Launch for CIA – Operation Jewel Thief

Operation Jewel Thief LaunchHey guys, Lissy here.

My aunt’s new book, CIA  – Operation Jewel Thief, came out in December and she is having a launch party on Saturday, January 16th at our local community library.

This is always such a fun event. I get to go up front and read the trivia questions (the answers are all in the book) and then one of the other cousins hands out the prize to the person who wins!

This time my aunt is also going to be serving tea and biscuits (one of her main food groups). She’ll also be reading a passage from the book (one of my favorites about our visit to Buckingham Palace) and taking questions.

If you are in the Austin area stop by and say hi!

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So you think you can … Wushu!

Hey everyone,

Olivia here again with more ‘so you think you can …’

This week I spoke to fourteen-year-old Lucy who is originally from Fujian and now living in Virginia. Lucy is an expert in Wushu (a sport I’d never heard of but sounds really cool) and which turns out to be a Chinese martial art.

3When I first spoke to Lucy she sent me a list of all her competition wins and achievements. The list was eight pages long and included being on the Dragon team that greeted the President of China on his trip to the US and being the first foreigner to ever be chosen for a championship round while competing in China (Lucy placed second)! Pretty impressive.

O. Can you describe what Wushu is and how it differs from other martial arts?

L. Wushu is a Chinese martial art, which is different from many martial arts because it can incorporate a mix of bare hand and long and short weapons.

O. How old were you when you started and how often do you train?

L. I was five when I started and I train two to three times a week.

56ddd589-8ce9-4cd8-96b5-6c835a2fd437O. What made you take up the sport?

L.  My dad made me try it. My father originally started me in the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do, but changed over to Wushu so I could explore my Chinese heritage. He thought it was important for good health, exercise, and to be around other kids that looked like me. I wanted to quit many times, but he encouraged me to stay. Now I see why.

O. You have won a lot of competitions and medals including placing first in all three disciplines at an international competition in Hong Kong, which ones mean the most to you?

L. Probably the ones from National Trials or any of the international medals/certificates that I’ve received.

O. Are there as many girls as boys taking part in the sport?

L. I believe there are an equal amount of boys and girls (obviously it changes from time to time.)

O. What do you like best about your sport?

L. I love the challenge it brings to me physically and mentally. I love how you make a lot of great friends that you can talk to about anything and that you meet a lot of great people along the way. I feel like we’re a traveling family in a train because we go everywhere together.

O. What’s the hardest thing about your sport?

L. I don’t really think anything is hard about the sport for me, but I think for other people it’s hard to go to practice and not attend school events, friend time, shopping, and other events like that.

26a08e63-94d2-4591-96a5-27f9817b9bebO. Have you ever got hurt?

L. Not to where I break a bone or seriously get hurt but in the long run I can get long term injuries such as overuse, sprained ankle, and a lot of different knee problems. My father has taken me to a physical therapist for over two years so I can learn how to care for my body.

O. There are several different categories of Wushu, barehand, sword and broadsword – which do you like best and which are you best at?

L. I like barehand because I don’t have to think what I’m doing it’s all covered with muscle memory. I’m probably the best at broadsword or barehand. Broadsword is more appealing to people and barehand is normally what I win in competitions.

ad8efd22-aa19-46d6-a55c-b22b1174693bO. I heard that you competed in China. Was it how you expected it to be?

L. Not really, I mean you expect it to be like all the books and movies you see but in reality it’s really pretty, cleaner, and a lot of cars and buses.

O. What did you like best about returning to China and what did you like least?

L. I loved how I got to train there because it would take my mind off of all the stress and whatever was going on that bothered me. I really liked all of it.

Thank you, Lucy. The cousins and I wish you success in all your upcoming competitions.

Operation Jewel Thief

OJT - 9-8-15Hello friends, Lissy here. Happy to announce that my aunt’s third book, Operation Jewel Thief, about our time in England has just hit the Amazon shelves.

This was such a fun adventure, although it was a bit spooky and a bit embarrassing for me, as you will find out at the end. Our time in England was full of castles, ghosts, royalty and coconuts! We met some wonderful people with crazy  names like Pickle and Puffin and the wonderful Featherington-Twits.

I think this was my favorite adventure yet and I hope you enjoy reading about it.

So you think you can dance?

Claire 4Hi Everyone, Olivia here back with another ‘so you think you can …’

This week I interviewed Claire who is a talented ballerina.

Claire is originally from Fujian and now lives in Virginia with her family. She has three siblings, Joe (26), Salm, (24) and a sister, Sydney, who is also thirteen and who was also adopted from China.

Claire has been in an Advanced Academic program since third grade, is a straight A student (her favorite subject is French), and has also been inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. It seems Claire comes from a very talented family as her sister, Sydney, also competed at state level in gymnastics.

After seeing some amazing pictures of Claire I asked her the following questions:

O:  How old were you when you started ballet?

C:  My sister and I both started ballet and gymnastics at three. Sydney was more of a gymnast, while I was more of a ballet dancer.

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O:  Which is your favorite ballet and why?

