Tuesday, December 7, 2010

May through December 2010

I haven't forgotten you all, I just can't keep up with all that's going on and all that needs to be done!! The past 8 months has gone by in the blink of an eye ...

We finally celebrated the end of Matt's apprenticeship studies in April!! He was second from the top of his [4th year] class (by less than 2%), and second averaged over the 4 years (by 0.5%). However, he received an award for perfect attendance for all 4 years and another award for being a runner up in an essay contest (related to the apprenticeship). We are very proud of his efforts!

The day I sent the last eNews (April 7) was the hottest Spring day on record (tied with 1929) - a balmy 87degF!! Despite the threat of frosts into May, I chanced it and prepared & planted our veggie garden a couple-weeks (that's 'Pennsylvania Dutch' for those questioning my grammar!) early and it was great! We tried Square Foot Gardening for the first time, and I am a "believer"!! You'll have to check out our photos (www.peifferfamily.shutterfly.com) - you wouldn't believe how much you can grow in a 4'x4' (x6" raised) bed ... and we had six of them, plus two 6'x2' strawberry beds, & another 4'x2' bed in another part of the garden! Our 2010 plantings included: snap & snow peas; broccoli; pole beans; four varieties of tomatoes, yellow & green zucchini, cucumbers, banana & red peppers, romaine & buttercrunch lettuce, spinach, onions, cantaloupes, honeydew, watermelons, & sweet corn - which the squirrels really enjoyed :( Add to this all the 'rogues' that emerged from seeds in the compost soil! Perennial plantings include rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, apples, a grape vine, and a herb garden! This summer I mastered a number of homemade salad dressings to dress the many salads we ate! Mmmmmmm! There is nothing like home-grown & home-made! I miss it all now that the frosts have killed it all off, however we'll get to enjoy homemade tomato soup & rhubarb-raspberry jam through the winter months.

Kaeden & Tyya received their first diplomas in May when they both graduated from preK & preschool respectively! We are so glad we deferred Kindergarten for Kaeden, as he has made some great strides this past year in his therapies and is on par with many of his peers now. Kaeden displays some ADD-like/Aspbergers/sensory-processing issues so I spoke with his Occupational Therapist who recommended the ALERT program, which is full of strategies & exercises that engage one or more of the senses for "helping [our] engine run right". The book was an epiphany for me and has really helped me teach Kaeden how to settle down & focus when his "engine runs high!" The therapists and teachers at their elementary school also utilize the ALERT program so we are already in sync. The strategies also work for "engine-runs-low" people too, so I use some of the techniques when I am tired in the afternoons!

Matt returned to school in late May ... this time in the role of teacher! He taught a 12-week summer class on Solar PV (Photo Voltaic) 2 nights a week at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), where he studied the last 4 years! Though it limited our summer family activities some, he really enjoyed it. The IEC (Independant Electrical Contractors) association encourages their apprentices to "pass it on ... keep learning, mentor, teach ..." and Matt has taken the challenge seriously.

Our 2010 camping season began on the Memorial Day weekend with a trip to Niagara Falls, NY, camping in our friends' backyard, complete with fire circle & swimming pool! We enjoyed showing Yay and the kids one of North America's natural wonders, hanging out with good friends & shooting marshmallows! We also camped a couple of weekends here in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and our annual Labor Day weekend camping & caving trip to West Virginia in September. Yay adventure-caved for the first time & loved it! We finished up with a lovely, albeit chilly, camping weekend in early October at the camp where Matt and I first met, Greene Hills.

Summer was a season of change for us. Five years of caring for [a total of 5 additional] children came to an end when school finished in June, so I could spend more time with Kaeden & Tyya over the summer break before they started school and I, work. In July I returned to my former job, part-time, in the Communications team with the newly formed Susquehanna Conference - a connection of 950 United Methodist Churches in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. My hours are completely flexible, around 20/week, and I am once again primarily responsible for the now bi-monthly news publication the Susquehanna LINK (www.suslink.org) I will also be learning some post-production video editing skills!

Kaeden & Tyya started the summer with 2 weeks of swimming lessons - both making great progress. Kaeden can now swim without a float, though he would not do so for his swim instructor!? His biggest improvement is in his overall confidence, and putting his head under water willingly! Tyya is starting to develop some of the formal swim strokes. Tyya turned 5 on June 3 & Kaeden turned 6 on July 2. We had a joint birthday party for Kaeden & Tyya with an international/world theme. We played games & ate food from around the world and in leiu of gifts we requested clothing & toys that we sent to an orphanage in Guatemala.

