Thursday, June 29, 2017

15 Years!

Today marks 15 years since I married the love of my life. We celebrated last night with dinner, chocolates, and a movie night. And then this morning we laughed...

We marked our 15 years of bliss by Brad taking the car for an oil change and me taking Buddy for an unexpected vet trip. The car is now ready for tomorrow's road trip to Ohio, and Buddy's limp is just a sprain. All is well.

Our day to day life may not be glamorous, but I wouldn't trade it for anything, and I'm so very grateful to be standing beside the man I love.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New Life

The farm never stops to give us new opportunities. Sunday, we went to the Midsummer Festival at the farm, and arrived just in time to see the piglets being born! We went back to visit the little oinkers last night:
Nine perfect little piggies! We can't wait to watch them grow up!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Still Little

Yesterday, the kids and I went to the Life and Science Museum. We met with one of my former students who is moving up grade levels and wanted to talk, and the kids played. Sometimes, I feel like our little kid days are gone. And then sometimes...this happens:
Oh how I love cloud hugs.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Surprise Beach Trip

 Sunday, Brad and I pulled off a huge surprise. When the kids woke up, he announced he wanted to go out for Father's Day breakfast, so we all got dressed and loaded into his car. We did, in fact, have a lovely Father's Day breakfast at Cracker Barrel. What the kids did not know, though, was that this was just the beginning.

Saturday night, Brad and I had packed and loaded the trunk for a three day beach trip. So when we came out from breakfast, I grabbed the kids backpacks from the trunk and passed them to the back seat, mentioning they may need something to keep themselves entertained for a bit.

They knew something was up, and they figured out pretty quickly we were headed to the aquarium, largely because Issa checked the GPS destination. When we got there, the little rats jumped out to check the trunk to see what else was back there. They saw the beach bag and the a suitcase, so they were pretty sure we were spending the night.

We did have a great day at the aquarium, which started with the kids insisting they take weird pictures with the alligator:

I was quite tickled because I got to pet a sting ray:

 And we got to see lots of animals feeding before we ended with the required frog pictures:

 From there, we went to check in to our hotel and finally told the kids we were in fact staying two nights. We stayed at the Blockade Runner, which is a perfect place for a beach getaway. The view from our room:
 Happy Father's Day, indeed:
As soon as we had settled in, we all walked down to play in the ocean. The private beach was not at all crowded, and the kids had a ball with their new boogie boards.

We came in an got cleaned up for dinner at the fancy on-site restaurant, which we followed with a sunset beach stroll. Issa danced in the surf:
While Evan was Evan:
We headed up to the room for showers, and we made a new friend! Meet bird: 
 He thought he needed to live in our room. We tried to just let him fly out the window, but he was not interested, so I ended up scooping him up and setting him on the balcony railing:
 He did fly away by morning, but we spent the rest of the trip looking for him!

Monday morning, the kids and I headed down to the beach while Daddy worked. Issa spent the morning on her board:
 Evan jumped waves:
 I took turns playing in the surf and enjoying a lounge chair:
 We had lunch in the room before we all went back out to the beach and the pool. After dinner at the poolside restaurant, we attempted kites:

Kites are tough, but gelato afterwards was wonderful!

It was a not a perfectly smooth trip. The ocean swallowed my sunglasses, and I managed to by myself the one non-water resistant sunscreen still on the market. The kids have pink cheeks and I have red everything.

But...I wouldn't change a thing. I loved spending time with the kids. They are growing so quickly. Issa didn't have any of the little girl left about her, and I loved watching her do her own thing in the surf. Evan won by a mile, but I loved racing him on the beach. We were able to spend time talking and laughing and feeling so small by the big ocean. I wouldn't change a thing, and I can't wait for our next adventure.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Begins

We are settling into new summer routines around here. The homework and job boards are back on the refrigerator, sticks are being traded for screen time, and the kids have one mom job every day. This week, we are chipping away at complete reorgs for their rooms. Here was Monday's donate pile:
The kids actually don't fuss about doing this every year. Once we get started, they love redesigning spaces that fit what the want now. A whole year of growing means some toys can go, spaces can be redesigned, and their rooms can become more useful spaces for the rest of the summer. Tomorrow, we tackled the flat surfaces of the desks and dressers--that's the big one. Send good cleaning vibes!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Another School Year is in the Books!

