Great Britain is Really Great!

IMG_3012Hello fellow explorers, this is Cagney Puddleton. Most of you know we recently traveled to England. After Peru and India it was less of a shock. No llamas galloping down the high street. No tiger pits hidden in the forest and nobody trying to sell me food that could send me to the bathroom for a week.

However England is still very much a foreign country and not like the US at all. For instance even though Americans speak English – let me tell you this – turns out, we don’t!

Of course everyone has heard British accents and I don’t mean the one Dick Van Dyke does in Mary Poppins. Our dads can’t go to a single restaurant without someone commenting on their British/Australian/South African accent – turns out Americans can rarely tell the difference. It also turns out everyone loves an English accent – especially here in Texas.

The English don’t only sound different but they use different words for lots of different things. Even though our dads are all English, words like pavement (sidewalk), knickers (underwear) and fringe (bangs) all confused us while visiting England. Cookies are biscuits, flats are apartments and a car park is a parking lot – who knew?

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Something I also noticed while in England is that their sense of comedy is very different. If I had to use one word to sum up the British sense of humor I would say – sarcastic. Half the time we had no idea if people really meant what they said or if they were (as they would say) having us on, which means they were joking.

_MG_3368acI’d heard people say the food was rubbish (as they’d say) in England. I may be biased after my time in India, but I thought the food was really good. While at the Googly Gherkin we had several amazing meals. Fish and chips (which is really fish and French fries) was Olivia’s favorite. Aidan really enjoyed the massive English breakfasts served each morning – even their bacon is different than ours and their beans far more orangy. Lissy liked the scones served with raspberry jam and something called clotted cream which is like the thickest cream you can imagine – like so thick you could stand a spoon up in it. Tess ate so many packets of the British crisps (chips) called Hula Hoops, we were scared she was going to turn into a hoop. My particular favorite was something called a Cornish pasty, which I will be petitioning to bring to the school cafeteria next year.

Another major difference, of course, is that the British drive on the left hand side of the road. That was a fun fact someone forgot to mention and almost caused me to have a heart attack while driving into central London. Their cars are also a lot smaller than ours and when you see the price of petrol (gas) you’ll understand why.

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The British are also really into football, which to us translates as soccer – they call our football, American football. Instead of baseball they play cricket and basketball is not so popular, although girls netball is. Hockey is invariably played on a field and not on ice.

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The Googly Gherkin

Also everything is older in England. Where in Texas something that’s more than a couple of hundred years old is considered antique, in England a couple of hundred years is nothing. Take the Googly Gherkin for example, built in the 15th century and still running as a pub and restaurant. If that was in America it would be a museum for sure.

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England also has several iconic images that we were all happy to experience while visiting. The famous red double-decker buses, unlike in India, were really fun to ride on, as were the easily recognizable black taxi cabs, although not so many of them are black any more. Even though everyone and their mother has cell phones, those bright red telephone boxes seemed to pop up around every corner along with their squat red cousin – the mail box, or should I say post box?

Of course, England is arguably most famous for is its royal family, and even though our encounter with royalty got off to a bit of a rocky start (the chocolate biscuit incident will no doubt haunt us for the rest of our lives), but other than that it was absolutely the best!

If you get a chance to visit London or England I highly recommend you go, soak it all up and I guarantee, as the British say, you’ll be totally gobsmacked!

 

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https://www.visitbritain.com/us/en/visitbritain

Chinese New Year

It was so fun to attend the annual Chinese New Year event in Quincy, MA last month. The girls and I flew up to Boston and spent a wonderful weekend with our friend Chris and her family whose girls were adopted at the same time as mine. I signed books for over four hours and met so many smart, book-loving children. What a blast!

Red Thread Sisters

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Hi Guys, Aidan here with a new book recommendation.

I was at Lissy’s house when I saw this book. She had just finished reading it and although it has a picture of two girls on the front she said I should read it and that I’d enjoy it. She was right.

The book is about an eleven-year-old Chinese girl named Wen who is adopted by an American family. Before leaving the orphanage Wen promises her best friend, Shu Ling, she will find her a home in America too. Of course, that’s not as easy as Wen might think.

One of the most heartbreaking parts of the book is Wen believing if she’s not well behaved her parents will send her back to her orphanage. When her father loses his job and they have to cut back on extras, Wen thinks the of herself as an extra and prepares to return to China.

Wen also finds it hard to attach to her new family, especially her mother. The guilt she feels over leaving Shu Ling behind makes it difficult to even make new friends.

Having two cousins who were adopted from China made this book even more special to me. The book really made me think about a lot of things I take for granted. From major things like knowing my parents love me and would never give me up, to more minor things like knowing presents I get are mine and won’t be given to other people. Seeing American culture through the eyes of someone new to our shores is also really interesting.

I highly recommend this book by Carol Antoinette Peacock to anyone interested in learning more about orphanages and China, but also those who enjoy books about friendship, love and trust.

http://www.carolpeacock.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Thread-Sisters-Carol-Antoinette-Peacock/dp/0670013862/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457444780&sr=8-1&keywords=red+thread+sisters

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!

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!

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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!