Sunday, January 24, 2016

A new year.... some new things are happening

Yes - lots of new things have happened / are happening in the New Year!!

1.  New Year's eve... Isabella has her first dentist appointment.  (At this dentist, they take a first visit photo.)  

She did well for the most part, but she questioned every single little thing that the hygienist did.  The appointment took a really long time and Isabella was all over the place.  The hygienist said that this was a first:  she conducted her exam with Isabella standing up part of the time, sitting down some, and sort of chasing her around.  The dentist said all looks well, but her upper teeth are pushing out a little bit because of the pacifier that she uses at nap / at bedtime and we need to wean her off of it.

We're a step ahead of him.  We were waiting 'til all of our travels were done & were going to start tackling this on New Year's Day.

2.  Later that evening, we went to the square for the first annual "Square Drop"  / NYE party.  We did not stick around 'til the drop - as it was too late with the kiddos - but we heard it was memorable (not in a good way).  We walked up, checked out the scene, played glow-in-the-dark putt-putt, and walked home waaaay before midnight.

3.  On New Year's Day - we made a resolution for Isabella / with Isabella (just like we did with Mercer 5 years ago) to give up her pacifier.  Just like we did for Mercer.... we gave her the option of throwing her pacifiers away in exchange for a big present.  Well, of course she took the present!   (A Doc McStuffins medical kit - backpack, tools, and prescription pad that actually helps her to learn her letters.)

When Mercer exchanged the paci for a present.... he asked for the paci a couple of times.  We told him it was gone and he seemed OK with it / moved on.  Isabella on the other hand, has not been OK with this "exchange."  The first several days - she cried loudly and begged for her paci.  She even rummaged through the trash several times!  At daycare, she rummaged through her box of personal items 'cause there used to be a loose paci in there every now and then.  She is smart and STRONG WILLED and she was determined to find a way around the deal she had made with us~

For a couple of weeks at daycare and at home she announced she did not need a paci because she was a big girl.  But - whew - she DID sleep much better with it!  Eventually she stopped asking about it or even talking about it, but unfortunately her sleep patterns have been messed up.  It's been 3 weeks so far and she's still not sleeping through the night consistently.  We've definitely regressed in that area.  It's been tough on us and tough on her.   Hoping that she starts sleeping through the night again.  That's been the hardest part of all of this... sleep patterns~ ugh!

4.  Into the new year, I spent a ton of time wrapping up lessons and organizing materials for the school where I had been teaching part-time for 1 1/2 years.  (JFCA)  I took a full-time teaching job was handing over the baton to another who was to take my place.  It was actually hard to let go.  I felt horrible leaving the students in the middle of the school year, but seriously felt like the opportunity to go to this other school -- one that I have been interested in Mercer attending -- was something I needed to try.  My school administrator was awesome.  She encouraged me to take the other job and felt that God opened this door for me / my family... and that He would provide another teacher to take my place.  Shortly after the new year, she was correct!  The man who was taking my place - an engineer who was interested in teaching a year ago was not able to make that transition in his career until the exact time that I was transitioning to another school.  It really is pretty amazing how that worked out!

The first 2 weeks of the year was spent transitioning and even co-teaching a little to say goodbye to the students and usher in the new teacher.  He did well with the students and I felt at peace leaving that job.  There was only one day of "down-time" between my last day of teaching at one school and hanging out at the new school cleaning out my room and meeting with the other Upper School team members.

I'm in over my head (much like I was 1 1/2 years ago when I started teaching 8th grade Physical Science (Chemistry & Physics).  I have 3 8th grade Physical Science classes at my new school, but I also have 1 10th grade Chemistry class.  1 9th grade Biology class.  and 1 7th grade Life Science class.  I feel comfortable with Chemistry and Physical Science, but the other two.... I'm very nervous about!!!

Each teacher is also required to teach an elective 3 days a week.  I'm doing an Intro to Architecture class.  I know the material, but it's still another "prep" to do most days.  YIKES.

Isabella will start going to daycare with me there February 1st.  We can save a great deal of money each month to have her go with me.... and... she's with me in the same building every day.  We'll have to start getting up earlier each day to get to school on time, but it may save some time in the long run not having to pick up kids at multiple places.  

