Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Just a Really Good Saturday

Saturday was just one of those really good days.

Issa had dance rehearsal, which she is thankfully still loving. Not once has she even mentioned that she didn't want to go. She and I headed out to the studio and the boys headed to the farm.  As soon as she finished, though, we joined them. 

Saturdays at the farm are quickly becoming a family favorite. When we got there, the boys were planting squash. Issa set off to collect eggs, and she was beyond thrilled to find seven. I was sent to the hoop house to harvest greens. I love the hoop house. It nice and warm, and for many blissful moments I was alone, listening to the farm and harvesting chard, kale, and mustard greens. Eventually another mom joined me, and we chatted as we clipped. It's just easy to talk at the farm, and everyone just seems at peace there. 

Brad had a boot malfunction--like the bottom fell off--so he and the kids headed home while I finished up in the best possible way. I had a basket of greens that were well past their prime, and I got to walk them out to the goats. The beauty of that is there are now five baby goats at the farm, the littlest of which are less than a week old. Cute does not begin to cover it. One little guy was jumping straight off the ground all around me. He is a little ham and loves snuggles, so once I dropped my greens I didn't even need to lean over to scoop him up and give him a little snuggle. He just jumped right into my arms. 

I came home with a basket full of greens that would become dinner, grabbed a shower, and the Daddy took us all out to a BBQ lunch. As we were waiting Issa announced she wanted to play "I love you because" which turned into if I could give you any gift or if I could take you anywhere. We went around the table answering the questions about each other, and it just felt so organic. Some answers were so sweet and others made us laugh hysterically. It was one of those moments where we felt like we might just be getting this parenting thing right, especially when a woman stopped by our table to tell us how delightful our family was. 

We went from there to the grocery, and spent the rest of the day around the house doing not much of anything extraordinary, but we all went to bed knowing it was a good day, and that was more than enough. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Our Little Inventor

After a highly successful kindergarten registration, we turned our attention to Issa's Science Fair. She has literally been working on her project for months. One thing I will say for her is she doesn't take the easy way out! When we started talking about project ideas, she decided she wanted to invent raiser shoes. The spelling is very important there. She wanted to design shoes that had built in stools. It's actually a pretty cool idea.

Daddy was all over this, and he wanted to be sure she started with the mechanics of raising things. So...she and I did some library research on simple machines, and she decided gears, pulleys, and levers were all viable options. From that point, she and Daddy started sketching. He even taught her how to use some simple computer drafting software and how to share her desktop via Skype so they would work on it when he was out of town. It's pretty amazing to watch your seven year old share a desktop.

She ultimately decided on scissor jacks, which she taught me are first-class levers, as the design of choice:
For the Fair, she decided to concentrate on the design process and a simple model of the mechanics, which was probably a good call. Popsicle sticks and toothpicks make a dandy model, and Daddy taught her to use a drill press so all of the holes would line up:
This almost gave me a panic attack.

She then had to sand the toothpicks to make them fit:
You can see the cool finished scissor jacks and poster at the fair:
She typed up everything she learned about simple machines and why she made the choices she made. She even included pictures of her building and some of her sketches: of the sketches in on a napkin. Daddy was so proud when she wanted to sketch an idea while we were out to lunch. I'm afraid he is geek-ifying her a bit.

We had a blast at the science fair. As always, making ice cream was the favorite event:
Mr. Ryan even came to join in the fun:
He was so excited to be photographed. Daddy has more practice pretending:
Issa and Daddy plan to build a real prototype this summer, but even if they don't this was an incredible experience for our little inventor, and we couldn't be more proud.

Monday, April 28, 2014

We're Official!

This weekend just cannot be contained in one post. In fact, I have decided it will take four...

This was how we began Friday morning:
Our little man is officially registered for kindergarten.

Just when I thought I couldn't love our school more we went to kindergarten registration. Everyone was so excited to see Evan, and he was so excited to finally be there instead of just being the tag-along little brother. Even though this is our second to enter kindergarten, it will be the first at this school, so it was all a little new for me.

It was by far the most organized kindergarten registration I have ever seen. We had been given all of the paperwork in advance, so there was no stress of trying to fill our forms on a clipboard. We checked in with our proof of residency and birth certificate, and then Evan was able to find the name tag they had waiting for him. He got his picture taken, and then he was whisked off to "play games" with the kindergarten teachers while I went to the media center to get all of the parent information. He barely even waved goodbye he was so excited.

