Saturday, August 22, 2015

First day(s) of school + some new things...

Mercer is officially a 2nd grader now.  Here are his first-day pics.  He's lost another tooth.  I think that his first day pics are going to be photographic journey of his missing teeth and ever-changing smile~  This new school year we are approaching with a little bit of a different attitude and have been communicating with his new teacher a lot about his learning differences.  Hopefully we can carve out a plan that will work for him and help him to succeed in school.

Isabella has moved (back) into the Toddler Room in August with a new teacher -- a new hire after her previous teacher left at the end of May. This new teacher, Mrs. Fanny, used to teach Montessori school for 6 or 7 years elsewhere and seems to be giving the toddlers a more "formal" Montessori education than Mercer was getting when he was in the toddler room.  Mercer learned at such a RAPID pace when he was there... so I'm very excited to see what Isabella will pick up with this new teacher.  

(Her achievements over the summer seems to be:  working on her ABC's (she sings the song pretty well with her adorable little voice), counting to 10, when pointing to objects on a page, she can identify if there are 1 of those objects, 2 of them or 3.  She knows her colors.  She has always been a great talker -- but she is pretty good at using complete sentences now.

I know I've mentioned before that she is a firecracker. The owner of the daycare told the new Montessori teacher to meet her new boss:  Isabella.  It seems to be true... she rules that room!  whew~   Supposedly, she will be moving up to the Montessori pre-K program soon, though.  I thought when she was 100% potty trained + 3 years old that they'd move her up, but it may happen in the next few weeks a few months earlier than expected.  We'll see.

Isabella has officially moved out of her toddler bed here at home. Enclosed are pictures of her in both her toddler bed right before the transition (sans clothes -- which something she does a lot in the middle of the night -- she will get undressed) AND pictures of her now she's in her new "big girl" bed.   

The fish & bubbles crib set & wall paintings that served us well for over 7 years are now officially gone.  (Sniff sniff.)  Bye bye nursery.  hello little girl's room~

Here she looks peaceful, but, man.... when she throws-down a tantrum... she really throws down.  It's been sort of tough between Mercer's breakdowns due to homework and Isabella's tantrums (hopefully temporary as a "terrible twos" issue).  Todd and I are pretty exhausted, honestly. 

I've begun a new school year myself.  I'm at the same private school 2 days a week teaching Physical Science again.  Here's a "first day" selfie to continue my new-ish tradition of that photographic journey.  (Hopefully mine will not be a journey of missing teeth and an ever-changing smile, like Mercer's however!!)  So far -- although it's only been 1 1/2 weeks for me in the classroom -- it is already a bit easier.  I haven't pulled an all-nighter yet like I was doing consistently (even from the start) last year.  I have lesson plans I can pull from. I do spend time to adjust them, as I recall what worked last year and what didn't.  There are a few lessons that I want to change that bombed last year and pull in something more exciting than what we did previously -- but overall -- I'm much more much set.  I was asked to also teach a 4th grade astronomy class for 1/2 an hour on the days that I'm there.  It will be a bit of a squeeze to cram them in between two of my 8th grade classes, but I'm looking forward to learning some new things and having fun with it. 

I mentioned back in January of 2014 that it was going to be a year of transition.  It's true. It was.  Last January, I was faced with a job loss and Todd moved to a new firm.  Todd is happily settled in at his firm 1 1/2 years now and I found some somewhat stable part-time green building work for just over a year while taking teaching classes, working at a butterfly garden part-time, and exploring teaching part-time.  

Unfortunately, the somewhat stable green building job is coming to an end as their work is drying up and I need to address again -- what do I want to be when I grow up?  The teaching has been fun.  Do I want to do this full-time???  That is the BIG question.  I have enjoyed being around students a couple of days a week and around adults a few days a week.  It's been a juggle - for sure - but I've also had more flexibility to let Isabella sleep in a few days a week and have some one-on-one time with her in the mornings (on non-teaching days), and to be at home earlier to pick Mercer up from the bus stop or at school (on the days I teach).  

