Thursday, December 29, 2011

We should do this more often.

On top of all the other wonderful gifts, Ian and I gave one to each other of Time. It's been a long year, one a little trying on both of us and though we're closer now than we ever have been we still need to reconnect periodically, away from home and kids and chores and work. We had an overnight in DC to see a Capitals game last winter. We managed to get away to Las Vegas for a few days in April for our 15 year anniversary. And yesterday we went to Hershey, PA to see a Hershey Bears (AHL hockey farm team to the Caps) game vs. the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (farm team to the Pittsburgh Penguins).

12/28/11: Waiting for the Bears game to start

12/28/11: Holtby (1) warming up to sit on the bench

AHL games are great fun to attend. It's a little like a minor league baseball game. For cheap tickets, you can sit up near the action (we were in row H in section 119, right by the locker tunnel and the Bears bench), worry about getting hit in the head with a puck, and hear the players toss curses at each other. It wasn't even cold. There were tons of raffles (sadly we didn't win the signed Backstrom jersey) and prizes and nifty affordable souvenirs, like the Holtby-signed puck Ian added to his collection. The food is generally pretty good too.

A great time, even with a 6-5 loss in a shoot-out. Who likes shoot-outs anyway? Why do them, and not sudden death overtime?

This morning we spent some time in the Hershey part of Hershey, PA, at Chocolate Town. Of course the requisite free automated tour, but also the Hershey University tasting class.

12/29/11: Waiting for the Tasting "master class"





Never chew.

12/29/11: We did the Tasting Tour at Chocolate World.

There were several other activities, all a little costly and all very much packed with tons of very small children, so we visited the gifts shop for treats for the family and left it at that. Besides the chocolate tang in the air was a little smothering. Fresh air was welcome.

12/29/11:  Pounds of chocolate to thank your Professor Snape

12/29/11: We needed fresh air after the Chocolate World visit

On our way home, through the flurries of snow, we stopped in Gettysburg, picked up a little something,

12/29/11: "Tears of Gettysburg" white

then returned to our children and the wonderful people who took care of them, my parents. I know that 4 kids is a handful (and they already had my grandmother staying with them), but they take the monsters when we really need a break and do so happily. I think the kids may have missed us a bit, but they get well-spoiled at the grandparents' house. Both girls were taken to the hair salon by grandpa. There was a partially done 3D puzzle on the floor (Rebecca insists looking at the image on the box is cheating), along with an almost complete Scrabble game. The mini-foosball game the grands got the kids is a huge hit. Cookies and doughnuts were freshly baked.

A very very nice evening away for everyone and a reminder that we all need a little time away from each other to be better when we're back together.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Georgetown Tour

Katherine's goal is to attend Georgetown University. Even with the rain and the cold, we traipsed around the campus, learned a little history and determined to come back when school is in session and when the weather is more accommodating. Thankfully we can do that on our own, and add in a trip to Georgetown Cupcake for good measure.

We have a few more tours to go, but for now Georgetown is still her top pick (followed by GMU and then Marymount).

Katherine is excited, and I'm excited for her.

Christmas 2011

We're one of those mean families that doesn't let the kids wake up at the crack of dawn and tear through gifts willy-nilly. Actually, we're one of those families that often goes to Midnight Mass, then comes home and eats something, THEN opens gifts until the wee hours of the morning. On years we don't go to Midnight Mass, we attend church Christmas morning, have some lunch, and finally get around to gifts on Christmas afternoon. When we're in the States this allows my parents to get to our house where we hold a big opening for several hours. It used to take longer as we opened one gift at a time for all to see but we smartened up and now pass around gifts to an assortment of people and open in shifts. This way takes roughly 1/2 the time and we're not all glazed over by the end. A little coffee and dessert and we can settle in an enjoy what we've shared.

12/25/11:  Sometimes I feel we should ask "where's the tree?"

12/25/11: Gingerbread house.

