Friday, May 27, 2005

"Sometimes in April"

It's a movie everyone should watch, in the same genre as "The Killing Fields" for Cambodia and "Schindler's List" for Germany, "Sometimes in April" is set in Rwanda, just 10 years ago.

The "Lost" Mystery

What's your guess? What's the purpose of the island on "Lost"?

I'll tell you my thought, but it's not original.

The island is Purgatory. A second chance to clean up, clear your mind, do the right thing.
Charlie was forced to clean up. A heroin junky who detoxed, but not of his own volition. Now, the temptation is presented to him... will he beat it back?
Claire didn't want her baby. She didn't even name him after he was born. Now she's faced with being his only hope for survival and when he was at risk she named him and wanted him back. Is that enough to save her?
Mike didn't even want Walt before they boarded the plane. Now, Walt is taken and Mike is free of his responsibility. But it's obviously not that easy, is it. The island changed both of them.
And the stories go on and on.
Those who die seem to be the ones at peace, the strong and faithful ones. Why is the French woman still there after all these years? Because of her son, is my guess.
We're going to miss this show when we're gone. But thank goodness for DVD.

Never boring in the Philippines

In Mindanao, presumed Japanese soldiers left behind from WWII were found living with a rebel group and Japanese officials are investigating.

"The pair, in their 80s, were reportedly found on southern Mindanao island.
The men were expected to travel to meet Japanese officials on Friday, but have yet to make contact.
The claim drew comparisons with the 1974 case of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who was found in the Philippines jungle unaware the war had ended.
'Incredible if true'
The two men on Mindanao contacted a Japanese national who was collecting the remains of war dead on Mindanao, according to government sources.
They had equipment which suggested they were former soldiers.
"It is an incredible story if it is true," Japan's consul general in Manila, Akio Egawa, told the AFP news agency.
"They were found, I believe, in the mountains near General Santos on Mindanao Island.
"At this stage we are not saying either way whether or not these two men are in fact former soldiers. We may be in a better position later today," he said.
According to Japanese media reports, the pair had been living with Muslim rebel groups and at least one of them has married a local woman and had a family.
The BBC's Tokyo correspondent says the likelihood is that they are well aware the war is over but have chosen to stay in the Philippines for their own reasons.
Remote jungle
Mindanao has seen more than two decades of Muslim rebellion and many areas are out of central government control.
Japan invaded the Philippines in 1941, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and set up a brutal puppet government.
In the closing months of the war, there was heavy fighting with US troops in the mountainous, heavily forested islands.
The Sankei Shimbun daily said the men would most likely be members of the Panther division, 80% of whom were killed or went missing during the final months of the war.
It speculated there could be as many as 40 Japanese soldiers living in similar conditions in the Philippines.
When Lt Onoda was found on the Philippines island of Lubang in 1974, he initially refused to surrender.
Only when his former commanding officer was flown over from Japan did he agree to leave the jungle.
He later emigrated to Brazil."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Busch Gardens and Williamsburg, Sith and #9

I'm tired but I'll write anyway. Ian just gave me a guilt trip by stating our hit count is in the toilet this month because I'm such a slacker.

So I'll put aside my deep desire to crawl into bed at 8:30 this evening and make him happy by writing and writing and writing until my fingers bleed.

OK, not really. He's making me an ice cream sundae as I type, so he can't be all that bad, right?