I was fine--really truly fine--all morning. He walked confidently into the music room, and I sat and listened to the presentations about everything from the PTSA to the lunch line. Then one of the kindergarten teachers stood up and said, "In kindergarten, we have two rules: We are problem solvers and we care. That is true for the teachers, too. If your child is not eating lunch, we will call. If they scrape their knee, we'll clean it and put a bandaid on it." And that was it. That was the crack. I nearly bit through my lip to hold it together. I trust the school implicitly, but hearing them say that they will care for my baby like their own almost did me in. I did hold it together, though, and shortly after that I walked back down the hall to pick up my little man.

He was so thrilled. He had a blast, and he could hardly wait to show me the book and coloring book he had been given. We now know all about chipmunks, by the way. On the way out, Evan stopped to talk to the principal:

"I'm coming to kindergarten Monday!"

"Evan, we can't wait to have you here, but you have to wait until August to start kindergarten."

"Nope, I'm coming Monday."

And this is why we have the best principal ever. He dropped to his knees and said, "Evan, there a whole bunch of old kindergartners hanging around right now. Can you give me until August to get rid of them so you and your friends can have the classrooms to yourselves?"

Evan thought he could handle that, and I think we are all ready to start the adventure.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Our Researcher

Tomorrow is the big science fair, and Issa has been working on her project for months. She finally finished her poster last night, and although I'm not allowed to share pictures until the big event, I wanted to share this one:
Look at how grown-up she looks! I can't believe how much content is on her board this year. She did a significant amount of research (by second grade standards), and she typed her little heart out last night. It also amuses me that this is how she sits in her chair. This girl just can't be still. My goodness how I love her...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Really Listening

I noticed that listening is not always my strong suit. I'm great with a friend or a student or my kids. But I don't listen the way I should to strangers. I'm guilty of the quick, "How are you?" with no real plan to listen to the answer. So, I'm working on changing this. When I ask the question, I physically stop and look the person in the eyes. It so paid off yesterday...

I was grocery shopping, and an elderly gentleman was sweeping the floor. He said hello, and I stopped and started the conversation:

"Hello, how are you?"

"I'm tired."

"Long day?"

"I'm not a baby. I'm 77."

"Well, you don't look a day over 60."

Through his laughter, "Listen, I work here 32 hours a week and clean a building out in RTP five days a week."

"Wow, it must keep you young."

"I've got a 47 year old woman and she's not complaining if you know what I mean."

I think the whole store heard me crack up. He asked to give me a hug, and thanked me for taking the time to talk. He said he often feels invisible. And so, I will continue to stop, because no one should feel invisible.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Easter!

We made a whirlwind trip to Ohio to celebrate Easter with family. Per usual, I totally forgot I had a camera when we were with Brad's side, but we had a great time playing with the grandparents and hunting eggs.

When we got to Napoleon, Aunt Shannon reminded me to take lots of pictures since she couldn't be there this year. Our visit started with the traditional egg coloring:
Please notice that both children managed to put their shirts on backwards for the experience. This year, they were both determined to make vivid eggs, and Issa learned that dipping just part of the egg in each color made some pretty cool tie-dye eggs.

We then headed out for the annual Easter pictures with Issa's bush:
Aunt Shannon still sent appropriate attire, and the kids would live in the hats if I let them.

You can dress him up but you can't calm him down:
Such sweet siblings:
We had our Easter dinner Saturday night, and these cousins had way too much fun playing together:
I so love that these kiddos love playing together even though they don't see each other often.

After everyone left, Nana helped the kids make Easter cookies:
Each ingredient told part of the Easter story.
Since they were meringue based, when we woke up Easter morning they were empty--just like the tomb.

I can't explain this face:
Easter morning, the kids conned us into rejecting tradition and hunting in their PJs:
The bunny was very good to the kiddos:
It took us forever to find the last egg, but Evan finally did. The kids consented to the traditional Easter pics. Issa looking way too grown up:
He is too cute for words:
Such adorable kiddos:
Once we were all ready, we headed down to have brunch with Granddaddy and Grandma Judy. The kids love his stories:
We were so grateful for the time with family. These are memories that are worth the miles.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's a Blur

We're two weeks from the end of the semester, which means that life is a bit of a blur right now. I'm actually working from home today so I can simultaneously finish a major data analysis project, wait for the gas company to come fix our meter, and catch up the laundry. The highlights from the week...

1. I did my final observations of all of my student teachers. This is always bittersweet. They are teachers now--not students. I love watching that. It also means I say goodbye to three classroom that I will truly miss.

2. We have an orthodontic consult for Issa in a couple of weeks. She had a great check-up at the dentist, but she made the referral. The hope is early intervention will help the rest of her teeth come in straight and save her longer, more painful braces later. Here's hoping.

