Monday, June 27, 2016

back-to-back celebrations of "Todd"

Todd's birthday was a couple of Sundays ago... then, father's day was a week ago.  We got to celebrate him twice this month.  Back-to-back weekends.

For his birthday, we made a hearty breakfast and opened some presents.  And - although it was HIS day, he chose to do kid-stuff!!  He said he wanted to go to White Water park... for real?!?  The kids, of course, were happy!  

Mercer has been wanting to check out this place for about a year now.  He liked it and definitely wanted to do the big rides.  Isabella was perfectly content in the kid area and was so excited at times that it was hard to tell if she was laughing or crying while jumping up and down.  (she was laughing, thankfully)   

It was hard to take pictures because there is a lot of water around, however, in one area that Isabella went (over and over again), there was an opportunity to snap some as she became more independent on the slide.  

it was so gracious for him to share his day like this with the kiddos!!

We snuck in a quick trip to the lake with "Uncle Orie" last week to celebrate the summer solstice.  

After grilling out, Mercer kayaked for the first time....and he went in a single person kayak to boot!  Orie just thew him into it and he did it! 

Isabella got to go in a canoe for the first time.  It was a little unnerving to have a 3 year old in the vessel with us - especially when she would lean over the edge to look at the water!  Happily, none of us ended up in the water.  

Later, we went out on the pontoon boat.  
BTW - what is up with all of the crazy-face photos?

Isabella got to drive the boat with Mrs. Jeannie.  

Todd and I took in the sunset & relaxed a little while the kids were (sort of) contained!  

It was a nice end to the week and a great way to start a weekend!!!  

That Sunday, we went on a family hike to a state park we had never been to:  Fort Mountain. It's in north Georgia and - since the temps were about 10 degrees cooler than the previous Sunday, Todd agreed that this would be a good place to spend father's day.   We went on a hike to the top of the mountain to go see a restored Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) fire tower.  

After our hike up, we were treated to an explanation of a few things from the ranger on duty (including a heliograph and how triangulation of the fire map worked) then we climbed higher up the stairs to take in the vistas from the top of the tower.  (Mercer wanted a picture of him dancing on the stairs on the way back down.  Here it is~)

There is a cool article on the renovation of the tower at this link: 

Here's also a picture of the heart-shaped stone written about in the above article.  (sweet story!)

Mercer did something really nice the night before we went on our family hike... HE packed the bag -- getting the snacks, a first aid kit, hats, compass and water ready.   It was in his cub-scout book how to prepare for a hike and he took it so seriously!  He put everything in an individual zippie bag + tore the labels off the water bottles / wrote everyone's name on them.  It was sort of cute.  (and - why he loves this hat??!!  it IS hike-worthy~)

Fort Mountain is mainly known for its mysterious stone wall, so we hiked back down the mountain following it. We picnicked, went fishing, went to the beach on the lake then ended our day with a paddleboat ride.  

Isabella fished a little, but mostly played with worms (and was sad when we put them onto the hook).  Promise, this is a pile of worms in her hand!!

Mercer also picked up his 2nd Junior Ranger badge (the 1st is shown in his crazy hat photo above)... we'll have to sew on the 2nd to this backpack).  It took him a bit longer to earn the 2nd one as the activities are a little more in-depth and there are more things for him to do.  But - things like Junior Rangers + Cub Scouts seem to motivate him and are a great excuse for us to get outdoors and try new things!

We packed in as much as we could during that exhausting, but fun and memorable day trip to the mountains!  We are lucky to have such a good dad in our little family unit to celebrate.

Isabella asked a day or two ago if it was still daddy's birthday and if we were still supposed to be nice to him? Well.... there's no birthday (or father's day) but we should still be nice!  wink~

Friday, June 10, 2016

a quick post about end of year stuff for Mercer + our 1st summer break

Our first summer break was TOO quick!  (especially since I chose to work an exhausting science camp for the 1st 4 days of break!)  Mercer was in school 'til Wednesday of that week / he came to my school's camp with me 1 day - Thursday.    It was interesting working with a couple of the other science teachers.  One teaches 1st grade.  The other teaches 3rd / 4th grade students.  The range in children at camp was K - 6th grade  (the majority of which are in K - 2 and wow - what a difference from what I'm used to teaching!!  I was feeling a bit claustrophobic during camp.  They all huddle around you with no space to move!  I found myself saying over and over again "please take a step back.  please take a step back!"