As the title says, much has happened in the past few days. I'll start with the last and work my way backwards... #9.
Wednesday was our 9th wedding anniversary. We successfully survived the First Year Hardships (usually a good year, but tough with an infant and being poor as church mice), the Fourth Year Uncertainties (I know too many people who divorced at the 4-year mark) and the Seventh Year Itch (did we just not itch or did we scratch it just right?). And next year we face the 10 year mark. Amazing and wonderful, I say. This year was our "leather" anniversary, or was it pottery? Anyhow, Ian gave me the most awesome leather carry bag from L.L. Bean called the Healthy Back Bag which has about a dozen pockets to hold my wallet, camera and other assorted items, and room enough to carry the video camera, a change of clothes for Jonathon, a book and plenty more. Even better, it's a bag Ian doesn't mind carrying if my arms are full. I'm thinking that next year I need to pay more attention to the anniversary gift guides, but what are my options since I've sworn off diamonds? Ideas anyone?
The kids were excited about the anniversary and worked together to buy flowers and make dinner for the family. Very thoughtful and well executed, the spaghetti was perfect.
Our anniversary continued on Friday night after we dropped the kids off at grandma's house for the night. Ian and I had dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery before watching "Revenge of the Sith". Our waitress was quite chipper and we had a pleasant meal of foods all baked with beer, though we passed on the discount card that's good at their restaurants "all over". For some reason, I don't think Togo is what she meant. (Speaking of Togo, it seems post has petitioned to have the Authorized Departure status lifted).
Ah, the Sith. I agree it's not for little kids. I also don't want to give anything away for those who haven't seen it yet. We all know that it's the final story that bridges the first two movies to the last three, but I do have one negative thing to say about it. George Lucas should stay far far away from making -any- romantic/emotional/love stories. He can't do it. Contract it out, man, your dialogue is miserable. You ruined a wonderful, strong-willed character and the potentially spark-filled powerful attraction was devoid of life. But Anakin's fall to the dark side was believable (in a Star Wars kind of way) and complete. Since that was the point, and it was done fabulously well, I say the flick was awesome.
I'm sad though, almost to the point of being sappy. Star Wars is complete and it's hard to believe there won't be any more to anticipate.
What will George Lucas do now? And what will we, the Star Wars fans (even those who aren't completely rabid about it.... like me), what will we do now? Will I be reduced to reading those awful Star Wars novels that come out in droves?
I put aside my contemplations on "what happens now" over the weekend.
Bright and early Saturday morning we (us, the kids and my parents) drove down to Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. The weather cleared up nicely, the drive was easy and we enjoyed the park immensely. The girls took on the new ride, the Curse of DarKastle, with Ian and grandpa. Nicholas took on the log flume with dad and will never say that he enjoyed it. The picture proves that he didn't, there was terror all over it, but he's proud that he made it. "I goed down" is all he'll say about that. We all watched the Irish dancing show, the boys loved the Land of Dragons and the Roman Rapids was the big hit. Aside from the funnel cake of course. Even better, De Witty came to the park and spent her afternoon with us. She's doing really well and we've made a date to try to get together in August when we're at Sandbridge. De is a college friend of mine and she's such a warm, friendly and outgoing person that no matter how much time has gone by, it feels like none when we see each other again.
The kids were each given $5 to spend on a souvenir as we were leaving the park. Oh sure it was after 9 p.m. and they were beyond hungry and tired but there was shopping to be done. We hunted through stores and were disappointed to see that the favorite price of $6.99 for the smallest gifts. It was a lesson though and the kids -were- successful. The boys each purchased a knight's helmet for $3.99, Katherine found a keychain for just over $1 and then she shared her change with her sister so Rebecca could purchase a $6.99 DarKastle thermos she'd been eyeing all day.
We finally made it to the Embassy Suites, ordered some room service pizza and slept like rocks. Jonathon didn't even make it to the pizza. He'd fallen asleep in the car and nothing was going to wake him up.
We attended church at St. Bede's on Sunday morning, a lovely bright and new church-in-the-round with gorgeous grounds that included a pond filled with tadpoles. Church went long as they asked for funds to pay off the new organ, so Jonathon fell asleep on my lap and missed all the tadpoles. It was almost 1 before we left and made our way to Colonial Williamsburg for lunch. We checked out Berret's first, a seafood place. The hostess said it would be a 15 minute wait and we debated looking elsewere. A lady sitting on the bench, apparently waiting herself, said that a 15 minute wait was great. When I replied that it was a little long with hungry kids she commented she had two kids herself (who I didn't see anywhere around) and that 15 minutes was a blessing, or something along those lines. And that we wouldn't find anywhere else any better.
We walked to the Seasons restaurant on the other side of the block, were seated immediately and had a wonderful lunch that didn't need to be worked around (my dad can't eat fish or many of the other items on the Berret's menu).
I guess you could say we found that "helpful" lady more obnoxious than anything.
The past few weeks we've been reading history books about Colonial Williamsburg including the American Girl Felicity series and Mary Geddy's day. During our walk down Duke of Gloucester street we checked each house we passed to find the Merriman house (sadly, we didn't) and the Geddy house (we did). We passed the magazine where the British loyalists stole all the stored Patriot gunpowder, and the Capitol building where the vote was taken to become an independent state. It was fun and the girls were excited to purchase their very own quills and ink to try out at home. Every since Katherine saw her first Harry Potter movie she's wanted a quill. OK, so it's not exactly American History there.
We were a little warm and treated the kids to ice cream before departing home. My parents left first trying to avoid some of the traffic and we meandered through a store where I picked up an ornament for our Christmas tree. Katherine showed me a beautiful Christmas ball which shattered in her hand, and her as a result. Poor girl, she has the worst luck sometimes. The store wouldn't let me pay for the lost ornament, and Ian took good care of stricken Katherine while I paid for our trinket.
It seemed to take us forever to get back, though it was a pleasant drive. My mom has discovered the joy of texting and since they were so far ahead of us we received regular traffic reports. Jonathon needed a bathroom break at Rt. 17 so we stopped at McDs to let the kids burn off some energy and while there, mom texted that I95 was completely stopped and they were bailing onto Rt. 1. I mentioned that to another lady sitting with her family and someone else overheard and stated it was awful up there and we should all take 17 to 28 instead. Which is exactly what we did, passing farms that give tours, lots of cows, Wat Lao and a beautiful sunset. The kids were great and we all came home tired but happy.
Now this week is Katherine's SOL tests, so early to bed and hearty breakfasts all around.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Future Goals