3. I have more stones to put on Issa's solo costume. I feel like this could be the story of my life.

4. I volunteered to write a new dance mom handbook for the studio. I'm actually very excited about it, but I have no idea when that's going to happen. It may be a June project.

5. I'm officially teaching two summer school classes. The great news is they are both first session, so I will actually be able to take some time off in July. The kids don't have camp in July, so I will get to enjoy summer break with them, and I am so, so excited about that.

Nothing extraordinary to report, but I still love my rather ordinary life.

Monday, April 14, 2014

So Many Happies

This weekend was a bit of a blur but in the best of ways. Friday, I arrived home to our first Produce Box:
 Just look at all that deliciousness from local, small farms. We set the cooler on the porch in the morning, and when we get home I get to unload all the freshness and plan menus for the week. We generally know what will be arriving, but these were a very happy surprise:
 Some of the carrots and leaks were part of a spring chicken vegetable soup I made last night, which was lovely, and tonight we are having spinach salads. Deliciousness.

Saturday, we had an all day (like 15 hours door to door) dance competition. Issa's group did the best I've seen them do, and they won second, third, and fourth over all for their jazz, tap, and hip-hop. Production took second in the overall for that group. The awards weren't the highlights, though. It was the small moments. Laughing with Issa in the dressing room. Watching a big sister watch her little sister compete a solo, dancing along in her seat and holding her breath for the tricky bits. Watching big sisters snuggle little sisters before Production:
Those are the moments I love. I love watching her dance on stage, but dance is just so much more.

Sunday was a gorgeous day, and we spent a good part of it outside. I loved watching Issa reading in the hammock, sometimes snuggled up to Evan and sometimes Daddy. I loved watching Evan defeat grass dragons with his foam sword. As one point, I looked down to see him smiling just lying in the grass:

"Buddy, this is pretty much your idea of heaven, isn't it?"

"Yep, Mama. It sure is."

Mine, too, Buddy, mine, too...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mom Day

Yesterday was a full mom day. I answered a lot of email, but other than that I was on mom-duty all day.

My morning started with running coolers back to the school and then making way too many copies for the PTSA. With that off my list, I set off to the Natural History Museum with Issa's class:
 It was bar none the most fun field trip I've ever been on. We've been to this museum several times, but I had the best group. Issa's teacher gave me the chatty group, and they were chatty. But...they were chatty about what we were seeing. They asked great questions, took turns reading about the exhibits, and talked to each other as much as me. They were genuinely polite, kind, fun kids. They were patient when they were finished with an exhibit but their friends were not, and when I decided it was time to move on no one complained.

I also realized--again--how incredible Issa's teacher is. These skills had been fostered in these kids, although she won't take any credit. I also had a whole conversation in English with a little boy who spoke no English in August. He told me everything he knew about lizards so confidently. He is an entirely different child, and as I listened to him participate in conversations I couldn't help but get a little teary myself. I will forever be amazed by incredible teachers.

When we got home, I shifted into dance mom mode. We have a competition this weekend, so I was doing last minute costume adjustments for that. While I had everything out, I also finished Issa's solo costume:
We are both pretty thrilled with it.

I'm glad I had that kind of day yesterday because today is a 13 hour work day packed with meetings, observations, and our senior dinner. I won't see the kids until tomorrow morning, and that just never gets easier.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Surrender

I'm not even going to try to keep a shirt on that this summer. When I picked him up at school yesterday, the first thing he said: "When I get home can I take my shirt off? I'm burning." And so it begins...

As a side note, I think Aikido might just be his thing. Look at that stance. As soon as he turns five, we are there!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good Thing He is Cute

Last night was rough. R.O.U.G.H.  I don't know if it was first day after spring break or the pouring rain or voodoo, but my sweet children lost their ever loving minds. We had a serious heart to heart about a half an hour before bed, and they truly did turn it around, which is why they are still around this morning.

As I was tucking Evan into bed, he was rubbing my back while hugging me and being especially sweet:

"I'm sorry I was a punk, Mama."

"It's okay, buddy, I forgive you and tomorrow will be a better day, right?"

"Yep. And I forgive you for being so angry at me, too. You'll do better tomorrow, too."

What can you do but laugh?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Promise Fulfilled

We made a deal with Issa a while ago that as soon as she learned to type a full sentence, including proper punctuation and capitalization, she could have her own laptop. She met that goal a few months ago, including being able to start a new document, which left Daddy and I figuring out what to do. The tricky thing is the school system will be issuing her a laptop in the not so distant future, so we were trying to find a great deal on something to get her by until then. It became a little more pressing now that she is working on her science fair project and Daddy set her up with some basic design software, though. Thankfully, Daddy is a genius! 

