Friday, December 28, 2007

Pictures from Christmas Day

We had a really beautiful Christmas day together. I carried around a feeling all day long that this was the sort of days that sweet, warm memories are built from, the kind that will come to mind when my children grow up and someone asks them how their family celebrated Christmas. And that kind that Erol and I will think of when we are old and are remembering "Christmas when the kids were little."

We went for opening all the gifts on Christmas Day, despite my hopes of spreading it out over the 12 days. We went to morning Mass, but before that I convinced Felicity that she needed a trip over to Franciscan University to see Baby Jesus in the manger there (she'd been patiently awaiting His arrival). I also convinced Kwamai that he had to be the helper and go along with Erol and Felicity. In the meantime, I unhid all of the presents and put them under the tree. I do think the out-of-sight approach helped them not be so focused on presents and to think more about when Baby Jesus was going to appear.

So, upon arrival home from Mass we opened gifts, and I got dinner cooking bit by bit. There was a curious and natural pause as some really cool toys beckoned to be played with, so we went with that, I got dinner on the table and we ate. Felicity eventually decided we needed to open the rest of the gifts, so we did. Towards evening we went over to some friends' house for, dare I say, yet another Christmas dinner.

And all that was only the first day of Christmas!

Here are some pics:
Felicity opening a gift.

Kwamai contemplating his Avatar book with Erol.

"Could you put Baby Jesus' manger together, please?" (From her Playmobile Nativity set.)

Everyone busily working on their projects.

Felicity and I are ready for dinner.

Kwamai's play-dough creature.

Felicity models a new dress from Mama-Grandma.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's a Wonderful Day

These still photos certainly don't capture the excited mood of the Hosdil kids right now!
This has been a wonderful day, truly. After Mass and a guest for dinner, we did some decorating with lights, put up the Christmas tree, and had our Sunday-of-Advent picnic with our family rosary. Then tonight we all bundled together upstairs (where our TV is residing) to watch "It's a Wonderful Life." Despite all of Kwamai's protestations about not wanting to watch it, he was glued to the whole story. What we will spend tomorrow afternoon doing, I'm not quite sure (since the initial plan was to do the tree then). It just seemed fitting to use the energy while we were all together today. Throughout the afternoon Kwamai occasionally called for a "family hug." A day of joyful togetherness, if you take out the times when I yelled about the glass ornaments, or the odd tussle between Kwamai and Felicity. I guess those things just prove that it is all real!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Sounds of Sanity

After a phone conversation with Mama-Grandma sent both Kwamai and Felicity into a complete excitement tailspin over the nearness of Christmas (think screaming AND streaking through the house), I had a brainstorm! Erol is currently entertaining them at the Pittsburgh Zoo. And I, well, I'm baking, doing laundry, wrapping presents, and will shortly go to cleaning the basement and attic.

What a deal!

Friday, December 21, 2007

'Twas the Week Before Christmas....

We have been busy with the flurry of activities that comes the last few days before Christmas. On Monday, on his way to Catechesis, Kwamai happened to see the Bishop and asked if he received his birthday gift. On Wednesday, the Bishop sent Kwamai a formal thank you letter. Kwamai was very psyched that, first of all, it was addressed to "Master" Kwamai Hosdil... which he thought must have something to do with his excellent karate moves or some such. He also said as he opened it that he hoped the Bishop would be inside the envelope and jump out to give him a big hug.

We put up the first of our decorations the other day, and Kwamai has been put in charge of decorating to his heart's content on Monday. I think that is when we will put our tree up. I'm going for the symbolic meaning this year (tree = Christ), which is handy since I just didn't get around to putting it up any earlier!

As for Felicity, well she is discovering Veggie Tales. We have a stuffed Bob the Tomato that I got for Kwamai "long ago". So, she is familiar with him. But she also wants to call Larry Bob the Cucumber. She has taken to carrying tomatoes through the house, calling them "Bob To-Cookie". Whatever.

She also waits with great anticipation to see baby Jesus make his arrival in the manger.

Merry Christmas from us to you!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pondering Our Gift

I don't generally get ponderous on this blog, but today I shall. This evening I printed out a book of all the blog entries currently recorded here, for Tama Bonnie (her Christmas wish). While reviewing everything I've written, and not written, some thoughts come to mind.

There are times when I haven't written too much about what is new on the Kwamai scene. I believe this stems mostly from the sentiment of "if you can't say anything nice...." All children go through their growing stages and pains, and Kwamai has had his share of them in the last year. But tonight I'm thinking about this reality. At my School of Community today we talked about how every person we encounter is a way that we meet Christ. And this does not just (or even primarily) mean the happy, pleasant encounters. Sometimes we meet Christ in His distressing disguise in others, sometimes we experience a pain and longing in our own hearts in difficult encounters and through this we find Christ's agony, His presence, His longing. Raising any child is, without a doubt, a job meant to bring parents closer to Christ. (We think parenting is all about forming our children to be holy, but think again! Really it is about teaching parents to die to themselves!) Raising Kwamai has been for me thus far an immeasurable gift. I am me, I am made a certain way, I have my comfort zones. Kwamai is Other. Very Other. He draws me out and calls me, requires me, to grow, to change, to challenge myself, in the same way a very large hill challenges a jogger to build endurance, develop lung and muscle capacity, to get strong.

