Monday, June 28, 2010

Looking on the bright side of life AKA Grateful Monday

What are you grateful for today?

*My husband - we have far more good days than hard days, thanks to him.

*My kids - yes all 4 of them, because on any one day it's usually only one or two I want to toss through a window.

*Our home - it's far from my dream home, I wouldn't even know what my dream home looked like, but it's home, it's safe, it's clean (uh...), it's comfortable.

*Ian's job - he has always been a step ahead of layoffs and now has a secure position no matter the economy. Truly a relief and a blessing.

*Our "garden" - the plants in pots on our deck lovingly called the pot garden (actually tomatoes and peppers) are actually growing nicely. I staked a couple that were starting to topple.

*Technological advances - I'm pulled kicking and screaming into each new advance, but they really are worth it. Take my birthday present Kindle I now call "Blue" because of the awesome cover Ian chose that matches my handbag. Refer to my first grateful entry...

*My weight - I can complain about the numbers all I want, but in reality I'm very glad that the number is too big due to plentiful food rather than too small because of an inability to feed the family.

*Living near family - it's rare to be so close to family, we're lucky my parents have stayed in this area and never considered moving to Iowa. Or Nebraska. Or Trinidad.

*Options - What do you want to eat? Where do you want to go? Which movie? What game? What country? Which school? What kind of cereal? Options, what a gift.

And speaking of options, in our county we have options on which middle and high schools the kids attend if they wish to participate in a specialty program. For this reason Katherine won't attend our home school but instead will go to Gar-Field for the IB program. I'm currently researching (preliminary only, we'll get our list next month some time) schools in places we think we'd like to go. Of the six schools I've begun studying, two are at the top of my list, but both lack something that is extremely important to the family.
*Hong Kong would be amazing. But there's no IB program and we'd really like all 4 kids to do IB. It would be a challenge to get this post.
*Sao Paulo would be achievable, and the school has an IB program, but no swimming pool. I know it seems trivial, but our kids are in to swimming.
Some quick data:
Singapore: Singapore American School: uniforms (white polo top, navy bottoms, Land's End account): 3819
students: 25 minutes from downtown: not IB:
Sports/Activities for 10/11: VB goes to Bangkok, Swimming to KL, Tennis to Singapore, Badminton to Manila, MUN in
Singapore, arts convention to Jakarta and KL
Clubs: French, Photo, Thespians, Climbing, Dive, Tennis, Absolute Art Magazine, Habitat for Hummanity, Make-up for Theater, Children's Home, Dance Club
Seoul: Seoul Foreign School: 1500 students: IB program: beautiful campus and theater: no uniform: snow
Sports/Activities: (website down due to summer break/updates)
Lima: ColegioRoosevelt: 1425 students: uniforms (white polo, blue bottoms): IB program:
Sports/Activities: swim team, drama
Bucharest(timing off): American International School Bucharest: 703 students: IB Program: no uniforms: snow
Sports/Activities: 09/10 tennis to Latvia, swim to Budapest, HS volleyball to Warsaw, chorus to Prague
Sao Paulo: Graded School American School Sao Paulo: 1195 students: IB program: MS Class Without Walls: suburb of Morumbi,
Sports/Activities: a/s MS chorus, MS Destination Imagination (Od of Mind), MS theater, no swim, HS volleyball, MUN, HS "The Talon" magazine,
Hong Kong: Hong Kong International School: No IB: 2640 students:
Sports/Activities: swim team, tennis, climbing wall, jazz dance, HS Musical Theater club, MUN, Chamber choir, MS In-step, MS sailing, HS Interim (HS international week w/out walls), PEAK (MS China week w/out walls), Camp (3 days/2 nights elem trip)
Plenty of time to ponder yet, and I'm sure everything will change once we have a real list in our hands. But the researching and planning are 1/2 the fun.

Monday, June 21, 2010

So the other day...

When the boys had their guitar recital, Jonathon insisted on having his photo taken with Mrs. Greenwood, another 3rd grade teacher. The teacher said she wanted a copy so I promised I would e-mail. When I finally got around to it a couple days ago this is the reply we got:

"Thank you so ...oooo much! Jonathan has been asking me every day whether I have received the photo from you. He really is such a special child. And I've been truly privileged to have known him this year. I first got to know him when I had to take care of Mrs. Blevin's class one day when she had a family emergency. Jonathan and I talked a lot about India that day. He walked out with me every day during the release time, and through the year, we became very special friends! Please have him read this note, and let him know what I think of him. Can't wait to see all the great things he will do in the future. I surely would like to remain in his circle of friendship. Have a fantastic summer, Jonathan! I'll see you in September...although, I'll be very more Jonathan next door..."

