Friday, June 29, 2012


Earlier this year we enrolled Caleb and Isaac in gymnastics.  In reality, the class was a lot of tumbling and jumping and not much in the way of an actual skills course.  However, they had fun, and since jumping, on a trampoline or otherwise, is one of their favorite things to do they were always delighted to attend.  Their teacher, Mr. Joe, was great -- very patient, enthusiastic, and encouraging.  He focused on flexibility, following instructions, and fun.  The best part: on days when they had gymnastics they fell into bed without any negotiation or cajoling and were asleep before their heads hit the pillow. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Call the Tooth Fairy,

we have our first missing tooth!

This tooth fell out on April 21.  He was at school and managed to lose the tooth before coming home, but the Tooth Fairy came anyway.  His permanent tooth has already come in, even though, as of yet,  no other teeth have fallen out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Last Day of School

The boys had an excellent school year.  They both loved their teachers and made lots of progress.  Caleb is reading far above grade level (he'll be in first grade next year, wow!) and Isaac can write all his letters and has started to read as well.  They were lucky enough to have really devoted and enthusiastic teachers and as a result are looking forward to going back to school in August, even though it will only be for half the year.  When asked, they both said their favorite part of last year was math (YEA!, that makes my liberal artsy, math challenged soul very happy).  School in DC is very hit or miss, but we have been very pleased with their school and are happy they will have 6 more months of Spanish immersion before diving into Chinese.  I am especially pleased there was no lottery required to enroll them this year, that situation caused a level of stress I am loathe to experience again.

 Miss Dana

 Miss Macu

 Miss Nunu

Miss Laura

 Miss Laura

 Miss Donarae

Hooray for phenomenal teachers!

Texas, Our Texas

My mom is a sixth generation Texan.  If you know your Texas history then you are familiar with the "Old Three Hundred," the families and groups that established the area that now encompasses Austin and the land southeast to the Gulf of Mexico.  Anyway, my mom is related to some of those three hundred and, as she says, is "Texan, born, educated, and by the grace of God."  Earlier this month, her father's family had a reunion in Austin and Claire and I were delighted to attend.  It was Claire's inaugural flight and she did very well.  The reunion was a fairly small gathering of folks, but it was nice to catch up with some people that I have not seen in a very long time and especially to introduce Claire to my sister, Aunts, and Uncles.  As a special treat, I got to see my cute (and famous) cousin Dana, whom I haven't seen in over 5 years.  It was a very quick trip, but jam-packed with delicious eats and lots of time to relax and visit.

 On the ground in Dallas ready to fly to Austin.  Claire was a rock star, really.  Let's hope she is equally good for the 14+ hour flight to Beijing next year.

 "World Famous" Round Rock Donuts.  So, I don't know how famous they really are, but they were tasty.

 My grandfather's family tree.  
He was one of 10 children, but several siblings and many descendents never married or had children, so it's a smaller family group than one might think.

Our contingent (we wore orange so everyone would know we belonged together).  From left is my sister, Lane, my Mom, me and Claire, my mom's younger brother, Jim, his wife, Jan, and my mom's older sister, Lil.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Fun #5

Our second week of summer started with a visit to the National Museum of the US Navy.  The museum is located on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard which is an active US Naval Base located on the Southern border of DC and on the banks of the Anacostia River.  Since the Navy Yard is a working military installation, getting inside takes a bit of effort (i.e. access in only granted through one of the many gates -- the least accessible one, of course; official government ID is required at multiple checkpoints; it is necessary to obtain a visitor's pass and keep it with you at all times; etc.).  Ultimately, however, all the jumping through hoops was worth the effort.  

Despite the fact that the naval art museum seems to be closed indefinitely (there was a sign that said it would open in early 2012, but that ship has sailed), a fact about which Caleb was supremely disappointed (the kids loves his art!), and that access to the USS Barry is very hit or miss (for us it was miss), we had a very enjoyable afternoon.  

The grounds of the Navy Yard are adorned with all manner of cannons and guns from innumerable decommissioned ships and the boys were delighted to play "battle" at each one.  The museum itself is well designed and very thorough.  It was bursting with intricate ship models and full-size battleship guns that visitors were invited to climb on.  There was also an abundance of information about the naval battles of every major (and even some minor) conflict in US maritime history as well as special exhibits devoted to exploring Antarctica and military undersea exploration.  Outside there is a park with even more ship parts to climb on and explore.

The boys have insisted that we go back again, but with Daddy next time.  So, we likely will.  The museum is an excellent indoor activity for rainy and cold days.  The day we went was forecast to be stormy -- it wasn't, so we took full advantage of playing indoors and out.     

It's a Miracle!

They are all smiling and looking at the camera. AT. THE. SAME. TIME. 

Hm, do you think they might be related?

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Blessing x3

The same weekend I graduated from Georgetown, we blessed Claire.  In the LDS religion, when a baby is born he/she is given and name and a blessing, usually by his/her father.  The blessing is unique to each child and is a time of celebration.  In my family, nearly all the babies born, including Caleb and Isaac, myself and siblings, and my dad, have been blessed in the same clothing -- my grandmother's blessing clothes.  My grandmother was born in 1917 so the clothes are now over 95 years old.  

