Yesterday, the kids walked in their first parade. The attorney I work with is running for Probate Judge, and we joined him as he shook hands, kissed babies, etc., etc. in the St. Patrick's Day parade here in South Bend. As you can imagine, there are at least a few people in this area who get pretty excited about all things Irish, and even more people were excited about being able to spend the day outside in mid-March, so there was a pretty good crowd.

We lined up right next to the bagpipe band. It was right before the kids would normally have lunch, so the almonds and raisins I brought along were eagerly gobbled up by Matthew and Chiara. When we started off, the parade was going quite fast - it was hard to keep up with everybody else and still hand out the campaign materials and talk to anyone about them. After a while, I got used to giving them out with one hand while holding Matthew's hand with the other. On the other side of the street, Charmaine was walking with Chiara, who was demonstrating scarily capable parade technique: waving like a pageant contestant, executing some dancing and spinning at certain times. I only got a chance to see it a few times at the end, but evidently she was a big hit. We have no idea where she picks these things up, but she definitely has a sense of theatricality.

It was so warm that by the end we were all glad that it only really a seven-block-long parade -that's a real perk of parades in small cities. Chiara will probably always enjoy playing to the crowd, but I don't think Matthew would want to march in a parade again without anything particular to do - performing would probably work for him, but just walking along bored him silly. Who knows when their next parade might be - could be seven or eight years from now, for all I now - but whenever that is, I wonder what they will remember about their first time?

Sri Lanka December 2011

December 15th - December 31st

Mark and I decided to be adventurous this year and take the family to Sri Lanka for Christmas.  Overall, the trip went well and it was great to see my family, but never again will I go to SL for two weeks.  This is definitely a trip to be done for 3-4 weeks, which means the next trip will happen during the summer months (when SL is hot and humid). ~Charmaine

We had a direct flight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi (which was about 13 hours) and while at the airport, Mark enjoyed Wi-Fi while Chiara enjoyed sitting on Daddy's lap.

Matthew used the opportunity between flights to play video games on his camera.  I can't believe his camera has video games on it.  And yes, you are noticing that both of the kids traveled in their pjs.  It was comfortable, easy, and warm.

While in SL we took ample opportunity to enjoy some good SL cuisine.  Here we are at Mount Lavinia Hotel's Sunday buffet.  The kids, did not really enjoy the SL food, but enjoyed the endless pop and dessert buffet.

Both Matthew and Chiara enjoyed spending time with my parents and if there is a reason to take a picture, Chiara is ready and willing.

Both kids were impressed that Mount Lavinia had a waterfall and a pond.  It doesn't take much to occupy little ones.  I am not looking forward to the day when that changes.

Daddy's little girl...this girl has her father wrapped around her little pinkie (Daddy doesn't agree)

Matthew really enjoyed spending time with my sister, Shimali and her husband Raj.  By the end of the trip, he even wanted to go home with them!

My parents condo in Colombo is attached to the Cinnamon Grand hotel.  We enjoyed a SL cup of coffee and tea there.  The kids, of course, took the opportunity to have pop.

The lighted fountain inside Cinnamon Grand hotel.  Chiara really wanted to splash the glad she refrained from causing a scene.

The albino Christmas tree in Cinnamon Grand.  I think the tree frightened Chiara; Matthew could have cared less.

Matthew wanted a shoe shine; silly boy, was wearing sandals.

For Christmas, we enjoyed a white sandy beach Christmas down south.

I love this picture of Matthew and was not willing to crop my sister out of the picture holding her cover up over her butt...this picture just cracks me up!

The kids LOVED the ocean and Chiara yelled at the waves to be nice to her Daddy and Bahopy (uncle).

The kids enjoying the scenery with their Chutie Ammie (Shimali)

You don't see too many pasty men in the Indian ocean.  Especially ones wearing a bright yellow swim trunks!

Swimming!  Matthew has definitely missed pool time since moving to Indiana.  Thank goodness swim lessons start up soon.

Can you believe it?  My dad got a hold of my camera and took some pictures of me with the kids.  Aw, thanks Thatie!

Chiara really likes being in the water, but she doesn't want to really put effort to learn how to swim.  Imagine that!

That first day we were in the pool at Heritance Hotel, this monster graced us with his presence.  ICK!  By the way, Mark took 10 pictures of this thing.

A holiday smorgasbord of thoughts

We will be going on a holiday trip to Sri Lanka - I haven't been there for over six years, and obviously, it isn't something we ever expect to do very regularly (although that would be nice). Considering we are bringing two small children, the preparation has been relatively relaxing, so much so that we've actually been able to enjoy the holiday events of the last two weeks. Last night was Matthew's Christmas concert at school. He has enjoyed each and every school performance he has been in, so he had a great time. He LOVES any song he can do dances and moves to, and the video (which we promise to post) shows some of his greatest hits. (Another greatest hit: his incomparable "It's Raining Men" for Just Dance 2 on the Wii. It's superb.)

