Thursday, September 21, 2017

From the Eclipse to Adoption Day to Hurricane Irma

The last blog posted the morning of the eclipse.  Later that afternoon, millions and millions and millions of people looked toward the sky to catch a glimpse of the sun being eclipsed by the moon.  We were not in the path of totality, but I believe 93% coverage.  It got a little bit darker but not too much.  The sky sort of looked like an eerie storm was looming.

Todd pulled Mercer out of school to watch the eclipse.  It was considered an excused absence.  We also read up on requirements for Mercer to earn a special badge for Cub Scouts, so he tracked the eclipse / drew images of the different "phases" and will have to talk to his Den Leader about what he saw + safety in viewing.  Here's a photo of the first Cut Scout meeting of the year - bottle rocket launch and picnic.  

I was in school / couldn't get out, but got to experience it off-and-on throughout the several hour process.  I even pulled Isabella out for a few minutes.  She said it looked like the moon and wasn't too impressed.  (Maybe next time?)

School is in full swing.  I am enjoying the middle-school Gardening class and Building Arts class (so far, I've been doing mostly art-related things to start with... dipping my toe into the water).  The really young kids - K and 1st grade - are a big adjustment, but it's been fun.  I still have a science club after school and help out with some (garden-related) science lessons with 4th grade science teacher, so I still get to do some fun science things.  I've also offered an after school jewelry club.... maybe using this to try to get back into that while teaching a few girls some new "real" jewelry-making skills with real jewelry-making tools?

Isabella is learning how to sound out words now and read a little bit.  Mercer says that he's enjoying writing stories in class.  (but he won't say what he's writing about... better not be tales about his family !?!)  We had a parent-teacher conference and we were actually concerned about reading/writing, but he seems to be doing OK in that area and getting pretty decent scores on his quizzes.  Let's hope that pattern keeps up!  No photos to go with the reading comments, so here are pictures of bugs & critters with our bug-and-critter loving girl.

We started Isabella back in gymnastics.  She just has so much energy!  She participated in a 4 year old session at the end of the summer, but they said in the fall (now) she needed to move up to the 5 year old class. A woman who had an older girl in gymnastics came to talk to me about Isabella... she made a point to come tell me how STRONG Isabella is and how well-coordinated she is.  
She also said something about no fear.  (sigh - yes....)  I suppose all of those reasons are why they suggested she move up to the 5 year old class before she's 5?  She had a behavior issue her first class, but hopefully we've got that in check.

Here's are some photos after gymnastics (at the ball field).... what do you do when you're 4 and you don't care about baseball:  build a campfire!  (it kept her busy, but no fire was actually ever created!!)

Mercer is back in Mission Possible Kids at church.  He just earned a badge / title call "Chief Officer" having completed 42 missions over the years.  He is one of the older kids in the program a this point.  

Also, baseball has started back.  Todd is coaching baseball again, so, the team is called the Mets, of course!  Mercer is now one of the older kids in this level of his league.  He's playing pitcher and 1st base again.  He's doing well & even earned the first game ball, but he may be over-doing it a bit... he's having to take a break from pitching and ice down his arm for the next couple of weeks.     
 We celebrated Mercer's Adoption Day last week.  9 years.  wow!   We had lunch together as a family at his school.  (He's eating "adult" meals.) I can't remember the last time all of us went to have lunch together.... but while he still wants us there, we're happy to go when we can!  He was supposed to have a baseball game, but it was cancelled due to rain.  We had dinner and cupcakes (that we made for him... with Met's orange sprinkles.)

Isabella and I had 4 days off last week that Mercer and Todd did not.  They both got Labor Day, of course, but the days after that - she and I hung out.  We picked Mercer up from the bus stop each day - he doesn't normally get to ride the bus home, so it's sort of a big deal for him.  We did stuff for Mercer's adoption day one day.  I had dental work another day.  We cleaned and we did some little projects together.   I was really wanting to go out of town close to the end of the week, but there were gas shortages + lots of traffic due to Hurricane Irma evacuations.  It was not an exciting week at all, but - grateful to not have the stress of traveling in some potentially "dire" conditions.  My family in Florida stayed put (with some preparations of course) and they did fine outside of losing power.  By the time Irma got to us, it was downgraded to a tropical storm.  Mercer's school was cancelled and so was mine.  It rained and rained and rained.  
We had a "bizarre" leak at our house:  water was leaking in, running down the roof joist and then finding it's way into our smoke detector!!  It went off at least a dozen times.  Mercer had fun climbing up into the attic and reporting on some water coming in , but poor Todd spent an entire day on the roof fixing the decking and replacing vents later in the week.    

