Friday, August 31, 2012

Lemme Catch My Breath

Lordy, lordy... I'm about tuckered out over here.  It's the third school day of our oldest daughter's senior year and we've already submitted four out-of-state (OOS) college applications.  I love, love, love the schools that don't require teacher recs!  There's another OOS university or two the teen thinks she might want to attend, but they're what I consider long shots due to location and more rigorous entrance requirements.  I guess if the teen is serious about these schools, she'll put her nose to the grindstone and start working on their required essays. 

I have to admit I'm getting pretty excited about all of this college hoopla.  You would think I was the one heading off for four years of fun and higher education.  And how cool would it be to know what I know now and go back for the whole freshman experience... pretty awesome to contemplate. 

So anyhoo, over the weekend we'll wrap up the final edits on the teen's Texas common app essays so I can gird my loins and get them submitted next week.  Then I just have to get my mother back in Texas to arrange for the teen's Texas high school transcript to be sent to her application universities.  Then I have to drive over to the international school the teen attended for one measly semester when we first moved to England and get that transcript sent to the same universities.  And, finally, we have to fill out the transcript request forms required by her current high school and get those to the counselor's office.  That's an awful lotta transcript arranging going on at our house.

After poring over and highlighting our two college guide books as well as snooping through several websites such as college navigator, college confidential and college prowler (Thanks, Bonnie Taylor, for being in the know and sending me the links!), I decided to listen to the school fight songs for the 10ish universities the teen is considering.  Most of them have catchy, rah-rah tunes, but some of the lyrics make me wonder who the heck composed them.  

If part of your fight song includes "... written in a syncopated way...", you might want to consider a little revision. I think "With a sis-boom, hip hoorah..." and "Fight with all your might..." are pretty catchy and serve to fire up the crowd.    

Alas, I have to leave my two cents worth about the fight songs at UT and A&M. Both need to be rewritten now that they're in different conferences and may not play against each other again until AFTER the teen graduates college and is gainfully employed. So long to 118 years of tradition... you'll have to put over one more win against somebody else for a while, and that's a darned shame.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

One down, eight more to go

The first acceptance letter arrived yesterday.  The teen now has one in the bag, a ticket to the University of Iowa if she decides to go that route.  
I imagine you're thinking what I was thinking when the teen and husband told me she should apply at Iowa.  What the heck?  But, come to find out, they have some of the top ranked medical profession degree programs in the country.  Who knew?  

U.S. News & World Report has rated University of Iowa programs as some of the top in the country. The ratings listed below reflect the most current comparisons of programs nationwide in both public and private institutions.
Speech-Language Pathology — Master's (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
Audiology — Master's, Ph.D. (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
Nurse Practitioner — Gerontological/Geriatrics (College of Nursing)
Nursing Service Administration — Master's (College of Nursing)
Physicians Assistant Program — Master's (Carver College of Medicine)
Rehabilitation Counseling — Master's and Ph.D. (College of Education)
Social Psychology (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
Printmaking (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences)
Physical Therapy — Master's and Ph.D. (Carver College of Medicine)
Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics)
Rural Medicine (Carver College of Medicine)
Otolaryngology (University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics)
College of Nursing — Master's (College of Nursing)
Counseling/Personnel Services (College of Education)
Nursing — Anesthesia Master's (College of Nursing)
Nurse Practitioner/Pediatrics (College of Nursing)
Primary Care (Carver College of Medicine)

*above table filched from the university's website

The campus looks nice, Iowa City has a respectable population of 69,000 and it seems like a safe place to send your 18-yr-old daughter.  Plus it's not a university "monster" with 40,000 students, but more like 21,000 students.  As much as we the Texas biggies like UT and A&M, we think a more mid-sized university population might be a better fit for the teen... less opportunity to fall through the cracks and all that.

So we're on a roll over here with the college application process.  We've got two other applications already submitted and in the decision-making hopper as well as three college essays just about wrapped up so they can be sent off to the other six colleges on our master list.

Honestly, any of the nine universities on our list would be a truly great place for the teen.  May the best school win!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Momcation 2012-2013

And they're off!  Dressed in school uniforms, pictures taken and waved off on the bus for the beginning of 6th grade and senior year.  As soon as Ollie gets picked up for doggie daycare, I'm kicking off the new school year with a trip to the gym followed by a leisurely trip to the grocery store.  It's so much easier to eat healthy when I don't have a child or two tossing things like cookies and candy into the basket.  

