How do you say "Hello" in Chinese? Just ask Owen. He knows. And he can pronounce it perfectly -- with perfect intonation, so that Chinese people (even Chinese people who speak no english) recognize immediately that he is greeting them with his perfect Chinese/Mandarin "Hello." So, just in case you don't know (I surely did not), -- 你好 -- "ni hao" (nee-Ha-OW; sounds like "knee how") is "hello" in Chinese.
One day a couple of months ago I was picking the boys up from daycare. Normally we walk out together and I put both of them into the car at the same time. But on this particular day I got Owen out and buckled him into his carseat first, and left him in the parking lot as I ran in to get Kyle. It was a warm day and all of the car windows were down. As I walked back toward the car with Kyle I saw that an older gentleman, who happened to be Chinese, was standing right next to Owen's car door and talking with him through the open window. They were both smiling ear-to-ear and carrying on like two old pals. This older Chinese man (probably about 75, bald, and very thin), and my little guy's-guy Owen (2 years old, dreadlocks, and very husky). When the man saw me he waved bye to Owen and started to walk off down the sidewalk. Owen started yelling something to the man -- something I didn't recognize, and the man started yelling the same thing back. Soon Kyle chimed in and the three of them were all yelling "ni hao" to each other at the tops of their lungs and laughing. I tried to talk to the man, tried to ask him what it meant, but immediately realized he spoke no english. He walked into one of the apartment buildings next door to the daycare center. And we drove home.
A couple weeks later I was picking up the boys again. It was another warm day and the toddlers were playing outside in the front fenced in play-yard of the daycare. I was standing talking to one of Kyle and Owen's teachers as we watched all the kids play. Suddenly I noticed that Owen was off in the front corner of the fence waving through it and jumping up and down yelling "ni hao" over and over and over. I could see that down the sidewalk a bit the same older gentleman was walking toward the daycare. As I was observing this I watched Kyle run over to join Owen, and the two of them cheerily shouted repeated "ni hao's" with huge smiles on their faces. None of the other kids seemed phased by this and just kept playing. Soon enough the man was right outside the fence, saying "ni hao" with a huge grin, giggling out loud, and waving sweetly to my two boys. I asked the staff about it. They told me that this happens almost daily. They explained that several Chinese families live in the surrounding apartment buildings and that this particular older man always makes a point to say "ni hao" to Kyle and Owen... and that Kyle and Owen have learned to say it back. Apparently this back-and-forth-greeting is a pretty frequent highlight of the day for my boys and the man and whomever of his Chinese family or friends he may have with him on his daily walks. The whole thing just warmed my heart. I waved to the man as he walked away. And I remember telling Braydon all about it that night.
Today after daycare I had the boys in the grocery store with me. We were waiting in line at a register to buy our things. Kyle was in the front of the "truck cart" and Owen was seated in child-seat of the cart. I was kneeling down talking with Kyle when suddenly I heard Owen saying, loudly and confidently "ni hao!" "ni hao!" I stood up to see him coyly smiling and flirtatiously waving to the two people in line behind us-- an older Asian woman and her 20-something son. The son started laughing, and the woman was blushing a deep red. I said, "hi!" to them, and didn't know quite what else to say. I kissed Owen and said, "that's so nice Owen." The son said to me, "what is he saying?" And I said, self-consciously, "he's saying 'ni hao', he's trying to say 'hi.'" He said, "Oh my god, that's what we thought he was saying!!! My mother speaks Chinese." He then turned to his mother and started speaking in quick Chinese with her. And she quietly and self-consciously said, "ni hao" to my Owen. Owen giggled and said, "ni hao" back. The son then said "ni hao" to Owen and Owen said "ni hao" back. The son then said to me, "geesh, this is kind of amazing." And I said, "yeah, I know." As Owen and the older Chinese woman giggled and flirted and cooed to each other in Chinese (the only thing they could say to each other was "ni hao" -- the woman spoke no english), I said to the young man, "You know, they say that young children don't recognize race, but they do. He [owen] knew you were Chinese. That's why he said that to you. I've only ever heard him say it to another Chinese person. And I did not teach it to him. And he's only 2." The guy just shook his head in amazement, neither of us quite knowing what to make of it. He said, "And he's..." and his voice trailed off. Somehow I just knew he wanted to acknowledge that my little son is black. I said, "Yeah, and he's black, and when he sees black men he'll often try to do a fist-pound with them -- like, he'll kind of acknowledge 'hey, you're black too!'" The man said, "Yeah, that's what I was trying to say, it is just so amazing, because, like, he's black, and we're Chinese." And I'm white. And the whole thing is just an incredibly great example of why our life is amazingly interesting and rich and such a great, great journey every single day.
