in my password to unrestrict the site. In this case, they have to come get me to approve it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

White Girl Rice (Spanish Rice)

One of my most favorite things to do in the world is cook. Another one of my most favorite things to do is eat! And, my favorite kind of food is Mexican. I love all of the salty and spicy flavors. I especially love spanish rice and charro beans. Many times over the years I have attempted to make spanish rice. It would always come out mushy and gross. I tried recipe after recipe to no avail. I just could not figure out how Pancho's could do it and I couldn't. All of the recipes I tried instructed me to fry the rice in oil and then add water and tomatoes. In doing this, the ratio of liquid to rice made nothing but mush!

One day while we were at a Japanese hibachi style restaurant, Kobe's, an idea came to me as I watched them make fried rice. I began experimenting with frying cooked rice and developed a recipe that gave me perfect consistency every time. Since then, I have been making this rice with all of our mexican dinners. After sharing the rice with my friends, I am often asked to bring it as side dish to various parties that we attend.

You may be curious about why it is called "white girl rice". It is actually a label that was lovingly attached by my hispanic friends, Melissa & Tony. Melissa asks me to make the rice any time we attend one of their parties. At one of the parties, her family and other hispanic friends kept asking "who made the rice?" Being that Jeff and I are usually the only white folks at her parties, she replies "the white girl."

I have been asked many times for this recipe and I never mind sharing recipes, however, I have never taken the time to write it down. Here is the long awaited brain dump for white girl rice exactly as I prepare it!


2 C. Jasmine Rice
1 C. Chopped Carrots
1 C. Chopped Onions
1 Lg Can Diced Green Chiles
1 can Rotel
1 Bushel Cilantro
1 C. Frozen whole kernel sweet corn
2 T. Knorr Tomatoe Bouillon with Chicken Flavor (this is a key ingredient. Most all grocery stores carry it in the hispanic foods section. I added a picture to help you identify it)
1 T. Garlic Powder
2 T. Cumin
2 T. Chili Powder
1 C. Vegetable Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First prepare your rice as you would in making 2 C of steamed white rice. I use a rice cooker and in most rice recipes there is a 2:1 ratio (water:rice), however when using a rice cooker you actually use less water to rice. In fact, if you are making the rice on the stove top, cut your water to 3 C of water to 2 C of rice instead of 4:2. Your rice will come out a little on the stiff side but that is ok because of the added ingredients later. Let the rice cook and continue on with preparations.

In a large frying pan add 1 C. Vegetable oil. After heating the oil to a frying temperature, add in the onion and carrots.

Chop the entire bushel of cilantro finely but do not include the last 3-4" of the stem. I use a little bit of the stem but I toss the majority of it out and use all of the leaves. Once chopped, add to the onions and carrots.

Add in all of the dry ingredients and let simmer until the rice is done.

Once the rice is done, turn the heat up on the skillet until it has once again reached a frying heat. Add once cup of rice at a time. Fry the rice until it is coated with the spices and is slightly golden brown. It is ok if it sticks a bit to the pan. I usually let it stick a bit and then scrape it. Just don't let it burn. Continue this process until all of the rice is in the skillet. You may add a bit more oil of needed. Be careful though, your rice should not be shiney with oil. Add in the frozen corn. Once all of the rice has been fried and all of the spices are evenly mixed throughout take the skillet off of the heat.

Move the contents of the skillet to a 13 x 9 baking pan (do not grease the pan). Drain the rotel and add to the baking pan. Add in the green chiles. Stir and evenly distribute throughout. Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven. Let it cook for 15 minutes at 350 and then turn the oven off and let it sit in place for another 15 minutes.

After a full 30 minutes in the oven, your rice is ready to serve. I hope you enjoy!