I would include a pic of the teen in kindergarten, but all of our family pics are packed away back in Texas.  Over the Christmas holidays, I'll have to see about putting my hands on some of them for a senior year slide show. 

I took an extra pic of the teen by herself since it's her senior year.  We're staying on top of the college admissions process - three applications submitted and about six more to go.  We're all gonna need to hang on because I imagine this final year in England will be one wild ride.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Earlier this month, we traveled to an area of Ireland that sounds like toddler speak for a part of the male anatomy.  We flew from Heathrow into Cork and then rented a car because I wanted to drive the 2+ hours to our B&B in Dingle on the Dingle Peninsula so we could see the Irish countryside.

After arriving at the Cork airport, we picked up our rental car and I was pleased we received an upgrade from a Mazda to Audi.  We had brought our Tomtom GPS that we use here in England, so we were all set to explore.  We trekked out to load up the Audi with our luggage and were disappointed to discover it was an A5 Sportback.

If the husband was about 6 inches shorter and we were both about 15 years younger, we would have been tickled pink to motor around in this low slung sports model. Even the girls weren't thrilled with our ride and groused about how we needed to march back to the rental car desk in the terminal to ask if the Land Rover parked next to our assigned torture device was available.

It was downright annoying to get in and out of the car, having to duck and bend and twist.  I don't like riding low to the ground, having driven SUVs for the past dozen years, and the lack of visibility due to the tiny little windows made me crazy.  The car had one of those newfangled key/starter thingies...

...where you just push it into the slot and it cranks to life.  And then you push in the little thingie again to turn it off.  I'm becoming my grandmother in regards to how I feel about all of these gadgets I don't recognize or immediately understand how to use.  Keys are so 20th century.

After two college educated folks took several minutes to figure out how to start the engine, we cranked up the sat nav and headed for Dingle.  It was no big deal for me to be behind the wheel since I've been driving on the "wrong" side of the road with a UK license for almost a year.  As we headed north through County Cork towards County Kerry, the roads changed - four lane divided, then down to one lane in each direction, then no shoulder on the single lane and finally a one-and-a-half paved sheep path bordered by low rock walls and vegetation creeping onto the road.  And bridges where only one car can cross at a time.  Plus some of those narrow, winding roads were along the coast - stunning views but I didn't dare look for fear of accidentally getting airborne a la Thelma and Louise.

We drove straight to our B&B in the town of Dingle.  Rick Steves, the husband's travel god, had suggested this place as nice, but no frills and he was spot on.  The free wifi was nice, but it was telling that our girls called it ghetto because we didn't have any gratis shampoo or body lotion.  Below is the view from our room on the third floor looking towards Dingle's harbor.  See that spot of rain on the left in the clouds - foreshadowing the weather for our trip so that we wore raincoats and carried umbrellas the entire time.

Our B&B was located right on the edge of town, so we walked everywhere.  It seems tourists from lots of other places also thought this would be a good time of year to visit Ireland.  There were lots of families, and cyclists were also a common sight.  

I loved all of the buildings and signs with Gaelic Irish on them.

We had lupper (too late to be called lunch and still a bit early for supper) at a nice pub right there on the high street across from boats docked at the harbor.

The girls had fun entertaining themselves, taking pics down by the water.

On some of the rooftops and chimneys across from the harbor, we noticed seagulls nesting or just hanging out.  Say cheese, Jonathan Livingston.

Always charmed by a dog, the teen snapped this one of a man and man's best friend.  Below that is the Fungi statue, Dingle's dolphin.  In 1984, a bottlenose dolphin began to hang around the Dingle harbor area.  He was given the name Fungi and regularly shows up when tour boats go out to meet him.  

We spent the remainder of the day strolling around Dingle to get a feel for the place.  Thanks to recent rainfall, there was some swift flowing water coming down from the nearby slopes.  This section running through a residential area right off the high street had been beautifully landscaped.  Not at all like the drainage ditches back in southeast Texas where we would tie some bacon with a piece of string and catch crawfish.

And I thought the fire hydrant located in that same area was precious, with its flaking red paint and spigot on the side.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Public Transportation Humor

I was clicking through the teen's pics she had downloaded from her camera of our August travels and found the one below.  It was snapped while we were riding on London's tube (subway), the Jubilee line from West Ham to Waterloo after we finished watching the springboard diving finals.  