The 1st grade teacher had the students doing some pretty big projects.  We didn't get a chance to get to some of the smaller things I had planned, but it was good having her take the lead on many of the activities / learn from her.  (She studied aerospace engineering.  One of the projects she facilitated was to make rocket fuel out of different kinds of candy!!)

Isabella went to the preschool room where they did some little science-y projects too.  In the afternoons, they would join back up with us.  She showed this set of twin girls (photo above) her worm and rollie pollie collection.  Last week, she was so into the worms that she toted that box around with her everywhere - on walks, at camp, you name it!!

During Mercer's last few days of school, he was awarded an "Exceptional Attendance" award + a "Good Conduct" award at the awards ceremony!  This is the first time he's gotten any -- let alone 2!  (He's in a yellow shirt -- a couple of kids away from the principal in this photo) 

We are VERY proud of him for the good conduct.  He had a fantastic year~

He earned a Mercer "Fun Day" every month with only 1 glitch-up during one off week.

Here is also a shot of Mercer with a group of students at his school who participated in a 5-week program run by the local Police Department. They talked about sensitive issues / how to stay safe / how to fight to get away from abduction / etc.  It was not his favorite thing to do, but good that he's aware of some self-defense strategies and hopefully some self-confidence in some uncomfortable situations.  (He's the one wearing the red hat for some reason!)

Mercer made the All-Stars baseball team for the 7-8 kids at his ball park. About 1/2 of the team (of 13 kids) has been playing in the 9 - 10 year old group even though they're 8.  They came back down to the 7-8 year old All-Star team.  This means that the kids that were playing were generally very very good.  Mercer is used to being one of the best kids on his team of 7 & 8 year olds -- leading off on the batting / playing an in-field position.  

This was not the case for the All-Star team and we think it may have been a bit of an adjustment for him.   Unfortunately, he did not perform like he normally would during the regular season.

It was a lot of hard work -- practicing every day for 2 weeks straight / trying to learn to play with a new team.  They won 1 game and lost the other 2 games played against nearby little leagues.  It was still a good experience for him, though!

On a more positive note, Mercer and about 1900+ other scouts (cub scouts, boy scouts, eagle scouts, girl scouts, etc) went to our local National Cemetery and placed flags at the 18,000 headstones that are there a couple of days before Memorial Day.   The cemetery is 150 years old and veterans from every war are represented.  It was interesting to learn more about the history of this place and to do something to honor those who have fought for our freedom.  This "service" event is done to prepare the cemetery for the Memorial Day event that is held there every year, in fact the Foothills District scouting group has been placing flags for 70+ years!  Later that day, mom arrived for a weekend visit.    We cooked.  We went to a few stores that she wanted to check out.  We spent a bit of time outdoors (it was beautiful!).  We sewed patches onto Mercer's cub scout uniform.  We painted / finger painted several times.  We went for ice cream.  We played board games.  Although we did not do anything major, we were all exhausted by the end of the visit!

Mercer finally got to attend a soccer camp (he's begged for a couple of years, but they are usually 1/2-day which is hard for working parents).  He did enjoy soccer, but by the end of camp, he was exhausted.  Here's a shot of him after he's microwaved his own (veggie) chicken nuggets for lunch - he was so tired that he wanted to eat laying on the dining room chairs!  We spent time swimming in the afternoons.  (Actually wore Isabella out too as evidenced here with a quick trip to the grocery after swimming.)  

Each evening, Isabella also took her refresher course for that Infant Swimming / survival training she completed last year.  

It was our "off" week, but was still very busy.    

Our break ended with our neighborhood golf tournament and fishing.  

Isabella seriously thought she was a teenage girl.  It was really sweet of the neighborhood girls to hang out with her.  

And - this crazy / awesome dad that lives in our neighborhood - she has him wrapped around her little finger.  (He and his wife have two adopted girls.)  At one point she picked up a megaphone and kept shouting "Mr. Laing, I love you.  I love you!"  It was hilarious.  All of the socializing among neighbors stopped to look at her -- which she enjoyed the attention.

A member of our church graciously opened up their family farm for a pot-luck / fishing event.  This 50 +/- acres is located just outside of the city limits - really close to Kennesaw Mountain.  

The caretaker (an uncle of the church member) took Isabella and I through their fascinating fossil and rock collection (including UV light glow-in-the-dark mineral covered rocks).  The host facilitated fishing at one of the lakes on the property (with a view of the mountain in the background).  Many of the families fishing caught fish.  Both Todd and Mercer did!  It was pretty exciting for both of them.  

Isn't this what summer is about -- wearing the kids out by spending tons of time outdoors?!

Only a couple more weeks 'til our next summer break!!