Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pageant & Concert: Pictures & Videos

Yet another busy weekend at the Reynolds household. Shaling participated in the first ever Junior Miss Rochester Pageant (she didn't place, but for a girl who didn't speak any English 2 1/2 years ago, she did awesome). Preston wrapped up a week at U of I for music camp with a concert at Krannert Art Center. Here are some pictures and videos.

Shaling walks on stage and then answers her question from the emcee during the first annual Rochester Junior Miss Pageant.

Shaling - Inaugural Junior Miss Rochester Pageant from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

There was an overabundance of percussionists at this year's ISYM, so to keep things special for all of them, the powers-that-be brought in a percussion specialist who taught them a samba-style piece that they performed during the concert to wrap-up their week at ISYM. Preston is playing a small, hand-held drum a bit smaller than a tambourine. He is on the left, fifth from the end of the horseshoe shape. He actually has a BRIEF solo at about the 1:40 mark. The videographer (Brock) could have held the camera a bit steadier, and we get a great shot of his hand at one point, but I truly appreciate his efforts, as he hurried over to get in a better position to record this -- our seats didn't have the best of view.

Preston - Samba piece with the World Junior Percussion Ensemble from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Basketball & Ice Cream

Lord help me, this girl's strong will is going to do me in. Last week, she attended basketball camp at Rochester High School. This week, she is going to basketball camp at Lincoln Land Community College. We are paying our neighbor, Erin, to shuttle her back and forth so we don't have to take off work. I found out last Friday that every single day last week, Shaling talked Erin into taking her out for ice cream after camp. That was not part of the agreed upon deal. Not that I really care about the ice cream; I am sure Shaling MORE than burned off the calories during camp. Plus, she is not a good milk drinker, so the calcium is a benefit.

However, I would like Shaling to learn proper etiquette -- if someone offers to buy you something, it's ok to say "yes, please", "no, thank you", or "yes, thank you." I am trying to convince her that it is rude to flat out ask. So, I explained this the best I could and her response was, "but, I like ice cream." Duh. Stupid Mom. Of course, I went on to explain that is beside the point.

So, fast forward to today. Erin picks Shaling up from basketball camp. Shaling borrows Erin's phone. She calls ME to ask, "Mom, can I have ice cream?"
Color me stupified.

For those of you not on Facebook, you might get an even better kick out of this conversation Shaling had with Erin. Erin is in her early 20s and has a steady boyfriend, Nick. Nick is currently serving our country in Afghanistan and Erin explained to Shaling that he is not coming home until November. Shaling responded, "It's good to have a boyfriend, but you should also have another boy to have a crush on in case you get tired of waiting or you break up." Yes, God; my 11-year-old, with just under 2.5 years in America, has already figured out the "back-up plan". Please keep your arms wrapped around both of us.

Back to basketball -- Shaling has spent the last two weekends participating in basketball tournaments. Her team is relatively raw compared to most of the competition and have gone 4-6 in 10 games, but we have seen growth in every game. She is having a blast playing and is actively listening, striving to get better, and it shows!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Preston earns some recognition!

Congratulations to Preston! At today's 7th grade awards assembly, he was recognized for making honor roll all 4 quarters and earning a "I" rating for his snare drum solo at the February solo & ensemble contest. We were expecting those recognitions, but we were pleasantly surprised and mega-proud when he was presented with an award for being the most outstanding 7th grade jazz band musician. He was asked to switch from drum set to bells this year and he tackled it well. I am so pleased to see him rewarded for his efforts. We are also blessed to have an amazing Fine Arts staff at Rochester that works very hard to get all they can from the students.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

ShenZhen Population Boom: 30,000 to 12,000,000 -- in 30 years

I've got some fabulous pictures to share, thanks to another adoptive parent, who shared the following article: Here's What Shenzhen, China Looked Like Just Before Becoming One Of The Most Important Cities In The World. I've written about ShenZhen before (Shenzhen: Fishing Village to Major Port), but I never ceased to be amazed by it's growth. According to this, the population around 1980 was roughly 30,000. However, about that time, China designated it a Special Economic Zone, freeing it from much of the Communist rules that the rest of the country has to follow in terms of private business growth. The city has taken off ever since, and the most recent figures provide a population estimate of 12,000,000.