I need sometimes to pause and realize this. I sometimes live as if he is not a hill, but a level path, and then I wonder, grumpily, why I am using up all my energy. Or to make the analogy better, I waste energy meant to be used for my hill workout on things lesser in importance. I take as my inspiration my sister-in-law (hi, Leyla) who can breeze up huge hills with amazing speed and seems to find it nothing but exhilarating. There is something exhilarating about expending one's energies like that. But in my experience at least, the exhilaration comes only after the gradual build up of strength. Attitude is everything.

So, I behold the face of Christ in Kwamai, my joy-bomb of a little boy whose cues I often don't catch, whose heart-language is not my native one, whose natural inclinations and needs are so different from my own. God has entrusted this little soul to me to mother. I have to trust that He knew what He was doing in arranging our lives as they are. And I ask God's mercy as I wheeze up the hill.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lego Creations

Kwamai currently has a growing Lego village in his room. Two of the main buildings were erected primarily by Papa, but the smaller scenes are all of Kwamai's creation. They change a bit from day to day, but here's what it looked like earlier this week.

The creator of the Lego Universe.

The overview.

A restaurant, gaurded by a knight.

The local gang of bad guys, and their weapons.

The police station, where the bad guys, no doubt, are headed.

A close-up of the gas station. The tank-filling thingy doubles as a weapon.

Reading Progress

I'm pleased to report that Kwamai is making wonderful progress with reading. He has picked up lots and lots of sight words, but he is also rapidly improving with phonetic reading as well, which is a rather sudden light-switch-gone-on. The other day he was looking at the box of soy milk and said "va-nil-la. Oh yeah, vanilla!" We keep having this on-going debate where he insists I told him English is read right to left, but I'm changing my tune and then telling him to read left to right. His right-brainedness seems to presume there should be no difference -- it's all the same word, right -- so who cares if you say daer or read?

He has accomplished this learning on his own, I'd add. I've held off trying to drill him, realizing it is much easier to guide a moving learner than to entice a balking one. He loves, more and more, to get books at the library and sit around, well, reading them (or trying to). When he asks for a certain word to be read for him these days he is realizing that it goes quicker and smoother if he spells the word out loud to the adult at hand, and he also no longer stumbles over identifying letters as he did just a few months ago.

There is much to be said for the tenet that when a child is ready to learn something, it clicks in and takes off. I'm pleasantly surprised that it has happened at this young of an age for him.

Friday, December 7, 2007

St. Nicholas Day Pictures!

This is the third year in a row we have done pictures on the feast of St. Nicholas. I'm learning why professional photographers are all about speed. Kwamai wanted to orchestrate some more exact poses for Felicity, but I was lucky to get her to hold still for one picture, let alone all that I actually took.

I left out some of the real clunkers, but here they are the formal, the not-so-formal, and the downright goofy.

(Ok, I'm a bit late here because Blogger was not letting me upload pictures yesterday...)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Birthday, Bishop Conlon

Yesterday's fun thing, which I regret I did not capture on film, was that we brought our Bishop a little birthday present, as yesterday was his big day. Sometime ago our lady friend in the nursing home had given Felicity a little blue beany baby bear with a birthday hat. It was a "December birthday bear". I figured that would be perfect. Kwamai created a card for him, with various pictures of people smiling on it. He wrote (rather neatly, I'd add) various greetings, including "I (heart) you" several times. Felicity decided we should include a Marian holy card. We popped it all in a gift bag and made our way down to the chancery office. The Bishop was not in, which did not surprise me terribly, but the receptionist said, with broad smile, that she would make sure he got the gift. And I told Kwamai to be sure to ask him, when next we see him, if he got the card and gift.

Enjoying the Snow

This morning I had Kwamai and Felicity pose in front of the house. Felicity is an adamant Polar Bear; I had to wrestle with her to get her to wear boots (i.e., she wanted to go bare foot outside!!) and a coat. Inside she will peel down to her t-shirt and unders.

By the way, the snow is not quite as deep as it looks. The "banks" are actually piles of leaves!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Advent Celebrations

We got off to a little slow start on our Jesse tree, beginning today rather than yesterday, but better a little late than never. A Jesse tree, if you are not familiar, traces the Old Testament history of God's people up to the time of Christ, and each day gets a symbol which is attached to a little tree. I dug out a tiny Christmas tree from the basement, and I hope it will hold them all. Perhaps in years to come we will plan ahead for a different type of branch. The ornaments I'm using come from this site.