Yesterday was Rebecca's last day of reading assistance. She is officially caught up with her peers. In celebration we went to Bertucci's for dinner and let her pick a brand new book from Barnes and Noble. She chose the first in the American Girl Samantha series. We also purchased _You Read to Me, I'll Read to You_ as a Thank You gift for her reading instructor.

I'm impatiently waiting for a book from Amazon, also for Rebecca, about writing/designing/illustrating your own stories. She loves to write stories so we'll guide her into how to do it well, including the spelling. Her spelling is still awful, but it's improving ever so slowly.
On our walk to dinner, the topic of "What do I want to be when I grow up" began and then continued all through our meal.
A few snippets:
-Jonathon: I want to be an art teacher, a math teacher, a duckling teacher and a chick teacher.
-Dad: Katherine, you could be an engineer.
-Katherine: Oh, I don't think so.
-Dad: Why not? What do you think engineers do?
-Katherine: They drive trains.
-Nicholas: I want to be a space man. And then an art teacher. *he looks around the table* Who else is going to be an art teacher? [The answer: all the kids]

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

One day they'll listen.

When I tell the kids it's time to leave the park/library/pool/wherever we happen to be, maybe next time they'll listen. And maybe I won't say "OK, just a few more minutes."

Because invariably, if I say "OK, just a few more minutes" one of them will take that time to cause harm to someone or something, usually themselves. I'm not saying intentionally, but it will happen. Today, it was Jonathon's turn.
We decided to stop at the playground right behind our apartment building on our way back from Barnes & Noble (where I didn't buy -anything- today! Go me!). A group of daycare kids was there, playing with bubbles, balls and shovels whenever they weren't on the playground equipment. My boys asked to play too and moved from kicking the soccer ball to tossing a football. It was lunchtime but I said that fateful phrase "OK, just a few more minutes." The football promptly rolled under the bench where Jonathon retrieved it and misjudged the the distance to back of the bench.
Crack went his head.
OK, this sort of thing happens all the time and in order not to freak out the kids, we've always been nonchalant about it, especially if they don't get upset. We all know that kids feed off our reactions. So, he cried a bit from whacking his head and I reassured him all was well. He was heading back to his game when one of the daycare workers took a look at his head and freaked.
Yup, blood gushing. Head wounds always gush more than you'd expect, but she went a bit overboard. The other caregiver came over and offered a wipe to get the blood. His hair was getting matted and the presence of a bloody rag did more to concern Jonathon than anything else, so we discussed whether he would need stitches before we made the short trek home. At home he patiently allowed me to wash his head and the wound itself was only about 1/2 centimeter long, though it was open. Honestly, it could probably have taken a stitch or two, but it's on the top and back of his head, covered by hair. It won't be noticeable once it's healed and it wasn't bothering him at all. Not once did he say it hurt, even before the Motrin kicked in. He had a snack, watched some TV, played with his brother, took a bath and didn't say once he had an ache.
So, all is well, and he'll be fine. But one of these days I'll learn to not say that phrase and just go home while everyone is still in one piece.