Last Thursday, Issa officially graduated from elementary school. For a while now, we have had a deal with our kids that when the move to middle school they would get a real phone, but we genuinely surprised Issa when we gave it to her Thursday morning. I think she was expecting it at some later point, but we are sneaky. We hid the phone in the kitchen cabinet Wednesday night, and when Brad and I were both ready we came downstairs and called it. Her face was priceless when she saw Brad filming on his phone and me calling on mine. She and Dad had a quick crash course:
 And she was one happy graduate!
 Issa was so excited to graduate:
 And we couldn't have been more proud. She was recognized for being a part of the media crew and as outstanding Spanish student and Digital Citizen:
 Daddy was particularly pleased about the technology award.

We are so grateful that she had such a positive elementary school experience with teachers who loved her:
 And administrators who supported her:
 Especially an assistant principal who saw Issa's strength and encouraged it this year:
 And Friday they both had the last day of school:
 They were awfully glad to get off that bus:
We hosted the neighborhood end-of-year ice cream social when the bus arrived, and the neighbors down the street hosted a pool barbecue later that night.

Both kids were so blessed with teachers that challenged them and helped them to grow this year, and we will be forever grateful. Now it's full speed into summer!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Officially Eight

Evan is officially eight; we finished celebrating last weekend! We like to spread things out over the month.

Aunt Shannon arrived, which was the impetus for the final celebration. Only she could find a t-shirt with a dabbing pug:

 And Nana made the coolest pug cake and brought her "pet" pug for the party:
 The kids convinced Nana she needed the little toy pug to keep her company:
 We also learned sparkler candles are impossible to light:
 And equally difficult to blow out:
But we did it! I have no doubt Evan felt very celebrated!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Another Season in the Books

This weekend, we put a pin in another dance season! Issa danced beautifully in her recital, and she had quite the little cheering section.

Ms. King, her teacher, graciously came to the whole recital:
 I'm always in awe of teachers who give up their Saturday nights to watch students dance. She even brought Issa flowers!

And Issa loved doing her ballet dance:
 I am so grateful that she still loves ballet, and she can't wait to production this camp and perform Cinderella this summer!

Aunt Shannon flew in from Chicago:
 And Grandma Pat and Grandpa Kevin drove in from Ohio:
 And Nana drove down the street:
 I never get tired of saying that!

I'm so grateful for the village that surrounds our girl on stage and at home:
 And the four of us, well, I think we can dance through anything together:
Issa grew tremendously this year, and I absolutely can't wait to see where she goes next year! I'll be right behind her with bobby pins and water no matter what!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Unicorn Moment

Issa's dance recital was this past weekend, and I will write all about it once I get the pictures from my sister because we all know I am incapable of taking pictures of important things.

In the mean time, we had a unicorn moment yesterday, and  I need to capture it here for the days that are less than magical.

This is the last week of school, which means schedules are wonky and there are an extra six million things that require my attention. I also have that little full-time job that requires attention. A few months ago, I also took back the housekeeping duties, and I'm really trying to keep to a schedule so I'm not cleaning on the weekends. This week, the schedule is compressed because I know Thursday and Friday are going to be a blur of end of the year fun. Last night, though, I was already behind and felt like I was on a treadmill.

The boys left for the dojo, and I started cleaning the bathrooms. From nowhere, Issa's little face popped up: "Can I help?"

The bathroom is a bit small for two people to clean, but I asked if she wouldn't mind tackling the dishes. She was on it. And then she did all of the fans and door frames before she dusted the whole house. Happily. Well.

I watched her cleaning, and for a split second she was three again, using half a bottle of Pledge on the piano bench while I bit my tongue because she was so proud to be "helping." Now she's ten, and she truly was helping. She asked me to check behind her, but I didn't need to. We had the whole house cleaned before we needed to start dinner.

And then she helped make dinner. We made big cobb salads, and we laughed. At some point, she stopped being a little girl, and while I miss parts of those days, I am absolutely loving days like yesterday and the young woman she is becoming.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

To Italy and Back Again

I've been home from Italy for a week now, and I've been working on this blog post for just as long. There is so much I want to say, but the words have been elusive. A simple chronology of our adventures just wouldn't do it justice. Instead, I want to try to capture the Italy I saw through 17 sets of young eyes.

