Friday, December 01, 2017

The Next Chapter

The choice we made years ago was to explore the world and understand as much of it as we can. As Sojo will enter middle school next year, we knew it was a good time to transition as a family to a new country. We had no idea what was going to happen, only that it was a good time to go. Our only requirements for a new school were that it was dynamic and creative and felt like a place that would feel all our souls. If that match didn't happen, our plan was to take a year off together in Mexico. Pretty good plan B that allowed for us to take the leap and quit our jobs before we knew what was coming our way.

But, as often does in life when we leave the doors wide open for possibility, an amazing opportunity came our way. We are moving to Prague, Czech Republic next school year. It's a place that resonates with us on many levels: the school is visionary and creative and committed to changing education, the country is lovely and beautiful, and the jobs for me and Dale could not be more perfect. I will be the elementary librarian and Dale has been given the job of various music electives, which is downright dreamy.

Of course, as parents, we were worried about Sojo and the transition, but we have been talking about moving for over a year now, so it's slowly seeped in. She loved Prague when we visited (think swords, forging on the street, loads of trinkets to buy and street bread), and she is very excited about the chance to be somewhere bigger. She is a different kind of soul who marches to the beat of her own drum--a beautiful thing in many ways, but sometimes hard to find your people. She is hoping to find more people like her and to explore the myriad of sports and activities the school offers.

Until then, we'll soak up the not-too-cold desert winter, camp a bit more, and enjoy small town living until a bigger city comes our way.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Memory Box

Sojo came across an old bathrobe she had Dale make for her stuffed roasted chicken (oh, roasted chicken! Such an old favorite of hers!), and that took us on this beautiful trip down memory lane filled with laughing about her quirkiness and remembering loads of funny stories from when she was younger.

She then decided we should go through all the memory box to check things out as it's been a while. I love, love, love this memory box and searched for years to find the perfect Chinese box. It has the clothes she wore on the day we became a family and tons of her writing from over the years. Plus, random stuff like "round pillow" and "square pillow" and Cowboy Chicken. As a parent, I adore how she knows exactly when she is ready to put something in the memory box and why it should go there.

And, more than anything, I am so very glad we kept so much of her writing through the years. She fully considers herself a writer and loves looking through her evolution of craft in different grades. From the hilarious drawings and invented stories when she was three to the voice and depth of her later years, we love looking back.

She is so big in this picture. And so big in real life. More and more, Dale and I find ourselves having deeper conversations about life and decisions and politics and people. So beautiful.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Reader

Seriously, this kid travels from room to room in the house with all seven Harry Potter books. She randomly chooses one and reads from anywhere in the books. It's hilarious, fabulous, and really heavy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Harry Potter Birthday

As Harry Potter fever is rampant in this house, we went with an HP theme this year. Actually, we've rarely had a theme. Ok, maybe we had a theme once in second grade. In fact, we are very simple when it comes to birthdays, and we're all fine with that. Last year, I offered to make a Minecraft cake for Sojo's birthday sleepover, and she said (with no snarkiness at all), "Um, don't start being a fancy mama now. I'm fine with my normal cake."

But, fancy mama I was for this birthday (and fancy baba as well). Many have asked about how we put together the party, so I felt it was worthy of a blog post of HP goodness. This was my first foray into Pinterest-land, and it was a blast for everyone. Two hours from start to finish, which is my kind of party.

Ok, down to the good stuff:

1. Platform entry. Easy-cheesy and super fun.

2. Polyjuice potion! The kids went crazy over this one, and I had to make two batches. Our town actually had sherbet, which is a rarity, so I also went crazy over this one. Just a clear bowl, sherbet (lime, if possible, but I used rainbow and no one cared), Sprite to make it fizzy and neon green food coloring.

3. Butterbeer! Warm a bit of apple juice and butterscotch syrup (more juice than syrup, but you want it to be butterscotchy tasting. I found tiny mugs and used those as it's a bit rich of a concoction. Add about 1/3 of the warmed syrupy stuff and then put ginger beer on top. Add a smidge of whipped cream. Not everyone liked this, but one girl had three mugs full!

4. Hermione's beaded bag. This one was Sojo's idea, and it was brilliant. She is fascinated with Hermione's beaded bag in the book that holds everything (tents, framed portraits, the workds!) but looks just like a regular bag. I had buy-one-get-one-free bag from Claire's, so we put a slit in the bottom, attached it to a table and put the game prizes in there. So much fun!

5. Pottermore quiz! Since all the kids were older, we had computers set up with the Pottermore quiz when they came in. Everyone took the test and then put their name on the banners we had up on the wall. We did tell them that if you got the house you didn't want, you could change, but everyone was excited. I had written all the positive qualities of the houses on the banners.