Monday, May 9, 2005

More books

I almost feel like I shouldn't clutter up the blog with this stuff, and just put the books on a page all their own. Anyway...

I recommend _The Devil in the White City_ by Erik Larson and _Wicked_ by Gregory Maguire. The first is a true story about the building of the Chicago World's Fair and the second is the not so true story of life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I only wish that three small sections had been cut from the final editing, then I could read it to the kids! OK, maybe that's pushing it, but it really is a wonderful retelling of the Wizard of Oz from the Witch's POV.
Did I mention that I finished L'Engle's _Many Waters_? I really enjoyed that one as well, more than her other books definitely. The twins are pulled back to Noah's time.
The central library has an entire wall devoted to children's books on tape/CD. I happened to pick up one labeled for the 2004 Middle School reading list, called _The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm_ by Nancy Farmer. It took too long to listen in the car (everywhere I go around here is about 8 minutes away) so I borrowed the book and finished the story at home. A fun read set in 2194 Zimbabwe. I've picked up _The House of the Scorpion_ also by Farmer and would like to read her other works as well.


We're right next to Ft. Myer in Arlington. My life would be JUST FINE without the daily bagpipe practice. Scales on bagpipe are... difficult to listen to. When they get the scale wrong I just want to claw at my ears.

Though I don't mind at all the bugle three times a day. Reveille at 6, Taps at 11 and another one at 10 I haven't figure out yet. It might be Retreat (end of the workday, but 10 is a little late, no?).

If you're curious about bugle calls, what they're called and what they sound like, Virginia Tech has a great page of Bugle Calls.

Mother's Weekend

A quick disjointed overview of the weekend. Not much time, and I'd rather be napping while the boys are quiet.

Saturday was a beautiful day. Finally, the cold has released its grip and we can enjoy the warm weather for days on end.

Unfortunately, Ian's flying lesson was canceled Saturday morning (repairs on the plane) so that bummed him out. But I had breakfast in bed, courtesy of Nicholas who came up with the idea and the others who helped concoct a bowl of Kix, bread and butter, and apple slices along with a glass of milk and a glass of water. We meandered through the farmer's market to buy some bread and chocolate milk before heading to Woodbridge to ice skate with Katherine's oldest friend, Erin. They've been e-mailing all during our tour in Manila and have been talking on the phone since arriving back. We couldn't resist Borders for a bit even though we didn't purchase anything. The kids chose stuffed animals and put on a puppet show for me on the little reading stage. At grandma's house we finally gave grandpa his birthday gifts and grandma her mother's day gifts. My mom was performing in Brahms' German Requiem Saturday night so we ate some of their food for dinner and left the birthday cake mess for my dad to clean up.
We drove back to Arlington where I dropped off the family, changed my clothes and returned to Springfield so I could attend the concert and surprise my parents. I miss a lot when we're overseas and now there's no reason to. I am, afterall, in the neighborhood. It was an excellent concert at a Baptist church given by the Springfield Chorale. I arrived late though, after taking a wrong turn, so stayed in the back. The performance took just over and hour and I was home shortly after 10.
Sunday morning we lazed around until about 10:30, then metroed downtown to St. Matthews Cathedral. My parents met us there and we enjoyed a wonderful Mass in a stunning and colorful church. A block away we had brunch at the Beacon hotel where a table was set up in it's own alcove for us. The restaurant was loud enough that kid noises didn't matter, but swanky enough to really be a nice treat. The brunch buffet was excellent too, I highly recommend it.
On the way back we all stopped at Ballston. Rebecca needed new dress shoes, so grandpa bought her some before we had a little ice cream.
It was time to say goodbye so they took the metro back to their car and we hoofed the rest of the way home. The weather was gorgeous and no one minded the long walk. We were glad we hadn't bothered trying to get a seat at the Cheesecake Factory!
At home, it was present time. Present make me moderately uncomfortable. I think it's the expectation that now that I've received something, I feel I owe equal or better gifts to them next time around. Ack. The girls had gone into Bath and Body Works and came back with wonderful hand cream and body wash. The boys helped daddy with a couple digital photography books, and Ian bought me great tea with an awesome tea cup. I really appreciated all the times they told me Happy Mother's day and how good they were all weekend. We piled on the couch to watch "Unfortunate Events" and daddy read their bedtime stories.
It was a really nice weekend and I hope that the rest of the family enjoyed it as much as I.


