Saturday, March 24, 2018

Girls' Day 2018 - Coffee Shop Friends

13 years ago, we met a family who was in the process of adopting from China. Katherine had only been home a few months and she was one of the first Chinese children they had met. Tami and I became friends and I was happy to share our experiences with her. Nearly a year later, Tami's family was matched with a little girl just a few weeks younger than Katherine. Amazingly, Amy was from the same orphanage as Katherine. They had spent their first months together, long before we even knew of their existence. Tami and I have never stopped marveling at luck or chance or divine plan that brought two tiny girls from an orphanage in southern China to families who already knew each other and lived not far apart.

When Katherine and Amy were little, Tami and I met often to give them the chance to play together. We went to the zoo and met for lunch and spent time together at events hosted by our adoption agency or Families with Children from China. Tami's family added 3 more children from China and we brought Rachel home. Over time, our lives got busier and we saw each other less often. Recently, I realized that I had not seen Tami in several years and that our daughters hadn't seen each other in even longer.

Tami and her family now run a coffee shop that helps support children living in orphanages in China. They live and work in a town we were driving past on our way home from Lindsborg, So, we stopped in for a surprise visit. I am so glad we did!

We spent an hour laughing and talking and catching up on each others' lives. It was so good to be with these friends again.

The coffee shop is a warm and welcoming place, with a map of the world carved out of plaster on the wall...
 ...and fun spaces for kids to play.
Our ridiculously grown up girl don't know each other anymore, but they are aware of their shared past and I think they'd be good friends if they lived in the same town.
They are also remarkably tolerant of their moms' insistence of taking pictures of them every time they are together.
I am so grateful to reconnect with these friends and to honor the ties we have to each other.

Girls' Day 2018 - Coronado Heights

After lunch on our Girls' Day we ventured a few miles north of Lindsborg to see Coronado Heights. Francisco Coronado gave up his absurdly long quest to find a city of gold somewhere near here. Chain mail and other bots of Spanish armor have been found in the area. In the 1920's a tall hill was re-named Coronado Heights by locals and in 1935 the Works Progress Administration workers built a castle shaped shelter there out of area sandstone.

The castle is fun to explore and the views from the top are amazing, if very windy!

Girls' Day 2018 - Bike Adventure

While we were in Lindsborg we saw bicycle cart contraptions for rent. On a whim, we rented one for half an hour.

They were harder to pedal than they looked, but so much fun! We laughed and laughed as we took turns pedaling around town.

Silly adventures sure make fun memories!

Girls' Day 2018 - Dala Horse Heaven

There are a LOT of dala horses in Lindsborg! We saw them everywhere - in shops, on storefronts, hanging on the porches of many houses in town, on signs and T-shirts and tourist trinkets. The store full of Swedish things had a cool dala horse bench in front.
The most entertaining dala horses were big horse shaped sculptures standing in front of businesses. They were decorated in creative ways, most tying in to the sort of store or business they represented, and many had amusing names.

Such a fun public art project!

Spring Break Girls' Day 2018 - Lindsborg

My mom and sister and the girls and I have had a Girls' Day over Spring Break for a number of years. Usually it's a day trip or even just time hanging out together and we all look forward to it. This year for our Girls' Day we went to the little town of Lindsborg to experience a bit of Swedish culture.

We started off by wandering through a shop crammed full of dala horses, gnomes, trolls, Swedish flags, Scandinavian cookbooks, imported Swedish candies, and a million other Swedish delights. Such a fun place to browse!

The back of the store houses a workshop where traditional dala horses are crafted.

The workers gave Rachel her own little horse cutout!
We stopped by a self-serve bakery for a snack. It's located in the middle of several little art galleries. You choose the goodies you want and leave money in a basket!

We tried lingonberry bars, pasties filled with bluberries, and a peanut butter cookie with peanut butter icing. Delicious!
We visited other little shops and galleries, stopping to sit every now and then.

Once we'd explored all the little shops, the fair trade store, and the toy store, we had lunch at the Swedish Crown restaurant. After checking out the menu, we agreed to all order something different and then share. That way, we could try lingonberries 6 different ways - on Swedish pancakes (which are somewhere between a crepe and an omelette), as a spread on a turkey sandwich, as a side with traditional Swedish meatballs and dilled potatoes, mixed in barbecue sauce on a burger, as a syrup in iced tea, and as a spicy sauce on sweet potato fry nachos. It was all tasty!

Lindsborg is a cool little town and we enjoyed our day there!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Celebrating Strings

We spent the weekend celebrating the 130th anniversary of our little town's school strings program. I knew our town has a long history of supporting music, including school band and orchestra programs, a city band, music festivals, adult and youth symphony orchestras, and an assortment of oratorio societies, musical theater, and music performance programs. This year I learned that our town has the oldest public school orchestra in the country.  Other cities have extracurricular music programs that date back further, but our schools have been offering orchestra classes for credit during the regular school day since 1888! How cool is that?

Katherine first started begging to play the violin when she was about 4 years old. We ignored her requests for a long time, but she continued to ask. Sometimes daily. By the time she was in 2nd grade, her interest in the violin had only grown stronger. The school didn't offer orchestra classes until 5th grade, but we asked the orchestra teacher about the possibility of lessons. The teacher referred us to a private instructor and offered to measure Katherine to see what size violin she would need. Then she arranged for Katherine to borrow the first of several school violins. Katherine has had private lessons most weeks since then. She joined the school orchestra in 5th grade and orchestra quickly became her favorite class. It still is. She loves her teacher, loves her orchestra, and loves playing. She was proud to be a part of the 130th festivities this week.
Friday evening, Katherine and I went to an alumni recital. Former students from the 1960's to the present solos and duets and quartets. Their music selections were classical - Mozart, Vivaldi, Prokofiev, Massenet. And all were beautifully played. The audience reaction, however, was not the usual calm and polite crowd. There were 170 teenage strings students in the crowd, the sort of kids who tell bad orchestra jokes and geek out on violin concertos. They listened to each performance intently and then burst into cheers and screams as soon as the last note faded. It was a rock star reaction and the energy and excitement was tremendously fun!

Last night there was a 130th Anniversary Celebration concert, featuring pieces performed by the 6th, 7th, 8th, and high school orchestras, with alumni added. They filled the entire length of the high school gym.
The 8th grade orchestra played two pieces. Katherine played her usual violin for the first. (That's her, to the director's left.)

Last fall, Katherine asked if she could learn to play bass. She was interested in adding another instrument to her list and was looking for ways to challenge herself in orchestra class. Her teacher agreed to let her try. She practices in the orchestra room after school and has made enough progress that she now plays the bass in class, too. So for the second half of the concert, Katherine moved to the back row and played bass.
The evening continued with a history of the school's strings program, stories about the long line of orchestra teachers, and the premier performance of a piece commissioned for the event. Alumni joined the high school orchestra for several of the songs. The final piece was Beethoven's Ode to Joy, performed by all 200+ musicians, with four directors conducting simultaneously. It was beautiful and such fun!

I am so grateful for my town's commitment to music programs in the public schools. I appreciate how music teachers have recognized and nurtured Katherine's musical abilities. I am so glad that she has the opportunity to learn and perform music and to be a part of something much bigger than herself. And I love hearing beautiful music and watching my girl learn to love it, too.

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way