The beauty is in the details. 你好
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Posted by Heather at 9:18 PM
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Posted by Braydon McCormick at 3:43 PM
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
After Thanksgiving on Thursday and then the next four nights straight of eating T'Giving leftovers for dinner we finally couldn't take it anymore. I had to work late, and we could not stomach the idea of a sixth night of turkey, so Braydon seized the opportunity for him and the boys to pursue one of their favorite activities: a trip to the pizza place. Braydon reported that tonight both boys marched right in there to Borderline Pizza, Braydon plopped them up on the counter, and Owen yelled out "High Five Sal!" (to the owner). Sal, of course, came running from the kitchen. After 'high fiving' with K & O, and after K & O 'high fiving' with the rest of the pizza-making-guys, Sal gave each boy a piece of fresh pepperoni. But I digress... this is not the milestone... this is normality... Milestone: once we were all at home situated around the dining room table for supper both K & O requested that their pizza be "not cut" but rather that they "eat it big"?!!!!!!! This is a huge milestone since they ALWAYS always always ALWAYS always insist that *EVERYTHING* that they eat be "cut." "You cut it?" they always, always, always request. But tonight, they ate their pizza "big." They were sooooo proud of themselves. A big milestone for our pizza-loving two year olds.
Historic Break From Tradition:
Who the heck knows (or even cares) how it began, but somewhere along the way I started a tradition many years ago that I/we DO NOT start Christmas stuff until December 1. No Christmas music to be played until December 1. No Christmas shopping to be done until December 1. And definately, definately NO CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS in the house until December 1. But alas, I'm a sucker for my precious bambinos and they could probably get me to do just about anything on earth for them. Tradition smadition blahdition. Starting this weekend we see Christmas lights decorating houses as we drive along the roads to and fro. Being the crazy foolish people that we are, everytime we see the Christmas lights we sing "Hallelujah" like maniacs. So, since the weekend my sweet baby boy Kyle has been asking, with the most forlorn little look on his face, "Mama, where'd my hallelujah go?" and "Mama, where's my hallelujah?" and "Mama, what happened to my hallelujah?" It hasn't taken a rocket scientist for us to coax out of him that he wants some lights up at his own house. I've been telling him that we're going to do it "Sunday" (like that even means anything to the poor child?!) and that "we have to wait." Tonight though, I couldn't bear it anymore, and I thought to myself, "my gosh, there will come a day not too far in the teenage-years-future when I'll be pulling teeth to get this boy to help me put up a Christmas light..." and I thought, "oh, what the heck..." and I shouted to my three family-mates, "YOU WAIT HERE!!! And sing Jingle Bells while you wait!!!" (which they did), and I ran to the basement to dig in the Christmas storage to fetch a string of lights. I threw them up along the dining room window. And I plugged them in. You should have seen the look on my boys' faces, and the twinkles in their eyes, and the spirit in their excitement when they saw those Hallelujah lights light up in their home. We'll put the tree up on Sunday, but I must say, that the breaking of a tradition has never felt so satisfying.