The plan is eventually for Mercer to start going to the school there either in the fall or maybe jump in a little before the school year starts in the summer in lieu of camps?  (it's a year-round school.  I'll have 11 weeks off total each year.  Every month or two, the kids and I will get a week or two off.)

5.   On my first official day of work, I was driving in and all of the emergency lights on my dash lit up.  I pulled over and flipped through the manual which encouraged me to take my car to the dealer immediately.  I had just taken it in for a tire rotation & oil change that very weekend and was ensured all was well.  So - they told me to come after work / they'd check it out.  I stopped off and had it hooked up to a machine that tells you what the error code is:  wow - it was the hybrid battery.  The "big" one!  I was already dealing with a lack of control (Multi-functional Display Unit had gone out 6 months ago and we couldn't fix with a refurbished model).... so... this was the 2nd major component to go - but not one I could live without.  So, we had to act fast and get rid of the 11+ year old car.  I traded it in on a newer (2014) Prius.  Same thing I've been driving and am comfortable with. I guess I'll have to wait on that "dream" car -- a convertible.  Oh well.  I have more reliable wheels & that's important -- especially seeing that one or both of the kids will be making the 35 minute trek each way with me.

The earlier part of the day -- my actual first day of work -- started out nicely:  helping make up bags filled with toiletries and hand-made scarves to hand out to neighboring residents in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.  

The school where I'm working is kind of crazy (so far in my first week).  I'm sure I'll have more to post about it later.  I'm just getting up-to-speed.  But - have to admit - what a nice way to ring in my first official day:  serving others.  

Fingers crossed the rest of the year will be as rewarding!!

6.  We had our first snow of the year.  It was pretty light (and thankfully happened Friday evening / Saturday - so no one was stuck on the road).  

But we were able to scrape some snow off of cars, basket ball goal base, and a few other flat objects in order to make several dozen snowballs.  It was fun for a very short time.  The snow made us snuggle up with a fire in the fireplace, however, which was a nice change.

7.  Mercer also started something new in Cub Scouts that he's never done:  Pinewood Derby. It's been pretty cool to see him and Todd work on building a car together. We'll post pics of that on the next blog post, as they're a week away from the actual event where all of the boys race their cars.  Should be exciting!!

And - some things that aren't new, but still took place......

We held our annual Soup Night.  (15 years since we started it!)  Things have changed a bit over the years since bringing Isabella into our home.... when she was in her first month here (Jan 2013), a friend hosted a soup night for us instead of us hosting one.  Then, when we started it back up in Jan 2014 - we had "co-hosts" helping with purchase and prep of ingredients.  In 2015, we cut it back to 2 soup nights instead of 4.  We did the same thing this year, but we also hosted a "private" one in honor of a friend who we used to work with.  So - we had 3 this year.  Even though it's changing, it's still nice to gather with old friends over a bowl of soup~ 

The little boy in the photo that Isabella is hugging is a little miracle.  He's a year older than she is.  He is much smaller than she is because he was born way too early - he was a little over 1 lb when he was born.  When he's not cringing from being hugged by our precocious little girl, he has the BEST smile.  

Our visits with him are spaced apart too much / we don't get to see his beaming parents or beautiful smile as much as we'd like.  But - when we do, he is a reminder that life is frail and life is precious.  

Into the new year, Mercer wrapped up his basketball season.  He did pretty well -- picking up more skills than from the previous year.  The thing that was nice that the coach said:  each player was able to score this season (unlike players on the other teams).... and he got compliments from other coaches on how well the boys listened to and responded to instruction.  Our boys ALMOST went undefeated.  

They lost 1 game the whole season.... only by 1 point.  Overall, it was pretty good!

Happy New Year to you and yours.....

Monday, January 4, 2016

Our Christmas adventures

After our trip to Florida at Thanksgiving, we went straight to work in prepping for Christmas -- buying a tree and decorating it adding a few decorations around the house.  This year, we did not have time to bake or do some of the advent activities that we typically participate in... but... we made the most of the few weeks we had at home between the trip to Florida and the trip that we embarked on to visit family in NC and NJ.

