Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'll be back, really!

It's been a bit of a whirlwind two weeks or so since my last post. We did another road trip, this time to Connecticut to visit my father-in-law and his wife, then I had to make a quick trip to Long Island two days ago to attend the funeral of my sister-in-law's mother. Today may be another catch-up day as I have kits to make up for the class I missed, Alexa is chomping at the bit to go school shopping and she's conned her dad into taking her...(don't even want to deal with that one!)

The countdown for the start of school is on - only a torturous 11 days to go! I'm getting my dancing shoes out and polished. Mind you, I'm going to be more than broke before it's over, but what's a mom to do!

So, I'll be back with more details, hopefully pictures and hair pulling commentary (mine of course) soon. Wish me luck! (and Norman too as he's going with her today)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Vacation - Part IV

The endless summer...and I haven't even been to beach and let's not even consider me on a surfboard. Anyway...the last portion of our vacation was our annual trip back to Keuka Lake and Keuka College for Chinese Culture Weekend. As I've mentioned before, our Rochester Families with Children from China (FCC) organizes and runs a fabulous weekend of fun, camaraderie, Chinese daughters and sons (we have a great deal more than we used to!) and Chinese arts, crafts, culture and history.

Alexa has been lukewarm on this event for the past two or so years but this year she was anxious to go and to see her friend Rebecca. This is the only time all year the girls can get together in person as Rebecca lives a good three hours away.

We've had a few challenges the last two or three years in that our first group of children are starting the pre-teen and teen years. Finding activities for them to do without abandoning what we do for the younger ones has been a challenge. This year we had a DJ driven "Sock Hop" on Friday night. I'm told it was a big success - but we missed it as we came after work and didn't arrive until close to 9:00 p.m.

Another big part of the weekend is what we call the Culture Trail. We use the first and second floor of Hegeman Hall (classroom and offices) and set up stations according to a theme. This year I believe we did the Silk Road (a retread for the older girls, but new for the younger ones). The older girls had "Free Time" during this part of the weekend or many of them are CITs - Counselors in Training. Alexa was not interested in being a CIT last year when the program was formed but she expressed an interest this year to do it next year. Our parents do a wonderful job! Here is a prop designed to be a Chinese fishing boat. At each station the kids get a little history/fact background and do a little craft or activity. They get a sticker that they've completed the stop and go to the next. At the end of trail they get a bigger gift. They year they got a nice red canvas tote and a really cute stuffed panda bear! The Bradley-Donnelly family live near Keuka in Penn Yan and they have a large barn on their property and they are kind enough to not only store our props but they make many of them. This boat was just awesome!

We also had the mountains (above) the plains and a walk across the great wall!

As we live so far away, we only do this one event with FCC. However, I've taken it upon myself to do a scrapbook page each year for the past four to five years. This year I had a new design team member - Alexa! She designed the page you see and helped tremendously in getting all the letters cut, bagged and the kits assembled because I had to work on Friday. We put together 85 kits!

One of the themes of the weekend was Famous Chinese Americans. Alexa designed a 'Facts About Me/Just Imagine..." page. Each of the circles with the picture on it is attached to the page with a brad. Just swivel the picture circle aside and you will see facts about the person underneath. We used Yo-Yo Ma, Michelle Kwan, I.M. Pei and Amy Tan. The kids could put a picture of themselves on the mat provided and then fill in the questions on the bottom with facts about them, favorite food, favorite sport, favorite person, etc. and what I want to be when I grow up.

Because I had to work, I 'contracted' out the job of finishing the kit ingredients and packing for the weekend to Alexa! She had a specific list of things to do and a pre-set, agreed upon price for accomplishing this list with a bonus clause for work above and beyond what was contracted. Needless to say, with the money incentive -- she got the bonus!

The page went over very, very well. I gave complete props to Alexa for her design and to Dove of the East, a paper company that specializes in culturally themed scrapbook papers for giving me the papers at a wholesale price. Here are some of our girls and families working on their pages.

As you can see, we not only have Moms helping out but we have Dads helping out too! That is what I love the most about this group. Our Dads are just as hands on with our girls and boys as Moms are! The page may seem a little simple but my challenge this year was to make a page that could be a complete 'take away'. The page had to be simple enough for totally non-scrapbookers to do with minimal tools (glue sticks and kids scissors) to something that could be taken away by the older kids and done at home again, with only minimal supplies. I enclosed an instruction sheet in each kit with a picture of the final page as a reference. I think next year I'll probably have the same kind of challenge. I'm already thinking about what I can do!
Here are all our girls and boys on the steps inside the newly renovated Ball Hall. (Alexa is in the top row all the way on left with the turquoise top). We ask the kids to dress in Chinese clothes if they have them and want to. Alexa usually balks at this but this year she was willing but we didn't have anything that fit her anymore. Norm will have a shopping list the next time he goes to China! We usually use the horseshoe sitting area in the back of Ball but the weather was not our friend this year. We had to squeeze ourselves in a very little area. We had a total of 51 families registered with 89 kids! WOW!!