Yesterday we watched the "Series of Unfortunate Events" movie. Jonathon stayed out for a good part of it, he didn't like Jim Carrey's character so he'd leave whenever the bad guy came on.

One character is a toddler who doesn't speak words but can be understood by her siblings. For the rest of us, we have subtitles. They don't stay up that long, but Rebecca caught them anyway. She has come such a long way in her reading the past couple months that she's now reading easy chapter books to herself and slogging through _Lassie Come Home_. Her 20 minutes a night for quiet reading isn't difficult because I've been picking easy readers (young Cam Jansen, Amelia Bedelia) and she loves that she can come out at the end of her reading time having completed two whole books. Now to get the boys reading. Nicholas is getting better at sight words but Jonathon doesn't know anything beyond "N-O! no! Y-E-S! yes!".
Our math theme last week went very well with the boys favorite being marshmallow math, related to M&M math. This week we're doing a food theme. Sunday is the Taste of Arlington I'd like to go to, and we have a farmer's market each Saturday, so we have books on where food comes from, recipe books and books on how people round the world eat the same foods (though sometimes those foods look different). I'm hoping to one day this week have the boys help me pick something to cook/bake and then work together from the shopping to the finished product.
We're continuing with Virginia history, Colonial history and Williamsburg/Jamestown as well in preparation for our trip to Williamsburg on the 21st. Rebecca had received the Felicity set of American Girl books a while back from grandma and we completed the last book in the read-one-chapter-aloud-each-night-method last week. Felicity is a Colonial Williamsburg girl and has grand adventures while the patriots rev up towards the Revolutionary War.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

The past few weekends.

Apr 15-Apr 16: American History Museum, Air and Space Museum

Apr 23-Apr 24: Maryland Science Center, scrapbook fair

Apr 30-May 1: Saturday dawned a gray, drippy day and we spent it as a family day at home. My mom came over for the morning and stayed for lunch, a homemade spinach lasagna. For a good chunk of the morning, all the girls worked on scrapbooks, leading Nicholas to beg for a book of his own. He did make a page with some extra supplies and one of his own photos, so he's well on his way. After mom left we wandered downstairs to the indoor pool where the temperature of the water would have been fine if the room was actually warm. Some other kids came down while we were there, so they all played together, but I couldn't get out of the water fast enough. It was time to go when everyone was shivering. It was still an ugly day, so the kids took warm baths, drank hot cocoa, put on PJs and watched The Princess Bride. Sounds like a day in the middle of winter, doesn't it? But no, practically May and I'm still wearing a sweatshirt every day to combat the chill.
Sunday we attended the Memorial Mass for Fred Franke at Marymount University. The kids were very well behaved. They should have been, we prepped them beforehand. Every little sound is magnified in the tiny MU chapel and there were only a couple dozen people there so it was imperative that they stay almost silent. They made us proud. After the service was a small reception at the Main House where we met Fred's mother, saw his photography and listened to friends and classmates tell stories about Fred. II can't say that it was a good time, but it was pleasant and comfortable to meet up with college friends and shares some time together even under a sad occasion.
You know, Marymount is an itty bitty campus. It's a lovely campus, but it's "cozy."
Back at home, we took advantage of the pleasant weather and walked down to Clarendon to the Container Store (mom, they have car trash containers!) and across the way to the Whole Foods for some broccoli. Jeff came over for some dinner so we ordered a little Indian food from Delhi Dhaba to go along with a pot pie, some broccoli, bread and other random foods. Jeff has never complained, he'll eat just about anything we put in front of him. He's such an easy guest. We're going to miss him greatly when we head out again.