IF I did make a move to teaching full-time... things would definitely change quite a bit.  I would be out the door very early every day, but then have more time every afternoons.  I have heard from teachers that you work a TON.  Home earlier in the afternoons than a traditional job (which could help with the homework and cooking dinner juggle that we face), but then at night -- you are up grading and lesson planning into the wee hours.... EVERY single night.  

There may be the possibility to pick up some more green building work on a contract basis, but that would be sporadic.  A friend of ours was really trying to sell me on moving back into architecture -- saying that I haven't really been out of the industry for a decade -- I've been honing my skills in another (related) area.  In terms of project management and how to run through an architectural project -- I could still do that as it's like riding a bike.  But the computer program(s) that are used, I'm really out of touch with.  Also, what do I do with my 2 day a week (low-paying) teaching job which I have a contract for??  Architecture is less flexible.  

The part-time teaching job makes things a little more difficult -- even IF I knew what direction to head in.  Oh boy.... here we go again!!  

I'll end this with a cute picture of Mercer and Isabella.  Here, Isabella is holding some sort of caterpillar and Mercer is trying to feed it a piece of grass.  This was taken at a Pollinator educational event at our community garden.  We are raising a bug-lover, for sure!!

One other thing about Isabella to share:  - she and I have developed a "secret language."  (Although Todd has recently jumped in on the game.)  She and I speak this little gibberish language and it makes her crack up and giggle -- sometimes cackle!  She will start this language when she can sense that I need a boost.  It ALWAYS picks me up.  

Mercer and I used to have this weird eye thing and funny noise that we would make at each other.  I guess you develop funny little things that make the kids act goofy that are different for each one.  

LOVE these little things.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Our summer in a nutshell + vacation post (before the - now late - back to school post)

First the nutshells: 

Summer sort of felt like this in a nutshell:  Water + driving + laundry.
- With two kids taking daily swim lessons at two different times in two different spots for 6 weeks (Mercer) and 5 weeks (Isabella)... there was TONS of driving around and TONS of laundry.  I've already blogged, however, how worth it that adventure was as both kids are doing so well in the pool!

And when swimming finally ended, it felt like this in a nutshell:  Driving + work + schlepping Mercer to camp. (the work and camp thing happened above too on top of the swimming, but the water seemed to take precedence)
- with my commute and taking Mercer to various camps around town, it seems that a ton of time was spent in the car.  I was going into my office at least 4 days a week while school was out (and usually worked the 5th day at home).  A couple of weeks, I went in every day (when Mercer had camp near my office).  That seemed like a good idea when booking him for the camps, however, I had to commute every day and he had to experience my long commute. (It's about 45 min +/- on the way in and about an hour +/-  on the way home.)  One thing that we did, however, that helped passed the time:  we listened to some great books on CD.  
- Todd mostly handled Isabella's daycare (a couple miles from home) and of course worked every day at his job.

We think that Mercer had a good summer.  He went to a bunch of YMCA camps (they were close to his swim practices). The first couple of weeks, he went to general camp where they played games, did crafts, swam, and had all sorts of outdoor fun such as something called ga-ga ball, archery, etc.  Then he moved into week-long sports camps at the Y.   Flag football, lacrosse, tennis, and basket ball.  There was also the drama camp at the nearby church as already reported on a previous blog.  He ended his summer camp adventures with a LEGO camp as well.  (This is where the pictures are from.)  Last year, he was really sad because all of the older kids were on a team at his House-Building LEGO camp.  This year, I think that the organizers mixed it up a bit.  His team won for various characteristics at this year's Tank-Building LEGO showdown.  He was pretty excited.

There was no camp on Monday / Tuesday... so Todd and I each took Mercer on an adventure to Six Flags this week.  I hadn't been since Todd and I went (before we were married??) Todd took Mercer last year one day with a free kid's certificate he earned for reading, so he made some recommendations of things to do while there.  