Posted by Heather at 9:05 PM
Braydon and I kind of think of life in two dimensions: "before-K&O" and "after-K&O." Many of you who know me from "before" know about how I love(d) to cook. I used to read cookbooks like people on the beach read romance novels. I used to watch the Food Network like sports fans watch ESPN. I used to list "cooking" on questionairres that asked for my hobbies. I'd spend hours (sometimes days) researching, planning, and preparing for dinner parties. Many a weeknight Braydon and I spent drinking wine while I cooked, and savoring my multiple-course dinners by candlelight well into the night. Times have changed in our "after-K&O" life. I think of it this way: I used to be a pretty good amateur chef, now I am a fast-and-dirty cook. Big difference. Braydon took this picture of some spices on our kitchen counter. You can't tell from the photo, but they go for long stretches without ever being used. I hardly ever have use for spices anymore since 99% of the time I'm just trying to get something that all four of us will find edible onto the table in 20 minutes or less. Turns out that toddlers (well, I suppose I should really only speak for myself and I should rather say, my two toddlers) don't really like wasabi and sesame encrusted tuna with a hoisin glaze cooked rare and served over a bed of sauteed fresh spinach with garlic mashed red-potatoes. Sometimes I get really sad about it. Sort of like I get sad when we talk about the spontaneous trips to the movie theater that we used to make, or the sophisticated vacations we used to go on, or the exercise equipment in our basement that we used to use, or the Sunday mornings we'd linger for hours with coffee and the New York Times. But most of the time I'm feeling no sadness -- just the purest joy I've ever known: the experience of having the opportunity to be my boys' mother. I can honestly say, as cliche as it sounds, that for me now, my bambinos are the spice of life. I'd never go back, no matter what -- and I feel that way everyday, even when we're all eating hot dogs and beans.
Posted by Heather at 2:01 PM
Monday, November 27, 2006
Sometimes it is really hard to be a mommy who has an ambitious career. Like today. Like this morning, when I had to drop off my precious babies at daycare after having four whole days in a row with them. They were o.k. with going. They didn't cry or anything. When I went to kiss them goodbye at the little toddler breakfast table, they didn't even protest me leaving. But I had all I could do to keep my game-face on for them until I closed the door behind me. Then I cried my heart out all by myself in the car all the way to work. And then had to go give a sociology lecture to 240 students. I think it is important to be real about this. It is just really, really, really hard sometimes. I wouldn't give up any of it. I really wouldn't. For so many really important reasons. But it is not easy.
Posted by Heather at 11:46 AM
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Posted by Heather at 8:57 PM
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Our First GUEST BLOGGERS!!! -------- MorMor & MorFar!!!
We arrived Wednesday afternoon in time to pick-up Kyle and Owen at Daycare. The love between 2 little boys and their MorMor and MorFar had begun again! We were greeted with smiles, hugs and jumping up and down. What warmth and love flows from these little guys... they make us feel so special! We played awhile outside (their favorite thing to do) had a great "pasta" dinner that Heather made (their favorite thing to eat) then watched the bedtime scene (their least favorite thing). They don't want to stop the fun to go to sleep but boy, oh boy, by 8 pm do we adults ever need them to go to sleep! It happens eventually and after we adults chat awhile we go to sleep ourselves - afterall tomorrow is another day to play!
Thanksgiving we take our daily walk in Bethlehem, in the rainy mist, through the park, the boys being ever so good in the strollers. Always greeting the strangers we meet with a "hi" and "good morning"! I wonder what they think when some people don't answer back and others stop to chat to such polite, cute boys.
We are in love with the Johnson-McCormick's and we are so appreciative of how much time Heather and Braydon put into fostering our relationship. They are the best of the best parents and they are raising the best of the best children. We so look forward to our next time together which will be for Christmas in NH with Stina, Tim and Sadie too. Life is GOOD!
