Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snowy Drive South

Thomas woke up this morning without a fever, no upset stomach, and announcing:

"I am all better!"

It was a long "white" ride to Tennessee, but even with a ton of falling snow, slick roads, really, really bad traffic, stop and go periods, and two whiny children in the car--we made it.  8+ hours later.

***It is clear to us that the school nurse was incorrect about Step (we got a negative test back at doctor's office), and the Dr was incorrect about a stomach bug (he never once thew up)--we are convinced it was yet another sinus infection and the painful stomach was the result of a lot of drainage, and later by the adding of pain relievers for the fever on a constantly empty stomach (doctor said not to give him any food or drink!)***

**My camera card is "stuck" and I am unable to download any of my Tennessee pictures from my digital camera! As soon as Garren or I can figure out the problem I will add pictures from our Thanksgiving trip!**

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Call From The School Nurse

This is NOT what I had planned for today.

My list looked something like this:

*Pack for Tennessee

*Load car

*Get items ready for Thanksgiving snack/activity

*Spearhead Thanksgiving snack/activity I planned 2 weeks ago in Kindergarten class

*Take out trash, unload dishwasher, finish laundry

....and then the school nurse called around 10am, and my list went out the window.

So, my list got re-written:

*Pick up fevered Thomas from school

*Nurse diagnosis: Strep Throat

*Make emergency appointment with pediatrician in car ride from school

*Desperately try and get a hold of Grace so she can take the items and spearhead T-Day fun in Kindergarten

*Pediatrician wait and appointment with pale child now writhing with headache and stomach pain

*Stomach bug diagnosis

*Tylenol every 4 hours in an attempt to get rid of a fever

*Calm hysterical 5th grader down because we aren't going to Tennessee

*Lots of snuggling, temperature gauging, telling him no food, and playing games in the bed

*Lots and lots and lots of patience.

Gotta love parenthood!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Edible Science Project

Gracie got to get very creative this afternoon for her science project.

She had to make an cell diagram, and Mrs. Madison said it could be made out of anything, and it could even be edible.

Gracie jumped on that idea!

Mama made the cake for her since she was home with a nasty cold today--but she decorated and labeled the cake to resemble an animal cell.

I think she did pretty good.

She is excited to present the project to her class tomorrow, and has several note cards and has practiced her presentation.

I might be biased, but I think she'll ace it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Fair

I had a great opportunity today to share a school "moment" with my kids.

Okay, actually, I had a friend tell me there were still spots needed to be filled for volunteering at the Book Fair.  And, said friend was pretty persuasive.  And, she should have been.  I cower from volunteer opportunities outside of  the classroom, and I always used Thomas as my excuse. As you know, he is in school now, and my excuse is long gone. So, I sucked up my courage and went and helped kids from ages 5 to 11 pick out and purchase books in the school library.

It was fun, and entertaining. While half of the students who stopped by had little to no effective skills with money, the other half were challenged by the adults helping.  Grace and myself along with librarian and library helper made vast efforts to get the kids to add and estimate and round on their own.

I was surprised at how many older students struggled with real-world math. Now, I have no illusions that my child is a super genius, but I think making her earn her own money and pay for things herself has "paid off."  Kids are clearly being kept from the learning experiences of real-world interactions.  So, if you have the kids help with grocery shopping, or have them by their own items with birthday or Christmas money--keep it up--in a day of bank cards and credit cards, kids have no idea the literal value of the dollar.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Autumn Handsome

Don't you just want to squish him and cover him in kisses?  No?  Just me then I guess :)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thomas' Turkey Feather

We have completed our second Kindergarten project. Okay, I did most of it, but I tried really hard to keep him interested. Come on--I even suggested an "auto shop" them for his Touch & Feel Turkey Feather!!!  Okay, after I remembered that he was a little boy, and he should have some most of the input in "his" project and I shushed the ideas of glitter and pom poms and stars.

Actually, it came out rather cool.

