Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Don & Lavonne

We are soooo excited that our close friends, Don and Lavonne Harms are here visiting for a week. They arrived on Sunday night after a long day of traveling. It's so great to be able to spend time with them. We have missed them so much, yet when we're together, it feels as if they had never left (Don and Lavonne currently live in Winnipeg). I've made two Vietnamese meals for them- before they left almost two years ago, I hadn't ventured into trying to make anything Vietnamese. I have never made as much Vietnamese food as I have in these last two weeks. Anyway, on the first night, I made them a pretty simple meal- Lemongrass Chicken with Rice. The next night, we had a Vietnamese-style fondue, where each person cooks their own beef and shrimp in butter (yup, nice and healthy), then wrapped in rice paper, with rice noodles, lettuce, tons of herbs, and bean sprouts. They are then dipped into a spicy dipping sauce (made of fish sauce). It was fun- this meal brought back memories of when I was a kid and we'd have this meal on special occasions. There would be so many people that no table was big enough. We all sat cross-legged on the floor with everything in the middle. Back then, the meats were mainly cooked in rice vinegar, not butter. Of course, I prefer butter!!!
Last night, Lavonne insisted that I not do any school work (that in itself is a big deal), and we played games all night. After rounds of Pick 4 (Thao & Peter- we've introduced this game to soooo many people!), and Perpetual Commotion (aka Dutch Blitz or Nertz), we ended the night playing... Life: the Star Wars version. I actually bought the game for my 5th graders at a thrift store, but keep forgetting to bring it to school. I don't know why, but we were cracking up the whole time. It took us quite a while to figure out how to actually play the game. Everything just seemed so funny, especially when Jason put in his Star Wars Soundtrack. (And no, we weren't "drinking" anything)! It neared midnight when the game finally ended. Jason was a Sith Lord, and both Don & Lavonne became Jedi Knights. I was too tired to finish the game. I guess you can say I dropped out of Jedi training.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Belated Vietnamese New Year Lunch

After having to cancel last Sunday's Vietnamese New Year dinner due to Gracie being sick, we were able to get together today with our small group and our families today for lunch. The neat thing about our small group is that we all have young kids who get along really well. After the kids finished eating, they went off and played while the adults talked. Jason and I prepared Spring (Imperial) Rolls) and Grilled Beef Skewers with Lemongrass, which were eaten with rice noodles. It was a nice, but short lunch, since it soon became apparent that all of the kids needed naps! Joining us today were: the Lees, the Sieberts, the McCrearys (minus Brian- he couldn't make it), and new friends, the Cos.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chopsticks and Fork

Last week, I mentioned how celebrating Vietnamese New Year's helps me to embrace my heritage. Being Vietnamese is part of my identity. I often think about Gracie and wonder what I can do to help her grow up with a healthy identity of her own. In our society nowadays, it's so easy to just gloss over everything, and assume that we live in an age where people are accepted no matter what ethnic backgrounds they come from. It's ideal, but not reality. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked by people if Gracie is mine. I am well aware that for the rest of my life, I will be asked that question. There is nothing that could cause me to reflect on my identity and who I am more than when a person questions whether or not my daughter is mine, simply because of how she looks. I've often been told that Gracie looks like her dad. Does she really look like Jason, or is it because she doesn't have distinct Asian features so people naturally think she doesn't look like me? I don't want Gracie to grow up feeling like she has to decide between two cultures: her mom or her dad's. Or, that since she's multi-racial, that she doesn't have a cultural background to call her own. There are so many stereotypes that she is going to have to come to terms with. In a book I read last year about raising multi-racial kids, some "mixed kids" often feel "mixed up." Being told that a person is part of one thing and part of another often makes them feel as if they aren't "whole." We're going to try and help Gracie understand that she is fully Vietnamese and fully white/Mennonite. She is a whole person. We're going to try and introduce her to as much of our cultures as we can. From her mom's culture, that includes learning how to use chopsticks.