It's been a great Thanksgiving weekend here with Owen & Kyle; Heather & Braydon. One thing is for sure. It's not a quiet weekend! Kyle and Owen have so much energy and zest for life - it's thoroughly refreshing. From the time the day starts with the pitter-patter of little feet down the stairs with a peek around the corner to find me, MorFar in the family room, to the end of the day - it's non-stop action. What's very much obvious, in addition to all the activity, is how much they love life. And love the family they must have been destined to be part of; and inspire their MorMor and MorFar to love life even more than we already did. And Braydon and Heather have most definitely already given Kyle and Owen a legacy of the positive, upbeat happy way that they engage in life on an everyday basis. So are we having fun? You bet we are! And are we tired at the end of the day. Without a doubt! and are we eager to get the next day started. Absolutely! We have to leave here tomorrow (Sunday) but we don't have too long to look forward to the Johnson-McCormick clan to come to NH for Christmas and we'll have the added excitement of having the Johnson-Ouillette family be part of the action. We look forward to all of this wondering how Kyle and Owen will change in the next few weeks because their growth and development is so noticeable every time we see them. THis time we've been amazed at how extensive their vocabulary has become and how easy it is to talk with them and how much they carry on conversations with us and each other.
So there you have it - MorFar's feflections on a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
We are so thankful.
I am not going to write some gushy Thanksgiving Day entry here. Because I can't even do it justice. We're just so thankful. Our hearts are just so full.
I will say, however, just because it is an important day to mark down in the anals of history of the Johnson-McCormick household...
Today we had our first boy-broken-window. Kyle hit a golf ball that smashed right into our garage window. Let this date be remembered as our first boy-broken-window day. Surely there will be many more of these days to come. But let it be noted that the first was today, Thanksgiving Day 2006, and that our darling son was only 2.5 when he broke his first window with his powerful golf swing. Let it be duly noted.
We're so thankful for that powerful golf swing. We're so thankful for that precious little boy "Ky Ky" who is the sweetest little thing imaginable. We're so thankful for our "Big O" Owen who kept us all in hysterics laughing all day long... and who never stopped talking today except for when he was sleeping... and who, despite the massive entirety of the Thanksgiving Dinner spread of food ate exactly 2 Pillsbury crescent rolls for his entire meal (but asked for precisely "five" of them). And we're really thankful for our entire family and our friends and our good, good life. I know, I know, I said I wouldn't be gushy, so I'll stop there.
Posted by Heather at 10:21 PM
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
One thing that Braydon and I have often talked about is the way that Owen and Kyle seem to always sit/play/stand/color/etc. very close to each other. They seem to always be in close proximity. We notice it a lot. In a large room with plenty of space, they will play right next to each other. In the bathtub with plenty of room to maneuver, they will sit with their bodies right up against each other. In our huge yard, they will play within feet or even inches of each other. At a table or on the floor, they will draw and color so close together that their arms rub. It is very rare for them to go their separate ways. Almost always they are right tight together, usually with their bodies touching. If they play apart for awhile they will inevitably always gravitate back to close proximity. And soon we'll notice it and point it out to each other -- "Look how close they are together, their whole bodies are rubbing up against each other, and with all this space??!!" We wonder -- is this a twin thing? or a Kyle and Owen thing? or a nothing of note? We don't know. But we notice it all the time.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
O.k., so, I'm not gonna lie about it: A lot of days the "terrible two's" seem like a folkloric myth to us. I'm almost embarassed about saying that out loud since so many people have the opposite situation and complain to me constantly about their two-year-olds. But not today. We're grumpy here. Grumpy grumpy grumpy. We all woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. All four of us. And by 6:30 p.m., the "terrible two's" seemed more real than ever. And with two of 'em fussing and whining and carrying on and losing it left at right all at the same time -- it doesn't feel like the Terrible Two's times two. It feels more like the Terrible Two's TIMES-a-MILLION around here. And with two parents who are frazzled and burnt out and sick and tired of burning the candles at both ends it feels more like the Terrible Two's TIMES-a-ZILLION.