We used a toy jeep and dipped it in black paint to make tire marks. I found some electrical tape, old washers (from a failed craft project), a key that I have no idea what it goes to, and a toy tire that I couldn't fix.

We added some stickers to make it look a little fuller and enhance the theme, and he suck around for most of the project, but he liked the electrical tape so much he eventually wondered off to tape up a cardboard box that he was making into a parking garage for his "little cars" (that's his Hot Wheels/Matchboxes). 

So, he did a project all the way, it just was what he wanted to do.

Seriously though, he did a lot of this.  Far more than the little paper
person he was supposed to design.

Honor Roll

Congratulations Gracie on making Principal's List this first 9 weeks of 5th Grade!  
As always, we are very proud of you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

The kids were told by their teachers to wear red, white, and blue.  And, I may not have much control over what Gracie chooses to put on her body these days, I still get to dress my little man.

And, he looked sharp and very patriotic.

And, we were running late because I wanted him extra handsome, and this this blurry and washed out photo was taken moments before he climbed the bus steps.

But, sill, Happy Veteran's Day to all of ours and all of your service men and women.

Plus, here's a chance for me to show off my handsome nephew who completed Marine Corps Training this summer and is headed to California for his next "assignment" (I know there is a fancy Marine word for assignment, but I have no idea what it is--but as a sister and an Aunt to a Marine I should know it).

Yea, yea, Uncle Brian is handsome too.  Of course, he is super-man in the eyes of his 5 year old nephew.  And, while he isn't a serving Marine (I know Gibbs rules, and "once a Marine, always a Marine"), I don't think it matters to Thomas (or Gracie) he can still move mountains in his eyes.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A Mama Field Trip

This mama left her babies with daddy (overnight--HUGE sticker) and rode with an awesome mama (who also left her kids, but doesn't freak when she does that because she is sane!) and went to spend a weekend with a whole lot of mamas who were eager to hear two "famous" mamas talk about their life & faith and a lot of southern things.

Grace had been asking me for awhile now if I wanted to go with her to the Sweet Sisters Conference, and then the asking turned in to pushing.  Not, the "please-please go with" me kind of pushing, but the "seriously, Garren can watch the kids for a night, you will enjoy it" kind of pushing.  And, I wanted to go.  I usually do in these kind of situations, but I never summon enough courage.  But, unlike other situations in my life where I have longed to do something I felt I wasn't brave enough to do; I really listened to my friend.  And, after asking me to go and telling me how much I would enjoy it, she said something else to me that I truly think made all the difference.

Gracie said to me "pray about it."

I am a "praying mama."  But, it is so rarely about me. I pray for the kids, for their teachers, for Garren, for situations.  And, when I pray for myself, it is not often enough and usually full of tears because I am sure I have screwed up everything yet again.  But, I don't pray for the "little stuff." I am a conditional pray-er.  Much like in life, I don't want to bother people (i.e God) with my everyday "stuff," and so I never mention it.

I am writing this blog because I went.  I sold enough dresses to cover the admission cost and my half of the hotel. Garren was free from work commitments to watch the kids.  No one got sick, the ride was smooth and without chaos (it wasn't Grace! It wasn't!).  We had a marvelous time. I was brave leaving and while we were there.  And, those hilarious mamas spoke to me (literally and figuratively).

You draw your own conclusions.  I have mine.

Grace picked me up on Friday morning. (She is so much better at directions and driving than me, so really, there was no debate on this one).

We arrived in Charlotte, NC well after dinner time and checked in at our hotel.  And, after a few long circles walking around downtown (Charlotte is huge y'all!) we found a place to eat.  Now, I have gotten a lot of slack on the place we chose to eat.  But, I am not kidding when I tell you I would have eaten the grass outside! I was starving!!  But, it was nice that the food inside was scrumptious!  A little loud.  Okay, a lot loud, and full of the male loud species, but what can you expect for a "sports bar" type place.  And, did I mention we were starving?

