Sunday, September 21, 2014

Festival Time

Yesterday we made our yearly trek to the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival, where we spent the day listening to music and seeking shade, along with 10,000 of our fellow festival friends.
Tie dye is VERY popular at the festival, so we always wear our rainbow brightest. The girls had new tie dye shirts this year.

I have been to "Bluegrass" for most of the past 20 some years in all sorts of weather - hot, cold, wet, windy, and the rare perfect day. This year was a hot year. A steaming, sweaty, miserable 94 degrees. We drank a lot of water and snacked on anything cold.

But we don't go to the festival for the weather. We go for the music. Lots and lots of music. There are four stages of musicians playing non-stop from 9:00 AM to midnight. And it's not just bluegrass music. There is folk, celtic, western swing, gospel, and assorted combinations - anything that can be played on acoustic instruments. Yesterday, I heard the Hallelujah Chorus played on guitar, Charlie Parker jazz on a fiddle, and more than one Beatles song on whatever instrument was at hand! My personal favorites are John McCutcheon, the marvelous singer/songwriter/story teller/folk musician,
and the celtic music. There was a celtic group with the goofy name Socks in the Frying Pan who were straight from Ireland and were quite entertaining. They were rather astounded by Kansas heat!
Seeking some shade in the afternoon, we left the festival proper and wandered into the campgrounds. It didn't take us long to find Carp Camp, a loose group of musicians that share a love of traditional celtic music. They set up a big tent and invite anyone who wishes to come and play with them, or just sit and listen. We sat for an hour just watching in awe, as various people wandered in and out with instruments in hand. They'd listen a moment and then join in the jigs and reels (and an impromptu Yellow Rose of Texas) without any music or often even the name of the tune. It was wonderful!

My parents and sister were there, and we saw lots of friends. We had a good time just hanging out together.
And despite the heat and the dust and the sweat, it was clear that the music was good for all of our souls.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Gotcha! (X5)

Five years ago today (5!!), we welcomed Rachel Fu Shen into our family.
We were so thrilled to finally meet her, but we had no idea who she really was or what she was like. We certainly never imagined how much energy, laughter, excitement, and affection she would bring to our lives!
This girl stole my heart five years ago today, and I have never been the same. Love you, Rae!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Monkeying Around

Rachel's PE class has been getting baseline information on physical skills - running, push ups, sit ups, etc. One day this week, they did chin ups. Rachel hooked part of her left arm over the bar for balance, lowered her right arm, and then pulled her body up high enough to chin the bar. Six times. More than any other kid in her grade and more than the majority of kids in the building.  Rae gets to claim the title of Chin Up Queen!

So in honor of Miss Muscles, we went to the park this evening to document one of Rachel's favorite activities: climbing on top of the tall monkey bars.

It is quite a feat of strength and perseverence and Rae does it whenever she gets a chance. Katherine may have been born in the year of the monkey, but Rachel is my Monkey Girl!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The First Week

We survived the first week of school!

Rachel was a bit reluctant to start 1st grade. She has a different teacher than Katherine did, and she was sure that Mrs. H was not going to be "fun". And her first day was not the best... She got mad at a couple of boys in her class and hit them. This, of course, got her in trouble. And for all her orneriness, Rae hates to be in trouble. When her teacher came to talk to me after school, Rachel started sobbing. She cried most of the way home. She was planning on having Katherine sign her behavior chart and when I pointed out that she would still need to tell Dad, she cried some more. She eventually got herself under control and asked with all seriousness "Why do I have to have a punishment every single time I'm bad?"

Since that rocky first day, Rachel has done just fine in first grade. She has managed not to hit anyone else. She's played the triangle and maracas in music class. She's made some new friends. She aced her very first spelling test. And she thinks Mrs. H is "the best teacher ever!"

Katherine is now a 5th grader (a fact that continues to stun and amaze me...). She has known for years that once she finished 4th grade, she would move from the little elementary school where I teach to the large Intermediate School in the town where we live. She has worried about that since she was Rae's age and has been on major anxiety alert for the past six months. New school. New town. New friends. New routine. That was a LOT of change for my girl who hates change! But when the start of school finally rolled around, Kate couldn't wait to go. She was done worrying and was just ready for the adventure. And she has managed it all beautifully!

Katherine goes to school with Steve and rides the bus to her building, moves between classrooms and teachers for different subjects, finds her way around the building with 400 other 5th and 6th graders, does her homework in class, and rides the bus back to Steve's school at the end of the day. She thinks 5th grade is fabulous and hops out of bed ready to go every morning. She's delighted to have a wider diversity of kids in her classes and is looking forward to teachers asssigning "real work". She is also madly in love with the accessories of intermediate school - notebooks, binders, agenda book, photo ID. Her only complaint has been that orchestra is a zoo - with 60 kids trying out stringed instruments for the first time, I'm sure it is!

We are all enjoying sleeping in and taking it easy this Labor Day weekend, but when Tuesday rolls around, we'll all be ready to go back to school.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Asian Market at Botanica

Our favorite botanical gardens had an Asian Market this evening, with vendors selling food and trinkets and groups providing entertainment. Despite hot, steamy weather, we loaded up and went.

The girls were delighted to have a chance to wear their fancy Chinese clothes. Rachel's outfit was from her province and I've never seen anything like it anywhere else!
Katherine has outgrown all of her little girl silks and now shops the women's section of Chinese shops. Her newest blouse is gorgeous, and so grown up.
There were food vendors selling all sorts of Asian food - Chinese, Malaysian, Filipino, Taiwanese. We bought an assortment to share. Rice, noodles, egg rolls, dumplings, tea eggs, mochi balls, curry puffs, and the lovely coconut flavored jello stuff were all a hit!
This was Kate's ideal meal - lots of interesting tastes and textures.
Rachel was happy to sample food, sit on all the adults' laps, and play with Granny's camera.
After we finished eating, there was a lion dance performance. These lions were amazing!
There were also traditional dance performances by dancers of various ages, all in beautiful costumes.
It was too miserably hot and humid to explore the gardens, but I did make sure to visit the water lillies. I can never get enough of them!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Belly Flop

Our neighbor invited my girls to come and swim in her pool this evening. The girls were delighted to take her up on that idea!
After some splashing and posing...
...the pool party turned in to one long game of Name That Jump. Watch me do a bird jump! I call this one the Tornado! Here's a Vampire Bat! The Grandma! Let's do a Shark!

The last big splash of the summer was a lot of fun!

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way