I have a work laptop and an iPad. However, I left my personal laptop set up at home. I like to compartmentalize like that. More and more, though, I was using the other devices. So...Sunday morning we surprised Issa with her very own used laptop:
Daddy customized it complete with a Company wallpaper, her school homepage as her internet homepage, and parent controls. It lives in the kitchen, and she couldn't be more thrilled. We were both impressed by how well she navigates it, and she loved showing Evan everything on the school website. We are kicking ourselves for not thinking of it earlier, but she is one very, very happy kiddo!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sneaky Date

Every once in a while, I have a flash of brilliance. All of my morning meetings got cancelled for today. Brad was working from home. The kids were in school or camp. Hello! Breakfast date.

Brad and I dropped the kids off and then met each other for breakfast at this great little place we had never been. We had brie topped with the awesome apple raisin chutney and granola parfaits that included blueberry quinoa. Heavenly. We chatted and enjoyed some time together without having to get a babysitter or listen to the kids beg to go out with us. Brilliant I tell you. Brilliant. I can see this become our thing...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What I Know

When I started writing this blog, my goal was to build a habit of noticing the little moments that make life great. I wanted to intentionally focus on the small moments I might otherwise miss in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As I've continued writing, I've built upon that goal. I want to do more than just notice those moments; I want to be fully present for them.

This week has been a blur of running back and forth to camp and playdates and reading logs and stretching and cleaning and life. A few years ago, I would have been a haggard mess by now. This morning, I realized I have never been more joyful in my life. The reality: I'm behind on the laundry. The sink is full of dishes. There are books scattered all over our family room. Don't ask about Evan's room. The best part, though: I truly don't care. I'll catch up at some point. Everyone had something to wear and the kitchen has not reached health risk status.

Last night, Evan asked to snuggle, and as he sat curled up in my lap chattering away, I was able to listen to Brad and Issa working on her science fair project. I really don't know who was more excited between the two of them, but there is nothing better than listening to them bond over this project while snuggling my baby who will be five in just over a month.

This morning, I set the alarm to get up early to clean. But...when it went off a spring breeze was coming in through the window, the birds were singing, and Brad snuggled a little closer. I shut it off and just enjoyed that moment.

My crazy voice still comes out. I will eventually hit a point where I can't take the mess and will dervish until it's gone. But these moments are gifts that I am so glad I have finally learned to recognize, and the rest can just wait. I'm choosing joy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Smiles

Spring has finally, finally arrived. Actually, we may be full-on into summer at this point. We're supposed to be in the 80s today. The timing is perfect, though, since Issa in on Spring Break this week. She's spending her break at the Life and Science Museum in Critter Camp, which is her idea of heaven. She even got to hold Salt, the chinchilla this week. Life doesn't get any better. But, I do have a list of spring smiles from this week:

1. Monday afternoon, Issa had a playdate after camp, and Evan announced he just wanted to play in the backyard all by himself. I stood at the kitchen door and watched him march about the yard waving sticks and counting to himself. I love watching him just love being outdoors.

2. When I picked Issa up from her playdate she was covered in mud because they had been out playing in a creek. I love it.

3. The kitchen door is open. The breeze and the birds' songs are filling the kitchen, and  I love it. I actually got teary as we were sitting down for dinner last night. It's just a different kind of peace.

4. I got stuck in a two hour traffic jam yesterday on the way to work, but it was the kind where we were literally just stopped. I got two uninterrupted hours to just sit and enjoy the sun and the blue sky and listen to the radio. It was lovely.

5. After dinner, the kids took Viv out to play fetch. All three of them had great fun.

6. I can still smell the sunscreen that I lathered on the kids this morning. I love that smell.

7. The trees are in bloom and all is just so right with the world...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Our Ballerina's Dressing Room

I mentioned that we started a major overhaul of Issa's room this weekend, and last night we got it finished. It all started when the best daddy in the world got an idea:
(Yes, Evan is wearing the tops and bottoms from two different pajama sets. I can't answer any questions. He has on clothes so I've been rolling with this new nightly development.) Evan loves helping Daddy with projects.

We moved the bookcase and desk to create a study space in the corner:
 She actually took three trash bags of stuff out of this room to make this magic happen.

Squirmy has taken up residence on the high dresser:
 And her bed moved under the window:
 All so Daddy could make our ballerina her very own barre:
We still need to mount the mirror, but Daddy is a big believer in only drilling holes once and he wanted stronger hangers for it. The new arrangement leaves most of her floor wide open for dance practice, and she couldn't be more thrilled.

Tonight, we start Evan's room....