Yay ended the '09-'10 school year achieving First Honors (>90% average), a tremendous achievement! Yay returned to South Korea for the Summer on June 14, returning 'home' to us August 23 - I painted and updated her room & furnishings as a surprise!

Kaeden & Tyya were both ripe & ready to start full-day Kindergarten in the fall. Tyya was prescribed glasses just before school started ... when I looked through them, it makes me wonder how she has seen much of anything for the last 5 years! Rather than "holding him back" a year, I feel as though we propelled Kaeden forward. He has settled into Kindergarten well, though he still has some minor learning challenges. They are in separate classes at school which allows for independant development, but they sit with each other on the bus to & from school. I am so thankful for the ability to kiss & bless them each morning as they board the bus, and be home in time to greet them off the bus. They are so eager to share about their day and what they have learned!

Matt is now a qualified Journeyman Electrician having completed the 8000 work hours in addition to his apprentice studies. He is a substitute teacher for the apprentice classes which he just graduated from, and has been called in a couple of times already. He was also promoted to workshop foreman at his job, where he prefabs the materials going out to the electrical & solar installations. For the first time in 10 years, he won't be working outside through the winter! He continues to learn about & gain certifications in solar & renewable energies.

Yay is buried deep each night in the homework demanded by her IB (International Baccalureate) Diploma Course - every class for the next two years (yr 11 & 12) is an advanced level class, and will earn her credits for college. She has enjoyed getting to know some other exchange students this year & some more social opportunities with school friends. Kaeden & Tyya are enjoying weekly gymnastics & just finished another round of swim lessons. Tyya can backstroke like a pro! She was asked to join the swim club team ... at 5 years old! :)

As for me, I am still trying to figure out how to "get it all done"! I have a new level of respect for working [away-from-home] mothers! Add to work & home responsibilities the extra curricular stuff kids want to do, and the time & transport required ... how have mums (or kids!) survived this long?!! In the midst of this awful economy I am thankful to God for employment (enjoyable at that!) and for His abundant provision for our needs. I pray for the wisdom to be a wise steward of it all.

And as if we aren't busy enough, we put our house up for sale 2 weeks ago, the week of Thanksgiving! We found another, bigger, house about 15mins away that we really like and put an offer on, contingent on us selling ours within a reasonable time. So keep us in your prayers, as trying to keep our house clean & decluttered approaching Christmas is a huge undertaking!

Matt got a 6-point buck this past weekend, which is hanging below our deck awaiting him to butcher it. Luckily for Matt, the weather all week has been/will be around freezing!

As we head into the season of Christmas & anticipate the New Year, we hope you find peace in the midst of the everyday chaos, hope in the midst of these challenging times, and time to create some special memories with those you love. Knowing you has blessed us and we are thankful for each and every one of you.

Love, hugs & blessings.

Check out photos here:
https://peifferfamily.shutterfly.com/2389 Apr-Jun
https://peifferfamily.shutterfly.com/2494 Jul-Sep
https://peifferfamily.shutterfly.com/2541 Oct-Dec

Friday, April 2, 2010

January through April 2010

Spring is springing, birds are singing and the Peiffer home is abuzz with activity!! Punxatawny Phil may have been wrong about Winter ... we've just had a week of near perfect weather - warm sunny days, light breezes, much playground time, shorts & t-shirts, even some kite flying - hopefully a taste of more to come! We are itching to get into the garden for spring cleanup and preparation, but there is still the threat of frost for another 6 weeks! I can, however, get some seeds started indoors!

January - COLD! Not a lot of snow, but it sure was chilly with most days below zero! Matt settled into his new job as a Solar Installer and is counting the days to the end of his apprenticeship studies (April) & 8000 required hours (~September) His new safety concern is not electrocution so much as falling off someone's roof while intalling the solar panels, especially when the roof is covered in ice and snow!

Kaeden started his language class (replacing speech therapy) and is doing well in a small class setting, learning concepts. He mimics his peer group - if the environment is positive, he participates well. If there is a troublemaker, Kaeden adds to the mischief!! His fine motor/academic skills have definitely improved - though we still have some skill-building activities to focus on over the coming months as he prepares for kindergarten.