On a positive note -- we made the best of getting outdoors that same weekend Todd repaired the roof.  We went to an evening Braves' game and then we went to a Community Garden fundraiser festival.   There was a unique band that played, silent auction, storytelling, food and bouncy houses.  

Two of the highlights:  Feed and Seed Marching Abomination band and Chicken Bingo.  (Chicken Bingo?! ....where ever the chicken pooped determined who won the prize!)  

It was a nice way to end a tough week.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Summer is over. Here's what happened.....

One thing that has been happening over the past several months that hasn’t made it into the blog, but is new for us:  we have a peach tree!  A few years ago when I worked at the butterfly exhibit at the nature center, I bought a swamp milkweed plant – one that would help support migrating monarch butterflies.  We planted it about a foot off of our garage in the back yard.  Didn’t do anything the first year.  OK – understand that.  The second year, it shot up and got really tall, but still no milkweed pods.  This spring, it started to have little tiny blossoms that were followed by little tiny fuzzy green balls that grew into yellowish-orange fuzzy peaches!  We have “swamp peaches” this summer!  There were dozens and dozens of them on the branches, however, the majority of them had worms in them.   We don't know what we're doing to take care of the tree... but we'll have to look into it before it blooms next year!!!

(and - there are extra photos of Isabella thrown in for fun.... and lots of dandelions that have gone to seed which are fun to blow!)

We celebrated Todd twice in June…. We had his birthday mid-June, then father’s day about a week later.  He and Mercer were spending each night at the ball field for a minimum of 3 hours each practice for Mercer’s all-star team.  Todd was helping out as an assistant coach and there was no taking a night off, so we had to celebrate his birthday at the ball field.   We had szechuan food from a restaurant Todd likes a lot + cupcakes with the team.

His gift came a little later..... it was an acoustic guitar!!   He’s been talking about trying to play the guitar for awhile.  He finally gets a chance to go for it!!  He’s been practicing almost every night and is making some pretty good progress already!  So glad that he's enjoying his guitar!  

Back to Mercer's all-star team...  after spring baseball, Mercer had a little break, but then started back in June.  He had practices every day for a few weeks. Poor guy was exhausted pretty much the whole month of June!  After 3 weeks of practice, they were supposed to have a tournament.  It rained and rained and rained, however!  They dressed, went to the field, and came home. Eventually, the skies dried up and games were played.  They won one game and lost two.   Mercer was the youngest kid on the team (he played a year up).  During the normal season, he was playing first base and pitcher.  In the all-stars, however, he was in right field.  He did better during this all-star season than last.  Perhaps his confidence is building?  He's got the month of July off and then fall ball starts back up in August.  

There is a silver lining to all of the rain -- Isabella and I got to see some of Mercer's games!  Per the original schedule, we weren't going to get to see ANY because we were both out of town the exact week that the games were to be played.

At my school, there is a 3 week June session of school + a 3 week July session of school.  The last week of the June session (before our 2nd break), I actually went out of town to a teacher training in middle Georgia.  Isabella and I met dad and Charlie in Valdosta the Saturday before and off she went for the week!   (This was the same week as Mercer's tournament.)

Here's a shot of Isabella after she's "decorated" her face to become beautiful for our meeting with dad and Charlie!  (It's a looonnnnng car ride!)  ha~

Isabella got to hang out with grandpa for father's day.  Several times during the week, she also got to play with Raelynn who is actually dad & Charlie's Great-granddaughter!    Raelynn is about a year younger than Isabella - their youngest grandchild.  Crazy, huh?

They visited aunt Melissa's chickens and played with worms.  (One of Isabella's true loves!)

They read books, painted, and made crafts.

Isabella got to catch lizards on the back porch (which thrilled her to no end) and eat silly-faced pancakes.

Sounds like there may have been a few discipline snafus, but overall, she had a good time.  Dad and Charlie wanted to get to know Isabella better (they did this with Mercer a couple of years ago).... but she got to know them better as well.  I am grateful that they took great care of her while I was able to go to the training.  

