Sunday, February 6, 2011

Zahra's First Jiu Jitsu Tournament

On Saturday, February 5, Zahra participated in her first in-house tournament at the Gracie Barra Academy where she began training about a month ago. We are so proud of her! She's only been training a couple weeks, but she got out on the mat and had two matches with two of the other little boys that take jiu jitsu classes with her. Willie has been attending classes here for almost a year and a half and we all really like the academy. It's a very family-oriented atmosphere and everyone is really nice. Zahra liked going to the parents-and-kids classes with Willie and we decided to try and enroll her in the kids-only classes. We gave it a test run for two weeks just to see how it would go and Zahra really seemed to take to it. We thought she might be shy and hesitant to get involved, but we were quickly proven wrong. At the beginning of class, she follows along with the warm up routine and then the instructor goes over specific skills and has the kids practice with each other. Most of the time, Zahra pays attention very well and follows directions.

(The video was taken on my cell phone, so I apologize if the quality or camera-work aren't great.) In the video, the referee is standing on the left and her instructor (who runs the academy) is seated on the right. He's offering support and helping her remember what things to do to get out of the little boy's guard. Since she's pinned underneath, she makes frequent attempts to "bridge" by pushing her hips up so that she can get him off balance. After she pushes up, she can slide out from underneath him and make another move. Although this little boy is small, he's quite skilled since he's been training for a lot longer than Zahra. We reinforced what the instructor had told the kids and made sure Zahra knew that winning the match wasn't important. We wanted her to get out on the mat and make an effort of participating and trying her best. She did just that and we were really proud of her!

Max's Birthday, et al.

Wow! I can't believe I haven't posted a blog since Halloween. I've been super busy and haven't had much time to pause and reflect. Right now I should be reading for school or putting laundry away or preparing my list for the grocery store, but I decided to take a small break to share a few things.

On December 26, we celebrated Max's 2nd birthday at home with family. I baked a cake and frosted it myself. Homemade cakes usually taste better than store bought ones... but I didn't make this until the last minute and then Willie didn't want to wait for it to cool completely before I frosted it, so pieces of cake got all mixed up in the frosting. It didn't look that good, but it was still yummy!

And, about a month after Max's birthday, he pretty much potty-trained himself in a day. No kidding. I'll spare details but basically he hated being in wet diapers and would insist you change him immediately. I gave him an opportunity to sit on the potty and voila! instant success. The next day Saige babysat for me and Max kept using the bathroom by telling us when he needed to go. Nights, nap times, and going in public bathrooms still need work, but for the most part, he's doing quite well. We didn't even need to use an incentive for him like we did with Zahra (no mini M&Ms necessary). He just seemed super proud of himself every time you would praise him. It seemed to be enough so it was really neat that it happened so fast. It wasn't even on my radar. I had no plans of potty training and didn't think he was ready since he doesn't talk very much and definitely still needs help pulling pants up and down. But he is still able to communicate when he needs help with the bathroom, which is enough.

I'm still interested in getting Max therapy for his speech delay, but I'm waiting for nursing school to kind of even out. Once I find myself used to the routine, I'll work on scheduling appointments to get him some help. It seems that he's getting more frustrated about not being able to communicate and I'd like to have some professional help.

Overall, the little guy is doing great and he's a fun, happy boy to be around... I can't believe he's 2 already. It doesn't seem so long ago that we took him home from the hospital and Zahra was calling him Max-and-Ruby.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Time

Yesterday was Halloween and the Washington family had a great day! We woke up around 7, ate some breakfast, and took off for Disneyland. But first, on Friday...There was a Halloween costume parade at Zahra's school. Unfortunately we didn't get any great pictures of her with her classmates, but this one of Max was pretty cute. Perhaps it was too early for him or maybe he just doesn't understand the whole costume concept, but he seemed really out of it on Friday morning. He just kind of stood around on the playground looking lost. We borrowed this adorable little dragon costume from Max's cousin Jordan, who wore it last year. Jordan's mom got it for only $6! Not only is it really cute, it was very warm, too, which is not always a quality found in many Halloween costumes. Max really doesn't like to wear hats or hoods usually, so I was really surprised that he kept the dragon head on every time we had the kids dressed up (four separate occasions).
On Friday evening there was a Halloween party for kids at Willie's jiu jitsu academy. This happy picture was taken right before we walked in with the kids.
Halloween morning was when we started our celebration. We took this picture at Disneyland, where we had the kids wear their costumes.
Then, at half past ten, Princess Tiana had a performance in New Orleans Square at Disneyland. She sang a song with her jazz band and then took time to meet her fans.

