Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holidays all week long.

This past year has, like every other year, had its up and downs though looking back there were far more ups than I realized in the moment. Jonathon celebrated his First Communion, Katherine was Confirmed, Rebecca became our second teen and Nicholas finally came out of his shell. Though there were difficulties, especially over the summer, we've come through with flying colors and look forward to an awesome 2011. This year wrapped up with Christmas celebrated Chez Nous with my parents and grandmother. My grandmother, aka Babcia, gets a post all her own. For now, here are the highlights from Christmas 2010.

December 2010: Katherine's holiday band concert
Aside from food, music takes part in most of our holidays. This December, Katherine performed in her band concert. She's third chair flute which isn't too shabby for a Freshman. Oh, here's a funny/odd story... Katherine is performing with the All County 9th Grade Honors Band at the beginning of January. The funny/odd part is she didn't audition back in November, apparently her band director nominated her anyway. Like I said, not too shabby for a Freshman.
Rebecca was supposed to have her choir concert the same week, but troubles with the music teacher led to the concert being canceled, which she was quite sore about. We were sore too, her great-grandmother and great-aunt were in town. Thankfully, she participated with me and grandma in the Messiah Methodist Church's yearly Christmas Messiah performance. By far the youngest of the group, she had a great time learning the music and stretching those vocal chords.
12/5/10: All dressed up to sing The Messiah
A week later it was time to get a tree and decorate the house.
December 2010: Tree is all set up. 12/25/10: One of my favorite ornaments. December 2010: Nicholas took this one of the tree the first night it was lit.  Blue and white lights only.
December 2010: Decorating the tree.
There are so many ornaments from just the kids (you do the math, 4 kids x 10+ years = no room for my ornaments) the tree was decked out in no time and ready for presents. We don't do Santa, never have, so presents appear under the tree in little piles until the base is completely covered. Every year we promise not to do that and every year we fail miserably. My parents don't help the "problem" either.
12/25/10: All the presents just waiting to be opened.
The tree all set, the only thing missing before the big day was cookies. My mom and I decided last year we'd do it the easiest way possible... she prepared some dough (candy cane and sugar) and I prepared some dough (espresso crinkles, molasses, a bucket of prepared chocolate chip) and in one afternoon we get together and roll and cut and decorate and bake all at once. With all the kids participating it goes really fast, the slowest portion was the baking. Rebecca also made cupcakes to share with the other December birthdays in her class at school on Monday. The house smelled awesome.
December 2010: Jonathon decorates the sugar cookies. December 2010: Katherine makes enormous candy cane cookies.
December 2010: All the kids and Babcia too. December 2010: Baking loads of Christmas cookies.
And before we knew it, Christmas Day arrived. Presents, tree, cookies, parties, who cares? Family counts.
12/25/10: Christmas dinner at the Hopper house.
We are blessed to have each other.
Presents are still nice though.
12/25/10: The boys did really well picking gifts for their sisters. 12/25/10: Grandpa, Nicholas and Ian are off to a Redskins game on 2 January. 12/25/10: Grandpa gets a Kindle for his travels.
There were some big ticket items this year. Ian and I did a night out at the Monaco Hotel across from the Verizon Center for a Caps/Penguins game on the 23rd, but also Nicholas will head to a Redskins game with Ian and grandpa, Grandpa got a Kindle for his travels, I was so happy to get a new vacuum, a lovely watch for Katherine, and a Soda Stream for the whole family. We had seen the Soda Stream this summer at a specialty shop and pondered the idea, but left it at that. Now we get to try it out. Anyone know if non-combustable CO2 canisters are safe to send through overseas mail?
[Let me interject for a minute a thumbs-up for the Monaco Hotel. It's pet-friendly, beautifully situated downtown across from the National Portrait Gallery and down the block from the Spy Museum and Museum of Crime and Punishment, and inside has a completely eclectic design style. Originally the first General Post Office, the rooms are high-ceilinged and corridors are odd and sometimes circuitous. If you don't bring a pet, the hotel can provide a goldfish to your room. And if you're in town for a Wizards or Capitals game, they have a package with their season box tickets. There were complimentary sodas and chips, the bed was comfortable and the staff was plain wonderful. We also got 2 complimentary mixed drinks (though we forgot to trade them in). A fantastic spot to spend a night away.]
A very special gift... the boys now have something living in their room. Something which will require a new home in 18 months, perhaps to another temporary FS family?
12/26/10: Christmas gift for the boys. 12/26/10: Meet Ovi the gerbil.
That would be Ovi, the gerbil. He didn't like getting picked up and moved to his new home so he bit Ian pretty hard. Ian currently has a grudge against the critter so if it doesn't want to end up as a cat snack it had better be nice.
Several items under the tree were group gifts for the all the kids. For the most part they were video games including Fable III and Just Dance 2.
12/25/10: Just Dance 2 12/25/10: Just Dance 2 is a hit with the girls.
Oh yeah, we'll have fun with that one.
Before my parents left, we finished our celebration with music. Nicholas and I on the cello, Katherine on the flute and my dad on the piano, we played "Silent Night." Next year, we'll get the rest of the family to sing or we'll be forced to pull out the recorders to get everyone involved. No one wants that, right?
There are additional photos at our flickr site, so pop over there if you wish. For us, we enjoyed our first day of Christmas at church (PSA: Everyone knows the 12 days of Christmas are the days AFTER Christmas, right? Twelve days reaches Epiphany on January 6th. All the days before Christmas are part of Advent), a tasty lunch out at Smokey Bones, and an afternoon at home enjoying our gifts. If you're looking for me, I'm the one wrapped in my new fuzzy robe and Tru Blood blanket, drinking warm apple cider and avoiding any housework. I'm actually looking forward to a little housework tomorrow, to break out my new vacuum. If nothing else, 2011 will have clean floors Chez Hopper thanks to my dad.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rocking the start of December and the end of the year.