We decorated gingerbread stuff:  I helped out in the toddler room with the graham-cracker-covered milk carton "gingerbread house" decorating.    It's always a riot to see how the little tiny kids engage in this.  They have a really hard time understanding that the candies and graham crackers are for decorating... not for sampling.   Todd and the kids decorated a giant (store-bought) gingerbread man here at home as well while I went to a girl's night out.  Mercer made some sort of gingerbread man trap at school too.    CHECK - gingerbread (or similar graham cracker confection decorating) covered.

We visited Santa up on the square:  this year, Isabella was at least in the picture for the holiday card!  But - she had to be persuaded to stay on Santa's lap.  We bribed her with a toy dog that was there on the floor of Santa's workshop.  She could hold it if she would sit on the ol guy's lap.  She would not look at him or make eye contact.  She would not speak to him.

  Weird.  From afar when she saw him, she yelled and waved for him "hi Santa."  "hi!"  We got into the workshop and she totally changed her tune.  Oh well!       CHECK - Santa.  

Here are some photos of the kids while waiting to see Santa.  Oh... the goofy faces.  We'll never get another serious photo - ever.  

(Mercer told Santa that he wanted a remote control meerkat.  and he wrote this little narrative about this at school too.  Sadly, Mercer said he did not get everything he wanted for Christmas.  He specifically called that gift out.  Hmmm... never seen an RC meerkat.  Oh well.  He'll be fine!)

We saw some lights:  near Mercer's school is a street that decks out their trees with lighted balls.  One night - while Todd was out with some guys - the kids and I did a driving tour there as well at a nearby neighborhood that had one house that was over-the-top.  The kids loved the 1000's of lights at that particular house.  Isabella said "that is awe-some!"  Just thought it was funny to hear her say that phrase.      CHECK - Viewing Lights.

We sang some carols:  this year... Isabella really got into the singing!  She sort of knows Silent Night and Frosty the Snowman.  There was a lot of impromptu singing.... even on Mercer's part.  So sweet.  One of my favorite things about the season is singing Christmas carols at church.  We got to do a little bit of that as well when we went to advent services.    CHECK - Singing.  

The elves came to visit us and check in on the kids.  They were a little bold this year, however, dragging out Christmas lights in a tangle and even rolling our living room / dining room with toilet paper.  (I think we need elves to watch over our elves!)  CHECK.

I got to go to the Marietta Christmas Home Tour with some girls and went to a Christmas play with them at a "mega" church nearby as well.     At our own church, there was a live nativity which was pretty cool.  There were some unusual animals there -- all kid friendly, thankfully.    CHECK - (sort of) there was not really enough of the church-related stuff as there should have been.

Then, of course, there was a little bit of shopping / packing / Christmas card writing / finishing grading papers / etc. to do before we could hit the road.    We also had our little family Christmas celebration together at home.   CHECK.

After Mercer's basketball game and getting the rental van, we packed up and began our journey north.  We started at my mom's.  This year, she had a family Christmas party at her house.  Almost everyone came out for a little while to hang out, eat, catch up, and watch the kids open packages. 

Mom's house is close to her parents house.... so either before or after the Christmas party - most everyone stopped by to visit with Great-Grandma.  

Our visit was after the family party.  The kids are pretty active and Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa are content watching them run, jump, play.  Isabella was showing off cartwheels (sort of -- her version of them).  She also wanted everyone to make silly faces when we had our daily visit and she took her own photos there.  You can tell that she demanded silly faces and got her finger in a picture or two~

While in NC, we also popped over to see my Aunt Becky and Uncle Tony -- and their dogs.    The weather was rainy while in NC, so there was not a lot of outdoor time on either of the farms.   

We continued up the road to Todd's mom's in NJ.   She is putting the house on the market in a couple of months.  It was the second "last" Christmas there (2014 was supposed to be, but the house did not go on the market in 2015, so there was one more "last.")  She's been working on getting things fixed up in the house, removing all traces of shag carpet and addressing some code-related issues.  Knowing that this is the last time that she's hosting Christmas, we planned to go up before the rest of the family got there and pop into New York City for a day trip.  

But.... the rain squelched those plans as well.  We found an indoor play place for the kids - photos above... then, Todd, Mercer, and I went to the Star Wars movie while Isabella was napping that afternoon.  