(For those of you who haven't seen the movie yet, Tiana is the newest of Disney royalty from last year's movie "The Princess and the Frog." We were going to have Zahra be the princess and Max be the frog, but we couldn't find a frog costume anywhere. And then we borrowed that cute dragon costume from Jordan anyway...)
Princess Tiana seemed so excited when she saw Zahra in her costume. She was very gracious and she took some extra time to talk to Zahra. Of course she was nice to all the kids in line, but I think she treated Zahra like a special princess in her own right. It was heartwarming to watch, listen, and see how excited Zahra got when it was her turn to take a picture.
This one came out so beautiful! We're excited and definitely want to get this one printed.

Then we decided to take a family picture with the two Princess Tianas.

Later we went across the park to ride our favorite, Space Mountain. It's always so dark inside the ride that you can't watch the expressions on Zahra's face as you're riding, so it's fun to see her here in one of the pictures they take for you. Usually she's too short to even be seen in these, so it's fun that you can see her face and she's even got her arm raised up! Wonder why Willie looks so scared, though...
Then we went through Pixie Hollow to meet the Fairies. By this point, Zahra had decided to take her costume off and we just kept Max in his a little longer for a few more shots. But he didn't seem to warm up to the fairies very much.
Zahra meeting Tinkerbell
Here are the kids eating churros at the centermost point of the Disneyland park. (Note the little gold marker.) We had watched a documentary about Disneyland the day before and discovered something new to look for since we'd never known what it was before (if we had even looked at it).
After Disneyland, we went home to rest and watch a movie in the afternoon. Then Willie's cousin Terrace, Rachel, and their son Jordan came down from Riverside to go trick-or-treating with us. Here is Max demonstrating what he did in place of saying "Trick or treat!" He would hold up his little bucket for people to deposit candy in since he doesn't really talk very much. Willie said that a couple times Max did say something that sounded vaguely like what he was supposed to say. We also met up with our old neighbors and Zahra's friend Alysha and one of her friends and family.
We went trick-or-treating in the neighborhood around Zahra's school. By the end of the night we had walked a mile and a half going door to door at all the houses that were lit up and decorated. Zahra had tons of fun with the other kids and was really happy and upbeat the whole time. I put a lot of layers on her so she wouldn't be cold and she never complained once that she was chilly. In this picture, she's so happy that she's skipping back to the sidewalk as her brother and dad make it up to the porch.
After seeing Princess Tiana's dress and how it ballooned out at the waist, I had an idea for how we could enhance Zahra's little costume. When we came home, I ironed the dress and decided that we could have her wear a tutu underneath to make the dress stick out. Zahra thought it was a lot of fun and was happy to wear another item to make her dress look more like the one we saw earlier at Disneyland.
Zahra ran off before I could get a better picture with her cousin but at least Jordan looks happy here! He kept saying "Rooooar!" which was pretty cute.
Last year Zahra was scared of a lot of the Halloween decorations and didn't really want to go up to any of the houses without a handheld escort, but this year she seemed interested in all of the different things people had in their yards. Max, on the other hand, was extremely weary of things, even cute little ghosts like this one. I think he wasn't sure if they were real or not since they were making noise.
Zahra and Alysha in front of a big pumpkin
And Max couldn't quite make it through the whole night... By the time I set him up in the stroller, he easily slid in and sat down like it was the best thing. I thought if I gave him the flashlight to hold that he would have more fun sitting down and not joining in with the older kids, but I don't think he even cared because he was so tired.
Our little princess shows off her candy riches. We kept having to empty her little bucket into a pillowcase that Willie brought with us because she ran out of room over and over. By the end of the night, the pillowcase was so heavy it probably weighed three or four pounds. Granted it was from both Max and Zahra's buckets, but it was still a lot of candy. Overall, it was a really fun day -- visiting Disneyland and then trick-or-treating with family and friends. Since I don't remember much from Halloweens when I was a kid, this was definitely the best Halloween I have had in a long time. It was a great day!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Work of Art

I was sitting on the couch Friday afternoon, looking through the papers that had come home in Zahra's Friday Folder. There were some messy math assignments, flyers for various events, and this little gem.

