The Graduate…

In the United States, fifth grade officially marks the end of elementary school or primary school, as we would know it in New Zealand. If we had been staying in Portland, Olive would have moved onto Middle School after the summer break. Middle schools are a bit like New Zealand intermediate schools although students attend them for three years as opposed to two.

Reaching the end of fifth grade brought with it a flurry of activities, trips and special studies for Olive. First up was marching with the Bridlemile band in the Junior Rose Parade. You might remember from my last post that one of Portland’s nicknames is the City of Roses and every year the city hosts a festival of roses, with parades, dragon boats, floral displays and the crowning of the rose queen.  The junior rose parade is the country’s oldest and largest children’s parade, and marching bands from various local schools are the major attraction.

RP1

My Dad is a very talented trumpet player. He used to play in the dance halls in his native Edinburgh and when he had a young family, he’d do a full days work then head out at night to play in Wellington clubs like the Majestic Cabaret, to bring in extra money. Jonny Gilbertson even appears in the liner notes of an early recording by none other than Kiwi opera legend Kiri Te Kanawa. Whilst his children have dabbled with various musical instruments over the years, none picked up the trumpet, and none of his grandchildren have either…until now…

RP2

We suspect that Olive’s decision to ditch orchestra and join band was the lure of marching in the parade but she surprised us by not only choosing the trumpet for her instrument but also, by actually being quite good at it!

RP3

I have to admit to feeling very emotional as we watched her marching through the streets of the Hollywood district and did wish my Dad could have been there. We don’t have the school marching band tradition in New Zealand but Olive has assured us she wants to keep up playing the horn.

RP5

Since then there has been a jet boat trip on the Willamette, a pool party, a quick Shakespeare study – Olive was chosen to read Juliet’s part…swoon – and a little bit of FLASH education. Despite the interesting acronym, flash is nothing to do with men in long raincoats – it’s the good old puberty education unit and Olive told me exactly nothing about it! “So what did you talk about?” “Mum! Nothing! I’m not telling you!” “Anything you want to ask me or share?” “I’ve already told you Mum…nothing!” “Who’s giggling and being inappropriate? Tell me about the questions from the anonymous box!” “For God’s sake Mum!!”  She didn’t actually say that last bit but I suspect she really wanted to!

Today was the last day of school and it began with the Fifth Grade promotion ceremony. Each fifth grade teacher made a little speech about their class and then each child marched across the stage to receive a certificate.

5G1
It’s super hard to get Olive to dress up for anything…she could do with some tips from one of her classmates…bow tie!

5G4

The day ends with the fifth grade clap out. As the bell rings, the graduating class emerge from a certain door and walk along a path lined with parents clapping and high five-ing…

5G2
You try wielding a big camera and high five-ing at the same time!
5G3
Yes that is my outstretched hand being ignored…I suspect the FLASH anecdote has something to do with it…

It’s been a hugely emotional week…lots of grieving for what we are leaving behind…but also excitement at what lies ahead. For now I just want to thank the wonderful Bridlemile Elementary community. Our girls have been so happy here and whilst they are both very sad to leave, their tears just reinforce what a great place it is…

EdieK1
What’s not to love about a school that has karaoke on the last day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take me out to the ballgame…

The game of baseball is believed to have originated in England. Both baseball and rounders were played in England and are thought to be regional variations of the same thing – the name, I guess, depending on which part of England you were playing in. Whether you referred to it as rounders or baseball, the game is thought to have derived from a fifteenth century English sport known as “Stoolball”. This somewhat scatological term is nothing to do with number twos (!) – it’s actually a reference to the milking stools that were used as wickets, because stoolball was traditionally played by milkmaids. (By this point in my research I was laughing out loud. Stools, milkmaids…I think I would pay good money to see that!!)

Unfortunately this was the best image of stoolball I could find - apologies for the lack of buxom milkmaids.
Unfortunately this was the best image of stoolball I could find – apologies for the lack of buxom milkmaids.

The early form of baseball was brought to North America by English immigrants, where it is first officially referred to in a 1791 bylaw from a town in Massachusetts – the game was not allowed to be played near the town’s new meeting house. By the early 1830s, games of baseball were popping up all over North America, but it wasn’t until 1846 that the first officially recorded baseball game was played in the United States. On June 19th in Hoboken, New Jersey, the New York Nine defeated the New York Knickerbockers 23 runs to 1. The Knickerbockers were responsible for putting some structure around the game – establishing rules around the number of innings, types of pitches allowed and type of ball that could be used.