The husband and I noticed the addendum below the one typically seen on all forms of public transportation over here and mentioned it to the girls, which prompted the teen to document it.  The sign looks so official, which makes it even more snicker worthy.  I can't help but wonder if anybody has ever pointed to it and asked to perch on someone's lap during rush hour just for the hell of it.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Olympic Diving

On August 5, we attended the women's springboard diving finals.  

We had prepared some signs to wave at the camera with the hope that we would be on TV.

Silly me thought our £90 seats would not be up in the rafters.  Bahahaha!  It wasn't the rafters, but it was a steep climb up to row 36.  At least our seats were in front of the diving pool.  Some folks were seated in front of the swimming pool - that stinks.  

I asked my husband why we didn't get the better seats.  We had posters to wave and the younger daughter longed for a couple seconds of airtime since she broke out the pencil, ruler and markers to help cheer on Team USA.  I quickly shut my trap when the husband told me the seats down closer to the action where I longed to sit were £400 each.  Sorry, diving folks, but I'm just not that much of a fan.  Gymnastics finals?  Now that would have been worth the big bucks for a ringside seat.

It was quite the trip to Olympic Park.  First, we drove to the commuter rail station in our town and took a ride to Waterloo.  Then we got on the tube (subway) and rode eight stops to the West Ham station.  Then we walked 20 minutes to get to the airport style security checks into the park.  Finally, we walked about another 10 minutes to the aquatics centre, the venue for diving right across from the stadium.

I had to include a pic of the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture and observation tower on the Olympic grounds.  The locals have poked fun at this bit of whimsy that looks like some sort of amusement park rollercoaster that is caving in on itself.  

We decided to grab a bite to eat before the competition started at 7:00 pm, so here we are gnoshing on Mickey D's.

The aquatics centre was interesting - very modern architecture.  

As you can see, we were quite a way up from the pool, but at least we had big screens to catch all of the action.

Here are some shots of the two American divers that made it into the finals, ranked 7 and 8 of the 12 finalists competing that evening.

It was challenging to get a decent pic because we were so far away and I had the camera zoomed in all the way, so this is about as good as it gets with all of these factors at play.

But the family still enjoyed it, especially the suspense because at the end of 4 out of 5 rounds, one of the American ladies was ranked third. But then the fifth round squashed her bid for a medal.

As we were exiting the diving event around 8:30, we had a great view of Olympic stadium and heard cheers from the crowd as they watched track and field events in progress.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012


My favorite part of Budapest was the views we had sailing into the city on the river.  We passed under several bridges spanning the Danube and saw lots of impressive buildings.

In Budapest, we opted for the walking tour with nine other spry folks who were tired of being carted around on buses, too.  We hoofed across the bridge adjacent to our dock and saw a beautiful crest/insignia at the base of a hill where we took a ride on the funicular to the top.

The pic above was our view of the Danube and Viking longship when we exited the funicular.  We followed the guide past some interesting buildings atop Castle Hill (guarded by troops with CCTV cameras all around it).  One of the buildings still in use is riddled with pock marks from bullets, a reminder of the violence during World War II.

We continued past older commercial as well as residential buildings to 14th century Matthias Church with its beautifully tiled roof.

Then we climbed atop the more modern Fisherman's Bastion adjacent to the church for a lovely view of the city.

At this point in the tour, we hopped on a public bus to get back to the other side of the river.  We strolled down Vaci Utca to the Nagy Vasarcsarnok (market hall) for a bit of an explore before returning by city tram to the boat where our official tour ended.

At the market, I spotted a tasty looking dessert at this place and we just had to indulge.  I have no idea what it was, but it was delicious.

After a really late lunch aboard the ship, we decided to take a stroll on our own to see St. Stephen's basilica, a much more modern church built in the late 1800s.

We were unable to get close to the altar because they had much of the sanctuary cordoned off for a baptism that afternoon.

After checking out the church, we decided to do a bit more window shopping on the Vaci Utca.  We found this darling shop with Christmas goodies and I just had to buy the ornament below since the TV screen has Santa in it and the only ornaments allowed on my tree MUST be Santa.  

I have tons of Santa ornaments, but collecting is about wants rather than needs.  And I couldn't resist the old school TV with the rabbit ears. Add a bit of foil to the ears and it could have been the one we had in our house when I was a kid.

Now I've just got a few odds and ends from Budapest to wrap up my final post about the cruise.

Pretty Budapest manhole cover

Another building with a statue on it, just like the ones I saw in Germany

Finally, a really big statue of a Hungarian turul, or hawk, an important bird in Magyar myth atop a plinth on Castle Hill.  And it's my high school mascot.  Go HJ Hawks!