Zahra was playing quietly with toys at the dining table. I thought this drawing was amazing.

"Hey, Zahra! This is awesome!" I yelled as I held up the picture. She came over to explain. All by itself, I thought it was impressive. Then Zahra told me that it was a picture of her Daddy. I realized immediately that those black lines sticking out of his head were supposed to be his dreadlocks. When I heard it was supposed to represent her dad, I thought the picture was even better. She said something about him picking up books (represented by the squares with the lines in them?) and her wanting a puppy (a few litters at the bottom?).

Anyway, I thought I'd share since I think this drawing is really cool. I'm going to look for a frame so we can make it more permanent than hanging on the fridge.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Soccer 2010

Today was the first game of this soccer season. Zahra is playing for the Chili Peppers this year. She's now in the AYSO U8 division which means she's playing with girls that are 6 and 7 years old. Some of the girls on the team have definitely been playing for awhile and really understand the game well. After last year's experience with soccer, I was hesitant to sign her up again. She barely moved last year, paralyzed on the field with the fear of getting hit by the ball. Her head seemed up in the clouds or down in the grass, almost completely oblivious to the fact the game was happening around her. This year, when Willie and I asked her about signing up back in the spring, she seemed enthusiastic and excited, so we did it. Before team practices offically began, Willie started taking Zahra out to kick the soccer ball around. He ran through drills and had her practice dribbling and stopping the ball with her foot (as she so nicely demonstrates above). I think this was a great idea because it got her ready for some of the same things they'd be working on at practice. When I took her to her first practice, she did great. She listened to the coach, ran as fast as she could, followed all the directions, got into the game during a scrimmage, everything she needed to do. Her skills weren't as good as the other players, but she definitely earned an 'A' for effort. I thought this year we had turned things around and that this season would be totally different.
Then this happened. Zahra, immobile with fear, standing almost still as a statue on the soccer field again. My shoulders slumped, my hopes stared to wither. Everyone cheered her on and tried to encourage her. No change. For an entire quarter, she barely moved from the exact spot where the coach had placed her to defend. She didn't run to the ball, she didn't kick it if it rolled right in front of her. During a break, I asked her what was up. She said the field was bigger and that it made her nervous to have the ball coming towards her. I told her that she had shin guards and shoes on. I told her she wouldn't get hit in the face and if she did get hurt, we would take care of her. She asked if she could have a big prize if she was injured. I caved in and told her yes. She asked for one of those little motorized cars that kids can drive. I told her if she was hurt, we would definitely look into it. I just wanted her to play! After that and some more words of encouragement from a brother of one of the players, her attitude seemed to turn around. She never ended up making contact with the ball this game, but she started running towards it, following her team, sort of getting into it. That was way more than she did last season, so I'm hoping we're off to a better start. She does such a great job during scrimmages at practice, we just need to get her to do that on the field during the real games.
After the game, on the way to the car, Max and Zahra kicked the ball back and forth. Max already has quite the leg on him and we think he'd love to play, too. Just a couple more years and he can start playing on his own team.
In the end, our team lost the game (I think the score was 3-0), but most of the girls seemed to take it in stride. At one point, our goalie missed and the other team scored. The little girl seemed upset with herself for a minute, then she shook it off, and yelled, to no one in particular, "I'll try not to do that next time!" So hopefully Zahra will try better her next time. (We'll be out of town next week so we will be missing that game). At practice, she volunteered to keep the goal, so we'll see how that goes when she gets a turn. I'll keep you all posted...