Gracie embracing her cultural identity: chopsticks AND fork

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Day in a 5th Grade Teacher's Life

Since this blog is supposed to give you daily updates about what goes on in our lives, I'll share with you about my day yesterday. Our 5th grade team took our classes on a daytrip to Sacramento to tour the Capitol, discover Old Town Sacramento, and explore the Railroad Museum. My day started at 4am. I was responsible for picking up breakfast from school for our classes. Afterwards, I went to pick up two of my students from their homes, and we headed to Fresno's Amtrak station. Yup, we traveled to Sacramento via Amtrak. It was my first time on Amtrak, and it was rather uneventful. Well, I didn't get sick (those of you who really know me, know that's a big deal)!!!. Our tour of the Capitol was great- we all learned a lot, and my kids really enjoyed it. In fact, they were still regurgitating facts to me today as if I hadn't been there with them at all yesterday. I was so fortunate to have 15 chaperones join us (26 kids). That meant that most parents only had to chaperone their own kid, and maybe an additional student. For a daytrip out of town, I couldn't have asked for better! I didn't assign any kids to me, so I was able to go back and forth between all of the kids. There were a lot of things happening in Sacramento yesterday, so after the tour, everyone went off on their own to have lunch. My grade level partners and I had lunch at this place called Cafe New Orleans in Old Town Sacramento. I can't recommend it based on the meal I had (Etoufee or something- similar to Jambalaya but really runny and flavorless), but the others enjoyed their meals. Most of us met up again at the Railroad Museum. I must say, I was surprised at how much my class enjoyed this museum. It was pretty interesting. We had everyone meet us at Sacramento's Amtrak station at about 4pm, and headed back to Fresno. After driving several kids home, I walked through the door at 8:30pm. Needless to say, I was fast asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. All in all, it was a great day! I never would've been able to do anything like this if I was still teaching 1st grade. Yet another reason why I'm happy to be teaching 5th grade this year!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! (Happy New Year!)

Today is Vietnamese New Year! Around this time of year, I often get really homesick. Last year, we decided to use this special occasion to help me "remember my roots," and embrace my Vietnamese heritage. We had our first celebration last year. Traditionally, Vietnamese Tet takes place over several days. For this year's celebration, we decided to ring in the Year of the Pig with a two-day affair. Unfortunately, Gracie has been sick and she's gotten worse, so we're going to have to postpone today's dinner celebration until next week. Pictures of that dinner will be posted at a later time.

(Julie and Diane were hard to see in the first picture, but here they are. And Jason took the picture so he's not visible. By the way, have you heard about Julie and Rod's news?... Just kidding! That little one Julie is holding is Diane & Filipe's new son)

Last night, we had some friends come over to feast on some Asian dishes. I made a Vietnamese Chicken Salad, a Spinach & Watercress Stir-Fry, and Spring Rolls (Imperial). My mom is well-known for her Spring Rolls. Of course, nothing could compare with Mom's, but look, Mom! How did I do?
Several people contributed to our meal. Adam made Beef with Chiles, and Spicy Shrimp. Both of those dishes were so fiery, we joked that the party favors should have been heartburn medicine. Katie and Chad brought Pork Skewers, and Jamie brought a Cashew-Pineapple Chicken dish. To finish off, Adam made a Banana Tapioca Soup, and Jason prepared some Vietnamese coffees.

It was a great time! Thank you again for helping me celebrate!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gracie's New Dollhouse

Grandma came over last night and among the many things she brought with her was a new dollhouse for Gracie. I tried so hard to get Gracie to look up while she was playing, but she was pretty stubborn. Sorry, these are the only pictures that came out.

On another note, remember in the last post how I mentioned that Gracie had yet to to color on the walls? Well, it was bound to happen, right? Not only did she color on the walls this past week, but she used markers... and they weren't our walls! She colored on our friends' walls!!! Aaghh!! My jaw dropped when I saw the scribbles all the way down their hallway. She was in charge of cleaning it up- thank goodness they were washable markers and easily wiped away. Will we be so lucky next time? Probably not. (Sorry again, Russ & Alison!)

Saturday, February 3, 2007


Gracie has discovered a love for coloring. We have plenty of coloring books for her, but she prefers to color on blank pieces of paper. She seems to have a thing for "circles" and always asks us to draw them for her. She scribbles wonderfully, and has even "decorated" her own table and chairs. She hasn't thought of coloring the walls or other furniture (yet), but she has tried coloring herself (it was very weird- I went to change her diaper and when she lifted up her shirt, her belly area was all green. It took me a few minutes to figure out what had happened. So, if you were wondering if crayons can color skin, the answer is yes.)
One of the first things she'll do when we get home every day is run towards her table yelling, "Cra-nons!" She can spend a lot of time just sitting and coloring. This last week, Jason's mom came over for dinner, and of course Gracie spent some quality time coloring with Grandma.