He might be a handful, he might have the worst penmanship and spelling around, he might be both distracted and singularly focussed at the same time (and no, he's not ADD or ADHD), but through all this his personality still sparkles and there are those who love him for it. Yeah, that includes me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What happens when....

The back end of a Sienna in a 3/4 boxed parking spot, backs up slowly out of said space, and notices that the F150 that had already passed behind is now moving backwards into the space currently occupied by the Sienna back end, and flipping gears and jamming the gas to avoid getting hit in the back will only slam the Sienna into the parked car in front because there's roughly 4-5 feet of wiggle room? Well in those roughly 2.75 seconds of decision-making time, laying on the horn while watching the F150 back up doesn't help much, that much we learned.

Back end Sienna meets back end F150
It could have been a lot worse. No damage to the tail light, the side door still slides open fine and none of our 5 passengers were hurt at all. But man, the day was going so well, why did it have to approach its end like this?
Oh well.
And then I checked the girls' grades on-line to see if their final grades were up. Fourth quarter grades weren't all in for Katherine, so perhaps that's why report cards didn't come home Friday? All I do know is that one messed up quiz in Science seems to have thrown off Rebecca's perfect grades, and Katherine... well... Katherine's grades were a roller-coaster all year. She'd improve in one only to have another drop. Suffice to say that final grades seem to be 3 As and 4 Bs. We are definitely not complaining.
We made it through the first swim meet this morning, versus roughly a billion Ashland swimmers. The Frogs were crushed in the point tally. But... our Hopper family swimmers did fine. In general we saw improvements with several of our strokes just a second or less off a B time (you can check out what that means on the Prince William Swim League by-laws, starting on page 14). Nicholas even came in 4th overall in the 9-10 boys backstroke. He was very proud. Both boys still got disqualified for breaststroke, that's simply going to take more practice, and Jonathon surprisingly didn't get disqualified for his butterfly even though his shoulders didn't always make it out of the water. There was much discussion by the stroke&turn officials over Katherine's turn on backstroke and eventually they gave her the OK, but it was pretty much a mess as she came up more on her tummy/side than on her back. She knew it though. It's easier to fix if the swimmer knows where they messed up. Ian and I took a turn as timers for the third shift. I only messed up twice, once missing a start, once missing a stop. Not too shabby for my first time though still embarrassing. My mom came to the meet so she cheered the kids on and corralled them for their next entry when Ian and I were busy. All in all, a fun, hot, tiring morning. Sleep evaded me last night as I kept a running list of things to remember for the morning After only 3 1/2 hours of broken sleep I beat my 5:30 alarm and woke everyone up, packed the cooler, grabbed last minutes items and filled up the car. The meet was being held practically next door to our neighborhood, so very easy to get there for 6:15 check-in.
I'm wiped and ready for bed at 7:15p.m. but I think we successfully avoided sunburns except for Ian who still insists it's my job to sunscreen(v) him. The back of the neck I sprayed... no burn. The front along his shirt collar... burn.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

End of year silliness, bring on the seriousness of summer.

The purpose of this last week in school is... what , again?