C:  I don’t really have a favorite, but I really like Swan Lake, Gisele, Sleeping Beauty, and Don Quixote because the music is really beautiful.

O:   Of all the roles you’ve performed, which is your favorite?

C:  I loved being a Party Child in The Nutcracker!

O:  Do you want to be a professional ballerina or are you planning to go into another profession?

C:  I love dancing – but since I was very small I have always wanted to be a veterinarian.

O:  What’s the hardest thing about being a ballet dancer?

C:  Having the motivation and dedication to train every day.

O:  How often and for how long do you train?

C:  After school, six days per week, at least two hours each day.

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O:  Have you ever been injured?

C:  No, but I had Os Trigonum, which is usually an issue only for ballet dancers and divers – because of the way they flex their feet. I had to have surgery to remove an extra bone in my foot. Now I’m fine!

O:  What would you like to tell other girls and boys who are thinking of becoming ballet dancers?

C:  That you have to sacrifice a lot of your social life for it and it is extremely hard, but that the people you meet through ballet make it worthwhile.

Olivia – thanks for the interview, Claire. I love animals, so was excited to hear you wanted to become a vet. Good luck with your studies and your dancing!

Texas Bluebonnet List 2016-2017

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Hi Guys, Aidan here!

Do you remember how much I raved about Echo earlier this year? Well, I just found out it made the Texas Bluebonnet list for 2016-2017. Congratulations to Pam Munoz Ryan and also to Austin writer, Chris Barton and illustrator, Don Tate, for their picture book, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, a fabulous book for younger readers.

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Diving Buddies!

Hi Guys, Olivia here with the second in the series, ‘So You Think You Can’.

Aubrey (14) and Maia (13) have been best friends since listening to Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” together at the USA Diving Regionals in Fort Lauderdale in 2012.

12 AMaia was adopted from Yiyang, Jiangxi (which is the town where Tess is from) and Aubrey is originally from Hangzhou in Zhejiang and has a younger sister, Alison, also from China. Both Maia and Aubrey now live in Florida.

Aubrey was 9½ when she started diving and Maia was 8. Both girls train for at least a couple of hours four to six times a week. Both girls have won many local titles and Maia placed 2nd on her three meter dive for East Nationals and Aubrey finished sixth on her one meter tower at AAU Nationals.

Diving has also enabled the girls to travel, having both been to Georgia, Iowa, Wisconsin and Maryland, plus a bunch of other States, as well as traveling all around Florida.

I was full of questions like – how deep is the pool? A. Eighteen feet. And do your ears ever pop? A. Only if you go right to the bottom after diving off the tower. It turns out that both girls prefer springboard and I don’t blame them. To be honest, diving off towers seems intimidating – even to me. (Maia admits the tower can be scary and Aubrey has broken her ankle twice and popped a membrane in her ear – yikes!) So, I asked them a little about how they got into the sport and what they like most about.

3 M & AO  – What are you thinking when you stand at the edge of the diving board? ‘

A – Don’t die, (jokes Aubrey). And then I think relax, you’ve got this.

M – I think about the correction my coach gave me. Plus relaxing and remembering to breath is always good!
O – Have you ever got to the edge and thought – no way?

M – Going up to seven meters was hard – I was like – no! But I soon realized it wasn’t that bad.

A – A couple of times. I once got on the board to do a back dive tuck and thought no way and it happened again on my front 2½.

O – I asked the girls what’s the hardest dive they can do and Aubrey asked if I meant physically or emotionally, which I hadn’t given much thought to. I have no idea what these mean, but they sound pretty impressive!

4 M & AA – The hardest dive for me both mentally and emotionally is (105B) front 2 ½ somersault pike of a seven meter platform. Physically the most difficult dive is (522D) back, which is 1 somersault 2 ½ twists on one meter.

M – On springboard, my hardest dive is a (5235D), which is a back 1 ½ somersault 2 ½ twist free on 3 meters. On tower: It’s a (405C); inward 2 ½ tuck on 7 meter high.

O – What is the hardest thing about diving? You know, other than not hitting your head and freaking out?

M – You need to overcome the mental game. You can be physically ready for a dive, but if your brain won’t let you do it, then you won’t.

A – The hardest thing for me is making sure you have a good attitude and keep a positive outlook on everything.

8 M & A9 A & MO – What do you like best about diving?

A – In diving there are no limits, you can always get better. The sport is always pushing you to stretch yourself.

M – I like the exhilaration of getting a new dive.

O – Who is your favorite diver?

M – I like Patricia McCormick because she executed dives that weren’t allowed. Plus she won gold medals in two consecutive Olympics.

A – The Olympic Gold Medalist, David Boudia. He is inspirational. He took the time to talk to me about his diving experience and even showed me how he used to draw out his dives to overcome his fears. I also like Steven LoBue because he is small like me!

10 AcAubrey

O – what is your advice to children thinking of taking up diving?