We're *done* with this whole mama-fall-semester-overextended-up-for-tenure-book-just-out-THING. We're *done* with this whole daylight-savings-dark-when-we-get-home-from-daycare-no-light-to-play-outside-THING. (see below). We're *done* with this whole daily-grind-rat-race-two-parents-working-two-twin-toddlers-two-neglected-cats-all-under-one-roof-THING. We're just done done done done done. Wha Wha Whah Whah Whaaaaaaaaah. Can't I just have a big 'ol TANTRUM about THAT?! ;0
Biggest gripe of the day: By 5:00 it is dark outside. But we're not nearly ready to give up on our outdoor play time. Something's gotta give. Poor Kyle and Owen are playing in the dark every day now. They seem unphased by it. But Braydon and I are just beside ourselves with annoyance over this! Here are some photos of our happy-go-lucky boys playing in the sandbox in the pitch dark. What are we saving with this daylight savings thing afterall?
Thank goodness MorMor and MorFar arrive tomorrow. Just in time to save the day! My guess???-- By Thanksgiving Dinner we'll be asking ourselves: "Terrible Two's??" "What's that?" "Daylight Savings??" "What's the big deal?!" "Pass the turkey and gravy please?"
Posted by Heather at 8:58 PM
Monday, November 20, 2006
From time to time, by the power vested in me by nothing but motherhood, I declare a day a "HAITIAN PRIDE DAY" for the Johnson-McCormick Family. Sometimes there is an actual reason (like, something is happening in Haiti at the time, or it is the anniversary of something big that happened in the history of Haiti, or another family we know about somewhere succesfully got through a major milestone in a Haitian adoption, or the day has some significance for our own family, etc.). But sometimes -- like today -- there is no "official" reason at all. First thing this morning I announced to K & O that today was "Haitian Pride Day!" The boys were very, very, very proud to show off their shirts to all their friends in the toddler room at daycare. Woot woot! Rah rah! The other two-year-olds seemed only mildly impressed... and were much more excited about another kid's "Bob the Builder" shirt that he proceeded to show off with as much (o.k., I admit it, a bit more) gusto than K & O had for their shirts. Despite this, the boys carried forth. I was told at daycare pick-up that they had been adament all day long to show off their shirts to anyone who would listen to them repeatedly say, "HAITI!" I was totally completely impressed and thrilled when one of the daycare staff (an intern I actually have in class this semester) told me that she "got so into it!" that she went to her dorm room and brought back to the daycare center her own actual Haitian flag (she is Haitian) which she then pulled out to show me! Owen pointed to her flag and said, "Haiti Flag." Could Haitian Pride Day get any better than THAT?!!!
Posted by Heather at 10:04 PM
Sunday, November 19, 2006
From day one with us, since they were little tiny baby bundles snuggled up together in a double jogger stroller, K & O have loved walks. From the time we first got them home all the way through 'till now, these guys have *LOVED* being in a stroller, and have consistently sat for 1+ hour stretches on long walks, happily and contentedly. They babble and sing and take in the scenery -- and now that they're getting older, they also chat chat chat along. We hate to mess with a good thing, so we were reluctant to switch from the double jogger to two single jogger strollers. However, the two of them just got waaaaaaay too big for one of us (especially me) to be pushing them at once. Once they hit the 35 pound mark (i.e., 70 pounds total!), we threw in the towel and bought two singles. It hasn't cramped their style at all, and, as usual for these go-with-the-flow-guys, they've just rolled with it (no pun intended), and now seem to love long walks even more. One of our favorite things to do on a Sunday morning is a long walk. Today was an especially good one.
When they were babies, K & O would often hold hands when they were in the double jogger together. Even though they are in two separate strollers now they'll still sometimes hold hands while the strollers are parked.
Today we walked along the river/canals of Sand Island in Bethlehem. After the walk K & O played at the playground there. Note the boots that they insisted on wearing today!!! :)
Posted by Heather at 10:18 PM
Top Ten Reasons I Am Counting the Hours Until My Parents Arrive For Thanksgiving
- We need Thanksgiving Break!!!!!!! As an academic, I've got our entire household operating on an academic calendar (despite the fact that none of us are technically students). You might think we call it "Thanksgiving Break" because Lehigh has "Thanksgiving Break" blocked off on the university calendar from this coming Thursday through Sunday. No no no! So WRONG! It is "Thanksgiving Break" for us because MorMor and MorFar are coming. This is the most stressful time of the year in our household for a whole host of professional reasons not even worth getting into here--- and we sooooo need a break. All four of us sooooooo need a break!