There were 28 other educators from across the state at this “Teacher Conservation Workshop” (here's my crew that I hung out with the whole week.) We stayed at a 6400 acre nature preserve with little to no connectivity to the outside world!   

They set us up with an entire box full of resources + a lot of books about Project Learning Tree (about trees), Project Wet (about water education), and Project Wild (about animals).  We ran through different lessons and practiced them / discussed the sustainability components and the tie-in to state curriculum.  We also went on field trips 3 of the days – leaving between 6:50 – 7:30 each morning and not returning until 10 – 10:45 each night.  I was hoping for a restful week, however, it was pretty exhausting.  (Also because I was trying to wrap up my architecture continuing education, grading in the evenings, plan some things for the week we return to school in July, etc.  –  none of the other teachers were year-round school teachers, so this was all behind them!)  

My roommate is actually one person who I will be keeping in touch with.  She has started her own non-profit where she works with school kids in incorporating environmental education through gardening.  I wonder if they paired us up on purpose?  (My “scholarship essay” that paid my way to the conference was about working in our school garden.)

The entire event was funded by the timber industry and related businesses.  So, there was a lot of focus on trees.  We were at several state and national forests, private timberland, tree farms and wood-related mills (such as a diaper “fluff” manufacturer and a lumber mill).  We also went to Go-Fish (I blogged about this place 5 years ago +/- where Mercer caught his first fish.)  

The lumber mill was awesome -- I absolutely LOVED every minute of it.  (It was great to see as an architect + I counted some of my time as continuing education!)  Later that same day, we went to a private farm where the host managed land for a former Braves baseball player and for some reason – he opened his land up to us teachers as well as hosted us to a low-country boil / entertainment. 

The COOLEST thing about this visit:  they had some forest rangers set part of the property on fire (small contained fire) and then put it out with a helicopter with a bucket!! 
It was sort of humbling for all of us – everywhere we went -- mills, manufacturers, etc -- they all thanked us for what we do as teachers.... educating students in Georgia.   Just wow.  WOW!!  

The week after that, my school was out for our 2nd summer break.  Two other science teachers and I ran a LEGO camp.  Mercer has been attending a sports camp while I've been working at the year-round school, but this week - he came to our camp. 

I enjoyed introducing the kids to some LEGO-compatible min-robots that we used in my LEGO club last semester called "meet Edison."  

We had a ton of little kids, however, and ended up having to cater to them for much of the camp... doing more baby-sitting and less science / less LEGO / less challenging activities.   It was pretty exhausting, honestly.  But - no one got hurt and hopefully the little ones learned a few things.

My favorite thing after the camp:  the teachers who I was working with were sooo complimentary of Mercer.  They say he was a leader and a real helper.  Yay!  (We are so proud of him~)  

Our family summer trip took place the following week.  We rented a van (which the car rental place did not ultimately have), packed up, and headed north.  We stopped in North Carolina for a couple of days and got to visit with my mom & grandparents:  "grandma, great-grandma and great-grandpa."  

Grandpa was actually in a rehab center after being admitted to the hospital about a month earlier.  We visited him there (and snuck in ice cream!)  I am happy to say that he's back at home and doing well!

We continued up the road to New Jersey.  Todd's sister is near the shore, so this was our chance to dip our toes in the water.  There's a house that Tonia and Rory bought after Hurricane Sandy on the Delaware Bay (an inlet off of the Atlantic Ocean where south Jersey borders it on one side / Delaware borders on the other). 

The house was destroyed and not able to be occupied. They've been working on renovating it for the past 3 years.  They think in about a year they'll be done.  It's a cool spot and we can't wait to go back. 

We did go to the beach one day.  It was pretty chilly, though, so we did not do too much in the water.  We dug in the sand, played games on the beach, and interacted with / dug up / observed hundreds of tiny sand crabs.   The ONLY photo I have of Tonia and Rose Marie is of them chilling in a chair at the beach sunning.  Well, this is suitable of them!  :) 

While at Aunt Tonia's "regular" home, cousin Meghan took the kids for a ride on her horse! She started with Isabella who is an animal lover, but Mercer came down after awhile and asked to ride with her. He's always been apprehensive, but he stayed on with Isabella and did fine.  We're proud of him for riding Yathzee!  (And grateful for Meghan for taking the kids out on her horse!)

Isabella does love animals, but I think she really loved her cousin Zach more!  It doesn't matter that Zach's girlfriend was around.... Isabella flirted with him like crazy.  YIKES!  

