Thursday, June 9, 2011


Yesterday was Penny’s last official day of school.  She had a great day, finished on an X day, which she prefers to Y days, so that made her happy, she took lots of pictures with her friends and teachers, and failed her SOL test.  Maybe she took us a bit too seriously when we told her, “Don’t stress out over it!”.  So it’s possible she will have to take a history final but her teacher is going to try and wangle her an exemption since she had an A in the class all year.  (He is also her favorite teacher, and speaks a bit of Thai—primarily curse words—so I expect she will not go take that test!).  Penny has her last final tomorrow in government, and then she’s done!

Tuesday night, I decided we had all better sit down together and discuss our last 3 weeks together, or at least our last 3 weeks on this leg of our family adventure.  Penny’s school has all kinds of wild exam schedules, she has luncheons and rehearsals and things to go to, she’s been making plans with friends, and we’re trying to do a few things as a family as well!

So, we all sat down together and Penny reported that on Monday, she walked all over our neighborhood and cried, wondering when she will ever get to come back here again.  When she got home, she just stood in the backyard and sobbed.  I wasn’t home, or I’d have given her a big hug.  She was really excited in February that things were even beginning to wind down, but now that June is here, her emotions are much more mixed.  As I said, “It’s one thing to want something to be over, it’s quite another to have it end.”  And she agreed.  And I think we’re all getting emotional.  Today, I took the girls out (more on that in a bit) and I watched them playing together and I got teary-eyed to say the least!

Anyway, so we got out a pen and paper and worked out our schedule for the next 3 weeks.  Here’s what it looks like:

June 10:  Government final.  She was supposed to go shopping with her buddy, Ben, but he canceled tonight, so that’s out.  Now I am thinking that since her final is done at 9:40, I’ll pick her up and take her and Leah out to Luray Caverns.  It’d be a nice little day trip and it’s underground so we don’t have to worry about being out in the sun.

June 11:  We have an AFS picnic to go to in Stafford, and then her favorite TV show, iCarly, is having a 90 minute special that we MUST. BE. HOME. TO. WATCH.

June 12:  There is a Thai woman who works in the school cafeteria who wants to take Penny to a nearby mall.  Otherwise, we will be having a BBQ with my sister, which is happening with or without Penny.

June 13:  Broadway night at her high school.  Many of her friends are performing, and she’s excited to go.

June 14:  The long awaited trip to Fair Oaks Mall and The Cheesecake Factory. 

June 15:  Honors luncheon in Stafford

June 16:  Graduation rehearsal and long awaited trip to Tyson’s Corner with Ben.

June 17:  Graduation rehearsal

June 18:  Graduation!

June 19:  Say goodbye to my dad, her PopPop, who she adores.  I expect this is going to be a really tough day for her.  It’s also Father’s Day, so we’ll be celebrating The Chief and she and I are going to plan something special for the day.

June 20:  Trip up to Baltimore to see the Hard Rock Cafe and aquarium and meet Leah’s birthmother for lunch.  I think this is going to be very meaningful for Penny and I hope helps her to understand the sacrifices parents make so that their children can have good lives.  Maybe it will make her consider what her parents have done for her and how grateful she can and should be to them.

June 21, 22:  Nothing yet!  Hopefully she will begin packing!

June 23-24:  We are hoping this is going to be our NYC trip.  We’ve had some things happen around here that make it impossible for us to fully foot the bill for the NY trip and asked Penny to find out if her family would help pay for her train ticket.  We haven’t heard back yet, but if so, we have agreed that she has done what we’ve asked her to do and deserves to see the city.  Leah will stay with my good friend, Melissa, and Penny and I will head up to NYC.  I can’t stop singing “N Y C!  What is it about you?!” from “Annie”.  I’m scrapping the plans for a hotel and Broadway show, instead planning on a hostel and Madame Tussaud’s, but I think we’re going to have a great trip anyway.

June 25:  Good bye party.  Her last chance to bid her friends from the year good bye.

June 26:  Finish packing, probably a last tour of DC and Fredericksburg

June 27:  Departure day.  We drop Penny off at 1:30pm.

So as you can see, there are very few down days and the days are literally flying by.  I’ve scrapped some plans, like Kings Dominion, because it’s been SO HOT here and also it would involve being out in the sun all day, which although Penny wants to go to an amusement park, she does not want to be outside.  A real challenge.  Some things still need to be squeezed in—our neighbor wants to go out for Thai food next week one night and some other friends want to head to the local Chinese buffet.  Not sure when these will be, but we’ll make it happen.

Today she had a day off and no tests and when I asked her what she wanted to do, she said she just wanted to hang out with me.  She wound up sleeping until almost noon, I think the stress of school having left her, so when Leah woke her up, she was shocked to see how late it was!  We decided to take Leah and go to Chuck E. Cheese, which is one of the first places we ever took Penny to when she got here.  We ripped through nearly 100 tokens and a pizza, got special “ID Cards” made—Penny is officially head cheerleader, I’m a member of a CSI team, and Leah is a hip hop dancer.  I put several men to shame on the Nascar driving game—I made two scores in the top 5, how do ya like me now!? And Penny hit the jackpot on one of the ticket games, so we were proud of ourselves.  We didn’t get enough tickets to do anything with, but they had an iCarly bag in the prize section, so I bought it for her, and she was over the moon about it. 

So it looks like that’s how this thing is going to go down.  I remember Monday thinking, “Wow!  Three weeks!” and now the week is mostly over. There have been times I’ve thought this year would never end, but I just never thought it’d end this quickly!

We’ve had a few family pow wow sessions.  Mike and I are both happy we stuck it out till the bitter end and didn’t send Penny home early.  We’ve done a little review already and agreed that we could have been or perhaps should have been stricter, although Penny informed us over dinner on Tuesday that we are extremely strict.  So that’s food for thought!  We talked about how we didn’t really get a kid with whom at the end of the day we had a lot in common with and how it has been a challenge to keep that kid entertained when she hasn’t spent a lot of time with friends and such.  Our philosophy now is, “You don’t necessarily get the kid you want, but you get the kid you need.”  There are lessons both Mike and I needed to learn about patience, communication, openness, and parenting, and Penny taught us those, and AFS helped us along the way.  Mike ran into our liaison on the train the other night and she asked, “How’s Penny?”  Mike said, “Penny’s Penny!” to which April replied, “You guys are doing a great job.  Don’t change a thing.”  Those bits of encouragement have helped us immeasurably this year, and even though more than once I’ve thought, “What the heck am I doing!?” I don’t think I’ve ever once thought, “Why the heck am I still doing this?!” 

We love this girl and we’re going to miss her.  In my book, that equals success.  Period.

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