- MorFar will entertain the boys and play boy-sports-truck-rough-house-stuff with them 'till their hearts' content. We will be able to sit back and watch.
- MorMor will absorb the boys' excessive lovey doveyness and over-the-top-super-cutie-ness 'till their hearts' content. We will be able to sit back and watch.
- My mother will cook for us. We will be able to sit back and watch.
- My father will pour drinks for us. We will be able to sit back and watch.
- My parents will do things around here that we never even knew needed to be done. We won't even be sitting back and watching since they'll do it without us even realizing they've done it --- until later when we find out all the stuff we should be doing around here that we're not (I'd give examples here, but I'm not even sure what examples would be).
- My mom will prepare food for K & O (see photos below taken by me this evening).
- My mom will clean up after K & O (see photos below taken by me this evening).
- My mom will do laundry (see photos below taken by me this evening).
- MorMor and MorFar will make life feel perfectly manageable here for 4 days straight.
They arrive in time for daycare pick-up on Wednesday afternoon... or as Kyle and Owen have said several times today: "not tomorrow, not the next day, but the next day!!!!!!!!" The countdown has begun!
Saturday, November 18, 2006
To nap or not to nap -- that is the question. Today was a very fun Saturday. But there was no nap. So the evening was a little hairy... to say the least. K & O love action-packed Saturdays. And they LOVE to skip a nap. But by mid-afternoon of a napless day they are bleary eyed and frazzled and sucking their thumbs. And by 5:00 of a napless day -- forget it. And 6:30 of a napless day inevitably involves at least one of us having a total complete meltdown (sometimes that person is Owen, sometimes that person is Kyle, oftentimes that person is HEATHER). Anyway-- from time to time on a Saturday we skip a nap. The beautiful bedtimes on napless Saturdays are so glorious (they go down like a breeze and are asleep in a snap -- tonight, for example, Kyle was literally asleep within 2 minutes of his head hitting the pillow). But man, the late afternoons of a napless Saturday are almost physically painful to witness... let alone experience. The boys are so naplessly miserable that your heart wants to just break for the poor napless little them. Lots of parents of other 2.5 year olds we know have started dropping the naps entirely. I don't think we're even close to that yet (and a napless day like today reminds me of that!), but it is really really fun to be able to have a whole nap-free Saturday without that huge chunk of time in the middle eaten up by the naps. Napless Saturdays for us mean the glorious bedtimes and the fussy afternoons and the meltdowns. But they also mean a whole full day of uninterupted family togetherness (and 3 cups of coffee each instead of 2 for Braydon and I!)...
Today we went for our weekly Saturday morning class at the Little Gym. Miss Jackie, our teacher, confessed to Braydon that she thinks K & O are "actually amazing" (her words, not ours). We then went to K & O's favorite park where they got to throw rocks in the river (one of their absolute favorite passtimes). See photo above. We then went to our friends Tom & Lisa, and their son Jack's, house for their big Lehigh v. Lafayette party. Guess what they had in their backyard for this extravaganza? A dream come true for K & O: they had rented one of those huge blow up jumping things that you see at fairs and festivals. The boys had a ball jumping with a whole bunch of wild and crazy 6-8 year old boys in there! Lehigh lost (click here), but we had a great time at the party. The end of the day was at home and included the boys new favorite video (A Dora the Explorer episode where a star falls from the sky and Dora and Boots sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"), a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, and the above-mentioned fussiness and meltdowns. The boys are now sound asleep (have been since before 7:00), and I'm waiting (with DVD set to hit "play") for Braydon to return with Chinese take-out. A happy ending to a napless Saturday.
Posted by Heather at 7:24 PM