After dinner we walked to the church where the conference was being held (together and on lighted streets like we promised Jason!).  The church was beautiful, what we could see of it, as it was very"night" out there.

The "mamas" we came to hear are authors of both books and blogs.  Now Grace gave me their books to read, but I wasn't up to date on their blogs.  Grace of course has read everything (she was slightly more of a fan-girl than I ;)

The first book I read was Sophie Hudson's A Little Salty to Cut The Sweet. Remember my "36 things before 36" project?  She lent me the 3 books.  Sophie's was the first I read, and I laughed and cried, and cried laughing. I loved it!  I read something else in the middle, but then read her copy of Melanie Shankle's Sparkly Green Earrings And, again I was rolling with laughter and tears.

For my 36th birthday, Grace gave me Melanie's book that had just come out The Antelope In The Living Room, and it was just as wonderful as the first book.

While, I loved both books, I somehow found myself more of a kindred spirit with Sophie, which is even more funny because while Grace loves them both, she finds herself more of a Melanie.  And, after watching these two hilarious faith-filled women on stage together, it was a little bit like our 5 hour ride down to Charlotte just Grace and me (well maybe the ride back, we were a lot more punchy ;)

And, let me re-iterate I associate with Sophie and her wit and stories, I am nowhere near as awesome, brave, funny or grounded as she is.  I bet if she really talked to me for more than 30 seconds she too would tell me to take a "chill pill."

So, back to the conference. We received cupcakes and milk after our first session at the conference that night and Grace and I walked back to the hotel.  It was a good day, but a long day, and it was a very short time before we were in our pjs!

How do I put this, hmmm, Grace is an early riser, and Saturday's are my ONE morning a week to sleep in (and I cherish it!). So, I am not sure who was worried more about us having to be at the church at 8:15 Saturday morning, her or me.  But, I will tell you that I was up, dressed and ready for the day with more than enough time to walk through the doors moments after they were open.  I was not however bright-eyed and bushy tailed enough to eat a whole bagel and/or anything else. It was after all 8am on a Saturday.

Luckily for me we were being served lunch during the conference day.  And, while I am collecting badges of "things I have never done:"  I ate off a food truck today.  Well, everyone did, but I have never had before, so cool for me.

nd, the lunch was pretty good, but I have to share this little story from the lunch table.

Grace got to the Fellowship Hall before me since the line for her food truck was way shorter, and she is sociable and makes friends easy. Anyway, she was chatting with two ladies when I found her at the tables.  During the chat it comes up about leaving kids.

Lady (to Grace): "This is the first time you left your kids?" (sympathetic face)

Grace: "No, hers" (points to me)

Lady (to me): "Aww, how old are they?" (super sympathetic face)

Me: (pause) "10 and 5"

Lady: "Shut up!" (baffled, "are you kidding me" face)

A bit of laughter followed, and ladies and groups around us heard the "story" and I had to explain to a few others.  But, hey I did it didn't I!

For those of you keeping score at home. I have left Gracie with Grandma 3 times, and Thomas once. I have never left them with daddy for more than 3-4 hours, and those times he is alone with them are very few in number. And, no this is clearly not his fault--I just don't leave or share my kids. I am all helicopter, all the time.  The End.

While Friday night was such fun, Saturday by far offered the most.  Sophie spoke Friday night, Melanie Saturday morning and then they both climbed on stage for questions and answers after lunch.

In between sessions, the church that hosted the conference had an amazingly talented group (Praise Band) perform, and the ladies in charge of the whole conference also spoke. I have to tell you, every person I encountered was warm and wonderful and friendly.  The whole focus was about being a good friend and a sister in Christ, and these people not only led by example, but the women who attended shone that message to each other as well.

It was truly a wonderful experience and I am glad Grace talked me into going I went. I am more than glad, I am grateful. Grateful for the conference, for the experience, for the badges of "I did this!," for the wonderful 10 hours of conversation in the car, and for the time to rejuvenate and fellowship with other mamas who understand you--at least just a little.