Friday, September 10, 2010

ArkLaTex Trip

OK, this post is arguably a few months late, but... better late than never? So I am finally getting around to posting some pictures from our June vacation to the south. We visited three states (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas) in the space of a week. Yes, it was a lot of time driving around in a little rented bright red Chevy Aveo, but it wasn't nearly as bad as you might expect. For the most part, it was a really great trip. The best part was visiting Willie's family and getting to spend time with them. Here are the kids, waiting in the lobby of the rental car facility at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. I think this was the only period (of three seconds) where they actually stayed in one spot. The little cars that I had gotten for Max to play with would zoom super-fast across this fully-waxed floor. Either that or Max thought actually throwing them as far as he could was great fun, much to my chagrin.
We found a little stowaway that fit in our carry-on suitcase! She was playing in the hotel room and would completely close the top. She's so little that it didn't even bulge out! After flying into Dallas, we spent the night in Allen, TX where Willie's Aunt Regina and Uncle Ralph live. The next morning, we woke up really early and got on the road, in hopes to avoid morning traffic on our way out of town. We drove all the way down to New Orleans and arrived around 3 in the afternoon.
Willie, Max, and silly-face Zahra in Jackson Square. New Orleans.

Zahra eating beignets at Cafe Du Monde (New Orleans). We've made beignets from scratch at Auntie Colleen's and those were delicious. I tried making them with Zahra after the "Princess and the Frog" movie came out and those were... edible. By far, I think the best beignets are the Mickey-shaped ones they have at Cafe Orleans in Disneyland. So light. So fluffy. So delicious! So of course, we had to stop by Cafe Du Monde (world famous?) since we were in New Orleans. I was very disappointed. When I had them the last time I was there (pre-Katrina), I didn't really have anything to compare them to so I thought they were OK. This time I thought they were terrible! Not even worth it. Then, at the end of our dessert, I had to go to the bathroom because I knew walking back to our hotel would take a long time. Yuck! The kitchen was a disaster! It made me really not want to eat them again.
Mostly, Max and Zahra enjoyed the powdered sugar. They didn't really even dig into the doughy part of the beignet. But they loved it. So at least they enjoyed the experience. We walked around the French Quarter the next day and kept asking if places served beignets. No one did! The only place that seemed to have them was Cafe Du Monde. For being the state dessert or whatever, I didn't really understand the monopoly on the beignet market. I wanted to try different ones to compare, the way we did comparing malasadas when we were in Honolulu. Sorely disappointed with the beignet experience in New Orleans. I will continue to crave the ones from Disneyland.
All right, so you had to pay to take a picture with this character, but Zahra really wanted to do it! I didn't think it was worth $1, but Willie wanted to make her happy. It was funny because I think she was really intrigued by him, although you can't really tell that from her expression. After we walked away, she seemed jazzed about the whole experience.
Willie and the kids in front of the Mississippi. We visited Mardi Gras World to look at all the floats that are made for the holiday. The floats were housed in this huge warehouse that was open to the outside which meant that it was super hot in there, probably around 90 degrees. Max was suffering from a cold so he was miserable and cranky. He just kept screaming and fussing. That with the heat made the whole experience difficult. I think Zahra got a kick out of seeing the huge floats, though.
My favorite picture of the whole trip! Zahra in front of a gold-covered Buddha that was probably on a float at some point. Inside the air conditioned gift shop of Mardi Gras World.
Max playing inside the window in the hotel in New Orleans.

Family picture at Jackson Square (New Orleans)
Reading in bed in New Orleans with sleeping Max. He just crawled up and laid down and went to sleep on my arm. I love this part of vacation! I got to read so much. I probably read over 400 pages of this book while we were on vacation. (Thanks, Maryanna, for letting me borrow the latest Elizabeth George!)
After an afternoon and a day in New Orleans, we left to drive north. We had lunch in Baton Rouge with Willie's cousin Chasity.
After lunch we drove to Shreveport. Max had this bag of chips and he climbed up into the bed by himself. The pillow was there and he just made himself comfortable, popped his hand in the bag and started eating the chips. It was pretty hilarious.
When we went to Willie's Aunt Shirley's house, Zahra just made herself at home right away. I thought she might be kind of shy, but maybe because we said it was family and she heard there were kids, she just ran right back into her cousin Christian's room. They were instant best friends. It was so cute that they just started playing together like they had been lifelong friends!
At the Boardwalk in Bossier City with family from Bessie's side of the family.
After a few days in Shreveport, we drove north some more and went to Texarkana (a city which exists across the state line in both Texas and Arkansas). Willie's grandmother (Big Mama) lives on the Arkansas side. Here we are on the porch in Big Mama's backyard with family from his dad's side.
Zahra and Max with their great-grandma, Big Mama.
Zahra and her cousin Cozy (spelling?)...
Overall we had a great trip!
Fun times!