New York Knickerbockers
New York Knickerbockers

In the mid 1850s, New York went baseball crazy and the game started to be referred to as the “national pastime” or “national game”. Leagues and associations were formed and admission was charged at the big games. Today, I’m told, it’s NFL or American Football which holds the title of national sport or game, but baseball is still very popular, based on the crowds we witnessed at Nationals Park last Sunday.

Our neighbours invited us to watch the Washington Nationals play the Texas Rangers. This was a pretty big deal as our neighbour is from Texas and it’s not often that the Nationals meet the Rangers on the field. This is due to one of the many confusing aspects of baseball. In the US there are two leagues – the National League and the American League and each of these leagues is split into East, West and Central divisions. Because the Nationals are in the National League and the Rangers are in the American League, it’s rare that they face off against each other, so it was a particularly good game to see. Plus they didn’t just play one game – they played Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Another confusing aspect is just how many games there are…I won’t go into that because I’ve probably lost many of you!! I’ll just get back to the game we watched!

Nationals Park...home of the Washington Nationals...who up until five years ago used to be the Montreal Expos and were based in Canada...I promise that's the last confusing thing!!
Nationals Park…home of the Washington Nationals…who up until five years ago used to be the Montreal Expos and were based in Canada…yet more confusing things!!
We made sure we donned appropriate Nationals attire.
We made sure we donned appropriate Nationals attire.
Baseball sculpture thing inside the stadium.
Baseball sculpture thing inside the stadium.
First pitch of the game.
First pitch of the game.
"Mmmm...not a patch on an All Blacks test!"
“Mmmm…not a patch on an All Blacks test!”
The Ranger's secret weapon is their Japanese pitcher. Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan - the first team was established in 1878.
The Ranger’s secret weapon is their Japanese pitcher. Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan – the first team was established in 1878.
Keeping the crowd entertained is an important part of a baseball game. This is called the President's race!
Keeping the crowd entertained is an important part of a baseball game. This is called the President’s race!
Thomas Jefferson was the winner and he strolled around showing off his winner's belt.
Thomas Jefferson was the winner and he strolled around showing off his winner’s belt.
Edie indulging in some ice cream dippin' dots. Other important baseball snacks are peanuts and Crackerjack - kind of like caramel popcorn.
Edie indulging in some ice cream dippin’ dots. Other important baseball snacks are peanuts and Crackerjack – kind of like caramel popcorn.
The Nationals mascot wasn't too happy. After nearly three hours, the Rangers were victorious - two home runs to nil.
The Nationals mascot wasn’t too happy. After nearly three hours, the Rangers were victorious – two home runs to nil.

I have to say that my personal highlight came halfway during the seventh innings. This is when what is referred to as “the seventh innings stretch” takes place. Everyone stands, stretches and then sings Take Me Out To The Ballgame…felt like I was in a movie!! We sounded nothing like this…

So all in all it was a very fun afternoon. I don’t think we’ll be rushing out to buy season tickets but I’m sure if the opportunity presents itself we’ll be happy to venture out again to the old ballgame!

Special thanks to Tim, Corene, Madison and Chase for being such wonderful hosts and for patiently answering all my dumb questions 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Seven up…

At long last it was April the 13th and Olive turned seven. I could write a whole essay on how quickly those seven years have passed  but I know all you parents out there get it. In the blink of an eye you go from cradling a wriggling squawking newborn  to watching a beautiful and confident young girl taking on the world.

The smile of a newly minted seven year old.
The smile of a newly minted seven year old.
Birthday love from little sis.
Birthday love from little sis.
There were many lovely gifts for the birthday girl - some had travelled all the way from New Zealand.
There were many lovely gifts for the birthday girl – some had travelled all the way from New Zealand.
Edie wanted to give Olive something handmade so we made an art satchel for her - you can read more about it on my make page.
Edie wanted to give Olive something handmade so we made an art satchel for her – you can read more about it on my make page.
Dad set up a treasure hunt for the big present. The girls had great fun deciphering the clues.
Dad set up a treasure hunt for the big present. The girls had great fun deciphering the clues.
After being instructed to put on her helmet, Olive was lead to this gift - her own camelbak...mmm...wonder what the big present might be?
After being instructed to put on her helmet, Olive was lead to this gift – her own camelbak…mmm…wonder what the big present might be?
Scouring the garden for more clues.
Scouring the garden for more clues.
A mountain bike! Not hard to guess who was in charge of that surprise!
A mountain bike! Not hard to guess who was in charge of that surprise!