Poor Mercer was scared throughout much of the movie and watched it behind fingers in front of his eyes and/or buried in my arm.  

Todd's siblings started to arrive on Christmas Eve.... and the volume in the house ramped up and up and up!  Here's a shot on Christmas Eve of Rose Marie with Tara, Marley, Isabella, and Meghan -- her 4 granddaughters.  

There were 14 - 18 people in the house over the course of a Christmas Eve / Christmas day.  [+ a stow-away cat that supposedly rode up from south Jersey in the trunk of Tonia's car~]  We found a sliver of clear skies and took our "last" walk around Mountain Lakes ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the beautiful 1920's Craftsman-inspired "Hapgood Homes."    
I seriously love these houses -- so much so that I researched them once for a vernacular architecture class in college!   I *NEED* to go up sometime there's a home tour to go inside and see how fabulous they are.

We went to the cool little train shop one last time as well.  We will miss that great little historic NYC "resort" town. 

The next morning was rife with activity as Santa visited and brought toys for the kids.   Mercer's toys mainly consisted of remote control things.  (here's a shot of the older cousins checking out Mercer's "terrain twister" in the lake beyond and on the hill.)  There was some Star Wars stuff, of course, too.  


Isabella's toys mostly consisted of things related to dogs and the movie "Frozen."  She got three different dogs -- one that breathes, one that flips backwards, and one that vibrates perfect for snuggling.  She got this outfit and stripped down on the spot, put it on, and demanded that people watch her twirl~  Later that evening, most of the gang went out for bowling... a good thing to do with a houseful of people on a rainy Christmas evening~  These shots of Marley and Isabella are precious!  She has always loved on Isabella so much!

Had to post this shot of Sam - Bobby's son.  There's a glimpse 50 years into the future on that one!!  ha~

The next day.... we loaded up the car and the kids and headed back to NC.  Between driving and stops, we were on the road 12 hours.  The kids were STIR CRAZY to say the least.  

Thankfully, there was a little bit of sun (between some misty showers), mom took us to the NC zoo.  We started at the playground to let the kids burn off some energy.  It was wet - but oh well.  

(Here's a shot on a cute little lady bug that I have a photo of Mercer on when he was one - check out the May 20, 2009 blog post to compare, if interested.)     

Also - here's a funny pic of Isabella making faces at the chimpanzee exhibit.  

It really is a fantastic zoo.

There was ONE more thing that we did that was Christmas-related....although after we got back from our trip / after Christmas:  we FINALLY went to Six Flags "Holiday in the Park."  There was finally a day where it wasn't raining, but it was cold.  We bundled up and went to explore / went to check it out.  It was pretty well done!  We've been wanting to go for awhile - so CHECK on that one too! 

Sometimes the holidays feel like a checklist.  There are so many things to do with the kids & we want to get it all in.  Unfortunately, there's no way to do that -- I suppose the most important part is getting in what we can, creating fun memories for the kids, and honoring the true meaning of Christmas.  (There's a cool book that we got that we added to our library this year called "Why do they Call it Christmas" that was written by the guy who does the Veggie Tales movies.  It's pretty good and has a some nice explanations on why Santa is a part of this holiday focused on Jesus.) 

It's hard to not check things off a list and hard not to compare our holidays to those "picture perfect" ones you see in the media, on cards, and in books.  One of the things I love about going to the home tour is finding a home that is truly warm.  One that is NOT perfect.  One that has chipped paint, kids artwork hanging up, one with the handmade ornaments and mis-matched trees.  

Trying to find a way to sum up this blog post.... there's a house on tour that I've been to before.  They have a wall full of 20+ years of photos with Santa.  The 3 children (yes photographed even into their twenties) posed perfectly year after year after year.  The well-dressed / well-behaved perfect little toddlers... adolescents... and teens.  (It is cute that the kids still did that for their moms into their adulthood.)  But - I realized that it doesn't have character.  It's nice to see the growth, but it doesn't show any personality.  Our life -- RICH with personality!  I love that last year, you could barely see Isabella in the Christmas photo and this year, she's solemn.  One year, Mercer was wriggling his way out of Santa's arms.  We don't have those perfectly posed.  We've got mis-match.  We've got character.  It ain't perfect, but we've got a house full of love!