12/25/11:  Dessert and bread awaits

12/25/11: Christmas dinner

The big gifts were big hits. Katherine received an art kit for her drawing from grandparents and a new iPod Nano from parents. Rebecca has her room in Jordan outfitted with new bedding, some matching bits, and a chandelier from grandma and grandpa's house (they got a new one and gave her the old one to spray paint and bring to Jordan). Nicholas got stylin' clothes (yes, he's a bit of a fashion hound) from the grands and great-grand, and a gel ball shooter from dad. Jonathon's big gifts from both the grandparents and parents were building projects. He's already built a catapult with his kit and was shooting mini-marshmallows all over the living room. The hand-me-down Kindle from dad was also a big hit. In addition there were loads of "little" items, but every item spoke directly to the recipient. Slippers were very popular as was every form of Washington Capitals gear. I have an awesome set of slippers from Restoration Hardware thanks to my grandma, and a Caps Weagle pillow pet from Ian. Does he know me or does he know me? My parents showered the family with gifts. We are spoiled and, well, spoiled.

12/25/11: The grands got a Babycakes Doughnut Maker

12/25/11: Wearing his new hat, and holding mom's Weagle pillow pet

12/25/11:  Reading off his new Kindle (hand-me-down)

But truly, the best part was having the whole family together. We're a small group. Ian and I and the kids. My parents. And whenever possible, my grandmother. My mom has siblings in Wisconsin, my dad has siblings in several states, Ian has his mother and his brother, but our nuclear family is the 9 of us. The tough realization is that this was quite possibly the last time we will have Christmas like this, all together.

Stop and treasure the moments.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We'll Miss You, Thom

Our time in India was a challenging one. But you heard me say time and again how we'd end up at Sparky's for a Sunday afternoon or a holiday meal, we'd eat Sparky's food catered to various events and at school, and play countless games of poker with Thom at various venues. Thom was easily one of the brightest spots of our 3 years in Chennai. He was sarcastic and rough and welcomed us over like family. Our last year, he included our family in his Christmas Eve family and friends party at the restaurant. On our last visit to Sparky's before departure he made-to-order whatever our kids wanted. Nicholas had a big bowl of shrimp just for him, something most definitely not on the menu.

Thom was a generous man who moved permanently to Chennai because of his love for the city and its people. He participated on a number of charity boards, was uncle and godfather and fill-in parent to so many of his staff. He touched the lives of so many and even though he knew we at the Consulate are forever temporary (how's that for an oxymoron?), he made us feel like we belonged.

He was a wonderful man laid to rest today after he lost his battle with cancer. We'll miss him.

Thom Petty.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

21:25 to 22:28

Katherine has scoliosis and with that comes regular back checks and periodic x-rays. When she started swimming, her back was giving her issues so we brought her to the family doctor who ordered another x-ray (her last was 6 months ago) and with those results referred her to a spine specialist in Largo, MD. Last Monday turned into a day off from school in order to make the hour drive there, have a 10 minute visit, and an hour drive back.

Last May when she was first diagnosed, her back measured 21degrees on the top curve and 25degrees on the bottom return curve. At her latest check, the top curvature was 22degrees and the lower had progressed to 28 degrees.

Those may not seem like much, but it's become clearer how "crooked" and our favorite term, "swirly," she is. Take a look. Ignore me, I'm actually leaning in since I set the timer on the camera and ran up the stairs and plopped down just as the camera went off. Check out Katherine. She saw the photo and the first thing she said was "But I was sitting as straight as I could! I was thinking about it!"

12/10/11: Showing off our complete team.

Thankfully she's near, if not already, done growing. Along with her curve, she has the typical deep trough between her shoulder blades and when she bends over her shoulder blades are not aligned. Hopefully any further changes should hardly register. The doc did say the best possible exercise is swimming to lengthen and stretch her back, so I wish she kept up with it. She also shouldn't carry every school thing she owns in her bag all day, and then all on one shoulder. In any case, no back brace, no intervention required. So that's good news.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas is in the air, finally.

There was a threat of flurries last night, and that brings with it the smell of snow in the air. The skies are clear and the breeze is brisk.

Bring on the holidays.

Our tree is finally up. Not decorated, and dropping needles all over, but up.

12/7/11: The tree is finally up.  Undecorated, but up!

Our room is NOT pink. Silly camera.

It took a little effort getting the tree ready. Katherine pitched in with trimming the base of the trunk.

12/6/11: Katherine puts in some effort to trim the trunk.

And of course we'll have needles to clean up for... well, until we move probably.