After a very uneventful flight and a smooth trip and settling in to Sansepolcro, we made our first outing to the historical archives of the town itself. A ridiculously kind librarian took ancient books off the shelves and thumbed through the history dating back to around the eleventh century. She traced the ancestors of Piero della Francesca, the discoverer of perspective and an amazing fresco artist, and Poco, the founder of double-entry bookkeeping and a geometry scholar, two of Sansepolcro's most famous residents. When she pulled Poco's Suma with some of his original proofs in his own hand my math people lit up:

 And I got it. This is the magic of study abroad. I love to travel, and I'm smitten with Italy and her culture, but watching my students find joy, to fall in love, to make connections...there aren't words.

Very quickly, we became a part of each other's daily lives. Later that afternoon, Jennifer and my doorbell rang, and a couple students asked if we could point them in the direction of the river. We had a couple of things to finish, so we invited them to wait in our living room and then we would walk with them. They asked to get the rest of the group, and that's when we learned we could fit 11 girls in our living room. We walked down to the river, and I will never forget this group skipping stones and teaching those who couldn't do it how:
 We also visited schools, and seeing them through their eyes was so interesting. The middle school teacher wanted a group picture, and I will be forever glad we have this:
I saw completely different things than they did, but they were so thoughtful. It's interesting what they want to bring back to their own classrooms. Even more interesting is their renewed sense of gratitude for American schools and systems.

For many of our students, this trip abroad was a major step out of their comfort zones, and we were there to support and watch and learn:
 These girls are so brave. They faced fears and tried new things and put one foot in front of the other. And by the end, they didn't need us.

And this lady: so many ways we are one brain in two bodies. We handled so much without ever really even having to discuss it. And yet, we complemented each other so well. I don't do heights, but she took groups up mountains for amazing views. I don't mind paperwork, and when the best laid plans started to crumble, I don't mind making up a new one on the fly--even in the Vatican. I'm still having a little withdrawal. I got awfully used to just turning around and running things by her.

And I also got used to this view out our bedroom window:
 The gelato shop across the street was a favorite place for the girls, and I loved hearing them laugh and waving out our window.

Florence was the first big city we ventured into, and it was quite the adventure. Jennifer lead, and I brought up the end. Bless their hearts. These teachers want to go everywhere in a single file line:
 How appropriate, though, that the Piti Palace had a special exhibit:
 These women are so powerful, and I have no doubt they will move mountains. We certainly climbed one:
 And took in the views of the city:
 From Florence, many of the girls ventured out for a travel weekend. A small group decided to enjoy Sansepolcro with us, and we had a real adventure the next day in Perugia. It all started with this train:
 Which was followed by a bus, then a train, then a bus. It was totally worth it, though, to take an escalator through Roman walls:
 Jennifer and I had planned the perfect walking tour. And then we realized the map was not to scale and we walked right past the first four things we wanted to see. And so we modeled being in the moment. We also seized the opportunity to take our very own non-onyx picture with a view of the valley:
 With everyone safely back from their travels, we spent Monday afternoon in an olive grove:

 It was a family farm, and the matriarch did a lovely job explaining EVOO and the very real struggles of family farms. She also taught us to bake bread and pizza:
 And we laughed.

If nothing else, I hope these girls always remember this feeling of community--and not just with each other. Sansepolcro embraced us with open arms, and we embraced them:
 And each other:
 And our families back home--a candle for Grandma Stover in St. Francis's church in Anghiari:
 We ended our trip in Rome with a tour of the Vatican:
 And we all had our Lizzy McGuire moment at Trevi Fountain:
 And a group of us went to the Colloseum:
 If nothing else, Rome taught us that we are such a young country, and modern society isn't any smarter than our ancient civilizations.

After all of the hustle and bustle, we drove to Ostia:
 And for the first time I had my toes in the Mediterranean:
 And I learned I loved shell fish:
 We all found new things we loved, and things that were just "different." I was so proud of the way these girls truly embraced every experience as a teacher. Our last dinner:
 We all shared favorite moments, and we all cried. And we laughed. And I marveled that I had the privilege of being a part of it all:
The sun set on our time in Italy, but I truly believe we all grew. I couldn't have asked for a better group to travel with, and I'm a little afraid that no group can ever hope to compare. Ciao, Italy...