My Mum & Dad celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary on January 30!  WOW! Unfortunately, it was a very low-key celebration with 3 of their 5 children half a continent and world away :( I so wished I could have been there to make a big to-do for such a special occasion. If you're in their vacinity, please stop by and give them a big hug from me!! Only 42 years until I celebrate my golden anniversary with Matt

February - Tyya decided to try her hand at hairdressing - cutting her own hair with kid scissors, using the bulbous brass lamp base as her mirror! Thankfully Tyya has a LOT of hair and I caught her before she did too much damage, but I made it very clear that she is not to do it ever again. It didn't help that one of her best friends hacked her bangs/fringe 4 times in the last couple months. She also sees me cut Matt & Kaeden's hair and my bangs regularly! Brought back memories of my childhood, though I cut my dolls' hair, not mine!

February brought 3 good snowstorms within 2 weeks, and a couple of lesser flurries, dumping a total of 41.9 inches (106cm) of snow - the snowiest month on record in our area. It wasn't the deepest snow we've seen, but the most accumulated in a month. Matt shovelled most of it this year, and the kids had a blast playing in snow that was up to their armpits!! We had a couple of "snow emergency" days, meaning we could not drive anywhere until the roads were cleared by the township. Can you say Cabin Fever?!! So glad we didn't lose power, as the DVD player was well used!

On a whim, I decided to take Kaeden & Tyya ice skating one Friday afternoon. To my surprise, Kaeden took to the ice with confidence, chasing around a tall orange traffic cone (for beginner balance) without stopping or falling for about 5 laps of the rink! As for Tyya, she was like a floppy rag doll, lacking any and all confidence, whining and crying, slipping and sliding all over the ice (despite also trying to hold a traffic cone) barely making a lap for every two of Kaeden's. Tearfully she pleaded "Why is Kaeden so good at ice skating and I'm not?" My answer, "Why are you so good at swimming and Kaeden is not? Let's celebrate that Kaeden is good at skating." She only finally cracked a smile when, while sitting on the sidelines, she saw her brother fall his one and only time whilst getting off the rink!

March - The last month has just gone by in the blink of an eye. We have all been soooooooooooo busy! In a nutshell: weekly gymnastics for K&T, weatherization (energy efficiency) improvements to our house, 2 parent-teacher conferences (Kaeden deemed ready for kindergarten, Yay enrolled in IB diploma course for next 2 years to finish high school!), increased childcare responsibilities, Yay's 16th Birthday (complete with her first taste of pavlova), family photo, women's night out for Sandii, men's weekend retreat for Matt, kindergarten registration for K&T, a day at the circus (S, K&T), "West Side Story" on Broadway in New York City (M,S &Y), Yay started playing soccer (school varsity team) for the first time, Sandii up to 2.5 hrs/30 miles a day in school drop-off/pick-up commuting, about 25 miles (for the month) on the treadmill for Sandii, SPRING sprung!! WOW!!

Matt only has about 2 weeks before finishing the 4th year of studies for his electrical apprenticeship! Still 5 months or so from completing the 8000 hours requirement for the full Journeyman's qualification. He thinks he is running a close second [from the top] in class, but he has maintained perfect attendance for the 4 years, which garners recognition and a monetary bonus at the annual awards banquet, and he is in the running for the highest grades averaged over the 4 years (having topped class 2 of the 4 years.)

Now a couple of side-bars (that is not related to much else!):

I have to share that despite my claims to the contrary for most of the past 14 years I've been abroad, Vegemite does not last forever. Now, understand it was a year past it's use by date (I was rationing it - it was my last jar!) but I opened the lid one day and alas there it was, a spot of mould ... I think I discovered a new extremophile!! If any of you Aussies are swinging by PA anytime soon, please would you bring me a fresh jar of Vegemite! I am getting by on English Marmite (found in a local grocery store) but it is an inferior substitute!

It's tax season here in the US of A. If you think you have it bad ... we pay federal income tax, state income tax, county/regional income tax, property tax, local (municipal) tax, personal tax (for being a resident in our township), a tax for being employed, and state goods & services taxes to name most of them ... and there's even tax on your estate when you die!! Only a few days to get your taxes done [USA] folks!

As I write it's Easter weekend ... it seemed so long in getting here, but indeed April is upon us bringing with it the biggest celebration of the Christian calendar. Hope your Eastertide was so much more than a new outfit, an oversized rabbit, egg hunting and chocolate overload ... as with Christmas, Jesus is the reason for this glorious season.

God bless you all. Thanks for reading!

Check out more pictures here: https://peifferfamily.shutterfly.com/2360