Rebecca turned 13 on the 2nd and this year she celebrated in style, a Washington Capitals hockey game with her dad with a Mike Green jersey to show for it, and "South Pacific" at the Kennedy Center Opera House with her grandparents and great-grandmother. She rode to the show in style.

Totally not kidding.
Off to Caps/Thrashers on 4 December 2010.
12/4/10: Off to the Caps/Thrashers game
After participating in the Christmas Messiah at Messiah Methodist, Becca had dinner out at Foxfire on 5 December 2010, with family, grandparents, great-grandmother and great-aunt.
12/5/10: Becca's birthday continues. 12/5/10: Big hugs and smiles.
Then the big finale, a night out with grandparents and great-grandmother for high class Italian, then "South Pacific" at the Kennedy Center Opera House. All via limo.
12/18/10: 3 out of 4 generations, heading for a night on the town. 12/18/10: Becca with grandparents for a night out.
12/18/10: In the limo to the theater 12/18/10: Becca's taking photos
12/18/10: Birthday dinner out 12/18/10: At the Kennedy Center Opera House for "South Pacific"
12/18/10: Kennedy Center birthday 12/18/10: In the back of the limo, riding home.
She is still glowing and floating on cloud 9 after her magical night out. It's a birthday she won't soon forget.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Assignments are in....

*drum roll please*

We're moving to Philadelphia!!

Wait.... huh?

Give me a....
11/8/10: Give me a...
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11/8/10: Give me a...
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11/8/10: Give me a...
Give me a....
11/8/10: Give me a...
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11/8/10: Give me a...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Last Weekend in October/First Weekend in November

Rallies and Costumes and Confirmandi, oh my.