Here are 5 random pictures from the article I linked above (all taken in 1980):

And now, compare those to the following (also taken from that article):

And this (taken from my own blog):

Or, better yet, watch this 48 second video that shows a better look at the gridlock we found ourselves stuck in for two-plus hours:

Gridlock from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

I read that the population density in ShenZhen is at 6,620 people (per square mile).  Can you imagine just how strange it must have been for Shaling to arrive here and see such wide expanses of single-family homes?!?

Finally, just a bit off topic, but while searching for the gridlock video to share, I stumbled across this one as well. Shaling and Natalie (who was adopted to a family in Florida the same day we got Shaling) are chattering away in Chinese. While I wouldn't trade being able to converse with Shaling, I am nostalgic for those days of hearing her rattle off in Chinese like this. Shaling is the one in the green jacket (on the right):

More Gridlock from Brock Reynolds on Vimeo.

Friday, May 17, 2013

English Progress Update

When Shaling first started school at Rochester, she was given an English proficiency exam to determine her need for E.L.L. (English Language Learner) services. That was in January 2011. Each January since, she has been given the test again to gauge her progress. Even though she takes the test in January, we (and the school) don't receive the scores until May (the test is sent off to be scored somewhere else).

This year, the day of the test was not a good day for Shaling. For deeply personal reasons, she was intensely distracted. The teacher (Mrs. Bivens) warned me at the time that this probably affected Shaling's scores. Based on Shaling's results (which you can see below), I believe that her Listening score was definitely affected, but I'm not concerned at all, because I find her other scores to be outstanding.

All scores are out of 6.0.

Her score jumps are mighty impressive to me. In order to "graduate" from E.L.L. services, she will need at least a 4.2 for Literacy (which she has already reached) and a Composite score of 4.8 (she is at 3.9). Not bad for only two years into learning the language. Way to go, girl!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Shaling's Growth - Put in Numbers

When describing Shaling's growth to people, I have been telling them that in just over two years, she's grown roughly 10 inches or more. I've often showed them the following two pictures (which I keep on my phone) for comparison. The first one was taken on Gotcha Day (the day we got her), December 27, 2010. The second one was taken in February of this year -- just over two years later. Check out how Preston towers over her in the first one and how much that has changed by the second one.

Well, now I have some numbers to back my estimate up. In this blog post from New Year's Day 2011, Shaling went to the doctor in China for a physical before we could bring her to America. I included this picture, which shows her standing on a scale:

She weighed 25.5 kilograms, which converts to roughly 56 pounds, and stood 127.5 centimeters tall, which converts to roughly 50 inches. Yesterday, I had the kids stand in front of a measuring strip by the door at Steak & Shake. Shaling is now WELL over 5 feet tall (60.5 inches), so my 10-inch to  a foot taller estimate was pretty accurate. Shaling neglected to smile, so the picture isn't very good, and she made me promise not to post it, so I won't. At home, I had her stand on the scale before bedtime and according to that scale, she now weighs 91 pounds. The girl knows how to eat!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Good News for Shaling

Yesterday, Shaling was one of five girls who tried out for two open spots on a traveling competitive basketball team. She did a fabulous job at the tryout and was aptly rewarded. We got the good news today and I let Preston be the one to tell her.

As you can tell, she is excited. So far, we know she has tournaments May 25/26 and the first 3 weekends in June. The first and last ones are in Springfield. The first weekend of June is in Bloomington and the second weekend is in Decatur.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Shhh! We're Writing the Constitution

As parents, Brock & I have rule that we don't make the kids participate in any specific activity. They just have to be involved in something other than just regular school schoolwork. What that something is, is up to them.

Rules are made to be broken by me, right?

Shaling is in 5th grade this year. In Rochester, 5th grade is the first time that the students have the option of participating in chorus. For one reason, and one reason only, I told Shaling she had to be in chorus for just one year. That reason? The annual production, "Shhh! We're Writing the Constitution."

Oh, my. This is one amazing show. I thoroughly enjoyed it when Preston was in it and couldn't wait for Shaling to do the same. The performance centers around the Constitutional Convention of 1787, but draws upon that to link in other parts of American History as well. The kids wear costumes from the colonial period and sing songs centering around the United States of America.

The intermediate school music teacher, Dave McCafferty, has tweaked the show a bit with his own personal touch, and if I remember correctly, our now retired principal, Laurie Lundin, helped him a bit with that. The entire Fine Arts staff, as well as other staff members, all pitch in to help make this a spectacular production.

Last night was this year's performance (although there will also be a repeat performance at the Fine Arts Festival later this month) and it was tremendous. I'll share with you below two videos from it.

This one is "Fifty, Nifty, United States". It has personal meaning to me, because I remember singing it well over 30 years ago in grade school with Mr. Ben Strode. That grade school (South Elementary) is now an apartment and office building.

Fifty Nifty United States from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

This one is a fun medley of several well known tunes, including "God Bless the U.S.A." by Lee Greenwood and "America" by Neil Diamond.

Medley Finale from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Kids Might Be In an Ad Campaign

Over night, I received a message from a visual research company based in Los Angeles, Nickerson Research. They are currently working on an advertising project for a client and stumbled across one of my videos on Vimeo. They would like to forward my video to their creative team for possible use (footage only, not the audio), so they had some licensing and logistics questions for me. I'm very intrigued about their client, but realize privacy issues probably prevent them from telling me who it is. I have told them I am the author/copyright holder of the video and I'm willing to let them use it, but am awaiting further information from them at this point as to how to do that.

This is the video that the company wishes to use (I suspect the last roughly 20 seconds are what they want):

Preston & Shaling Share Ramen Noodles from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.
My caption at the time: "Ramen noodles are the one thing Preston knows how to cook. No, we don't usually make the kids share bowls. They did that all on their own."
They are both able to prepare several items in the kitchen now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Becoming an Elected Official

I typically focus our blog on the kids, but I'm taking a brief time out to celebrate a personal moment. Last night, I was elected to the Rochester school board. As an education geek who was already a frequent board meeting attendee, I am thrilled to take on the role of helping to continue the wonderful tradition of our local schools.

I ran four years ago when an incumbent stepped down. At the time, 3 seats were open and 8 people (including 2 incumbents) vied for them. Despite having only lived in the district 3 years at the time, I did well (in my humble opinion), coming in 4th -- even beating an incumbent. Therefore, instead of being discouraged, I was encouraged.

I initially intended to run again 2 years ago when 4 seats were open, but when I realized all 4 incumbents were running, I changed my mind. This time and incumbent was stepping down again, and there were 5 people running for 3 seats. Per the Sangamon County Clerk website, these are the results (pending any straggling-in absentee ballots):

Vote for 3
COLLEEN BRAKER DRACOS   .....................................   390   11.97%
AMY REYNOLDS   .....................................   874   26.82%
TODD M. GOEBEL   .....................................   806   24.73%
WILLIAM YATTONI   .....................................   802   24.61%
DAVID A. BARBER   .....................................   387   11.87%
  Over Votes   .....................................   9  
  Under Votes   .....................................   734  

I have to share a sweet story -- Preston waited in the car while Brock went in to vote at the poll. Before Brock could get in line, his phone rang. Preston was calling from the car. He asked, "Dad, can I come in and vote too?" Of course, Brock told him no, explaining that you have to be 18-years-old, Preston's response was, "but haven't we fought for laws in this country to make it fair for everyone to vote?"

Shaling and Preston were both fabulous about helping me distribute door cards with my information. Shaling's enthusiasm was overwhelming, as she kept asking me if I had any more.

One of the things I'm most looking forward to about this is to using my people skills to form strong relationships, therefore, I was encouraged and pleased to receive a congratulatory text from our superintendent last night and several this morning from current board members.

I'm not entirely naive; I know I'm getting ready to take on a lot of work, but it's work that involves some of my favorite topics -- education, children, and people. Thanks again to EVERYONE who helped me. This list is extensive -- a great reminder of just how fortunate and blessed I am.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Busy as the Reynolds Family

Whenever I’m asked how Shaling, or both kids, or my family, is doing, my standard answer tends to be, “Good. Busy.” I don’t usually expand on that much, lest I bore the person asking. However, I’ll take the opportunity to use this blog to fill you in on what the month of April looks like on the Reynolds family calendar. I'm sure you'll see why I won't be nominated for Suzy Homemaker of the Year.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hometowns & Visits

We recently found out that Shaling's 3rd grade teacher (her first ever teacher here in America), Mrs. Collins, is retiring at the end of this school year and moving to southern Illinois. She is returning to her hometown.
Last night, we were explaining this to Shaling, describing it as Mrs. Collins going to live where she lived as a little girl. As a testament to just how well she has adjusted to a new country, new language, new foods, new people, new family, and new culture in just over two years time, Shaling pointed at the ground and said in a sing-song voice, "I am going to stay right here. Right here in Springfield."
Brock and I both smiled and Brock gently said, "I remember a time when you were going to move to China."
She replied, "I'll visit China."
Brock informed her that she will needs lots of money. She told us that she has "fifty cents".
Of course, we giggled. But apparently she has a back-up plan. The next words that came out of her mouth were, "But if I have a rich boyfriend..."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Just Following Instructions...

Along with all of the other students, Shaling recently completed some standardized testing. The only difference is that she takes hers with the English Language Learner teacher instead of in the regular classroom, but it is the same test (and the instructions are in English).

On the math portion, there was a word problem that had to be solved, following which the students were to write a step-by-step paragraph explaining how they solved it. Shaling got done unusually quickly, so Mrs. Bivens gently asked her if she’d written down absolutely everything that she had done. So, Shaling sat back down. When all of the papers were eventually collected, Mrs. Bivens saw that Shaling had correctly solved the problem, but her paragraph was, “First, I solved the problem. Second, I circled the answer. Third, I waited ten minutes for everyone else. Fourth, I turned in my sheet.”

Haha…she cracks me up.

On an unrelated note, for those of you not on Facebook, we are so proud of Preston. He doesn’t get a lot of accolades at school, but apparently his teachers felt he demonstrated an exemplary amount of “Responsibility” in January, and responsibility was the January character trait at Rochester Junior High. Therefore, he and a handful of other students get to go out to lunch with the principal tomorrow. Way to go, Buddy!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Drum Solo & Basketball Videos

I could have subtitled this one "How We Spent Our Saturday" -- except I didn't get any of Shaling's volleyball game videod.

Video 1, Preston's Drum Solo, "Happy Day" (he earned a 'I' rating -- they get a I, II, or III, with I being the best):
"Happy Day" - Preston's Snare Drum Solo from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Video 2, Shaling's Not-So-Shining Moment":
Shaling's Not-So-Shining Moment, 2-23-2013 Basketball Game from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.
Video 3, "Shaling's Shining Moment":
Shaling's Shining Moment, 2-23-2013 Basketball Game from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shaling & the Snow

We got a couple of inches or so of snow today (and it's still coming). Shaling is loving it. You wouldn't know from this video below that she had never seen the pretty, wet, white, fluffy stuff until she was 9-years-old.

Shaling & the Snow, 2-21-2013 from Amy Reynolds on Vimeo.

I thought some of you would also appreciate seeing these pictures from Valentine's Day. The first one is the top of a shoebox that she decorated. Inside were homemade "aprons" -- made from plastic shopping bags. Brock put them away before I had a chance to take a picture.

This one is the handmade note she put inside with the aprons. The "no matter what" was brought on from having been fairly angry the night before about getting grounded.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Reynolds Family 2012, from A to Z

I haven't been posting as often, because I've become more reliant on Facebook for family updates, but I realize some of you aren't on there. So, for those who are interested, here is a poem that we included in our Christmas cards for 2012:

The Reynolds Family, from A to Z
Alley –as in bowling alley, where Preston participates in a weekly junior league.
Baseball trip– Amy took in a couple of Memphis Redbirds games & Elvis’s Graceland with some friends.
Campaigning– what Amy is doing in the hopes of landing a spot on the Rochester school board.
Drums– Preston is in drum lessons, played in 6th grade jazz band last year & is now in the junior high band.
Enrietto– Shaling is 11 & in Mrs. Enrietto’s 5th grade class. Mrs. Enrietto was also Preston’s 5th grade teacher.
Float trip– with good friends, we enjoyed a 3-night camping trip, which included a day on the Meramec River.
Goodbye– earlier this month, we bid an earthly goodbye to Brock’s 94-year-old Grandma Devall.
Hoops– Brock continues to play basketball, as well as coach Shaling in various leagues.
Idol –Brock saw Springsteen concerts in Chicago & Louisville and got to touch Bruce’s guitar & hoist him up.
Junior high– Preston is 12 & in 7th grade at Rochester Junior High.
5K – as a family, we did the Girls on the Run 5K with Shaling & the In His Hands Orphans 5K (some walked).
Lessons– Shaling is taking piano lessons & is in 5th grade chorus. She gave up trumpet & drums.
Marco Island& Monticello– the two places where we visit Grandma & Grandpa Reynolds each year.
New sport– Shaling recently picked up the game of soccer.
Oval –the shape Preston ran (400 meter) in 6th grade track last spring.
Pigskin– the Rochester Rocket football team three-peated as state champions in November.
Quality time– what we just don’t seem to get enough of with family & friends.
Rochester– Amy continues to coach the Rochester High School scholastic bowl team.
Softball– Shaling still loves to catch, but with Dad as her coach, also picked up pitching this year.
Trivia– Amy planned and/or helped with several trivia fundraisers this year.
Unaccompanied– Brock & Amy (no kids) enjoyed a trip to Tunica, Mississippi. Brock later went again, solo.
Volleyball– Amy enjoyed a coed outdoor league this summer & Shaling played in a youth league.
Welcome– as avid Illini fans, we welcomed new football & basketball coaches.
Xylophone– one of many instruments Preston played at music camp at the University of Illinois this summer.
Yard –where we buried our beloved Braxtina, the cat we’d had since the summer we married (18 years).
Zero– the number of times we won the lottery, but thankfully not the amount on our paychecks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Metal Mouth (& Other Updates)

Shaling is getting braces this morning. In late 2011, she had two teeth cut out. The theory is that she lost some teeth prematurely in China and therefore, three teeth were trying to come in where only two teeth fit, but it was happening on both sides of her mouth. Now, the braces will help line those teeth  up. Additionally, like her dad, she has a bit of an underbite. As a youth, Brock was given the choice of braces or having his jaw broken and reset. He chose braces. He is most understanding of what she is about to experience, as I never had braces.
So far she is enthusiastic, but instead of that being a relief for me, it actually frustrates me a bit, as she doesn't truly listen to what the orthodontist and his staff are telling her. As it is a complex subject, the language barrier gets in the way, but she also plays around with the model of her teeth that they made, focuses on what she considers the "fun" parts, and tunes out the important stuff. I realize this is common child behavior, but I think a typical 11-year-old would absorb a lot more of what is being said and I simply wish she would be a bit more studious when the staff is talking to her.
In other news, she has become very enthusiastic about soccer, a sport that she once told me she didn't want to play because she wanted to be able to use her hands. She had a beautiful assist in a recent game and she hustles all over the field. She is currently also playing basketball & volleyball.
Preston recently made the junior high jazz band, which includes only 3 percussionists from 7th & 8th grade combined. He also is doing well in his weekly bowling league. His average is in the 80s, but he frequently bowls over 100 in at least one of his three games.
Brock is at a point of having to deeply contemplate giving up his beloved sport, basketball. He recently endured back spasms, a concussion, and torn ligaments in his shoulder.
I am doing well, but working hard at taking off the 2012 holiday pounds, which were bountiful.