Tuesday, September 2, 2014

two days in

Two days in to the public school fall semester.  And we are here.  Sometimes just getting through the day is a victory worth celebrating, huh?

Sunday morning's news from the academic dean was exactly what we were hoping for - the girls were cleared to attend only in the afternoons ... this is our dreamed of situation.... the academic intensity lessens in the afternoon sessions and we are also exempting ourselves from the home work overload :)  good news for everyone!  

The first day wasn't without hiccups, but for the most part, we'll count it a good one :)  Today went even smoother, and I'm learning to navigate the pick up scenario too.  So very grateful this school is super close to our house, but there's just no easy way to dismiss hundreds (thousands?) of students at the same time!  Yesterday was chaos, today seemed like a comparative breeze.  Plenty of kinks to work out for everybody.  

I feel even better about our home schooling set up.  It's busy busy busy with the little boys underfoot but we are enjoying the material and enjoying one another.  I still have a few ideas of things to add to the current curriculum but we're gonna hold off a month or so and just focus on getting into a good solid groove around here.

It feels good to be in September.  All summer long I've had this feeling - like I could see and talk about all the balls in the air, but wasn't quite sure where they were going to land when they came down :)  And now it feels like they are landing, and with few mishaps along the way.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

happy valley

Big highlight from last week, in the midst of the crazy... a trip to Happy Valley.

Happy Valley is a large scale amusement park, and even though many of the rides were not an option for my little people (only Julianna barely tall enough for the 1.3m height requirement on many of them) - well, they had a great kids area and even Luke qualifies when the height requirement is 0.9m!  ha!

Rides for everyone.... (the older three were such good sports and enjoyed these along with the little guys who were thrilled!)

And then some rides that the big ones could enjoy - Isaac (1.1m) was exactly the right height to qualify for this one

And this one was golden for both girls (and their Daddy!)

Julianna was doubtful at first but ended up loving the swings -

And these little boys rode more than one carousel.

Plus, a really cool climbing web in the playground area

and a water feature that delighted Luke and his buddy Layla.

We will be heading back to Happy Valley again.  Spent the afternoon and evening their with lots of friends and it was such a treat.  Just a gift, in the middle of some crazy situations.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

get ready, get set,

Registration at the girls' elementary school was this morning.  It's more of a half day prep day type thing -  Matt dropped them off at their classrooms and then waited for a chance to talk to the academic dean about our scheduling/attendance hopes.  [Things are looking good - we'll hear the final word tomorrow but we are hopeful that the school will agree to let the girls just attend afternoon classes.]

Excitement (and a bit of nervousness) was the theme of the morning - they both picked out favorite dresses, then added their uniform jacket (even though it was too hot and then ended up taking them off before they left Matt!).  They loaded up their backpacks with school supplies and headed out the door.  Lydia balked a bit before walking in to her classroom but Julianna pranced in as confident as ever.  It's been nine months since they last attended school there, so it's a bit of a readjustment.  Word from the girls was that their classmates are glad to have them back and Lydia was especially excited to see one of her favorite school buds.

After talking to the dean Matt walked back by their classrooms and took a few pictures.

They each came home with a backpack FULL of books!

Isaac worked on Happy First Day of School signs for each of them.

All smiles here but he didn't have the best afternoon.... fell from a monkey bar type thing and really managed to do a job on his face.  Swollen nose, big bump on forehead, busted lip, extra scratches.  It's the real deal.  We scrambled to try to get some medical advice and - unless the nose is looking much worse tomorrow - I think we'll avoid anything more significant than ice and tylenol.  I'm slightly concerned his nose might be fractured?  But the swelling seems to be decreasing so hopefully we'll get a better look in the morning.  He had a rough stretch but perked up before bed and seems ok.  I'm expecting we'll hear from him in the night when the Tylenol wears off.

Honestly, after the past two weeks I'm feeling stretched fairly thin.  We could use an easy day tomorrow.  Cause it's back to school on Monday and that's no small deal.

Local school enrollment brings more blessing to our family than I could try to list in one sitting.  It also consistently proves to be a very effective means of keeping me humble.  I'm not totally ready for another big slice of humble pie, but it's gonna be on my plate this week, that's for sure.  [And if you have a child attending school in your home culture, and you spot another parent who is clearly the fish out of water .... give them a big smile for me.  It's harder than it seems.]