Last Friday we went to ASFS

The girls attend the Science Focus school here in Arlington and on Friday my mom, the boys and I went to see Katherine and her classmates put on a puppet show. The shows were cute, various interpretations of a comic involving a cat and a frog, but what I didn't know was that immediately following was the 3rd-5th awards ceremony.

Third quarter report cards came out last week and both girls did very well. The only surprise was Katherine's O(utstanding)s in Listening and in Personal Organization. Huh?? If anyone recalls, in Manila both of those areas were her difficult zones. She's either growing up or the requirements are different here.
There were no surprises for Rebecca. Her spelling Stinks but her logical thinking is exceptional. Her reading is improving, her math is right at grade level, but she can't tell time. P.E. is not her forte.
Katherine received all As and Bs for grades, with Os and Ss for efforts. As a result, at the awards ceremony she received a certificate for achieving the Honor Roll. I'm glad that grandma pays attention to the school calendar!
Looks like I've reached the point of needing a scrapbook to hold school awards.
Also related to school, we're in Virginia and at the end of May every student in the state takes the Standards of Learning tests, aka SOLs. The acronym's other meaning may apply better to us because Katherine is getting a crash course in everything taught the past 2 1/2 years. The SOLs cover material from 1st and 2nd grades in VA. She was almost in tears with frustration last night trying to absorb the differences between direct and representational democracies. And she cannot keep the Tiber and Niger rivers straight.
In Manila the classes covered zero American History or Explorers and completely different language arts. There are 5 different exams at the end of the month and it's going to be interesting. She'll do fine in Reading, Writing and Math, but Science and Social Studies will be hard.

Just put the boys down for a rest.

Periodically I get fed up with the boys and their boyish behaviour (jumping off the back of the couch, needling each other, generally being unpleasant) so I call for a rest-time. Nicholas goes to the girls' room and Jonathon goes to the boys' room, and the timer keeps track of a random length of time. Today, it's 55 minutes, because I felt like it. And because I wanted to catch up here and 20 minutes wouldn't cut it. Call me selfish, go ahead. I can take it.

This week's topic is Math. There are some fabulous books, a TIME-Life series for Children, called I Love Math. Clever title, I know. But each book has a different focus (say, the body or a zoo) and over about 60 pages it covers multiple math facts with that topic. For example, the Zoo Math book has pages on estimating a large number of flamigoes, measuring lengths of animals that are all curled by up using a string and ruler, solving a mystery that asks time questions, and a story about a mouse in a rainforest who solves math word problems to escape various creatures trying to eat him. Inside the front and back covers are board games to play that teach odd/even and addition.
Another series we're using this week is called MathSmart. They are short books that each cover a single topic in a story form. The one I have in front of me is about counting to 100 and guides kids with a number line along the top of the pages. This series is broken up into levels of difficulty but they're all for the K and under crowd.
What's nice about both series are the adult guidance portions either at the bottom of the pages or at the back of the book. They outline what the kids should be getting out of each page along with supplimental activities.
On-line, the site has a section of math games rated for different levels. The boys have spent a good deal of time this morning moving from one page to the next for counting, adding, completing patterns and matching shapes. If you prefer printable materials, has a large section wth printable number lines, subtraction worksheets, sorting activities and many others. I'll probably head there when we finally get around to doing money. Just a warning, many resources there are for site members only. If you're a homeschooler, it's probably worth the minimal yearly fee to have access to everything though.
Most of what we're covering this week is reinforcement for the boys. They are familiar with the concepts but need regular daily practice with telling time, remembering left from right, using a ruler, patterns, recognizing a hexagon and all the other aspects of Math. It's fun though and they enjoy it quite a bit.