What makes the video extra special is that just days before, Matthew lost his right front tooth that had been falling out forEVER. Now, not only does he have a huge gap where that tooth used to be, but the OTHER front tooth has migrated toward the center of his mouth, so now he looks like he has just one crazy snaggletooth right in the middle. I'm looking forward to seeing how the pictures of him that we take in Sri Lanka turn out!

I'm also looking forward to watching both of them read more and more over the holiday break. They both have started to read much more avidly in the last three months; Matthew was at first reluctant to read words he didn't already know, but his inhibitions have almost totally dropped away at this point. Chiara seems to realize that some words are SUPPOSED to be hard, but she doesn't let that stop her - she recently read a page and then told me "Kangaroo is a really long word!" They like to read just about everything around them, signs, labels, captions - it will be interesting to see what they make of the Sinhala and Tamil alphabets that, along with English, are on every surface in Sri Lanka.

We will probably not post again until we get back - which would be pretty frequent for me! Until then, Merry Christmas, and have a Happy New Year!

The diligent blogger

So one of the foremost rules of publishing is "content, content, content," and the Internet has added one crucial addendum: "frequent, frequent, frequent." And because I am SOOO committed to blogging for a mass audience, I diligently observe those rules and am now posting for the second time in only - six-and-a-half months. Oh, well, it HAS been a busy, eventful, but overall very good last six months, so I'll give myself a pass - this time. The kids give me enough material that I really could do this more frequently - I just have to remember to do so (reminders are welcome). So, without further ado -

Yesterday, Matthew came to me before school and asked "Do artists have to be only men?" I'm used to having to help the kids overcome the overwhelming numerical dominance of depictions of men in the arts (quick, name me a truly FAMOUS female composer?), so I explained why he might not see many examples of artists who are women, but that there ARE a lot of artists who are women. Then he smiled broadly and said, "I know an artist who is a woman: Grandma Moses." I spent a brief moment in surprise that the first grade art class was talking about Grandma Moses, but wow - that's a pretty good first-grade art class. And good for Matthew, he really pays attention in art class.

Today, Chiara's teacher told me that Chiara (who loves, loves, loves to talk, and now loves, loves, loves to write) asked her how to spell chocolate. The teacher began spelling - c-h-o-c - and then had to do something else, then came back to Chiara. She thought she had left off at the "l", so she said "a", and Chiara stopped her and said "No, it's O". Aside from the fact that she was aware of how to spell chocolate, this was also one of the prime examples of one of Chiara's favorite ways of engaging in conversation: asking you a question to which she already knows the answer. I wish it was always that cute - it is frequently more frustrating than cute to find out that you just spent ten minutes answering her question that she already knew. But I'm slowly catching on - and it sure seems like she will be well suited to a career as a courtroom lawyer, a teacher, or anyone else who solicits answers to their expert questions.

The Photographic Stylings of Matthew J.S. Torma

Matthew got a kid's camera for Christmas, and it didn't take long for him to develop his own style. Very intimate, very candid, and very, um, bold - that pretty much describes it. Here are a few examples of his work:

As you can tell, he has a favorite subject.

Hello - We're back (and under new management

I've had this on my to-do list for a long time (it hasn't formally been on the list for more than a couple of days, but I meant to put it there...), so it's about time our blog got going again. Of course, the voice will be a little different - Mark is holding the fort at home right now, and Charmaine is at Saint Mary's, trying not to let them know how much credit they should get for her awesomeness. So one of us will blog a LITTLE more than the other, I'm betting.

It's been a LONG time since we've posted, but this will be more like a status update than a year-in-review. Matthew is enjoying school, and Chiara is absolutely champing at the bit to go to school, too, so it's a good thing that she will go to the Early Childhood Development Center at Saint Mary's next school year. She will love it, I think, at least a little more than being at home with Daddy who can only keep up with a four-year-old's need for interaction for so long. But she keeps a brave face.

At this moment, what is inevitably holding my attention is the long slog towards Monday, when I find out if I passed the Indiana Bar Exam. I would like to say I know that I passed - and I guess the chances are probably pretty good - but one has to know that there's always the possibility that you haven't, and the specific Indiana law they tested on was sufficiently weird enough to make me wonder. The good news is, EVERYBODY seemed to think the topics were mysteries to them, too. Even so, the last two months have been excruciating - it was a lot easier waiting for bar results when I was working two or three jobs. But in three days I will know - I can't wait...

MN Autism 5K

May 15th, 2010

As many of you know, Matthew was diagnosed with ASD and now that the initial shock has worn off, I decided to help fund-raise to support other families affected by autism. I am proud to say that I raised the most money, almost $1000. Thank you to all of my friends and family who supported me in this endeavor~Charmaine~

Before leaving for the race, Matthew gave me a big good luck hug

Team Matthew: Charmaine, Kirsten Rain, Sara Bergen, Jocelyn Shock Villalon