Are you adding up my badges yet?

Well, here's another. Grace got her books signed, and while I only owned one of them, they gave us a sample book from both of the mama's upcoming new books, so I had them sign those. (So, badge one, standing in line to get them signed, you know me, I was ready to just leave, and leave happy)  I took pictures of Grace and each mama the night before (because she was prepared and I left my book at the hotel), and she asked if I wanted pictures. I told her no, because these ladies were busy and I didn't want to hold them up, there was a line of people waiting for signings.  Well, Grace didn't really give me an option when she told me to stand next to Melanie and get my picture taken.  So, I have pictures and sweet inscriptions from two kind of famous, and really awesome mama writers as a keep sake of my weekend.

That was a lot of detail, and I could have left a lot out and you still would have gotten the gist of the story, but these details as as much for me to remember as they are for you to read--so maybe next time you'll skim ;)

Thank you Grace in your relentless journey to making me brave, and well rounded, and not so uptight, and more grounded, and more reliable on myself, my friends, and my God.  I think in a lot of are like my Gully.

**If you would like to read Grace's (much) less rambling version of our weekend, you can do so here. Ha, I should have put this at the top, now you had to read the whole thing knowing there was a shorter version ;) You are welcome. **

Friday, November 07, 2014

Report Cards

It's his first one, and one of her last (we are having a lot of that this year, aren't we?!).

Both kids did very well on their report cards, and Gracie earned Principal's list again with all A's.

Thomas has a Kindergarten report card, which has no actual A,B,C grades, but he is doing well, and Mrs. Naff pretty much went over everything with me last week at parent/teacher conference.

So proud of my two Cardinals!

Daddy took them out to McDonald's for dinner to celebrate (or avoid cooking dinner, which ever ;).

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Shoe Tying

Today's homework was to practice counting to 50, and practice tying shoes.

We got the 50 down pat.

It's the shoe-tying that is much more of a struggle.

But, I got to pull out my Melissa and Doug wooden shoe learning toy again!

He got very frustrated, but he kept trying.  Maybe we will get this mastered before first grade.  Took Gracie that long, but looking back, I am not sure how hard I tried. Life is faster and easier when you can just do it for them.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Warm November Playdate

After an eye-opening parent teacher conference, a trip to the voting booth, a side-trip back home for shorts (it was going to be that warm), and a stop off at Subway, we spent some of our beautiful day out of school at the park!

My kids and Grace's kids had already spent the morning together while she and I tag-teamed conference day. (I watched all four kids at her house while she went to see Mrs. Naff and vote, and she watched them while I took my turn) But, they loved the idea of spending even more time playing together.
                  NO her arm didn't slip, Emmy was being a dare-devil today and wouldn't hold on with both hands,                         I think because it made ME nervous ;)

Grace picked Three-Lakes park, and we got our sandwiches and invited Mrs. Jo (the preacher's wife), who was keeping preschool friend Rebecca and baby sister Rachael on this day off from school, to join us.

It was a perfect fall day. It was really warm, so it felt more like that in-between summer and fall time of year, but it was oh so nice! And most of  Richmond thought so too as the park was packed. But, we found plenty of room to run and play.

A great morning and afternoon with friends.  I love enjoying days off from school.  Grace has made me appreciate them more.  I think this is the second day off we have planned an outing since school started.

 ***Gracie was in heaven.  We let her "watch" and help Rachael and Emmy while we were at the park.  Emmy is more independent and is 4 months older than Rachael, but she let Gracie help her get on playground equipment and push her on swings.  Gracie followed Rachael around everywhere and made sure she didn't fall and helped her get on and off things.  I am not sure which loved the attention more :)**

Election Day

We voted! Hope you did too!!

First Parent/Teacher Conference

This actually only my second one ever!  I had a parent/teacher conference when Gracie was in Kindergarten too.