On Mercer's 2nd day there, he did not really want to ride any roller coasters.  He and Todd did that the day before.  The "screaming" picture here is fake.... this was on a little kiddie ride and was not scary at all.  The other photo below, however, is of us waiting in line to get on an awesome & huge water slide.  Definitely, the water slides were mine, Todd's and Mercer's favorite part of Six Flags!!!  That part of the park is sort of new and it's an AWESOME addition.  So much fun!

Because we were going to the theme park a couple of days in a row and because Mercer now knows what White Water is, we joined for a year membership.  (Mercer never noticed White Water before but now it's visible from the highway since a bunch of trees were removed & he is VERY curious about it.) Six Flags (and White Water - which is a part of the membership) will be on next year's summer agenda, for sure!  

One other "camp" sort of thing that Mercer got to do.... he spent the week at "Camp Grandma and Grandpa" in Florida!  It was a new experience for him to spend the night away from home that long and he did really well.  Dad and Charlie enjoyed having him there and getting to know him better.  He enjoyed spending time with them (and their dog, Kinsey) and said he'd like to do it again.  They were talking about "next year" we could do XYZ.... so it sounds like they want him to come back again.) 

We talked to him every day.  And - they sent pictures often.  Some of these pics are of him checking out nearby parks.... and.... some are from nearby themeparks.  (Being near Orlando - there's a lot to choose from.) 

Dad took Mercer to Gatorland -- a place where they feature gators, of course, but also have a variety of animals there as well.  He came away with a super cool gator t-shirt, but also memories of "pea-hawks" (peacocks), goats, and walking around the lake with different animals.  I didn't get a photo of him wrestling an alligator.... so I guess they didn't let him get too close!

They also went to the Crayola Experience -- a venue that has attractions based on color, creation, and fun.  Mercer came home with some wax spin art, a puzzle that he made, a water-color picture, a "custom" crayon he made and labeled, some coloring sheets, squishy modeling clay, etc.   

This coloring sheet image cracks me up (I guess a camera would take your photo / spit it out on a printer as a coloring sheet with a rock-and-roll background.)  Notice how angelic Mercer looks.  ha!  

The concept for a Crayola play place is brilliant.  Crayola does SO MANY different kinds of things -- their resources for this place are limitless.  

I met dad and Charlie for lunch mid-way between their house and ours.  They were raving about how good Mercer was all week.  How polite he was -- how helpful (holding doors for strangers / car door for Charlie / how he event helped out a lot at their church as they were moving food from one building to another in preparation for setting up a food bank).  Major props for Mercer on getting compliments from adults!!!

Mercer and I took a quick stretch break at Mercer University near Macon on our drive back home after lunch.  He thought it was SO COOL to see his name everywhere!  He said he was famous there.  ha~

Mercer and Isabella seriously missed each other.  Todd and I had work, as normal.  Isabella had daycare, as normal.  But - when she woke up in the mornings, she would ask about Mercer.  One day - when he wasn't here and Todd had already left for work, she WAILED for a long time.  She wanted someone other than me!    Check out this sweet "reunion" pic.

Now..... for our summer vacation (in a nutshell and a TON of pictures):  beach + swimming at the pool + biking + Todd and I getting to go kayaking / snorkeling + nap-time activities + putt putt + Playmobil Fun Park + sea turtle sighting.

A couple of general comments about Palm Beach Shores:  the water was GORGEOUS.  clear blue.  beautiful! 

The sand was HOT.  people were selling "sand socks."  We've never seen them - but totally understand the need!



Isabella spent a bit of time under the umbrella because she was not digging the sand as much as in previous beach trips.  She was being a little bit of a princess about getting her hands dirty!  (Although she had no qualms holding a baby dragon fly that we found!) 

Isabella and I chased sea gulls away from our blanket and flew a kite (Yes that's a storm that was in the distance... we watched it go all the way around us.  It made for some great kite-flying wind and waves for boogie-boarding - sorry - no pics of that one... we were too busy in the water).

The place we stayed was right next door to a city park & public beach that was barely used.  It was perfect because there was a playground in the park that the kids liked to climb on day and night.

