Friday, June 27, 2014

Closing Doors

This week has been a blur. Issa had dance intensives and evening classes started back up, and I wrapped up everything at work so that I can now take a much-needed two week vacation. The intensity of the week just makes the vacation that much sweeter.

The big news, though, is that I just got home from dropping Evan off for his last day at Tiny Tots. The morning drop off there has been a part of our lives for nearly eight years. While I certainly won't miss writing that check, it's still a little surreal.

This morning, Evan delivered little gifts to the teachers that have been there his entire life. He chose necklaces for his teachers (which now seems to be his go to gift), a candle for his helper, stickers for the director, and a set of spoons for the cook. As we delivered each one, he beamed and I bit the inside of my cheek. Miss Ruthie, who has cooked every breakfast, lunch, and snack for both kiddos, did cry, and hugged both kids many times before hugging me. How do you say goodbye to someone who has loved your kiddos as her own for this long? Who has changed menus to make favorites when they were feeling a little punk? Who prays for them every night? I don't have a graceful way to do it.

I promised we would stop by to visit occasionally, and I really hope to. But I also know that may not happen as often as it should. I do know I will be forever grateful for these women who poured into my children so I could pursue my dreams. I know they were loved well, and for that I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I Love This Man

I love this man.
I love that he bites his cheek a little bit when he sleeps sometimes. I think he's solving all of the world's problems in his dreams. He has the strongest shoulders and the greatest mind I have ever met. He solves all of our little problems, and I know he is leaving a legacy in his children and making the world a better place in a million small ways every day.

I love that he came home from ten days away and swept both kids up in his arms. After they were tucked in, he snuggled in with the new puppy. Making sure our poor damaged Neela knows what it means to be loved and safe. It's one of his specialties, making everyone around him feel loved and safe.

I love that when we celebrated Father's Day Sunday all he asked for was family time. He played sword fight with the foam swords the kids gave him and board games--even though he had just traveled 27 hours to come home to us and was beyond exhausted.

I love that when I started to come unhinged about the little stuff he took me in my arms and just laughed. He doesn't try to fix it, and by letting me have my moment he fixes it. No one else could put up with my craziness like he does.

I love that this weekend we will celebrate 12 years of marriage. It seems like yesterday that we were walking down the aisle and into our first apartment. Since then, it's been a blur of creating our home and raising a family and doing life together. It seems like yesterday, but I can't imagine a life without him because it's also felt like forever.

Yes, I love this man...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Officially a Ninja

Evan is now officially a ninja:
He earned his first belt yesterday by reciting the creed on his own.

Sensai Brian was amazing. He listened to Evan on his knees, eye to eye, with the most encouraging smile. When Evan finished, he tied the belt on him, explaining that the sensai always ties the belt on the student when he first receives it. He also explained that this was the most important, most difficult belt to earn. Most important because without it you could never earn another belt or call yourself a ninja. Most difficult because it takes true courage to step on the training mat in the beginning. He also explained that ancient ninja only ever received the white belt. That belt then got darker with time because of the accumulated dust from the training mat. That's why black belts are the final belts. Evan listened so intently, and he was so proud of his belt. And we're pretty proud of him.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Puppy Update

I vividly remember being so frustrated with my mom when I was pregnant with Issa. Every time I would ask her about something unpleasant about the pregnancy, she would say, "Oh, yeah, I forgot about that." How is that possible? Then, I got pregnant with Evan and found myself saying the exact same thing to myself. You block those pieces out.

Over the past few days, I am having the same revelations about puppies. It's been ten years since I trained a puppy, and it's slowly coming back to me.

Thankfully, Neela is incredibly smart. She has already mastered sit, and she has nearly mastered come and down. Not bad for being home five days. It's also a very good thing she's so smart and sweet because we've had quite the week.

The vet came to meet Neela this week. It turns out her skin condition is a bit a trickier than we were told. We should be able to cure it in a couple of months, but it's not quite as simple as an antibiotic. The vet also decided that while there is likely some lab in her, there is also quite a bit of Great Dane. Yes... we adopted a horse.

