I am waaaaaaaaay overdue for updating this blog, and I do apologize. It has been over a month, but my gosh, I can’t believe how busy we’ve been!
I am learning not to make plans any more. We make plans and then everything changes. We have planned to go back to DC since our first trip back in August and guess what? We haven’t made it yet! Sheesh!!!
November was an absolute whirlwind. I honestly can’t believe it has been and gone, and I have no idea where it went!!! The only thing that really stuck in my head when I sat down to write this update is our Thanksgiving vacation. I looked back through our photos and I think perhaps it’s possible that I’ve even been too busy to take pictures! I am extremely thankful that I had in mind to keep a paper journal for Penny. I found an awesome journal at the local bookstore and every night with only one exception so far (the night we arrived at my mother’s house at 2AM), I have written in it daily. I will make a bound photocopy of it before I give it to Penny at the end of the year.
Anyway, here’s what I can tell you for sure we did:
November 9, Penny performed in her first concert at school. She sang with her choir class. The class is divided into men and women and at the time, Penny was singing second soprano. The women’s choir sang 3 or 4 songs and we proudly waved to her from our seats in the back of the auditorium—as close as we could get unfortunately by the time we got over there! We were very grateful that our friend Sherry Harrison came to the concert to support Penny and afterwards we all gave her flowers and met her friend, Stephanie, for the first time.
November 11 was Veteran’s Day and we took Penny up to Ikea to meet up with my friend Emily. Penny had never been to Ikea before, so we went over there and had lunch and wandered around. Penny liked the chocolate cake a lot!
Somewhere in there, Penny also auditioned for the district choir. She was not ultimately selected, but we were so proud of her for having the guts to even try. Her choir teacher ultimately decided to move her to the alto section, where I think she is a lot more comfortable singing as well. She is such a songbird. She loves to sing here all the time and has music on a lot. She has taken a particular shine to Wham! so if we hear that there is a resurgence in Wham!’s popularity in Thailand next year, George Michael can send me a cut of the royalties.
November also marks a major holiday in Thailand, that being Loy Krathong. Loy Krathong is a festival in Thailand in which the Thai people create beautiful boats out of banana leaves and send them floating down the river hoping to have the sins of their year absolved. You can read more about it by clicking here. Penny decided to teach us how to make our own krathongs and we would float them here locally to celebrate her customs. Penny had a lot of leftover tissue paper from her birthday paper, and cut it into strips to fashion a rough equivalent of the leaves that would typically be in a krathong. She taught me the folding method, which I struggled with quite a bit at first, but after folding 40 or 50 of them, I quickly got the hang of it and we made a krathong for each member of the family. I sent Penny’s mom a picture and she suggested we fill them with flowers as would be traditional, so on the day we were due to set them off, November 21, I went and picked up carnations at the local grocery store. We filled them and sent them down the river at a local park here in Fredericksburg. It was a very lovely moment.
My friend Jacalyn of Emerald Lens Photography came with us to take family photos for our Christmas cards and she photographed the occasion as well. There are some pictures on her photo blog if you are interested.
On November 23rd, all our company began arriving for Thanksgiving. My father was here and our best friends Mike and Lesley flew up from Atlanta. We had an awesome Thanksgiving together and Penny enjoyed making a big meal with us and she really loved the turkey! We put her to work in the kitchen and she was into everything up to her elbows, from making pie to making gravy to setting our table just beautifully.
Post-Thanksgiving we took our annual trip up to the Christmas Attic in Alexandria. Afterwards, we started decorating the house for Christmas, most notably putting up Christmas lights, which Penny also enjoyed helping with.
(Yes, she was insane enough to be wearing shorts!)
Once everyone left and we took a deep breath, we started getting ready for Christmas. I perform with a local choir, so I have been running back and forth to choir practice as well as my regular book club meeting. Penny has had a ton of tests and papers and projects she’s had to do. We got out all our decorations for Christmas except the tree, which we will put up the weekend of December 18th. We have started baking cookies and we attended a free concert by the US Marine Corps Band at Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center. Penny has never experienced cold weather like we have here in Virginia (and I have to say, it’s been an exceptionally cold winter so far!), so we talked her into buying a coat, explaining that her yellow sweatshirt was not going to cut it. I had gotten Leah a little lamb hat to keep her warm and Penny fell madly in love with it and looked all over for a “cute” hat like that, but couldn’t find one. Fortunately, I found one at JC Penney’s and bought it for her and we gave it to her as an early Christmas present. She and Leah looked adorable at Wolf Trap.
After we had been there ten minutes, however, Penny exclaimed, “I have changed my mind about seeing snow!”
Penny also made a new friend in a missionary, Jon, who has just returned from a couple of years living in Thailand and was looking for someone to experience Thailand and Thai culture and language with as he adjusts to life back in the US. They met up at the mall and spent a couple of hours together chatting and whatnot. Penny also had an amazing time spending a night at her liaison’s house with 2 of the other exchange students. They went to the theater to see Tangled in 3D, Penny’s first American cinematic experience. Now she wants to find someone to go see Narnia with her, as she is a great fan of it. Hopefully she will find a friend to go with her!
We have introduced Penny to the tradition of the Advent wreath and have been teaching her how to light a match and then she can light the candles. (I was a regular firebird by the time I was 10, probably due to the Girl Scouts and their evil camping influence, so the idea she could be 18 and not know how to light a match struck me as very strange!) We do a reading each week, which I think she feels a bit more relaxed about since it is not overly religious in tone.
Penny also helped us with our traditional “stuffing of the Christmas cards”—something she cannot believe we did. We mailed out 73 of our 74 cards so far, and she couldn’t believe that many Americans send out that quantity at the holidays. I explained that Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate the love we have for our family and friends and that while it is time consuming, it is so nice to give and receive cards to those we love. I don’t know if she was convinced or not, but she IS enjoying when we receive cards. My mom sent her a special Christmas card to commemorate her trip to Disney and Penny was so touched!
She is now in the spirit of the whole present thing. Last night she helped me wrap Leah’s presents, as well as gifts for my niece and nephew. She snooped around a bit since there were a few presents for her in the pile downstairs, but she didn’t gather much from her reconnaissance. Most of her presents are wrapped and stashed elsewhere because I suspect she is a bit of a spy, just like I was! Patience, Penny, only 16 more days till you get your loot! :)
Of course, we have crammed in tons of Skip Bo and Yahtzee and yesterday Penny and I finally, finally, finally finished Super Mario Bros. for Wii. Now we are trying to decide what to do to fill our time since we have been sweating that game for months!
This weekend we will have dinner with friends tomorrow evening, attend a Christmas pageant at my friend’s house on Saturday and hopefully take a quick trip into DC to have a peek at the national Christmas tree. Sunday our neighbor has invited us to see her son in the church Christmas pageant. We will also probably start baking serious quantities of cookies soon, which is something Penny is extremely excited about. She will be performing in another choir concert on the 16th and she has offered to babysit Leah and the neighbor’s little boy so Lisa and I can go Christmas shopping this week and I can finish it off! Then my friend Joe will arrive on the 17th for the weekend that will include putting up our tree, my concert, my father’s arrival, taking cookies to the neighbors, and last minute preparations before the big day. I hope to sneak in a trip to the mall to get a picture with Santa Claus too.
Hopefully it won’t take me 6 weeks to update from Christmas and New Year!!! It’s hard to believe we are coming up on 4 months since the kids arrived, and only 6 months of this wonderful experience left. Impossible to believe!