Laurelin’s 3rd birthday

In all the bustle of the end of the school year and then summer vacation, I’ve neglected to post photos of Laurelin’s 3rd birthday.

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Laurelin is now a full-blown 3-year-old and no push-over, in every sense of the word. She’s feisty, not afraid to push and shove people 2 or 3 times her size (we’re working on that…) and is learning to use her words to say what she means instead of whining or squealing. (On that note, check out her Twitter page, which we’ve started for her like for the other two girls. Some days when I need a laugh I reread their funny sayings on Twitter and that perks me right up!)

The other day at the playground I watched her run next to the merry-go-round, pushing it faster and then swinging herself onto it despite it going quite fast and the platform being about chest height for her. Despite her reckless feistiness, she is very funny, she’s caring, and she can play quietly for extended periods of time making up the most hilarious little stories if you just quietly sit and observe. She gives wonderful cuddles and I’m so thankful she hasn’t lost all her baby squishiness and smell. And yet… she’s turning into a little big girl before my very eyes, and I can’t help feeling just a little bit sad.

During our visit to New Zealand over Christmas, Laurelin was introduced to the wonders of Peppa Pig and has been watching it since then (such a cute show!). So it would be no surprise, then, that she wanted a Peppa Pig themed birthday party — which she got. Well, it was really just a glorified play-date with some decorations and a cake, but if you don’t tell, I won’t!

 

Finishing up the school year

It’s taken us a while to get used to this business of school finishing right in the middle of the calendar year and the starting again in August/September when we are so used to the school year following the calendar year. We have now pretty much slotted into the US school calendar and are starting up again with homeschooling in a couple of weeks. But in the mean time, let me share some photos of the kids finishing up their last school year. Esther just finished 1st grade (Year 2 for NZers), Marica finished 3rd grade (Year 4), and Laurelin finished being a 2-year-old, ha. She’s recently  started preschool for 3 mornings a week, so that will hopefully free me up a bit so the two older girls and I can get some more work done. Look who lost her two front teeth!

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The girls also took part in their piano teacher’s end of year recital and did so well. They made their parents proud! Their friend, Elijah, has the same piano teacher and also played very well in the recital.

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There was also a co-op concert where the kids took part, but I have no photos of that, unfortunately.

Last semester, Esther did ballet which is something she has wanted to do for years. We found a place nearby and signed her up. It wasn’t quite as traditional a ballet school as I was hoping for, and she didn’t enjoy it as much as she thought she would, so we might rethink the whole ballet thing. But we’ll see. Either way, she did really well with the little dance her class did and loved getting all dolled up for the event!

The rehearsal:

 

The the big concert:

 

And while we’re on the theme of end-of-school, I should include Abby in here too. She’s our pastor’s daughter and the great love and big-girl friend of my girls. This year she graduated from high school. She was a member of the NJHSA (North Jersey Home Schoolers’ Association) and was part of their beautiful and grand graduation ceremony. I attended with Marica. It was so encouraging for me as a homeschool parent to see so may other homeschooling parents come to the end of a race well done. As each student crossed the stage, it gave a little bio of what their high school interests and accomplishments were and what they were planning on doing in the fall. What an impressive bunch of students! Then the students thanked their parents and gave their mothers a rose, which I thought was a touching gesture. We also got treated to listening to the NJHSA choir — wow! They were fantastic, and I don’t easily say that about a high school choir.  We’re proud of you, Abby!

The job front

In the last couple of months I’ve had a bit of a change job-wise (Franci said it was about time for me to write). I had been a software engineer for Oyster.com — now part of TripAdvisor — for just over six years, and decided it was time for a change and some new work experience while we’re here in the States.

So I started looking around, and interviewed with several companies: Google, Paperless Post, and a couple of others. Google was interesting to interview with, but they said no (at least for the role I was looking for). So I was looking pretty hard at the Paperless offer, but then my boss offered me a new role within TripAdvisor working on a different team and with different technologies … and for various reasons, that’s the role I ended up taking. TripAdvisor is a really good company to work for.

The role is with Jetsetter, another sub-company of TripAdvisor, and it’s still software development, though I’m not managing a team anymore. Jetsetter, like Oyster, is a hotel review website, but they’re more focused on “travel inspiration” and at least traditionally a bit more of a luxury brand. I’m using different technologies (see below) and the team culture is somewhat different, but oddly enough I’m sitting only a few metres away from where I was before. So a substantial change, just not a geographical one. :-)

For the tech geeks among you: to date Jetsetter is mostly written in Scala and Node.js and React, and has a microservices approach on the backend. (In constrast, Oyster has an almost exclusively Python-based, monolithic backend.) I’m introducing some Python on the team with my first project, a new photo import system and image web server.

I’ve been with the new team for about a month now, and it’s been good so far!

In other news, I’ve signed up to teach a computer programming class at our homeschool co-op. It’ll be an hour every second Friday, starting in September, continuing for the full school year. I plan to do a few lessons on computing history and the basics of how computers work (binary, computer maths, what a programming language is), and then spend the rest of the year teaching basic programming skills while working on a project — a little computer game or website or some such. Franci will be sitting in on the class too, which is cool.

Thanks for listening, and signing off for now!

A morning in the big city

I’m playing catch-up here on the blog after my long silence. We start back at school in 3 weeks or so, but it feels as though we’ve hardly started vacation. Summer for us here in the US seems to be filled with more activity than during the school year. We have trips and visitors and a long To Do list that is always more optimistic than realistic.