She has also discovered the pond out back. Thank goodness for puppy wipes.

And last but not least:
The kids and I had to make an emergency run to get an extra baby gate because she could jump over the 35" gate. When we are gone or over night, she just needs to be in the kitchen to keep her safe. The double gate is the only way to accomplish that.

Like I said, it's a good thing she's so dang sweet and we are all so in love.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Our Ninja

We have a ninja in training:
 For two weeks now, Evan has been in ninjutsu, and I have never seen him work so hard for something. His best friend, Parker, is also in the class:
 And Evan has really taken to the discipline of ninjutsu. Look at him in seza waiting for his sensei to collect his card before class:
We have been really impressed by his dojo. They emphasize respect inside and outside of the dojo, and they emphasize that the best ninjas don't have to fight. Evan loves learning the rolls, kicks, and punches, and he is working so hard to earn his first belt, a white one. All that he still needs to do is recite the dojo creed on his own:

I believe in myself.
I am confident.
I can accomplish my goals.

I believe in what I study.
I am disciplined.
I am ready to learn and advance.

I believe in my teachers. 
I show respect to all who help me progress.

It's a lot when you are five, but he's getting it! He asks every day if it's a Mighty Dragons (the name of his class) day. It's the most excited we've seen him get for something, so we'll see! We just might have a ninja on our hands.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Issa's Big Week

We officially have a third grader:
 Issa's last week of second grade was pretty fabulous. Monday, she danced her solo in the second grade talent show. Tuesday, she had field day. Thursday, she had an ice cream social and then got to go bowling with her teacher after school. Friday, she had the end of year award ceremony. She was recognized for participating in Junior Rangers and Math Showdown, but we are most proud of her Principal's Award:
This award is given to one girl and one boy at each grade level for academic excellence and outstanding character. They were declared super heroes for the school and given tickets to a UNC football game. I think Evan is most excited about that.

This has been a huge year for our girl, and she has grown so much. I have loved watching her become an independent learner, and I am so proud of the bravery and kindness she exudes every day. I have a feeling third grade is going to be just as fabulous. She really is my super hero.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Meet Neela...

So...this happened this week:
 For a few months, Brad and I have been debating getting a puppy. We already had a small zoo, but Viv also turned ten this year. While she is doing well and still the world's best dog, she is also arthritic and ten. We've seen her start to slow down a bit, although now that I've said it we are going back to pretending we don't notice.

We did know we wanted Viv to train a puppy. She really is a phenomenal dog. We also know there is a window for that--before she gets too old to put up with puppy antics. Last week, we saw a flyer for a puppy that needed a good home in the local pet store. As it turns out, that puppy was already adopted by the time we called. So, we decided to just look at the shelter website Monday night. Tuesday night we were there to meet this sweet girl:
 The shelter called her Dolly, and she had been rescued with her mom and sister from a neglectful situation. She's a four month old chocolate lab mix, and she happens to have some skin issues from her neglect that will clear up with time and some antibiotics. Another family adopted the mother and sister, but at the last minute they decided they didn't want this pup because of her skin issue. In short, she was exactly the kind of pet we tend to fall for at the shelter.

By the time we left Tuesday, the kids had named her Neela and we were smitten. Wednesday morning, I took Viv back to see if they could be sisters, and it was love at first sight. Yesterday, we brought her home:
 She already knew sit, and she's picking up house training really well! Viv has stopped her jumping on us, too! Neela jumped near Issa, and Viv just  took a paw across her back and barked. That was the end of that. No more jumping. She is pretty timid from her neglect, but she's warming up quickly:
 As long as we are in the room she is one super happy dog. She has also already claimed green dog as the favorite toy:
The kitchen is her cave, and we put baby gates up to help train. Last night, I tucked her in and braced for the puppy whine. What I didn't realize is that this is now Viv's baby. She ran up to the bed and pounced on me until I came down and slept on the couch. Neela stayed in the kitchen, but I was near enough that she settled. Viv slept by the kitchen gate, and we all got a solid six hours of sleep.

