Saturday, June 26, 2010

Josie's First Dance Recital

The video takes about 25 seconds to start (I'm still learning iMovie editing!)

Josie's Ballet/Jazz Class Recital Dance:

Josie has been practicing since January for this big event. I was so surprised that she showed not an ounce of shyness or stage fright. Is this the same girl who hides behind my legs when she meets a stranger?!?

Everyone turned out for the recital. Uncle Dave drove down from the desert. Maddie and Hailey put aside the usual weekend pool lounging and window shopping trips. Josie was thrilled to receive flowers from her sister and her Dad. What a special day!

However, you will see in the photos below, she started getting a little cranky after 6 hours of dancing, being photographed, bobby-pinned, hair-sprayed and curled!! I think I was able to capture a little of the 'Josie Attitude' for you. Now you will catch a glimpse of why my days are so fun filled and never, ever boring!!

Josie and her friend, Sydney, who presented Josie with a Lei after the performance!

Second Performance:

The dancer is getting tired of posing!

Josie and Jolie after their performances. Such beauties!!

This look is PRICELESS!!

This is what Josie will look like when she's around 20...

On the kitchen table... One last photo of the day!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Well, We Survived Another School Year!

Today was the last day of school for both Maddie and Josie. What a school year it has been! We've seen Maddie grow in so many ways. Academically, she's shown tremendous growth and maturity. She finally figured out her time management skills, which enabled her to keep up steady efforts in all her classes. Although finals finished this morning, the one grade we did see was a 94% in French II. Way to go, Maddie!

The other big change, that we are all getting used to, is that Maddie is driving. She still has her learner's permit so she doesn't drive alone. But, now she drives to and from school with James or me as her passenger. Although I am the most patient of her parents when it comes to instruction, I am a horrible passenger! When James drives I have to bring along a book to read or a Sudoko puzzle book to keep me occupied. Otherwise, I would be a nervous wreck! It's a control thing, I guess.

Maddie has once again proved to be waaaayyy too much like her mother when it comes to driving. She has a lead foot. To me, it seems like she is racing to get to the speed limit, rather than a gradual work-up to 55. Josie sits in the back seat telling Maddie, "Mad, you're going too fast" or "Mad, why you hurrying?" It's pretty funny and just goes to prove that there is never a dull moment with these two girls!

Maddie - this morning. Driving to her last day of school.

Josie had all kinds of events for wrapping up her pre-school year. At the end of May, her school had their annual Art Show. The show was open to the public and participation awards were given to all the kids. The art teacher, in our case Miss Mollie, selected one work of art from each child's collection to be displayed. Here's Josie's drawing, entitled DUCK:

After the Art Show, there was an open house so guests could visit the children's classrooms and see the other works of art the children created. Here are a few more shots from that evening:

Here are our girls - Josie was so happy to have her big sister at the show!

And here are the girls as we usually see them - cracking each other up!!

Here are Josie and Jolie with their big sisters: Bella and Maddie!

Josie has also grown in so many amazing ways - at home and school. I have always believed that the girls were capable of relatively complex tasks at an early age. At the age of 2, Maddie was helping out in the kitchen by measuring and stirring. Josie has proved to be better at 'clean-up', but she also had a willingness to 'help' at an early age. So, a few weekends ago I finally allowed Josie to start 'chopping'. I taught her how to properly hold a knife and how to hold what she was cutting. She is a natural! So, I'm posting these photos to let my Mom see that when we arrive in Delaware in August, she will have an able helper at her disposal:

More recently (Saturday) Josie had a photo shoot with Jennifer Eliason to capture her before her first big recital on June 26th. I posted a few of the photos on Facebook, but here are a few of the 39 Jennifer took (copyright permission given):

Josie and Jolie - her classmate had the appointment slot right before ours!

This is the costume she will wear for her ballet performance of 'Castle on a Cloud' from Les Miserables

And finally, on Wednesday, Josie had her last chapel at school. Awards were given for academic achievement and Josie received hers for Reading:

Josie and LoLo hold their certificates on stage with their classmates

As you can see, it's been a busy time around here. I only have two more 'major' tasks to accomplish before enjoying summer vacation. Tomorrow, Jolie's parents and big sister, Bella will join us here at home to help assemble and pack 70 personal hygiene kits for the children of Siankaba pre-school in Zambia. Jolie's family was kind enough to volunteer their time to help the children get these kits. They are a wonderful family who really want to 'make a difference' in the lives of children all over the world. We're going to work hard and then have a nice cook-out as a reward for our efforts!!