10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
We saw The Mythbusters and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Ozzy Ozbourne and a lot of Sanity.
Adam Savage and Jaime Hyneman were a surprise, and they had the whole crowd run some experiments. Like "how long does it take the Wave to make it across over 100,000 people?
10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear 10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
See it? In the jumbotron the light line across the crowd? It took nearly a minute for the wave to move from the stage to the far back.
Stephen Colbert was the impetus for the "March to Keep Fear Alive" which was combined with the "Rally to Restore Sanity," resulting in the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear." Jon Stewart attempted to ease Colbert's tendencies to draw fear from stereotypes. Colbert's character not only fears Moslems across the board (Stewart invited Karim Abdul Jabbar to the stage), but all robots and bears. Stewart introduced Colbert to the best robot around...
10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
You should have heard the cheers for R2D2 and the references to Star Trek. If anyone doubted the geekiness of the crowd, it became quite clear when the group rightnexttous (no wiggle room whatsoever) chatted about which episode the reference came from.
The signs, ah the signs. Some bold, some silly, many quite clever.
10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear 10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear 10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear 10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear 10/30/10: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
More signs from the Rally are found at 100 Best Signs. And if you really have time, here are 800+ more Rally signs. Rebecca came with Ian and me to the Mall, and stood for the 4 hours with us. She had a hard enough time seeing, standing only 5'2" in the crowd. I'm glad we left the boys with my parents, they wouldn't have seen anything at all. Katherine had the VBODA marching band assessment so missed the whole thing too. We recorded it so everyone could watch in the evening. We had a great time and thanks to one of Ian's co-workers who leant us one of her parking spots we managed to drive in, park, walk the couple blocks to the Mall and completely avoid the over-stressed Metro system. Thanks again, Stephanie!
HALLOWEEN: All dressed up
10/31/10: Getting set for trick-or-treating.
It's no secret I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, but this year was quite bearable since we crammed it all into a handful of hours on the 31st. The farmer's market had cheap pumpkins, we carved them after lunch, hung the tiny ones from the front tree, the kids wore their costumes from last year, the girls went out with friends, the boys managed about 45 minutes of Trick-or-Treating before they came home, and everything was done by 8 p.m.
Mom's pumpkin.... Katherine's pumpkin... Jonathon's & Rebecca's & Nicholas' pumpkins
10/31/10: Mom's pumpkin 10/31/10: Katherine's Vampire Pac-Man Pumpkin 10/31/10: Pumpkin gathering
In the following week the pumpkins attracted another kind of fan. And some very interested cats.
11/6/10:  What's going on outside? 11/6/10: Has the cat's attention
11/6/10: Pumpkin visitor 11/6/10: Oh hi.  Help yourself to our pumpkins.
CONFIRMATION: All dressed up, a little differently.
11/6/10: A little too much of the Spirit. 11/6/10: Looking up to Big Sis.
11/6/10 - Katherine was fully Confirmed into the Catholic Faith. Her brothers served their first Mass as altar servers to the Bishop and "guardians" of the Miter and Crozier. Cameras were strictly forbidden in church so I used my mom's little Canon surreptitiously from the balcony.
11/6/10: The boys' first time serving 11/6/10: Katherine is Confirmed 11/6/10: The boys waiting during Communion
In that second photo, Katherine is being Confirmed by the Bishop with her saint name, Katharine Drexel. Behind the Bishop wearing his miter you can see the top of the crozier (the shepherd's staff). Off to the left you can see Nicholas coming down to relieve Jonathon from standing and holding the crozier. I gathered it was heavy.
11/6/10: With Bishop Loverde 11/6/10: With the poster she made with her group at retreat.
After Mass with the Bishop and her sponsor, her grandmother. Also with her poster from Retreat last February.
Rebecca earned a ton of volunteer hours towards her own Confirmation next fall by helping at the reception for the earlier Confirmation service (we had two services... one at 10 a.m. for all the 8th grade Confirmandi and one at 2 p.m. for the HS Confirmandi) as well as before and after Katherine's Confirmation. She took her job very seriously. She's a leader and delegator and is happy up to her armpits in the dirty work as well.
What can I say but that this was a good seven days. Even with two very cold football games (last Friday Rebecca and I went to Hylton to watch the Indians get trounced, yesterday Ian and Rebecca went to Gar-Field to watch the Indians get mildly crushed) and some difficulties here and there, the last week definitely weighed more towards the good than the bad. OK, Katherine's report card came home... we won't discuss that... but today my folks came down to celebrate her Confirmation with us especially as my mom is her sponsor, and the day ended at Outback with wonderful food, great conversation and lots of laughter. Rebecca told the tale about her Social Studies assignment that asked what difficulties North Korea and South Korea had with rejoining. The other kids were looking through their newspapers and Rebecca knew right off. Since we'd just talked about Kim Jung Ils sons a couple weeks ago, she already knew an outline of the Koreas' backgrounds.
Yup. Good times.