With some of the trimmed branches, we added greenery to our advent wreath.

12/6/11: Extra tree branch bits add to our homemade advent "wreath"

And pulled together a little outdoor wreath.

12/6/11: Extra tree branches turn into a wreath.

We also have up our stockings along the bannister, which were opened on Saint Nicholas Day (December 6), and our VeggieTales nativity scene. Presents are appearing under the tree, cookie doughs are in prep for Sunday baking, and there's a gingerbread house waiting for construction.

Holidays are coming.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some weekends are more fun than others.

This past weekend was one of those really fun ones.

Rebecca had her 8th grade choral concert last Thursday at a concert combined with the 8th grade band and strings orchestra. The band was on par with what I recall from Katherine's 8th grade days. The chorus was decent too, though of the 5 songs they did only one was holiday related. Isn't that odd for a December performance? We shall not speak of the orchestra. We shall speak of Nicholas's strings when the time comes in 2 weeks, but not of the 8th graders.


Rebecca turned 14. Did you read that? Fourteen. Crazy times we live in. She celebrated at school with brownie bites shared with her friends and apparently they papered her locker with well wishes and candies. Kids sang to her at lunch and tackled her with hugs in the halls. *shhhh* Don't tell the administration as there's a strict prohibition (on paper at least) against signs of affection. Especially between girls and boys, but even between the girls themselves. And siblings. Oh yes, my kids have been yelled at for giving each other hugs as they pass in the halls. My son and my daughter. Seriously.

But that's not going to put a pall on a birthday.





She wore a new dress for a special evening out. Along with three friends (and mom, someone has to drive), Rebecca attended the evening performance of "A Christmas Carol" at Ford's Theater.

I thought we had plenty of time to get there. The girls arrived at our home around 4 p.m. and we had another to pick up in Falls Church. The show didn't start until 7:30 and the drive was only supposed to take 45 minutes. Easy. DC traffic has a way of ruining easy. We made it to the theater at 7 and needed a hasty stop at Cosi for some nourishment before the show. I've never been to a Cosi before but those are some very tasty sandwiches, even eaten on the run.

Ford's Theater is small and while in theory every seat should be a great seat, the last row of the balcony... on the left... isn't the best option. Not only is the stage apron blocked, the overhang above the balcony blocks part of the upper portion of the back of the stage, but there are also columns along the front edge of the balcony to the ceiling which effectively causes blind spots along the stage. Getting the tickets was a little last minute back in November and 5 together had a single option. Did any of that matter? Not really. The show was fun and nothing beats live entertainment.


On the way home we stopped for some frosties at Wendy's, and dropped two of the girls off at their homes. It was then we learned that both girls (on the right) live right near our old house on Princedale Dr. Since we were right there, we showed them our old house. Craziness ensued... Rebecca learned that not only did the girls know who lived in the house, but Rebecca knows him too. He's a friend of hers at school. And he bought the house from us in 2003. How I miss that home!

The next morning we were up bright and early. For not only was the weekend a celebration of Rebecca's 14th birthday, it was her Confirmation as well. Confirmation is the final step in faith formation for Catholics. When babies are baptized, parents and godparents make the promises of faith for the child, to teach them about being a Catholic, guide them in being upright citizens, take them to church, etc. Once kids reach middle school or high school, they are considered old enough to make those promises for themselves. By that age, going to church weekly should be ingrained, they should have passing knowledge of the Church and the Faith, and they should be developing a personal relationship with God. In essence, they should be ready to become adults in the church.

Both my girls have taken their Confirmation seriously. It's a big deal to them and I'm proud of them for their interest at a time when so many kids turn away from God and their faith. It's a hard decision at the age when everything seems to be out to get them. Ah, teenagers. Gotta love them. But it was theirs to make, and while it was a matter of course for our family (Baptism is followed by First Penance is followed by First Communion is followed by Confirmation) I'm proud of them for taking the meaning behind the Sacrament to heart.




After a fabulous lunch at Red Lobster, and yet more gifts and cake, there was a little music. Very little music. My mom doesn't really play the cello (she does play the guitar), and the boys don't play guitar and Rebecca is currently learning guitar, so a "little music" is actually being generous.


You know what? My family is pretty cool. Not always in big things, but in so many little things. They make me smile.