6. Horcrux Scavenger Hunt! I found this one online and tweaked it to make it easier (we were down to the last minute on this one before guests arrived). I hid seven items around the house and they worked together to find them. A huge success, even though it was pretty easy for older kids.

7. The Wand Ceremony! This was by far my favorite part of the day, and it was our grand finale. We had purchased white helium balloons and Sojo drew owl faces on them. Ahead of the party, we had ordered handmade wands to give as gifts and had them shipped to Saudi (although the DIY ones looks fun to make at a party). We wrapped them in the morning, and Sojo wrote a small note about why the wand had chosen that person. She listed three positive qualities about the person on the note, which was very sweet. At the very end, Dale went upstairs on the landing and "sent down an owl" with the wand attached to the balloon for weight. Sojo then read the card about why the wand chose the person and presented it. The kids were giddy!

Overall, we had an absolute blast, and I'm kinda sold on being the fancy mama.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Assembly Love

Sojo's fifth grade class hosted our first assembly of the year, and it was so sweet seeing her on stage. She even chose to wear her fancy blazer (also known as her single piece of clothing that is remotely fancy).

Our art teacher and counselor collaborated on a video of the class that was so profound that I could not help the tears pouring down my face. 

The kids were working on self-portraits and did what is called a blind drawing, where they each had a blindfold and drew their portrait without seeing. In addition, they studied the techniques for doing a quality self-portrait. Our amazingly wonderful counselor then met with all of them and talked about how they viewed themselves physically and as people. The two teachers worked together to create a black-and-white video with a photo series of each kid with their quotation about himself or herself. When I saw Sojo's, it made my heart burst. To know that a child can look in the mirror and know that she is who she wants to be is something that is amazing at any age. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


As a pre-celebration, we spent a weekend away in Bahrain with a friend (and his family) who shares a birthday that is close to Sojo's for what we called the Birthday Extravaganza! Breakfast at IHOP (ramen for Sojo as that is her perfect breakfast), and a stay at a cool hotel with a small water park inside. The weather is just starting to turn from crazy hot to mildly hot, so it was glorious.

And, for her actual day, she asked me to make a chocolate chip cookie cake, which I had never done. So many mama things I have never done! But, it turned out great. I then went to the cabinet to get the super cute candles I bought this summer in the US where they have everything. Hmmmm...somehow I could only find one of the number 1 candles I bought. We had a laugh about it.

Dale and I are so proud to be her parents and watch her grow. Her sense of who she is and what is important to her is so solid at such a young age, and she does not waver. Here are a few loves from this moment in time:

She loves ramen and building Bionicles and chillaxing.
She wears what she wants and not what is in fashion.
She is great at basketball but loves all sports.
Her favorite subject is PE.
She just weeks ago started picking up books on her own and is obsessed with Harry Potter.
She is a bit sassy, but just a bit. She refers to herself as witty, which really says it all. Such a fine line between wit and sass.

She is a cool kid.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Almost 11

This girl. 

Almost 11.

Off to an evening swim class on her own, growing out of her new bathing suit already, kinda pre-teenish, and filling us with joy at every turn. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Grandparent Time

Our main reason for going home each summer is family, and a good dose of grandparents is good for Sojo and our parents. Popo and Gong had already been living in our house for weeks before we arrive, so we were spoiled with lots of favorite meals they had made ahead of time and froze for us to eat when we got home. Veggie soup and meatballs are our definite favorites!

Sojo is almost as tall as Popo now!
And speaking of being spoiled, both Sojo and Dale's mom love the local, homemade ice cream from Elevated. We go so often during the summer, and it never gets old. Lemon chiffon for both of these gals.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Cousin Time

Sojo's favorite part of any summer is cousin time. We were not able to see her cousin Jake this summer, but we had tons of time with her other two cousins. They even did three camps together: basketball, Ninja Warrior camp and the most beautiful Forest camp.

During forest camp week, we dropped the kids off in a field just outside of town, and they headed off into the woods for five hours of fun. We heard stories about campfires, climbing trees, learning games and general old-fashioned kid fun. They came home dirty each day, and that was awesome.

The grand finale was in the woods. We trekked into one of their areas in the woods, but there was no one in sight. Noises erupted in the forest, and out came the kids. They put on the coolest obstacle course show for us, complete with tricks and drumming.

Sojo's final vote for the best camp was the Ninja Warrior one, but my vote went for the forest camp. Either way, it was good to have so much cousin time.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Skate Like a Girl

This past summer, Sojo was totally open to attending a bunch of different camps. The first one she attended was called Skate Like a Girl, and it is run by young people. We made it a mini-vaca and headed downtown Seattle for a few days to toodle around while she was in the camp.