My mother has been the keeper of these clothes for many years now and she has done an impressive job protecting them from damage and deterioration, but they are really on their last legs and will definitely not last another generation.  I suspect sooner rather than later they will have to be framed or they might just disintegrate.  The sleeves of the gown have cut outs at the wrists to weave through ribbons and each baby gets their own set in pink or blue.  Sometimes I think it would be nice if my children each had their own set of blessing clothes to pass on their own progeny, but, really, the significance of wearing the same clothes that so many members of our family have worn for this important moment far outweighs any desire for individual mementos. 

 Claire on her blessing day
May 20, 2012

Isaac on his blessing day
March 9, 2008

Caleb on his blessing day
May 7, 2006

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer Fun #4

Another day, another adventure.  Thursday was even hotter than the day before, 

so we were in the market for some indoor fun.  And, thanks to my favorite DC blog, KidFriendly DC, we found the perfect destination, the National Capital Trolley Museum.  

The museum is small, but chock full of all manner of trolley (not to be confused with cable) car related stuff.

Immediately after arriving, we boarded this 1951 trolley for a ride around the museum. 

And the we did it again.

This trolley is actually from Canada and was used until 1995 before coming to reside at the museum.

After our trolley rides we went inside to listen to a story called Stormy's Hat about a train conductor and his quest for the perfect hat.  He found one, by the way, but only after he and his wife invented it.

Then, the boys made trolley conductor hats of their own and proceeded to wear them the rest of the day.

Next we went to the car barn and saw the very impressive collection of trolley cars.  This one is from Germany.

This car used to run on the streets of Washington, DC.  It is over 100 years old and it still works.

This car is from a seaside town in England and is made to look like a boat...presumably so it could blend in.

Caleb's favorite car is this one, from Belgium.

In addition to the collection of cars, there were lots of interactive displays, exhibits devoted to the history of the trolley car in and around Washington, DC, and this, a miniature cityscape with a working trolley car controlled by a switch just like the ones found on the actual cars themselves.  The boys loved turning the switch and sending the tiny car off on its route.

Our last stop was the "movie" room where they played a continuous loop of clips from Harold Lloyd silent films which featured trolley cars.  In the clip pictured, which ran for 22 minutes and was all about a man climbing up the outside of a building trying to escape a policeman, the trolley cars were just part of the background scenery and never actually factored into the film.  But, the boys had never seen a silent film before and enjoyed it despite the peripheral usage of trolley cars.

  It seemed impossible when we arrived, but we spent almost 3 hours at this little museum and were the last to leave before closing.  Ultimately, it proved to be an unexpectedly diverting and cool place to pass a sweltering summer day.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Food in Taiwan

The best activity in Taiwan is eating. In a way perhaps unlike any other culture, the Taiwanese have developed a special relationship with food--and they are always eating it, even when they are not hungry. While in the southern part of Taiwan, I took advantage of the nice mixture of traditional food choices with those options from western-style and other overseas dishes. This is a bar-restaurant in Hengchun called Goat's Restaurant. It is owned by a man nicknamed Goat and his wife and family. Goat likes Bob Marley and he and his wife decided to leave their jobs in the city to open this place in Kending.  

The food is good. It is simple Taiwanese-style (southern Chinese flavors and lots of seafood) and the chef executes the dishes well. I had stir-fried pork with basil. Basil is really common in Taiwanese cooking. They combine it with stir-fried dishes using pork, chicken, shrimp, clams, crab, and sometimes beef. They also deep-fry it with fried chicken and put it on salads. 

The food at Goat's place is good and I was comfortable there. I even got to see Game 1 of the NBA finals between The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. It was nice, but I knew that it wasn't the traditional Taiwanese dining experience of Hengchun (the main town near Kending) and that was what I was after. I asked Goat where I could go to find that kind of place and he directed me to Xiangcun dongfen ya (Coutnry-style duck vermicelli noodles). 

The exterior looks like any non-assuming eatery front seen throughout Taiwan. This is the real headache in looking for the really good food: many of the stores look very similar. I recommend asking a couple of locals before deciding where to eat. Most of the time any given restaurant in Taiwan will deliver, but there is always the off chance you could end up with something you didn't want.

This is the main dish, the dish they are famous for serving. It is a bowl of vermicelli noodles with a helping of roasted duck meat and other spices.

I got mine with a plate of xiaocai (little snacks--tea-steeped boiled egg and sliced tofu jerky with ginger).

This is a meal for champions.

After the noodles I still wanted to try more things, so I headed back into Kending to a spot near my hotel called Beer. Because it had such a creative name, I thought it wouldn't hurt to check out the inside. The typhoon made sure that I was the only soul in the restaurant.  

They served a fairly limited menu; most of the dishes were Japanese style kebabs. I ordered the bacon-wrapped scallions and the cumin chicken wings. Super tasty and a nice way to end the evening.

The next day the rain was sporadic and I was able to get a couple more shots of the scenery before I had to leave. Kending is very beautiful when you can see it. The water is warm and clean; the people are friendly. I really like it here. 

For lunch I went back the traditional Chinese-style food that is ubiquitous in Taiwan. This is Peking Duck. It is not necessarily a Taiwanese dish, but it is popular.

 The way to eat this dish is by using a small tortilla and filling it with a bit of meat, the sauce, and scallions. You roll it up like a burrito and enjoy.

My kids love this stuff

It was a nice day.


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