We took a ferry on our way back.  It went through the Delaware Bay -- but much further south than we were.  It was pretty rough and the kids didn't seem as excited as we thought they should be. But - we've talked about trying it so now we can cross it off of our list!

We stopped in DC for a night so that we could visit Todd's brother, Jim, Becki, Marley and Nate.  

Other random things that happened over the summer / random photos:

- We introduced Isabella to Pop Rocks.

- we went to a couple of outdoor movies  (and - as usual - Isabella is flirting with brother's friends! *sigh*) 

- we went to different bouncy / jumpy places (one place even has parkour equipment for older kids... that Isabella can do, btw!) 

- went to Braves / Mets game at the new stadium  that is now in our county -- Cobb County (This was our first.  There will be more of those games to come, of course~)

- we continued to work in our community garden

- we joined the pool again and go swimming 2-3 times a week (it's a no-frills pool, but the kids like it)

- The kids went to some birthday parties.  This particular one - for one of Mercer's classmates - was at the beginning of summer & Isabella had to go to it.  I rarely saw Mercer - he was busy, playing with his classmates.  Isabella and I hung out most of the time with a little boy that's in Mercer's class as well as Cub Scouts with him.  Isabella has a thing for him (sigh) and she confessed that she "kissed him so they are practically married."  YIKES! 

She even invited this boy to paint rocks one day.  (A little mini-date)  YIKES again!!  

- We painted rocks on our own and with our church.  The movement is really taking off!  Mercer still likes to paint on occasion, so I'm going with it while it lasts! 

- We went hiking every week or two.... we went to this urban spot, but we went to natural spots more often.  We also got Hip-Hop out into the water more and more.  He was leery at first -- but now he seems to like it. 

- We also celebrated Hip-Hop.  His estimated birthday was at the end of July. 

At our year-round school, the end of Pre-K 3/4 went through the month of July. The students did a cute little presentation for the parents.   (Love the back-drops / props that the Kindergarten team let them use!)

Isabella has started her 4/5 Pre-K class.  She has one of the same teachers, but there's a new co-teacher in her room.  Fingers crossed that they are both firm and loving... and that she has a great year ahead!

Mercer started 4th grade!  We went to his meet & greet the day before school started.... and the following morning (Aug 3rd) he hopped on the bus and was off.   His first day(s) have gone well.  We are hoping that he has another good year - like 2nd and 3rd grade were.  Now that he's in 4th grade, he's got the opportunity to do a couple of things for the "upperclass" kids can do.  He's signed up for a choir called the Singing Stingers for 4th and 5th graders (we were surprised!) + he also wants to help with carpool unloading some mornings at school.   

I had a rough few weeks at school during the July session.  The last summer session had a ton of change but mainly, there was a lot of uncertainty about my role and my position.  I was originally gearing up to teach 1st grade science so that I could work in the new garden at our school, but I was thrown a curve-ball:  teaching architecture to K-5 kids (I'm calling it "Building Arts") and one gardening class to middle school.

I originally had a nice big classroom, but because I was teaching a new class / had to give up my room to a teacher who was teaching in the grade level I used to teach and move to another space.  Problem was - there were no more classrooms in the building.  I had to move into an interior work room + storage closet that were joined together by tearing down the wall between.  Just days before school started, my room looked like this!  
There were contractors and painters in the building the week before school started (during our teacher planning week)... but no one was making their way to my room, so I took matters into my own hands.  
After LOTS of hard work dry-walling, painting and even working into the wee hours of the night before the 1st day of school) this disaster of a space was transformed!  (Thank you Todd for your help hanging things up for me!!)  

During this same week, there were contractors outside installing a substantial raised-bed garden / outdoor classroom.  This is for the garden grant that I helped to write.  So... even though I'm in a tiny interior room... at least I have an outdoor classroom that I get to play in some!  

My Building Arts and Gardening Class is going well so far.  I am having fun culling through architecture and art lessons.... and researching things with my middle school girls for the garden.  We have survived the first two weeks of school!  Guess that does mean that summer is officially over.  Man - wishing we had more of a summer instead of just a few weeks... but looking forward to a unique school year ahead~

Here are a couple of funny / random pictures of the kids from this summer.  (Mercer wearing my glasses and Isabella after having done her own hair.)  They sure are keeping us on our toes!