Saturday, December 22, 2007

Best Seats in the House

I just don't get it (but have been thinking about it for years)...

People will pay top dollar for front row seats at a Bruce Springsteen concert. They will sell their soul for a view of the Redskins game from the 50-yard line. They will camp out from January to March to merely get into the Duke-Carolina basketball game.

So why, when we arrived, albeit a bit late for our tastes (9:55 am), for 10 am Mass, was our normal front row pew still open?

I'd like to think that it's because people know that the Ballas want to sit there, since that's where we head each week. Unfortunately, I'm sure that had nothing to do with it--especially since we usually attend 8:30 am Mass (where we do battle with a couple affectionately known as "the Man and his wife"; a blog in itself). No one else wants it. Why?

While I was not always a "front sitter," we, as a family, began our trek to the front when the kids were little. We thought there would be fewer distractions for them if they didn't have 500 people in front of them. What did we find? We were actually all less distracted. We could focus on the Mass and less on the congregation. Added bonus, the kids were also more able to focus and were, of course, less disruptive as well.

I guess I should be happy to think that our favorite seat is always open, but here again, another dichotomy. You see, school holds its annual Christmas concert and pageant in the church. By the time we arrived at 6:30 for a 7 pm concert, the front seats were taken and the first 20 rows, too. People had gotten there early, some of them almost an hour. Point well taken?

We'll pay top dollar for Bruce seats and have waited a long time to get into a Duke game. Spiritually, though, the front pew is the best seat in God's house and we'll continue to enjoy keeping it warm on Sunday morning. (The Man needs to get up a little earlier if he wants to beat us to it!)

~Desi

Friday, December 21, 2007

How to Make the Perfect Gong Fu Cha

This is a project I did this week at school for our "how to" assignment.

Materials:
  • Gong Fu Cha Set
  • Tea Leaves
  • Hot Water
ALWAYS have parent supervision!

Directions:
  • First, put tea leaves in the pot. Just enough to fill the bottom of the pot.
  • Next, pour boiled water into the pot. You may want to let the tea brew.
  • Then, pour the tea into the small pitcher also known as the ocean.
  • Now, to clean all of the tools you use, dump the tea on them.
  • After that, you are ready to start drinking.
  • Next, repeat steps two and three.
  • Then, pour the tea into the cup.
  • Now, you may smell the tea.
  • Finally, drink the tea in one sip.
Some things to know about gong fu cha:

Gong fu means skillful and comes from the word kung fu. It dates back to 400 years ago. The ceremony is meant to calm you and for you to celebrate the tea. There are four different kinds of tea leaves, the green, the red, the white, and the oolong tea. All have different tastes because they are made differently.

~Zoli

Thursday, December 20, 2007

To Work or Not to Work

That is the question, for me anyway. As we prepare for next year, I have a few decisions to make. On the table right now:

1. Be a stay-at-home mom for the year.

Pluses: Time for exploration. (I already got some experience on that front while we were in Leeds.) "Me time." I've always wanted to try it. I have visions of volunteering at Julie and Z's school a lot and trying out a new exercise plan. Maybe even take a TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) or acupuncture class.

Minuses: Missing the kids while they're at school. Being out of the classroom may make me rusty (or I may like it!). The clincher...no cash...I haven't been "out of work" since I was 14!

2. Substitute teach at Julie and Z's school.


Pluses: I can pick and choose the days when I work and I'd have some spending money.

Minuses: You know how kids treat subs! That may be enough to nix it. Also, I'm so used to teaching that it may be difficult to "baby sit."

3. Get a job teaching in an international school.

Pluses: Meeting lots of kids from many different places (actually, that's not so different from Blair...one of the most diverse schools in the country) ...and staying "in the game." Keeping busy and, of course, cash!

Minuses: Taking on a new job is a bit daunting. Since we have our sights on doing some traveling in China, I'm concerned with flexibility, given a full-time schedule. I'm not even sure I could get hired for only one year.

All in all, I'm sure that this choice will become clear soon. The decision will emerge based on job availability and, of course, financial need. Hey, by the way, do they have Avon in China? Ding dong!

~Desi

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Harrow School

One of the big decisions we have to make about China is where Julie and Z will go to school. Now, as with all of the major logistical details, we have been thinking about this for some time, for years in fact. Back in the spring, when it was time to make the call about whether to apply for a Fulbright, Desi and I did some preliminary research on schooling options. This is made all the easier by the fact that the award covers Julie and Z's tuition.

So what are the main options?

There is the home school option. The upside here is that Desi, Julie, and Z will have great flexibility on a day-to-day basis. This would allow for lots of local exploration and trips around the country and the surrounding world. The obvious downside is that Julie and Z would not be sitting in class and making friends with kids from far flung places.

Which leads us to option two, attending an international school. Thanks to our initial poking around, we have some idea of the lay of the land, at least in Beijing. Our current favorite? We get the biggest kick out of the Harrow School. This is a British school that dates back to 1572 and opened up a Beijing affiliate a couple of years back. It's probably a great school, but the main draw for us? The straw hats!

And then there is option three, attending Beijing Middle School #1 (i.e., the local neighborhood school). Just think, Julie and Z could be CSOL (Chinese as a second language) students! This is the thought that fills my mind during my more devious moments. Heh heh...

~Steve