The best part: Viv is playing again! She actually has played with toys and bounded around the yard. The motion seems to be helping her joints; she hasn't had to work nearly so hard to get up after she sleeps. They are both being spoiled rotten, and we're pretty sure this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Welcome to your forever home, Neela...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Random Fun in Between

 Between recital and graduation, we enjoyed a fun week with family. I think the pictures speak for themselves...

The Sunday after recital, we all hung out at the house just playing. There was basketball:
 And coloring:
 And more Legos than you can imagine:
 Uncle Jeff even went skateboarding:
 Kickball in the road:

 Jump roping:
 Science experiments:
 In short, every one enjoyed a little slice of our totally normal. It was lovely after the hustle and bustle of recital.

The rest of the week was spent doing much of the same with a few notable exceptions.

We celebrated Evan's birthday one more time with a monster truck cake:
 And more Legos:
 I am so glad Nana got to do this cake:
 El Toro loco is not for the faint of heart.

Since Evan graduated, he also got his very own library card!
 The lovely librarian made quite the fuss for him, and he was so proud:
 We also signed up for the summer reading program, and Issa went to the Lego program at the library while Evan showed Nana around:
We also took Nana and Papa to our farm, and Nana captured some pictures of the kids in their favorite place:

Collecting eggs with the chickens.

We ended the visit with a little more science, too:

In short, it was lovely.

Stay tuned tomorrow for some very, very big news!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our Graduate

Sorry for the absence yesterday. It was Issa's field day. Once again, we are a class of poets and scholars, but we played hard and had fun. And it was hot. Really hot.

Back to the recap...

Our little man graduated from preschool last Friday! They got to dress up like what they wanted to be when they grow up:
 Evan wants to design and build medical devices. I wonder where he gets that from?

The official graduation opened with the kids singing a few songs:
 This is the only picture we have of Evan looking relatively happy about this. He proclaimed he does not like to sing in front of people. The kids then exited and came in one by one to announce what they wanted to be, but Evan was too quick for a good picture. They then came in all dressed in cap and gown to graduate:
 Such a happy guy with his one of best friends, Nahi; they've been together since the infant room:
 The whole class:
 Evan was his usual photo-boycoter, but we snagged a few:
 The only picture he wanted was with Ms. Shirley, his teacher from infancy until he was three. I only got teary when she read a poem and got teary. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt she loves Evan like her own, and he loves her, too:
 Evan and Kyle, who entered the mix when they were one:
 And pure trouble--Evan and Daniel:
 Together since they were infants and headed to kindergarten together. I hope those teachers are ready.

The usual graduation Edible Arrangement arrived in the afternoon:
And now he's officially ready for kindergarten!

If you are interested, here is the whole fifteen minute ceremony. Enjoy!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Our Dancer

This past week has been a blur of excitement and fabulousness. The last weekend of May, we had Issa's dance recital, and all of the grandparents plus Uncle Jeff and Aunt Shannon came to support her. Nana and Papa stayed all week, and we celebrated birthdays and preschool graduation. In short, it was heavenly. I'll spend the next few days recapping our adventures, beginning with recital...

For the last time in her first season of Company, I helped my Tiny get ready:

She has become a master at make-up and hair. I adore this girl:
 I'm hoping it's mutual:
 Dance has become our thing, and I love the time I get to spend with her while we do it. Baby girl, I will always, always be your biggest fan and your dance mom.

She was all ready for recital:
 She had a world record cheering squad:

She danced beautifully! She loved dancing her solo, and I don't think I have ever been so proud as I was when I watched my itty-bitty Issa take the whole stage and own it. She just looked joyful--like she was dancing only for herself. Just as it should be.

Today, she is dancing her solo in the second grade talent show. I'm off to cheer on my favorite dancer...