There were restaurants nearby.  We rode bikes to check out our end of the island such as the nearby marina.  (Mercer rode solo -- with his training wheels on.)


 It pretty much rained every day.  (One day we checked out Playmobil Fun Park which was really close.)

We barely dodged a rain storm while playing putt-putt with metal clubs.  Um.... that one was a little close for comfort. 

Isabella needed an afternoon nap every afternoon.  Sometimes the rain and the nap coincided.  Mercer and I got to do some fun stuff together during her naps, however, such as going on a hotel scavenger hunt one day, a treasure hunt another, a trip to the turtle rescue center, making some solar print cards, and having a mommy-son date at the tiki bar.

I'm not quite sure where this fits in with the flow of the blog, but I have to say.... when we first got to the island, we were sort of confused watching a large cruise liner make it's way to the shore. 
We did not realize how close we were to the bottom of the island 'til exploring more, but we were.  It sure made for some really odd-looking photos, though!  (It's a little more clear here in the next couple of photos at the entrance to the inlet.)
Some more randomness.  Here is a bird that Mercer liked to talk to that was next to the pool. 
Also, we went to a hibachi grill.  We had taken Mercer when he was only a few years old.  It was funny when we took Mercer the first time - he was really afraid of the fire.  It seems that he is still not so comfortable around it, but Isabella seems to be fascinated!

Here are some selfies that Todd took of the family. 

A MAJOR highlight for us:
Todd and I did something new.  We hired a babysitter through the hotel so that we could go on a kayaking / snorkeling trip!!
(Actually, the sitter was a nurse practitioner that the hotel works with for their guests with medical needs, so we felt a little better and could relax on our little tour!) 
Our guide lured out an eel with some fish.  It was pretty cool. 
Luckily, we were at one of the top 10 spots in the US for snorkeling.   It was SOOOOOO AMAZING.  I now absolutely love being under the water with the fish!  Todd loved it too (pictured here).  We both agree that we need to find more opportunities to snorkel more!

Here are our photos from "Peanut Island" and the kayaking pics are in the channel getting out to the  small island.  We obviously had to follow some basic traffic laws seeing that we were in tiny plastic boats! 

We even snuck in a post-snorkel visit to the tiki bar before meeting the sitter at the agreed-upon time.  We discussed the need to get out on the water more often (kayak, canoe, row, sail, motor... whatever the method) and the need to get the kids out to do stuff like this too. 


We took the kids over later in the week & tried to get Mercer to snorkel, but he wasn't that into it.  So.... Todd and I had to take turns swimming around the cluster of rocks that we explored with the snorkel guide.  It was still pretty exhilarating!  The kids did have fun taking the water taxi over, however.

And - MY absolute favorite highlight of the trip (hoping it's Mercer's highlight too)... was coming across this adorable sea turtle hatchling while we went out to see the sun rise on our last day at the beach! 

I told him that there was a 99.9% chance that we would probably not see anything, but there was a slight chance that we could see something.  We kept walking along the beach because the sun was not up yet.  We came across a patch with a lot of tracks.  We had just been at the turtle rescue center the day before and knew what those tracks were.  But -- we were a little confused because the tracks were not in the same location as a turtle nest -- which there were dozens of within view.  We weren't quite sure what to make of all of the tracks, but knew something had happened.  A man fishing asked if we saw a turtle.  No, sadly.  We kept walking after exploring and following the tracks a bit more.  THEN, we saw a little bit of movement.  It was a lone baby hatchling!!

What had happened (according to a resident who was out walking and came to see what we were watching) was that the group of hatchlings went out to sea overnight and that this lone hatching came out late.  The big mass of tracks was definitely where the nest was.... but the hole that the turtles crawl out of closes back up... the sand fills it in, so it doesn't look like a nest at all.  HOW COOL IS THAT?! 

There was a crowd of people that gathered by the time the little turtle made it to the ocean.  Here are some video links that captures our experiences:

and here's Mercer's photo of the sunrise (with a turtle nest in the shot)!

What a unique, wonderful, special experience we got to share!  It was the PERFECT ending to our vacation.