First Day of 1st Grade

Wednesday, September 8, was Zahra's first day of 1st Grade. This "first day" was very different than last year. I just looked at the blog entry from the first day of kindergarten and saw how happy and excited she was to start a new school year. This time around, every time you would ask her how she felt about starting first grade, her reply was always: "I'm nervous." I would ask, "But aren't you a little excited, too?" and she'd just shake her head and say, "I'm nervous." When I woke her up on the first day at 6:45, the first thing she said was "My heart is beating really fast." And it was. I put my hand up to her chest and I could feel her heart was pounding. Perhaps mentioning "It's the first day of school!" the minute I woke her up was not the best idea. I wanted to take another picture of her in front of the school sign, but she refused to let me take one without Max in the shot. She was really excited about her new Scooby Doo lunch box. (It's fun to me that she likes one of my favorite childhood cartoons. Maybe she'll grow up to love reading mysteries, too.)
We got Zahra some new school clothes and she picked out this skirt at Old Navy by herself. (I put the rest of the outfit together and she didn't seem to care as long as she got to wear this skirt on the first day.) I wanted her to wear the black patent leather Mary Janes with this but I couldn't find them that morning. (Turns out, they were in my trunk, which I discovered when I went to take the umbrella stroller out.)
A brother-sister tete-a-tete before school. (I wanted to cut and paste with the correct accents, but it won't let me. Grrr...)
Zahra did this for a long time after Mrs. Gibson asked the kids to line up. She kept telling me she didn't want to go inside. Typical first-day jitters, I think. I had an appointment with the dentist at the exact time she was getting out of school (my crown was finally cemented after a month's worth of back and forth appointments). I called Bessie's phone when I was on my way back to work and asked to talk to Zahra to see how her first day went. She seemed upbeat and happy. The adjective she used to describe how the day went was "good." Nothing to worry about so that made me happy. I think she just didn't know what to expect and that's what was making her nervous. When she realized it would be a similar experience as last year, I think she felt right at home. Being at a school that was familiar and seeing kids she knew probably made things even better. She only has two or three kids in her class this year that were with her last year. But she gets to see her friends at recess so I think that makes her happy.
Walking in the door to 1st Grade. Somehow in my mind, kindergarten felt like an extension of her as a "little girl." Like, oh... she's just a kindergartener. Something about 1st Grade makes me feel like I have a "big kid" now. While I understand there was definitely a lot happening in kindergarten academically, in retrospect, it seems like a big practice year to get ready for what's happening now. Sometimes I think it wasn't that long ago that she was a super tiny little baby in an isolette, wrapped up in blankets, hooked up to machines and monitors in the hospital, and here she is, starting 1st Grade. It feels both fast and slow at the same time. I feel that I have been very lucky to spend so much time with her and experience so much of her life with her. (Working full time for the month of August made me really realize the difference of my usual part-time schedule.) And on the other hand, time seems to have sped by, how she was in physical therapy as a baby, speech and PT as a toddler, then preschool, kindergarten flew by, and now a whole new grade already.
While we read a lot together over the summer, Zahra still has a long way to go to catch up academically. Both of us were excited to do worksheets in the beginning of the summer, practicing her alphabet and writing 1-30. As the summer went by and our daily schedule got mixed up with vacations and swimming practice and work changes, our enthusiasm started to wane. By the end of the summer, I couldn't get her to do practice school work at all. Every day at bedtime, though, we picked up the Easy Readers we had borrowed and continued to work on those. Reading those "sight words" helped reinforce what she had learned and I saw a lot of progress in her continuing to pick up words and remember them the next time we read the story.
I asked her about her first three days of school and she described some of the assessments they were doing. She said she had trouble with the alphabet and number drills. I'm interested to see where her placement is and what her new teacher recommends to further her progress. I talked to her kindergarten teacher a little after school today and she said that she has already discussed Zahra with Mrs. Gibson and explained where things were left off. But that's all we know about 1st Grade for now. Until later...