Now, I realize that may make me sound like an uniformed, uninvolved parent--but I am not. I am at my kids school several times a month, and I am in email contact with their teachers at least every other week.

The difference is in how this school handles conferences.

Gracie was in Strasburg when she was in Kindergarten.  They were adamant about parent-teacher conferences and sent home sign up sheets, and when you hadn't signed up, they sent home 2 more until you did.  It was a BIG part of their system and they wanted ALL parents to make time for a conference day that ran until 7pm at night.

At this school (where Gracie started first grade), conferences seem to be set aside for students who need them (you know what I am talking about).  Now, while I am sure that I would be welcomed, I almost feel discouraged to make a conference unless it was asked of me.  You have to call the front office to make an appointment, the paper that comes home actually says on it "by appointment only."  I think that the staff try to give teachers as much free time on these days as possible for planning.

But, I felt I needed to go to see Mrs. Naff.  Gracie gets A's. Always has. And, she can tell me what is happening at school and let me know when she is struggling.  Thomas doesn't.

First, let me tell you I was nervous going in.  I love my little munchkin, but he is nothing like his sister. He is brave, and outspoken, and chatty (she is too, just not in public), and fidgety, and outgoing.  So, imagine my surprise, embarrassment, and pride when I learned the following things.

1.  Mrs. Naff loves Thomas.  Not just because teachers love their students, but she loves him all the way.  Just the way he is.  His mother came in worried about his flaws and how they would reflect on her and his behavior, and this teacher embraces him, all of him, and doesn't find any of his behavior "embarrassing." 

2. He is a good kid.  I know he is good, but again, I was so worried about how many drops he had in his "bucket" and the fact that he had only been to the treasure box 1 time and Bryce has been 5, I couldn't see that an outgoing kid doesn't mean a behavior problem.

3. He's a smart boy.  Mrs. Naff went over some testing that Kindergarteners go through in the fall and spring to see their different levels.  I bit my lip as she began to show me scores.  Gracie is so smart. She always has been. She has been in her own reading level from K through 2nd grade.  Thomas could care less about school work and learning (at home) and his speech still struggles.  She talks about each section of the test and what he did right and what he missed.  The "benchmark" was something like 28--Thomas more than tripled that! I have to stop associating his short attention span for not caring, or learning or absorbing.

4. I talk a good game about trying not to compare my kids to each other or other children--but I fail, and I am not sure how hard I am trying!

5. I just love Mrs. Naff more and more everyday.  Even when she makes me fight back tears sitting in a tiny chair.  Her love for him just poured out, and I was so taken aback--not only because she loved him so much and it is a wonderful feeling when someone else loves your child, but because I love him to the moon and back, and yet I make excuses for him, or joke away all of his "quirks" that make me feel like I am not doing a good job parenting him because he isn't as well behaved and smart and quiet.  Gracie has always been the definition of a "good child," and I have somehow decided that those things are the only marks of a "good child" and since he isn't those things all the time, I must not be a "good parent" with him.

6. I have to stop making excuses for him. I didn't count how many I made sitting in that tiny chair, but I know it was a lot. I do that--a lot! I tell people "well, he is my handful,"  or "he is a stinker pants,"  or "Thomas is different."  People have to think I am a nut, or worse: ashamed of my child.  I am not, I have never

been ashamed of him, I have been ashamed that I have been a bad parent because I have unrealistic expectations of what a "good kid" is supposed to look like.

7. I should have made an appointment for Gracie.  Whether I feel discouraged from making one, getting a one on one assessment of my child and how they are doing is worth the "discomfort."  I am not sure what they will do in Middle School, but any future parent/teacher conference days at this school will have my name on the appointment book.

The Class Bulletin Board outside the room

What a lesson I learned today in Kindergarten.

Monday, November 03, 2014

First Kindergarten Homework

Thomas came home with his first Kindergarten homework this afternoon.

Actually, it was homework for the entire week.