A – I would tell them, don’t let anything stop you. Sometimes you will feel frustrated with the process or have a smack – get up and try again. I have made friends all around the country that I would have not met outside this sport. I have been blessed to have amazing mentors who have become role models. I feel like this diving community is small and even though we don’t see each other at school we still are connected and support and encourage each other. Diving has taught me a lot about myself. It has given me courage to overcome my fears. It has also taught me life skills like the confidence to try new things, be in front of a crowd, to set goals, to be social, to work hard and to prioritize my time in order to accomplish my dreams.

11 MMaia

M – Diving is a fun sport that you will enjoy and you can make great friends from all over that you may not have met otherwise. It teaches you a lot about yourself and being able to put in the hard work to achieve your goals – big or small. You have to be fearless or learn to overcome your fear in order to achieve your goals. Additionally, you have to love twisting and flipping.There is also the opportunity to participate at the High School level in addition to AAU and/or USA Diving competitions.

14 A15 AO – It is so fun to find a sport that you both love and excel at. When I asked the girls where they see themselves in five years they both said they want to train for the Olympic Trials and hope to participate in USA Diving Synchro Nationals. Both girls intend to dive during college and Maia is hoping diving will help her receive a college scholarship. I wish them both well – good luck, girls!

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So you think you can ….

Hi Guys, This is Olivia bringing you the first of a series of interviews called So you think you can … featuring adopted children who excel in sports or academics.

I’m starting the series with a girl named Lily from Massachusetts who I met while in China. Lily is fourteen and just started High School this fall. She lives with her parents and has three older siblings. Lily was adopted from Ruijin in China when she was a baby and will be learning Chinese in school this year. Lily says her favorite subjects are math and science and lists traveling, watching movies and hanging out with friends as the things she likes most.

But Lily is not just an ordinary schoolgirl, having been skating since she was three years old. To keep in top physical condition not only does Lily skate every day, but she also takes conditioning classes, runs four to five times a week and takes ballet. Lily has won medals, competitions and is ranked in the top ten in New England for her level. She recently competed in the 2015 Boston Open, winning gold in the long program and bronze in the short.

Last month I sent Lily a bunch of questions about her chosen sport and this is what she told me.

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Olivia: What made you decide to take up ice-skating?

Lily: I first tried skating with my friend, Cade, when we were really little. I don’t even remember why I started. I guess my mom signed me up since she knew I would end up loving it and being so good at it! I actually tried hockey first but refused to go as I didn’t like the brown skates!

Olivia: Who are your favorite skaters?

Lily: I really like Mao Asada (Japanese Olympic Silver Medalist), Ashley Wagner (American three time National Champion and Olympian)  and Gracie Gold (American Olympian and 2014 World Junior Silver Medalist).

Olivia: What is the hardest thing about ice-skating?

Lily: Three things. It is very much something you have to do by yourself. You have coaches and family and friends supporting you, but you have to get on the ice by yourself to compete. I am always in the spotlight, which I love, but there’s nowhere to hide if things aren’t going well. You also have to be totally perfect. Every hand movement, edge, takeoff position matters and influences whether a move will be successful. And if it isn’t, you fall! Finally, skating is a really hard sport. I practice every day and it’s hard to take time off from it as jumps are so sensitive. You have to be in great condition physically and it’s really demanding of your body and of your mind.

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Olivia: What do you like best about ice-skating?

Lily: I love the feeling I get on the ice when I’m jumping. It’s as close to flying as I’ll ever get. I also  love the girls I train with.  We are like a family and there for each other. We root each other on and console each other on hard days. Oh, and I am so lucky to have great coaches. They inspire me and make me work really, really hard. I know I can go to them with any problems I have. My skating group is like a second family.

Lily8Lily’s Family: mom, dad, brother and two sisters.

Olivia: What would you like to tell other children who are interested in doing what you do?

Lily: I definitely would encourage them to skate since it is the thing I love most.  But they need to know it is a big commitment and you need to love it.  In order to succeed in skating, you have to fall a lot of times first, so you need to make sure it’s something you like enough that it’s worth it.  To me, it is, without any doubt.

Olivia: How long does it take to learn a routine?

Lily: I learn each of my programs over the course of a few months. I work with my choreographer once or twice a week, and we do a little bit more each time. I practice a lot outside of my lessons, so I always remember what I learned. The programs are always changing and being made more difficult and expressive, so they’re never really done until the end of the season!

Olivia: What’s the hardest move you can do?

Lily: I just got my double axel. This was really exciting since it’s a move that all of the top senior ladies compete with. I’m working on my first triple right now too!

Lily5Olivia: What would you like to be doing in five years?

Lily: In five years I want to be skating on a college team and still training, hopefully for the 2022 Olympics! I also want to be studying medicine so that I can be a doctor.

Olivia: Thanks, Lily. This was really great information for any girls or boys interested in becoming an ice-skater. Cagney, Aidan, Tess, Lissy and me all wish you the best of luck and make sure you save some front row tickets for us when you get to the Olympics in 2022!

If you are interested in being interviewed for So you think you can … by Olivia and featured on the Five Cousins website please email me at 5cousinsinaction@gmail.com and let me know what it is you excel at!