Like Edie, Olive chose to celebrate with her friends at the gymnastics club where the girls have been taking lessons. It was a great afternoon – lots of fun for the children and minimum effort for Mum and Dad 🙂

Diving under the parachute.
Diving under the parachute.
Bouncing around with Edie.
Bouncing around with Edie.
Beam action.
Beam action.
Flying into the pit.
Flying into the pit.
Edie took flight too.
Edie took flight too.
Woo hoo!
Woo hoo!
Blowing out the candles on a very simple cake - all Olive asked for were the colours of the upcoming apple blossom festival - pink and green.
Blowing out the candles on a very simple cake – all Olive asked for were the colours of the upcoming apple blossom festival – pink and green.

It was a very special day – Olive proclaimed it the “best birthday ever” – but she says that every year!

Two years old...
Happy Birthday Olive! Here’s to the next seven years xxx

Santa’s Workshop

The girls and I spent this morning with our neighbours at the country club. Each year the club hosts a Santa’s workshop, where the children can take part in Christmas activities and meet Santa. It was lots of fun and the girls loved the opportunity to get all dressed up and meet some new friends.

Very festive doormen.
Very festive doormen.
Making a Christmas necklace.
Making a Christmas necklace.
Edie very pleased with her efforts.
Edie very pleased with her efforts.
Next they made some Christmas tree ornaments.
Next they made some Christmas tree ornaments.
Olive's ornament.
Olive’s ornament.
We've seen a lot of pretty trees over the past couple of weeks.
We’ve seen a lot of pretty trees over the past couple of weeks.
Hard at work making more ornaments.
Hard at work making more ornaments.
The big red fella popped in to see how everyone was doing - ho ho ho.
The big red fella popped in to see how everyone was doing – ho ho ho.
Olive the other reindeer!
Olive the other reindeer!
Edie the snow princess.
Edie the snow princess.

The festivities continue tomorrow afternoon with our neighbourhood Christmas Carolling party. The girls went out on Friday afternoon with their good friend M and did a wee bit of practise. Fortunately they struck some very patient households as they song they used to practise with was The Twelve Days of Christmas – every verse!

Better go and warm up my vocal cords! Take care everyone. Sending you all our love.

Trick or treat

Like pumpkin carving, the practice of trick or treating can be traced back to the Samhain festivals of Ireland and Scotland.In addition to carving turnips to ward off harmful fairies and spirits, people wore costumes to disguise themselves from the spirits. This tradition became known as Guising or Mumming. Often people went from door to door in their disguises, to collect food for the Samhain feast.

Finding the right attire for guising was the subject of much discussion and thought in our house almost as soon as we arrived in early October. The girls pored over the hundreds of costumes for sale on Target’s website and after much debate and discussion they settled on the two gorgeous creatures below…

Olive aka Frankie Stein from the Monster High series.
Edie aka Bloom from the Winx Fairies series. She was not happy with me when I insisted on the leggings and long sleeves underneath!

At about 6:30pm we joined our neighbours and began our march around the neighbourhood…well actually it was more of a sprint. The girls were so excited that they dashed from house to house, got their candy, blurted out a quick thank you and then dashed onto the next place. As I watched them I was struck by the thought that they had no idea why they were doing what they were. They are all too familiar with the visible traditions of Halloween but completely clueless when it comes to the history. I vowed to myself to make sure that next year we will do some talking about just why everyone dresses up, carves pumpkins and goes from house to house.

Hitting up Dad for our first treats.

I had planned to take many more photos but I was somewhat shaken up after Edie, in her furious attempt to keep up with Olive and M, tripped and fell head over heels down a set of concrete steps. Despite the fact she was sobbing and sporting a blood nose nothing could stop her from seeing out the rest of the night and, as it was the one night when a bit of blood on one’s costume  is almost the dress code, we valiantly continued. (After watching Olive pass out a few days earlier after having an immunisation at the doctor’s office, Edie’s tumble was just about the last straw! I very much wanted to run home crying to Mum!)

Some of the decorations we saw on our travels.
We saw a few of these!

We straggled in the door just after 8pm with very heavy pumpkins. Richard’s night had been on the quiet side. The doorbell had rung about twenty times and now we were left with all the candy I had bought in an effort not to be the clueless new nieghbours who ran out of candy.

Fortunately Olive had a wonderful idea – statistics with candy!

The girls diligently sorted every piece and then the next day we made a tally chart. And then the next day after that I put everything in a box and hid it!!
A few American classics in there.

As we tucked the girls into bed that night they were already asking when it would be Halloween again – I suspect we will still be eating this year’s candy haul when next Halloween rolls around.

Trick or treat!

PS I’ve finally added photos from our Summer holiday to my Flickr account. Click on the link and you can see what we got up to in Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Dubrovnik, Trieste and Engelburg.

Croadworks ahead!

If you’ve stumbled across this page – welcome. I’m in the process of creating a new blog about our family’s move to Winchester, VA in August 2012. Check back then to start sharing our adventures.