Thomas easily completed a turkey counting worksheet, and we moved on to a paper book that was sent home with instructions for him to read it to me.

I opened the book, and got out my pointer finger and ready face, when he tells me "no, I can do it!!"  He seemed pretty sure of himself, so I turned on the video on my phone and my jaw dropped.  He knew it alright!  He did miss some words on the last page, and he probably would have done better, but as you can see it was loving impressing me so much he wasn't concentrating as much as he should have been.

I am so proud! I mean, I am always proud, but I felt a bit extra this afternoon.

Oh, and in addition to the book that has to be returned Wednesday (there is no school tomorrow for Election Day), a reading log came home and we have to chart reading to Thomas 15 minutes a night.

Well, as it happened, Gracie brought home a book order sheet, and as I am looking through it, I see they have the last  Junie B. Jones book. It is the one the author wrote after Gracie and I completed the series, and before she died last November.  So, that got me thinking 1) I need that book to complete our collection and 2) I wonder if Thomas would enjoy Junie B?

While the kids played after homework, I started digging in the attic and then in the shed and found our Junie B. Collection (all but 1, I know I have it, but it was missing, so I'll have to keep my eyes peeled at thrift stores). 

And, since the copies I have aren't all numbered, I made myself a bookmark with the in-order list and printed it out and laminated it. Yea, I know, I have issues ;)

So, we start Stupid, Smelly Bus tonight! I am super excited!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Crazy October

I haven't blogged since October 8th!  The 8th!

October is without a doubt my busiest, craziest month each year. You would think it would be December, or even September with kids going back to school--but, for us, it is always October.  I don't know if it is like that for most families or just us. Maybe it is because I love fall and it is by far my favorite season so there are always long lists of "want to dos," or if it just feels busier and in fact it isn't.  But, the point is, it is November 1st and I am just now downloading my camera and all 400+ pictures on it.

I plan to go back and blog individually and add pictures, but here is our month in recap mode:

*Gracie earns her first recorder ribbon in music.

*Gracie got her ears pierced!  That's a biggie! She had to earn the privilege, but was rewarded with getting to take Grandma along for the trip.  The three day weekend trip was quite a treat for all involved.

*Picking out pumpkins.  I admit it. I cheat every year. I get them at Wamart. But, usually, the kids go to the pumpkin patch at least once so they have the pumpkin experience that doesn't involve a bar code or checkout line.

*5th Grade rock science experiments with chocolate!

*Mechanicsville Miler.  Number 4 for Gracie in this annual tradition at her school, and number 2 for Thomas.  (He ran the 100 yard dash this year as a Kindergartener and last year as a preschooler).

*Missed the bus already this year. Won't be the first time, won't be the last.

*Site words.  I worry sometimes about Thomas and his academic skill level. And, then there are times he reminds me he is a very smart boy and will do (and does)just fine.

*Two Days with Rachael.  It does this mama's heart good when other mama's share their little ones with me to temporarily fill the empty house.

*Music Award.  Thomas finally got it. He is super happy!

*Pumpkin Carving.  We attempted to make it less "stressful" this year, but I think our final 4 gourds look pretty awesome.

*Gracie goes apple picking with Clara, and ends up staying the night.  Sleepover #2 for Gracie!

*Gracie writes a poem for class about herself.

*Talent Show.  Shy Gracie + on stage singing act with her friend + 3 performances with 100 at least in the audience each time = one shocked and very proud mama! And, then did it again, and again!

*Kindergarten Field Trip.  The first of two this year, and we went to the pumpkin patch!  I am so blessed to get to share these moments with my kids.

*Two Halloween "snacks" at school. You can't say "party" or have a "party" because each class only gets 2 a year, and counting these as parties takes away the winter one.  Being room mom x2 makes for a busy holiday, but since I plan them , I can make it so I can be there for both kids.
*Trick or Treating.  I didn't even post a picture on Facebook last night.  So glad our bust October is done.