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

on the run

One of those weeks.  No point in listing out the many factors driving up the intensity but this will not go down in the record books as one of our smoothest.  

We've tried to keep up a semblance of home school.  Just a smidge of school work to keep the boat floating.  Due to some issues at our apartment we are not able to be home much this week..... not being home certainly makes home school tricky :)

But we work with it :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

two girls

These two are just charming!  A pair of daughters is turning out to be pretty great stuff for this momma.

They are such good friends it's almost eerie.  I cannot imagine one without the other.  They have their moments ("Mom, she's trying to finish first on purpose to make me sad" and "Tell her not to look at my paper or she'll just copy it, she always wants to draw what I'm drawing" and "I'm not taking her dirty clothes to the laundry basket, she can do it herself") but mostly they spend 95% of their lives within several feet of one another - and live to tell about it, happily!

I do not take it for granted.  Gentle personalities, loads of grace, lots of time together... that's what we've been gifted.  And I'm grateful.

Tonight I'm home.  Alone!  Yay for me!  It's been a long week and we haven't seen much of Matt and - incredibly - the crazy is just getting started.  He got home today and I was so thankful to see him that I locked myself in our room and he took the kids out for noodles :)  This quiet home is like a dream.  He'll be back for baths/bed (I told him not to hurry! ha!) but this little heart of mine needed quiet and I'm thankful for two hours.  Off to whip up a quick something to eat and do some reading.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Some pictures are most definitely worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

first days

You know it's complicated when you juggle THREE different "first days of school".  Bonus if you have multiple house guests going separate directions and somehow find yourself many days behind on laundry put-away.

We are currently rocking this system where I put folded laundry (my house helper does most of the folding.... bless her!) in rows on the kitchen table, one row per child.  Girls are easy... they each put their own row away.  Lydia sorts and puts away girl underwear and bathing suits and other extras.  The boys stuff I divide each row into stacks of shirts, shorts and pjs.  Isaac also gets a pile of underwear (he and JP share).  Isaac and John Paul put away their own stacks.  Luke is "in training" - he puts away his own stacks but with some coaching from Julianna!

It only takes me a quick minute to lay out the stacks and then I'm off duty :)

{I can't even think about winter when we'll be wearing 2-3 times the clothing!  For right now I'll celebrate that laundry is an easy victory!}

So our first first day?  Home school!  We started Tuesday morning and just such a sweet sweet day!  One of our house guests stepped in and helped with the little boys which meant the morning work went super fast! Few distractions!  Great attitudes from the girls and I'm filled with gratitude for a good day.  Will be remembering this one when the going gets rough later this fall!

[no pics. whoops.  I'll get them on the next first day.]

Next up in the first day series?  Isaac's first day of preschool - he's technically Kindergarten age but in China that means it's his last year of preschool.... Isaac and Matt went to school on Sunday afternoon to finish registration.

And then started today (Wednesday).  He's now going five mornings a week (this feels like a lot to me but we'll stick with it for now).  Isaac didn't seem to loose much of his language while we were home - or at least it came back fairly quickly - but I'm still expecting him to make some big strides this year in local language.

Isaac with the sibs at pick up!  He is definitely my most likely to balk when leaving Mommy - this little guy likes to be with me!  But he did so well this morning (after a 9 month break from preschool!) and was still smiles at pick up!  whew.

And our final first day is September 1st - first day of local elementary school for the girls.  We still have some kinks to work out with the administration on their hours of attendance, hoping we can figure out a schedule that is healthy expectations for them but also smooth for the school.

In the meantime they have started working with a tutor who is drilling them through much of the grammar they missed last spring.  The girls are in a strong spot with spoken language (so thankful!) but need plenty of help with reading and writing.  Those pesky characters are just so complicated :)  I'm already encouraged by their work with the tutor (and she'll continue once school starts - moving through the school material but at a bit slower pace and focusing on certain skills while ignoring some of the other work!).

Surely this will only get more complicated as the little two get older.  We would love to start John Paul at preschool but feel like he needs to focus on English (not comprehension, but clarity of speech) for now.  He and Luke are definitely picking up some language as we settle in here and speaking a bit more (real simple stuff) but our experience shows that they will need to be in a full immersion environment before we really start to see them operate comfortably in their second language.  Thinking about starting them in the spring....