Last task is to finish preparations for the 50th Wedding Anniversary/80th birthday celebration for James' parents that we are hosting in San Francisco on July 3rd. We are expecting about 120 guests for the eight-course dinner. Speeches need to be written, table linens need to be rented, seating arrangements prepared and favors to be crafted. Luckily, I will have both my girls on hand to help out with these tasks! I'm off now to take a nap.. I hope!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Everything is Negotiable

I'll confess that I try to keep things as positive as possible when reporting our everyday routines. There's really no point in bellyaching when I'm aware of how lucky we are... We have a roof over our heads, good schools for our daughters, good health and food on the table. During these tough economic times, that's no small feat. I really, really am so thankful that my husband works so hard to provide all these comforts for us.

But this week, my positive attitude has been sorely tested. My encounters with the 'trades' I deal with on a daily basis have left me so frustrated, I want to just scream!

Since we moved here to OC I've come to terms with what I like to call the 'OC Rule of Three'. It's a loosely defined formula that basically involves taking the standard price you would expect to pay for any object or service and times that by 3. The product of the equation equals the OC Price. This pretty much holds true for everything from real estate to groceries.

Our first encounter with the Rule of 3 came when we sought an estimate from a painter. We asked for an estimate of how much it would cost to paint 3 small wrought iron balcony railings on the exterior of our home. The largest railing was 5 feet long x 3 feet wide. We waited 2.5 weeks for the painter to submit his estimate and it came back at $2500. WHAT?!? That estimate held me back from seeking an estimate to have the girls rooms painted until last week.

Our second experience was worse because we actually believed the estimate and got nailed for that naivety. I called around to every rug cleaner in the area to find one who specialized in cleaning silk rugs and also picked-up and delivered. I told the gentleman that I selected I had an 8'x10' silk rug in our dining room that had never been cleaned... This is the rug we purchased in China when we travelled to get our Josie. The rug is a special memento of that trip, and we take care of it accordingly.

The gentleman I spoke to came to pick-up the rug and handed me a receipt with the quoted price for cleaning the rug. It would be delivered back to our home within 3 weeks. It was about double what I had paid to have our Turkish rug cleaned in Virginia, but I figured it was silk so the cost was justified. Well, the rug came back in 3 weeks and I had the check written out to hand to the gentleman. Upon delivery, I was handed another receipt - this one had an additional $230 tacked on for 'treatment of spots'. Umm... isn't that why rugs are cleaned?! I wrote the check and put that outfit on my personal 'Do Not Call' list.

I finally got up the nerve to contract a painter for the girls' rooms. I purchased the paint and two painters showed up at 8AM. They did a great job. They covered the path from the front door, up the steps and the hallway leading to the girls' rooms. They didn't blast music the whole day and they touched up along the ceiling where the previous painters had made mistakes. I was really thrilled with the excellent job the painters did. Until I got a call from the gentleman who prepared the proposal. He had looked over each room before giving us the proposal, so when he called I thought he was contacting me to see if I was happy with the job. No. He was calling me to let me know that the touch ups on the ceiling and two spots on the door frames were going to cost me an extra $80.00. Mind you, they didn't paint the door frames - just touched up the line where the wall and frame meet.

Am I missing something? A price quote is a price quote. I didn't accept a proposal with any kind of wording stating extra charges would apply. And, honestly, doesn't any professional painter provide these services as part of the job? I highly value tradesmen who perform well and believe firmly that one gets what one pays for. But, seriously?!? Those painters were making over $50 Each per hour. I'm sorry, but that's nuts.

Anyway, it was hard to capture the color of each room but here's what we were shooting for:

In Maddie's room, she has a beautiful Ralph Lauren bedding ensemble with incredible colors. We could have picked any from this duvet cover:

Here's a detail of the pattern:

Here's the subtle yellow we selected for Maddie's room: (please ignore the standard teenage messiness!)

Josie's room was much easier. She's 5 and the only color she was willing to consider was PINK. So, I handed her the color chips with all the pinks and let her pick one out. She selected Benjamin Moores 'Candy Stripe'. Of course, this selection was based solely on the name. So I told her, "Okay, Candy Stripe it is!". Then I selected the palest pink I could live with - which ended up being 'Pink Peony'. Josie is thrilled with the new color of her room and will tell everyone "It's Candy Stripe!!" Don't you just wish they could stay 5 forever?! Anyway, here's Josie with her new room color:

Aside from the drama with the painters, the gardener presented me with some challenges. All this, after having my 6th dental appointment in as many weeks. Dentist says I must be stressed... I have been clenching my jaw so tightly that I have cracked 4 molars. Imagine that...