She LOVED the camp! And, just like it is intended to do, she felt very empowered and strong. Our favorite part each day was the end: each kid gets up and shared a trick he or she learned that day for "showcase." If they do it right, awesome! If they fall, the crowd chants, "One more time! One more time!" Sojo's growth in only three days was incredible, not only in skill but in confidence. We all hope to do this camp again next summer. Here's the final showcase!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Summer Flashbacks #1

Since I missed the entire summer of blogging, and since this is basically our family's memory book, we decided to simply go back and document some highlights.

As always, most of our summers are spent at one body of water or another in or near Port Townsend. My favorite and Dale's favorite is North Beach and Sojo's favorite is the bunker beach because of the bunkers themselves and the big rocks for bouldering. North Beach is the sunset beach and the best for combing for sea glass.

This summer, we added a new beach activity when Jared and Cheng-Wei brought up their metal detector. Even though this one was powerful and fancy, we still only found a rusty pipe and some pop-tops.

We also ventured out to Crater Lake when Matt and Cathy came up to visit and wound up getting my very favorite family photo of the summer. Scratch that--maybe of all time. We caught ourselves mid-laugh, and I love everything about this. 

Another thing I love about summers is that we always spend good, quality time with Matt and Cathy. It's gorgeous to watch Sojo grow and have more meaningful interactions with family members. 

We made it a point to leave the house to watch the sunset more often this past summer. It's a bit tough because the sun doesn't go down until about 9:30 and everyone is in a relaxing zone by then. One night, we decided last-minute to go and some of us even went in pajamas. We arrived at North Beach to find gaggles of people also there for the view, some drinking wine and having dinner. We're going to have to get there more often next summer. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Dale's Work is Done

Over the summer, we always hit the US bookstores. Dale captured this beautiful snapshot of Sojo reading the back of a Stephen Hawking book. That furrowed brow is priceless. Needless to say, her very intellectual baba was proud that she picked up that book.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Euro Road Trip, Part Two

After our stint in Lausanne, we toodled off to Bern, which was a short two-hour ride away. The back highways we took to get there took our breath away, and I think we could have driven for hours. Roadside nature like this, for example:

After so much brown desert in our lives, we soaked up all the green. And gloomy skies were totally welcome as well.

Bern was a quaint town with some cool coffee shops (Coffee Fellows and Tibits were awesome) and historical sights to see. We wandered around and discovered some stuff along the way, but we had hoped to find the statue of an ogre we had read about that is eating a child. Yikes!

When we finally did find it, Dale and Sojo decided to act out the ogre part. Sojo's face in this photo is absolutely priceless--her drama skills are totally on point.

On our way back to Geneva, we passed through the same towns as we did on the way back. The best part of being on a road trip was being able to stop in a gorgeous little town we spotted on the way over called Moudon. We found a little Italian restaurant and ate the final pizza of the trip (I truly never thought we would say that we needed a break from pizza, but we did!). The cook, who was Italian himself, came out to chat with us and told us about how he lived in the Wisconsin Dells when he was ten. He then insisted we have some limoncello before hitting the road (just a little bit for the driver, he said). Meeting him and having a cool travel experience made the end of the trip so sweet.

And, Europe must look good on us because so many of our family selfies were just fabulous! This one was taken right in Moudon. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Euro Road Trip, part one

Our Eid vacation came very early this year. So early, in fact, that we only had 12 days of school before a ten-day break. Not too shabby, so we headed off on a European road trip that was nothing short of spectacular.

First off, we rented a car in Geneva and drove to Italy in only a bit more than two hours. I chose a somewhat random town called Aosta in the Aosta Valley--mostly because it looked cute and wasn't too far away. We wanted to include Italy in the vaca since we have never been, and it did not disappoint. Beautiful views, pizza that was incredible and a trip to the Italian Alps.

Nothing like a playground at the top of the world

Next, we toodled off to Lausanne, Switzerland where a dear friend of ours is living and working. Lausanne was so, so beautiful and right on Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman like the cool kids say).

Catching up with Aimee was incredible, and we got to meet her husband as well. We soaked up together time.

This was our splurge hotel room that offered us a perfect view of the lake. Needless to say, Dale and I spent much of our time gazing out the window.

Guitar + wine + a lake view = perfection!

One more fun adventure whilst in Lausanne was taking a boat to the other side of the lake to Evian, France. Yes, the Evian of water fame. That would be country #3 in about as many days. We all love the ease of Europe, and Sojo claims that the playgrounds are a kid's dream. Part two tomorrow!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Back in the Swing of Things

When a blog hiatus turns into a really long break, it's often hard to get back into it. So, I'm just going to start with the beginning of fifth grade and the start of our sixth year here in Saudi. Sojo had a great first week of school and came home super excited that her class earned enough of their dojo points to get a shaved ice on the last day of the first week. Definitely a good way to motivate kids!

For me, I am back in the library after five years of teaching other subjects, and it's fun to be in a new space and helping kids of all ages find books that feed their fabulous souls.

First day of 5th grade!