So, in an attempt over the next few weeks to catch up to where we are at now, let’s go back to the spring and let me tell of you a delightful morning trip into NYC. Our lovely friend, Shannon, invited us to a high tea Alice’s Tea Cup. We decided to make a day out of it and took the bus in (lot of excitement for the kids, less parking hassle and expense for mom).

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Alice’s Tea Cup is such a sweetly decorated place all in the theme of Alice in Wonderland. They have more teas on their menu than I ever thought even existed. We ordered 3 pots of tea and loads of scones to go with the high tea and is was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, I forgot to take any photos inside!

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After this we went for a stroll in Central Park, sang hymns under a bridge (fun acoustics), and found a playground for the kids to play while Shannon and I got some talking done. (Not much meaningful talking happens when you try to have tea with 3 young girls.)

I am usually pretty loathe to go into the city for outings, especially with the kids, but this was so manageable and fun we might just have to repeat it soon!

Random thoughts

The last couple of months have looked a little different to our usual routines. I’ve had a relapse of the Epstein-Barr virus which wiped me out but I seem to be feeling a fair bit better the last week or so; Ben’s been looking at different job options and has had multiple interviews with several different companies (no decision yet, though). Summer is upon us (hooray!) and I’m getting less and less inclined to do anything that resembles regular duties around here. The combination of the above three things have made for a rather unusual and unpredictable spring.

The girls are all doing well — in good health and spirits (most of the time), for which we’re thankful. Marica and Esther are now both voracious readers, and Laurelin, like a typical youngest sibling, wants to do everything they do. I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts reading at 3 — and not because I’m pushing her!

We’ve got 1 more week of homeschooling before we stop for the summer. Marica and I are looking forward to the break. Esther would like to do school all the way through! I’ve enrolled Laurelin in a preschool for 3 mornings a week starting in July. I’m hoping this will help the two older girls and me get some more focused schoolwork done.

I planted a veggie garden in the spring. It’s been really satisfying to see things sprout and grow. I keep going out there and thinking I should go get my camera to document it… but I haven’t. Gardening is such a nice chore, especially when you get to eat the fruit of your labor. We’ve had quite a few nice salads and herbs already, and look forward to a good crop of tomatoes, beans and more.

Politics is of course one of those topics that you can’t get away from these days. The general sentiment among the people I mix with is one of despondency — having to choose between bad and worse does not fill one with warm fuzzies. My main thought through all this has been: “How did it get to this?!” Ben and I have really appreciated this article written by Andrew Sullivan for New York Magazine that basically answers that question. It’s long, but well worth the read.

This summer is promising to be a lovely one. We’re looking forward to another Hoyt reunion in Georgia; a trip to Tennessee for cousin Hannah’s wedding; a trip to Vermont; several visitors — Ben’s parents, his brother and family, cousins, and some friends; the girls are all doing some sort of ‘summer camp’ — Marica to an overnight one, Esther to a daytime art camp, and Laurelin is doing a special programme at her new preschool. Add to that a plan to have many relaxing days at our friends’ pool, playdates with friends, picnics, ice pops, an abundance of summer fruit and sprinkler fun, and we’ve got ourselves a great summer to look forward to!

And on that note, if the posting on here becomes a little sporadic over the next few months, just imagine I’m trying to learn what ‘relax’ means again after a busy year. (Truth is I’ll probably be trying to get all the things done that don’t get done during the year like clearing out trash drawers and mending clothes and planning school for next year. But those things, when done, bring a certain kind of satisfaction that helps the whole relaxing thing!)

Co-op class pizza night

 

I teach a Narnia literature class at our homeschool co-op, which has been really fun. For me, anyway. Not quite sure what the kids think, seeing that it’s a discussion class and I make them talk. Which is such a hassle, don’t you think? :-)

In our class we’ve been reading all 7 chronicles and discussing them in light of Michael Ward’s book Planet Narnia. Actually, Planet Narnia is the adult version and is quite thick, we’ve been working through the simplified version called The Narnia Code. It’s a thoroughly Christian approach looking at (in a nutshell) how each chronicle is related to one of the medieval planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn). Lewis was fascinated with astronomy and with medieval cosmology (no, it’s not New Age, and no, it has nothing to do with the modern understanding of astrology). Basically, in medieval cosmology, each planet has a certain character and qualities that then forms the atmosphere for its associated chronicle. It’s a theory, and that’s how we’ve been studying it, but it seems pretty plausible to me. I’ve really enjoyed teaching it!

Earlier this spring I hosted a movie night of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at our house. The class is mostly made up of boys, so I decided that there’d have to be some sort of food magnet. What better food magnet for young teens than homemade pizza and ice cream sandwiches? They made their own pizzas. No surprise that the first topping to go was the bacon, right? I enjoyed hosting them — they’re a fun bunch!

A Spring Tea Party

In our living room stands a beautiful wooden display cabinet that has been in my family for 3 generations. It displays a selection of pretty tea cups, teapots, milk pitchers and sugar pots I have been given from my grandma, my mum, and Ben’s grandma Tschetter. I love them all, but they’re of course too pretty and special to use on a regular basis… with the end result that they never get used! This is a problem that needed a solution.

So I organized a tea party with some friends! And what better reason to get a bunch of girls together to drink tea out of pretty cups than springtime? The first weekend of April we got together over some lovely food (contributed by everyone), a vast selection of teas and tea pots (some people also brought theirs to share) and had a lovely, lovely time chatting and forgetting a bit about everything else.

I think we just started a new tradition!