Monday, June 20, 2011

Travels and Passages

In the nearly 2 weeks since my last post, we have been BUSY!  Most of the things I predicted we’d be doing have been done.

June 10, I followed through on my thoughts that we’d go out to Luray to visit the caverns.  It was a great plan in that it gave us something cool and different to see and was underground where Penny wouldn’t have to worry about the sun.  It was also nice and COOL down there, unlike above ground which has been sweltering! 

P1100923 We left in the morning, and got out to Luray in time for lunch.  I decided we’d go and try to have lunch at a local restaurant and found the Artisan Grille, where we enjoyed fancy sandwiches before heading over to the caverns.  Penny was disappointed that there wasn’t any blackberry ice cream, something she had LOVED when she went hiking on Skyline Drive with Melissa back in May, so we didn’t have dessert, but we had a great lunch nonetheless.  It was only about a mile from the entrance to the caves, so the location was great and it had stairs that Leah insisted on running up and down, so Penny and I got our exercise!

There was something in the cavern air, because the minute we got underground, Leah took a look around, declared it “WEIRD!” at the top of her lungs, and proceeded to scream (there’s an awesome echo in caves) and run wild.  Penny and I were wiped out by the end of the tour, but Leah had an absolute ball and slept all the way home!  The caves were beautiful—I had been once in 1995, and had pictures but to see them in person is absolutely incredible.

P1100964Penny declared them “awesome” in stark contrast to Leah’s “weird” and we enjoyed the challenge of getting a decent picture of her that didn’t either obliterate her or obliterate the scenery.  This is one miraculous good one in which both are visible.

P1010836 June 11, we did go up to her AFS liaison’s home for a good-bye party.  It seems early, but April, her liaison, is actually traveling to Sweden to see her exchange student from last year and won’t be back till after Penny leaves.  It was a really nice time, and April gave all 3 girls stuffed animals with jackets that had their names and AFS Virginia and the dates embroidered on them.  Penny’s is packed and ready to go, it was a really sweet gesture and a beautiful keepsake.

P1010872 Penny did go to lunch with the Thai worker and to the honors lunch in Stafford, but there’s not much to report about either other than that they did give Penny a medal at the luncheon, which she doesn’t really know what it was for.  She was just happy to have something special to wear at her graduation ceremony.  We had a nice surprise Wednesday night in that we had been talking to our neighbors down the street and it turns out they LOVE Thai food and want to go to Thailand, so we all decided to go to a local Thai restaurant for dinner and they wound up taking us out.  We had a lovely time and they practically begged us to let them take Leah on graduation day so that we could just enjoy Penny’s ceremony!

After her first graduation rehearsal, her friends Ben and Amanda took her up to Tyson’s Corner for a day of shopping, which made up for the fact that Penny decided she didn’t want to go all the way to Fair Oaks mall after all, particularly since the Thai lady took her to Potomac Mills for a day.  Maybe she has finally had her fill of malls?!  I doubt it though! 

We also took a trip to the local mall for a bit of a time out for mom—Penny had 90 minutes to herself to wander and shop and Leah got checked into the local drop in day care and I hid out in the bookstore that’s closing and went for broke—spend $30 on over $100 worth of books.  We had lunch outside afterwards and my spirits were revived!  So I decided to teach Penny some no bake baking, as her family does not own an oven at home.  I taught her microwave fudge and no bake cookies, both of which were a hit!  I would like to teach her to bake in a cardboard box, but I’m having a difficult time getting my hands on a paper box.

P1120141 Saturday was graduation day.  Penny wore her mystery medal with such pride.  We had to be at the school at 6:45, but I swear she was glowing.  I was so proud during the whole thing and just felt super teary eyed and proud mama-ish, I know I will be an absolute BASKET CASE in 16 years when it’s Leah’s turn!

Penny was thrilled that a number of her friends attended her ceremony as well.  Her best friend, Lesley (bel0w), and friend Stephanie were waiting when I went down to the parents’ picture line to snag a picture of  her receiving her diploma and her friends Charlie and Chrissy were also there, although we missed seeing them somewhere.

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When we got home, my dad had arrived with my niece and nephew and we had a big pizza lunch (when making out a shopping list for the week ahead, Penny said she didn’t want any pizza at all this week!  Too bad, we’re going to NYC and I already told her all we’re eating is pizza!) to celebrate before she headed off to a party at her math teacher’s house.

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That evening we had a chocolate cake to celebrate, Mike and I gave Penny an iCarly game for her DSi as a graduation gift, and then we played lots of Yahtzee and cards until all of us collapsed, exhausted from all the emotions of the day and from chasing 3 toddlers around!

P1010915The next day we had a BBQ for Father’s Day and gave my dad and Mike each mugs that Penny and Leah had painted together.  It was a fun project to work on and something both dads can have to remember the girls.  My dad finally was able to leave to go back to my sister’s around 5pm, which was really hard on Penny.  See this picture?

P1120161This is Leah and my niece, Dot, staring up at my dad in absolute adoration, which is how everyone stares at my dad, and Penny was no exception.  She doesn’t have a grandfather back in Thailand, and I think it really meant a lot to her to have the experience of having a very involved “PopPop” who was around for many of the big events of her year.  She held tight to him and cried her eyes out before he left, and he told her he was proud of her and she had done a hard thing and could be proud of herself for the rest of her life, which thus made me lose it, and Leah lose it after Penny and I were crying.  Sheesh! 

P1120191 This morning, we were up and out at 9am to go up to Baltimore, MD.  I had taken Penny through there on our way to Rhode Island but we’d never made it up there to sightsee.  The purpose of our visit was to see Leah’s birthmother and half sister and go to the Baltimore Aquarium, but also to let Penny see another Hard Rock Cafe.   She’s now seen Ottawa, Boston, and Baltimore.  We’re going to get NY and DC under our belts before all is said and done.

We met up with Leah’s BM/sis at 11:30 and went through the aquarium.  Penny is not what you’d call a great fan of animals, so I think she was just going along for the ride, but she did a nice job of taking lots of pictures for us and I snapped a cute one of her in the rain forest area, where may I say, it was HOT!

P1120214 So that’s where we are with a week to go.  I sat down to make a grocery list tonight and let Penny choose all her favorite meals for the week, so we will be dining on kielbasa and pierogies, homemade boneless chicken wings, and spaghetti with Texas toast, in addition to whatever culinary delights we enjoy in NYC on Thursday and her BBQ/going away party on Saturday.  We sat at the table making the list and Mike said, “I’m going to miss this.  The evenings when Penny did the dishes were my time. I could ask her about school and we could talk.”  And then he started to cry, and Penny started to cry, so I figured I might as well shed a tear or two.  We’re a weepy family these days, but I’m trying to keep in mind the adage:  Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.  And I know we will smile a LOT as we look back on these months together.  I’m so glad we decided to do this.  It’s been an unforgettable experience, so much more than I dared hope for.

See you all with a post on NYC and then a departure post before wrapping up the blog! :0D


  1. Baking in a cardboad box...we did that in Girl Scouts! I might have a box, remind me tomorrow.

    You are making kielbasa and pierogies and it's not 3 Kings...I'm there. Friday night would be perfect! LOL! Your boneless wings are awesome too... Penny's got great taste!

  2. We will be getting a girl from Thailand in august. She is a practicing Buddhist. We live 60 miles from a temple but we like to know if you daughter practiced or not. We are an older couple but are looking forward to having an young lady in the home. We live in a very small town, 800 people. We live 1 mile out of town on 100 acres.
    Eak is 16 and will be placed in the senior class the principle said, even if she needs to take sophomore or junior English.