I made onigiri for dinner tonight on account of it being the feast of St. Francis Xavier, missionary to Japan (and India). Kwamai proclaimed "oh, gross, why did you put that yucky red stuff on them" (umeboshi, pickled plums) and Felicity had no interest in eating anything. Erol dutifully ate one, and I ate the rest. So, we're off to a great start in the festive food department.

During the evening rosary and Advent prayer, Kwamai and Felicity both decided they were hungry and went to raiding the cupboards and fridge, in a social, noisy kind of way. The concept of "quiet time" is getting to be quite a laugh around here as every moment of the day both Kwamai and Felicity are asking or telling me something, both taking up to three minutes to get one thought out all the way, and I am generally left with my head spinning and my mouth spewing random answers that I hope will fit something someone has said.

But, in the midst of it all, we are building memories. Kwamai insists on our Sunday picnics, which we are on year three of, if I remember correctly. I remember desperately trying to get him to not grab the Advent candles in years past, and trying to get 30 quiet seconds to say a prayer.... But at least the tradition sticks with him: during Advent on Sunday nights, we turn down the lights, eat food in the living room, and pray. One of these years, the point of Advent will dawn on him, too, I imagine.

So, amidst mess, meltdowns and meal revolts, the celebration and preparation for Christmas continues.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Current Funny Sayings

Kwamai has quite the sense of humor. We still get the treat of knock-knock jokes and riddles at dinner time, and some of Kwamai's jokes are the best, in the round-about sense especially that they are so hard to decipher. He is into homonyms: pair and pear, for example. Felicity comes up with some interesting riddle questions, but then is completely stumped for the answer, so she slaps the table. For example: "Why does the garbage man put the garbage can into the garbage truck?" I guess just saying that is funny enough. The other night we were all laughing to the point of tears: Kwamai and Felicity just because they love to laugh at themselves and each other, and Erol and I because the jokes were so corny or nonsensical that they were hilarious. Felicity's funny habit, which I thought she picked up from a certain video, but Erol assures me predates it, is to ask "Ready for another one, kids?" before telling a new joke.

Speaking of that, Felicity has a habit of asking permission for just about everything she does. We went out tonight to Eat N' Park for dinner, and she asked me if it was ok if she colored the cookie on her place mat orange. She will ask if she can put her Little People in various seats in their vehicles. But if I suggest she do something different, she adamantly refuses, so it certainly isn't about any uncertainty on her part about what to do.

When Kwamai was little, we must have said "what if..." to him too many times. He came to believe that the conditional preposition was pronounced "whiff". And so from time to time he still says "Whiff I do this" or "Whiff we go there". It doesn't help that Erol and I pick up and repeat all these cutisms, and so sometimes say "whiff" to each other. Remember that Bill Cosby comedy routine about teaching kids to speak incorrectly? I fear it has come true.

And speaking of speaking incorrectly... the accents! I have to come to grips with the fact that I don't live in Wisconsin (Wiscaaaaaaaaansin) anymore, and my children simply are not going to pronounce their vowels properly unless I make a concerted effort to model. I have already noticed that Felicity has a firm Ohio Valley accent in the way she pronounces food (feud) or blue (bleeoo). And of course Erol who purposefully and willingly force-fed himself a Pittsburgh accent, insists on saying "daaan" (down) and "abaaat" (about), and so Kwamai tries to incorporate these as well, since Papa is of course the coolest thing since sliced bacon. What I wouldn't give for a little Canadian "abouwwt" in our haaaas. Even I sometimes say "kellers" (colors) which always makes me shudder and correct myself.

Ok, back to serious land (but speaking of foreign languages), Kwamai is currently learning to read Japanese characters. We have gone through the first four groups of the first syllabary, hiragana, for a total of 20 characters. He is doing very well, and at this pace he should know all of them by January or so. However, pace is never something I count on staying the same. Sometimes he begs to do more than I think is prudent, and sometimes he has no interest to do any. But he knows that pretty soon he and I will be equals when it comes to learning reading, as I have forgotten much of what I learned. The lure of surpassing someone is very strong for him.

Advent and Christmas

Advent season is upon us, and I am really trying to aim for celebrating it more fully this year as a family. Today I brought home from the University library the cartoons of St. Francis Xavier and St. Nicholas, for their respective feast days coming up. It's a start. Kwamai wants to decorate the outside of the house, but I must say he is the leader and sole member of that crusade. We play to go caroling on December 13 with our parish, and perhaps we will go caroling in the Christmas season itself.

I'm going to shoot for celebrating the 12 days of Christmas this year, opening one gift each day, and observe the Christmas season starting, rather than ending, on Christmas day. We'll see how the approach goes over with Kwamai and Felicity.