There have been picnics and carnivals, parties and pizza, movies and yearbooks and awards, oh my.
No really, cleaning out lockers, that's last day stuff or it should be. Our kids did it Wednesday and then they are forbidden - yes, I said forbidden - from bringing a backpack the last 2 days. Jonathon already cleaned out his desk. I realize there aren't grades given out this week (report cards come out tomorrow, so all grades were submitted Monday), but couldn't they watch something off the History or Discovery channels, not "Nemo" or "Planet 51" or the World Cup? And I'm talking about the middle schoolers here, not the young ones. Today is SOL carnival day at the middle school, but get this, only for the kids who passed their SOLs. Not for a party for everyone because everyone had to get through them. Those that didn't pass sit in their classrooms. No bouncy house for them, no dunk tank, no popcorn, no games. So rather than have the party after school this week.... ugh. Whatever.
Yearbooks came out, with designated times/hours that they could be passed around and signed. Awards ceremonies were completed, Rebecca earned a handful from each class but also "Aspiring Young Writers," "Helping Hands," "Champion Spirit" and several art awards. Did I mention Jonathon got into Signet for next year? He should have fun with that. I don't know how it works for Nicholas, if he had to reapply or is automatically in next year, but either way, he will have a much better year next year, I promised him.
So today is a gorgeous day for putting the school year away. Lunch boxes and backpacks, notepaper, folders, scissors, all the extra supplies we have will get boxed in a Rubbermaid for September. I preordered the boys' supply boxes for their classrooms though I know additional items will be requested like antibacterial gel and tissues, but for $20/kid it was well worth it to not fight the hordes and empty shelves for paper and glue sticks.
Though we're ending this school year, Katherine has already begun her high school career. Tuesday was the first day of marching band practice at Gar-Field HS. A couple weeks ago I'd received an e-mail from the Forest Park band (our home school) talking about their marching band and it's summer practices. I e-mailed Gar-Field asking if we'd missed notices from the band department and could Katherine still join. She signed up for the class, which happens to be a 1/2 credit after school program, and was on the school register but because we're not in the boundaries we are easily forgotten. After getting lost in the corridors we found the band room with kids already milling around and Katherine introduced herself to the director. The other kids and I hopped to the frog pond for swim team practice and picked her up two hours later.
She had a great time. She was the only rising freshman. And she's ready to go back again.
I'm really hoping high school will be a wonderful experience for her.(ooh, read this, it gives me hope: All Prince William County high schools rank in Top 6 Percent Nationwide) Middle school was hard all around, for everyone. But we have now, again, another clean slate and right off a chance for her to make friends with kids who have similar interests. She does best when she's busy, opposite what she says she wants to do which is, oh, nothing. She had this idea that come summer she'd sleep until noon, spend her waking hours at the beach with some friends, stay up all night and repeat the next day. Not quite reality as she now has:
Sunday: swimming 7-9p (until July 30)
Monday: swimming 7-9p (until July 30)
Tuesday: marching band 6-8p (until July 3)
Wednesday: free day
Thursday: marching band 6-8p (until July 3)
Friday: swimming 8-10a (until July 30)
Saturday: swim meet 6:30-12:30p (until July 31)
The schedule will shift some each week, allowing for Katherine marching in the Dale City 4th of July parade, a day at Kings Dominion and other activities. Like this:
July 19-23: boys to Civil War camp 9-12p
July 19-23: K to Band Camp 9-3p
July 26 - Aug 6: R to Drama Camp 9-12p
Aug 18-27: K to Marching Band Camp 9-6p
Still working on a week at the beach. And we have one of the kid's friends is staying with us for a few weeks, so we'll fit in trips to Mason Neck Park, a trip downtown, Luray Caverns maybe?
Let's hop into summer full throttle, k.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Music in the Air

The end of the school year brings about all the end of class performances.

6/1/10: Rebecca started off by introducing the 6th grade chorus. They performed pieces as varied as a Thai song to "The Rainbow Connection" complete with class designed ads and jingles between sets.
6/1/10 - Rebecca opens up the final 6th grade choral concert 6/1/10 - Mr. Lewis with the chorus
6/9/10: The following week was Katherine's 8th grade band concert. The director is having health issues, so the 6th grade band joined the 7th and 8th grade bands, and we were treated to the whole scale of ability. Did I remember to charge up the video camera beforehand? No.
6/9/10 - Katherine is second chair flute 6/9/10 - Katherine plays in the 8th grade final band concert
6/10/10: The next day was the boys' turn to play in front of an audience. Nicholas hopped on the chair, played, and took off back to his seat. Jonathon grabbed the mic to introduce himself then played the longest piece in the booklet, where the last 2 lines were, um, not well practiced. Didn't bother him one bit.
6/10/10 - Jonathon played "Skip to My Lou" 6/10/10 - Nicholas played "Yankee Doodle"
Each evening was a treat. I know many kid performances can be painful, but (having nothing to do with my own kids' participation) I really enjoyed each of these nights.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hello June 1st, Hello summer.

Our lake beach opened this weekend and tonight is the first practice session for summer swim team. The kids are still in school and it's not technically summer yet by the calendar, but I say, and the outside temperatures say, "Close enough." Bring on summer!

We spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon at our neighborhood beach, the kids met up with friends and froze in the water, expended loads of winter-stored energy. Ian and I sat on the hill and enjoyed the breeze. That's how I like to spend my afternoon, I so missed the sound of water and the warmth of summer. Ah.

The end of the school year is a bit of a difficult one this year. Katherine was sick for nearly a week last week, missing several Standards of Learning standardized tests (SOLs for short... way to boost the kids, Virginia!). She had what we assume was Strep though the quick test came back negative. A 104F (40C) fever for two days (down to 103F when we made it to the doctor) and the thick layer of pus on her tonsils dropped her into the Amoxicillin zone anyway. Two days later she was almost back up to speed. Her temperature dropped and she bounced on my bed asking to go to school. No one else got sick, and from what I understand both Strep and Mono are pretty contagious so who knows what random bacterial infection it really was. Funny though, when the nurse asked what her temperature had been the days before, I told her 104F which is the only time I start to actually do anything when my kids have a fever. Before that I tell them to drink and rest but pretty much let them do what they want as long as they aren't throwing up everywhere. When it hits 104F I take regular temps, dose with Motrin, and actually pay attention to their complaints. Bad mom? The nurse seemed a little horrified that she'd gotten that hot, but looking at the big picture and knowing my kids, I know when they get sick they get really sick and the high temp comes with it. It doesn't phase me anymore. Not after you've had a kid convert on her TB test, another get amoebiasis, another suffer Dengue. Just watch, it'll probably be some common U.S. bug that finally does one of us in.
But let's discuss happier things.
May was a great month (aside from Miss K's illness). My dad turned 60: Happy Birthday, Papa! We celebrated our 14th Anniversary: Love you, Ian! Jonathon had his First Communion: Congratulations kiddo! My mom took me on a day trip to Atlantic City: Awesome! Thanks, mom! My parents took the kids for an overnight: Thanks, you're awesome grandparents! I finished my two classes: Woohoo! The beach opened: Hello summer!
June is going to have a hard time beating May. I mean, even yard sales kick into gear in May. And the farmer's market really gets going in May too. May rocks.
My mom and I haven't had a trip together since February 2006 when she met me in London for my medevac. Just the two of us for 10 days in London, what's not to love? Aside from the surgery part it was a ton of fun. So when she said there was a trip planned to A.C. and did I want to go, well, of course I was going to go. Leave the kids with dad... get two nights sleep in my old quiet home (and wow is it quiet when it's just me and my parents. Was it always that quiet when I was a kid?).. and spend a day with mom walking the boardwalk, window shopping and eating junk food? I'm totally there.
By the new shopping zone... Ice cream on the beach in front of the Taj Mahal
NO way!!
The Taj Mahal takes its theme pretty seriously I guess. There's so little in the way of entertainment at the A.C. casinos that it totally cracked me up that one of the draws is A.R. Rahman (the guy who wrote the music for "Slumdog Millionaire"). I know there are tons of Indians in New Jersey, saw plenty all day, but still, it's a small world.
AR Rahman at the Consulate.
The dude in the vest, sitting just off to the right of middle... that's him at the Chennai Consulate a year ago. He's a big deal in India.
Unfortunately I came down with a near-migraine on the bus ride home. Near because I was somewhat functional, but still threw up and the Motrin hardly touched the pain. Ah well, I should know that bus rides and I don't get along, much like boats and I. And roller coasters and I. And swings and I. And smooth riding vehicles and I. Hmm, think I have ear trouble?
It was still a fun trip with mom, ice cream and funnel cake, shopping and losing $10 in slots. What's next, Mom?
Immediately following was Ian and my 14th Anniversary. This year: quiet day at home, nice lunch out at Daks Grill, some errands, activities of an old married couple. Saturday night my parents took the kids and we stayed at the Key Bridge Marriott and enjoyed a stroll along M Street. Proving our old-fogeyhood, dinner was pizza and beer at Pizzeria Paradiso. Not any old pizza and beer though, wood-fired whole wheat Atomica pizza with a St Louis Framboise Lambic beer. Ian had a sour Kriek beer and a whole wheat, um, Bosco pizza I believe. It was yummy. Yummy yummy. And we followed up our yummy pizza and beer with cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes. Cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake at $2.75 a pop. They are rich and dense and practically a meal unto themselves, and there is a line. There is always a line. I recommend the coconut.
Next year, Las Vegas. Maybe. What recommendations do you have for a 15th Wedding Anniversary?