Monday, February 21, 2011

Ah! Caught up!

Ann checking out her new BlackBerry and Wynn in a sunbeam - before Winter came back...

We're members of the Minnesota Zoo, so we thought this Saturday, "hey, why not check out the Zoo before we get cooped up by the storm tomorrow?" Yes, we and every other family with young kids were thinking exactly the same thing, and we all showed up at 10 am. (Why do you people have to have strollers the size of SUVs? Why can't your kids keep their grapes and trail mix to themselves? Why are your children climbing on ME?)
Too cold, too loud, too windy, too tired, too hungry. We need to re-think our Zoo-going strategy, and we're not going to tell any other parents our new method, because the minute we do, it's all over the Internets and then it's no fun anymore.

Wynn did like the bit about posing with Snoopy, but if you think we're going to Valleyfair anytime soon, guess again.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catching up: Chinese New Year & Kids Reunion!

For Chinese New Year weekend, we had our now-traditional get-together / celebration potluck with the other Twin Cities families we traveled with back in 2007, plus a few new families who've adopted since then.
Wynn and Jenna, the Guangxi Girls, are back in action! As we compare developmental notes with her parents, both girls still have that South China spark of confidence, intelligence, and charisma. With every opportunity we present them, they take it and run.
Check out Josh's pro chopsticks skills!
A bowl of tangerines / oranges is a traditional Chinese New Year centerpiece which symbolizes long health and many children. Learn more about CNY at my article...
All the kids work on an art project to create their own dragons.
Group shot of all our beautiful kids!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chinese Immersion School

At the end of January, we visited an open-house at Yinghua Academy, a Chinese-immersion charter school in the Minneapolis district, in the Nordeast neighborhood. In fact, this was the first Chinese immersion charter school in the USA just ten years ago. Today it has grown to about 360 students in Kindergarten through 8th grade (so about two classrooms for each grade). We had heard great things about the school, so we wanted to see if it was the kind of place Wynn would do well in.
For the younger grades, the school teaches everything except gym, music, and art entirely in Mandarin Chinese, right from Day One. Most of the kids who go there are not Asian, but they figure things out really quickly.
A very text-rich environment - some pre-printed materials there, but most of what we saw on the walls had been adapted from English-language material.
Students' work was displayed EVERYWHERE on both floors. So much creativity!
A half-hour demonstration was performed in each Kindergarten class to show the kids and parents what a typical instructional activity looked like. The teacher and her assistants led the kids through a "morning greeting" activity, and then a short lesson which incorporated learning the names of various animals and the words for run, jump, and walk. Wynn held back for a couple moments to observe what was going on, and then she jumped right into the activity, raising her hand and volunteering. She had a great time. And her speech clarity in Mandarin was really quite good after she had some practice - as good if not better than her English clarity.

Enrollment at the school is done by lottery, as there just aren't enough classrooms to accommodate all the demand. We had already filled out the paperwork, and put it into the basket after the demonstration - yes, we knew this would be an ideal place to challenge her (even if we didn't know how the transportation was going to work.)

On Friday, Feb 11 the lottery was conducted and results posted on the school's website. Unfortunately, Wynn did not get the lucky number - they received a record number of applications this year. If the school were twice as large, she would have gotten in.

She's disappointed. We're disappointed. It would have been a great match. So Plan A for Kindergarten isn't going to work. It seems Plan B (continue at her excellent preschool, which offers a K program "on paper") isn't going to work either, as there hasn't been enough family interest there to get a class going for the 2011-2012 school year. So we're going to have to develop Plans C and D in the next few weeks...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Catching up: Hard at Work

Wynn's always been curious and clever, but in the past few months we've noticed her mind really beginning to bloom. As she becomes more confident in reading, her speech has improved. She's known for a while that numbers have an abstract meaning, but now she's adding and subtracting. Her coloring books have gone from random scribbles to fully rendered scenes.

As you saw in yesterday's post, she's making up her own games, too. And the great part about this is, she's really enjoying this. TV is not all that interesting to her anymore (except for Scooby Doo); she'd rather work puzzles on her Leapster or draw or write.
She's working on some TREND Wipe-Off(R) Books here. She's figuring out what the activities are with very little guidance from us - she's reading enough of the words and using the examples shown to determine what she needs to do on that page.
Each day seems to present a new skill. We are so glad to be able to experience this.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Catching up: Happy Birthday!

Wynn turned 5 this January. Her schoolmate Peter has the same birth date, and his parents gave him a big party at the Shoreview Community Center with a magician, cake, and a couple hours in the five-story-tall jungle gym / super slide / Borg Cube they've got there. So she got to play with all her friends at a birthday-themed party.

For her own birthday party, we kept it low-key - just the family.
Shadow at the ready to help with the cake. Wynn blew all the candles out, and ate the piece with the biggest frosting.

Wynn made up her own party game. She cut out little airplanes and had each of us color one.

All lined up on the runway, we each had to close our eyes, take our plane, and stick it to a world map.
A modern update on "pin the tail on the donkey" by our little jetsetter. Again, entirely her own idea - no coaching from me whatsoever. But hey, that's my girl!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Catching up: Christmas!

Photo essay: 3 relatives' houses over 2 states in 3 days. You'd think everyone would be beating a path to our door, since we have the only grandchild...

Well, couldn't take her sledding in Hong Kong, anyway.
Handmade dragon cap by lolly-tots of Portland, OR - we picked it up at the Saturday Market.

Trying out the microphone on her new cash register. It talks back in English, Spanish, and French Canadian, eh. Reads credit cards and scans barcodes, sort of. Not really. A 5-year old just doesn't need that kind of power. But she can now say "credit approved" in three languages.

Hm. I wonder what I'm going to get next?

Whhheeeee!! The polar bear is actually a puffy pillow. More than once I've found her fast asleep smack on top of it. It is pretty comfortable.

Hard at work with a new K'nex building toy. Check out the awesome pigtails, too. Her hair is long enough now that we can do all sorts of fun things with it...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lots of catching up to do!

Life with Wynn moves really fast nowadays. We've been scrambling ever since we got back from Hong Kong - Christmas, birthday, meetings, overtime, conferences, fighting colds, and so on. Well, time to get everyone caught up.

Tonight, we'll step back to December 15 - Wynn's first dance recital! A little bit of ballet and a little bit of tap, set to holiday tunes, with some of the kids from her daycare. She was so excited!
Here's a little bit of video: