Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stormy Weather

Hurricane Irene swept through Alexandria Saturday night and Sunday morning. We were prepared for the worst; thankfully, it only felt to us like a severe Seattle windstorm (plus lots more rain). A few trees around the apartments and on campus came down, but there was no severe damage. And we only lost power for about five hours. After the storm, a few of us wandered over to campus to play frisbee and hang out a bit. The kids decided to build a fort out of storm debris.

On Sunday evening, Christy, Sarah and I attended church at St. Paul’s in Alexandria (having missed church in the morning due to the hurricane). St. Paul’s is a beautiful old church, complete with those weird box pews that people used to pay for, plus a balcony all across the top for the regular rabble like us. Luckily, they don’t do it that way anymore, so we got to sit in a box. It was a tiny congregation that day; we may visit again on a Sunday morning when we can expect to encounter a lot more people.

After that we returned to the apartments for an impromptu cookout with our friends. The kids built another storm debris fort! Too bad I didn’t get a picture of that one, because it was much more impressive than the first.

Then Monday came, and I launched into my final week of August term classes. I’m getting much faster at pronouncing and translating Hebrew sentences; our first quiz will be this Thursday. In our writing workshop, I’ve been writing a prĂ©cis to an academic paper, identifying the problem and thesis, and crafting a response to the paper. Also, I’m interviewing for several on-campus jobs.

Monday evening, we saw some St. Thomas folks! Cecilia and Renee Buss were visiting relatives in McLean, only about 20 minutes from here. We had dinner, and to my surprise, two of the guests at the party are future priests as well: Laura Cochran, who is a senior at VTS this year; and Elyse Gustafson, whom I’ve already connected with on Facebook through a common friend, Mike Demmon. To add another layer, Elyse’s home diocese is Chicago, where the former St. Thomas rector, Jeff Lee, is now the bishop! It’s a small church after all.

But the event that really solidified the evening as a memorable occasion came just as we were walking out the door: Sarah’s second tooth popped out! Yes, changes happen fast around here.

Christy poses at Episcopal High School's
Ummel Bowl ... er, Hummel Bowl.

Sunday was Christy’s and my 12th anniversary, and today is Christy’s birthday. Sarah will get to play with a friend tonight while Christy and I finally get out to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

I’ve missed some photo opportunities of late, not least of which was the sight of my class crouching under our desks during yesterday’s 5.8-magnitude earthquake! No harm done, apparently, except to the National Cathedral, where we had just been to church on Sunday.

While my writing workshop class waited out the shaking and then calmly evacuated, Christy and Sarah were at home. Over lunch they’d been putting up with the noise and rumble of workers remodeling the apartment above us. That’s when the quake began.

CHRISTY: Are those the workers upstairs, or is that an earthquake?

SARAH: Well, it had better be an earthquake, because if it isn’t, I don’t think they know what they’re doing!

On top of all that, they say Hurricane Irene will slam into Virginia this weekend. I’ve never been in a hurricane before, nor do I have any idea what to expect this far inland. Sunday is Christy’s and my twelfth anniversary, so I sincerely hope it won’t disrupt our date night!

In other news, Sarah wanted to be sure I shared with all of you that her first grown-up tooth is coming in, and the tooth next to it is wigglier than ever.

Last Saturday we visited the Washington Monument (which, contrary to early quake reports from FOX News, is not leaning). We went with a large group from the seminary, including the families of the two girls closest to Sarah’s age. The three have them have been hanging out a lot.

On Sunday night the seminarians in our apartment complex had a cookout. We had brought our hammock all the way from Seattle, and now I’m glad we did: it was a hit with the kids! Midway through the party, out came a cake celebrating Christy's upcoming birthday (and other August birthday people who happened to be present as well).

I have registered for fall classes, which begin after Labor Day. I will be taking:

1) Hebrew (continuing from August term)
2) Church History
3) Theology & Practice of Ministry (including a volunteer component at a hospice - 1st quarter only)
4) Seminary Choir (for fun!)
5) Old Testament (begins 2nd quarter)
6) Revisioning Parish Ministry (basically, introduction to next year’s Field Education)

Christy is busily job-hunting and hoping for the best. And Sarah is spending her mornings this week at a Star Wars-themed art camp! I haven’t been able to pull much information out of her yet about what must be sheer awesomeness, but I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Catching up on life in VA

I can’t believe a week and a half has slipped by since my last update. In that time I’ve been through orientation and begun classes, and we’ve also had some great fun along the way as a family.

A week ago Sunday was Sarah’s sixth birthday. We had already been invited to a party at the home of a returning student who allowed us to include our own special occasion in the proceedings.

Then began a week in which we all met many, many more people. My class (“juniors” in seminary lingo) consists of 45 M.Div. students and a bunch of MA and other types of students besides. Apparently, it’s a larger class than they were expecting. I’m working hard to memorize names of students, spouses, children, faculty, staff, etc. I spent Wednesday through Friday of that week in a variety of orientation sessions.

This past Sunday, we took a bus and a train into D.C. and visited the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Sarah even got to ride the merry-go-round on the Mall.

During the August term, most of us juniors are taking two main courses: a language in the morning (Hebrew in my case) and a writing workshop in the afternoon. I felt a little overwhelmed by Hebrew at first, but now that I’m getting the alphabet down, I anticipate that it will get easier.

The aim of the writing workshop is to get us all writing in many different styles: formal and informal, devotional, academic, homiletic, etc. Christy has been hired as an editor for this class; she will coach a number of my classmates on their writing as the term goes on.

At this point, we are two days into both of these classes; today we will break from our regular classes to take the required workshop for preventing sexual misconduct in church settings.

Yesterday afternoon, a friendly soccer game took place on campus, and both Sarah and I played, along with some really amazing players and a couple players even younger than Sarah.

In this time, we’ve visited two churches: Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill and St. Luke’s, both in Alexandria. Sarah participated in a Vacation Bible Camp at St. Luke’s called Island Odyssey and had great fun. We’re also slowly unpacking our apartment; we’ve reached the phase where most of the boxed-up things are at least in our closets, out of sight.

Sometimes I still feel a little like my family has come with me to a long retreat or something, and that one day it’ll be time to pack up and go home again. I’m sure this feeling will fade in the coming weeks. We really are having a fabulous time and are making good friends.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Internet service is back ...

... so no more having to go to campus or to Starbucks to post something. We're getting settled into our new place. We went for a major Target run yesterday and bought a small computer desk, a TV stand, and a TV! We had been using the 1982 TV Christy inherited from her grandmother. But it wasn't a "boat anchor" -- it still worked fine -- and I'm not accustomed to ditching things that still work. However, it was so huge and unwieldy it almost would have been more expensive to move it than to buy a new one. So we did: our first flatscreen.

At the time I bought my laptop for school, the Microsoft Store threw in a free Xbox 360! Now that we have a new TV, we can actually use it. It will be a challenge to monitor Sarah's time on it, of course ... or perhaps we have found more incentive for her to behave well.

Our living space is small, but we have quite a bit of storage, so things are working out well. Here are a few shots of the apartment in its current, still-cluttered-with-boxes state.
Christy and Sarah playing Xbox 360

Sarah's room is huge; no more storing toys in the family room!

Henry adjusting to his new life

The bathroom (not much to say about it)

Someday we'll start unpacking all the books in our bedroom.
The kitchen is small but totally functional; we are storing dishes all over the apartment, though!

It's a living room, office, and dining room all in one!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Getting Settled ...

Our newly installed internet service is down for the next day or so ... so I'm at Starbucks again this morning. The move-in went smoothly, and we spent all afternoon and evening unpacking.

Henry is adjusting to his new surroundings, too -- he stuck close to us last night! And we’re learning how to manage an air-conditioned apartment, which is a new phenomenon for all of us. (I woke up this morning shivering, coming out of a dream in which Christy and I were staying in a hotel room with a broken window.)

It’s been kind of rainy here, ironically … but that’s just fine, because warm rain feels good! Highs are topping out over 90 every day. It feels a little like El Salvador.

Today we get to tour Sarah’s new school, and tonight VTS is holding a welcome Eucharist and potluck dinner. So we’ll get to meet many more people!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Are We There Yet?

I forgot to mention something very important that happened Sunday night. Our GPS guided us through Annandale to the home of our friends. At the very moment we pulled into their driveway and ended our cross-country journey of eleven days, Sarah asked innocently, from the back seat, for the VERY first time: “Are we there yet?”

That’s actually a fair question today, as we’re still in limbo. This morning I woke up early and drove into Alexandria to pick up the keys to our apartment from our friend Lori (who picked them up from the apartment office on Friday for us). I actually parked at the apartment and then walked to the seminary, just to see what the walk across the campus of Episcopal High School was like. Answer: HOT! Before 8:00 a.m., it was well over 80 degrees and very humid. I was sweating like a pig when I finally got to Lori’s office. While I was there, the Comcast guy called, so I needed to book it back to the apartment to meet him. It's about 15-20 minutes' walk between the two.

Wi-fi installed, I headed back to Annandale to hang out with my girls. We hit the grocery store for a few basic necessities, and Target for some apartment stuff. Then we went back to the apartment so I could show it to them. Sarah got very excited in the big, empty space; she started dashing around, avoiding my camera … and that gave me a few really great shots like this one.

We walked around the apartment complex a bit; the temperature had crept into the high 90s, and Sarah’s now-familiar cry of “It’s too hot!” began to be almost as unbearable as the heat. That’s when we met Hester and Andy and their kids, Neeley and Zander. Finally, Sarah had playmates! Later in the afternoon, we met the Del Priore family as well, whom we’d discovered on Facebook some time ago, and Sarah took to playing with their daughter, who will also be in first grade at Sarah’s school. We met many other people, too, and hopefully, nobody will quiz us on their names quite yet.

In addition to being taken in by the crowd of new seminary families right away, the Hoskinses’ neighborhood kids have also turned out in force. One family has baked us banana bread! And on our return from Alexandria this evening, Sarah immediately joined with an impromptu bunch of kids who were jumping back and forth between two large wading pools. Sarah was the only one without a bathing suit, but she didn’t need it. Christy was cooking dinner in the meantime, and when Sarah and I came home, Sarah burst out, “I’m completely SOAKED! And that was SO … MUCH … FUN!!!!” Our journey so far has been marked by many graceful moments of enthusiasm just like this one.

We have good news: the movers will arrive on Wednesday! This means they’ll have honored their agreement by showing up on the very last day they said they might, and we won’t feel like un-recommending them or writing bad reviews … yet. First we'll see how they've done with all our things!