This marks the end of the Muir Family Summer 2008 Vacation Tour. Do I get a T-shirt with the tour dates and locations on the back? School starts in approximately 3 weeks. Next, school shopping!! Can't wait...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Vacation - Part III

I'm getting to old for this! I thought we were going to have a quiet, boring, "There's nothing to do Mom!" summer. We haven't stopped since school let out. Vacation part II was a couples only affair. Norm and I went to Indianapolis to see NASCAR's Brickyard 400. We had been to the Indianapolis Speedway before, 15 years ago to see the Indianapolis 500. You and 250,000 of your closest friends - major league fun!
This year Norm's boss sold us his tickets (he goes every year) and we flew into Louisville, KY on the Friday before the race. We lived in Kentucky for three years before moving back to NY and I really enjoyed it there. We got to lounge around on Friday and Saturday and then drove up to Indy on Sunday. We used my new favorite bit of technology, the Garmin.

We used it in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana. I just love this thing! Normally I'm a map girl but this little toy is so much fun to use and didn't steer us wrong once. In Kentucky we went to the Louisville Slugger museum and Norm ordered his own personalized, signature bat

This isn't it, a little small don't you think? The real one will be coming in the mail in a few weeks. Norm is standing at the base of a bat that is outside the factory and as tall as the building.

Just down the street there were these delightful red penguins atop a downtown hotel. The chandelier was outside the hotel also.
We headed up to Indy on Sunday. We intended to get some sandwiches and drinks and fill a couple of ziplock freezer bags with ice from the hotel so we wouldn't have to fight the crowds during the race. We forgot that Kentucky has different blue laws than NY does. Businesses don't open until 11:00 a.m. or noon. So we ended up with nothing. Not a problem except that we parked about a mile away from the raceway in a church parking lot and walked to the speedway. Once there we found that we had another mile and half walk around the outside of the speedway to the short chute between turns three and four to get to our seats. I'll try and give you an idea of the crowds...

People for a mile and more from the Speedway sell space on their lawns, driveways, whatever to people coming in for the race. Yards are decorated. They sell water bottles, ear plugs they have grills going and banners and flags of their favorite drivers flying. It's like a parade walking to the Speedway.

Once inside and as you approach the gates there are vendors everywhere. From the semi-truck size driver based souvenirs, to the official Speedway gift shop kiosks and the food vendors.As you walk around the Speedway, there are these big banners hanging from the stands. They show famous milestones of the Speedway. This next one is for all you oldsters who remember Andy Granitelli. He owned the car the year Mario Andretti won the 500. His suit is covered with the sponsor's logo, STP.

Once inside we found our seat, which continued our tradition of sitting in nosebleed land - we were the top row, the third and fourth seats from the end of the row. This was - good because we could see more than anyone else. Bad, because they were impossible to get out of if you wanted to get something. Good, because it was 85+ degrees and we had a wire fence to our back with a breeze!

We had a large screen in front of us so we could see the front stretch and the cars when they were in turn one and two. At the end of the national anthem they released the balloons from the start finish line. I tried to zoom this shot but I hope it still gives you an idea of how far away that was from us - a good mile.

Here the cars are coming around during one of the pace laps and in the next photo the race has begun.I wanted to get a photo of my man, Smoke - Tony Stewart, but let me tell you, it was hard at the speed these guys go around. I was able to get this shot because THIS WAS THE WORST RACE I'VE EVER SEEN OR BEEN TO!

Now, don't get me wrong, I loved going to the race, but the race itself was awful! Apparently, the tires they had for the cars would only go about 8-10 laps(20-30 miles) and then need replacing. This was a 400 mile race! Finally, we heard through the people with earphones and radios that Goodyear was bringing the tires it had set aside for the Pocono race the following week because they were going to run out of tires and were trying to get a longer lasting tire in hopes of actually having a real race!

It was a race of yellow flags and caution laps interrupted with the occasional green flag racing! Jimmy Johnson won and our man Tony finished well behind in 23rd.

Well, that's about it for chapter III. One more chapter to go - Chinese Culture Camp!