Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer is officially over............

Mercer starts back at school next week.  YIKES!  I suppose that means that the summer is officially over ?!?

Since our vacation, Todd, Isabella and I have been back to the grind.  Mercer went back to camp.  He was in the paper again for a field trip that camp was preparing for -- field day at another Police Athletic League camp (yes - this is a small town paper!)  There are things that he complains about from every camp he goes to... but... he seemed to mostly enjoy this one -- which focused on sports and some lessons mixed in (@ the Police Athletic League - PAL).  

Todd and I liked the fact that he got to do some "extras" with this camp:  they took the kids to a Braves game, they took the kids to a performing arts hall to see a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. On the last day of camp, they gave the kids a backpack with some school supplies in it as well.  It was well worth it and I would recommend PAL camp.  It seems that there was a limited amount of interaction with the police, but there was some.

Mercer's last week of summer camp was, again, the LEGO camp.  This time, however, he WON his week there.  (Which made Todd and me happy b/c we didn't have to shell out $200+ to send him!)  We went to a local Chick-fil-a in May.  They had this contest where kids build cars and then people vote on it.  His won more votes than the other kids.  I actually really like the contest photos -- he looks sort of angelic in them.  Maybe others thought so too?  

He had a good time at his week of camp & they constantly sent out photos so you could see how the kids were doing throughout the week.  

I'm glad he had a good "last week" because the week before that was really rough for him. Mercer had an accident.  He came downstairs from bed to go to the bathroom.  He sprayed air freshener, but the nozzle was not pointed "out."  It sprayed directly into his eyes.  He was screaming in agonizing pain.  Todd flushed his eyes under running water in the sink, while I comforted Isabella who was startled awake from the screams.  All the while we're calling the on-call pediatrician.  They recommended that we call poison control - which we did.  They gave us instructions for what to look for to see if we needed to take him to the ER.  They were so calm and informative.  So level-headed.  We followed their instructions, and determined that he did not need to go.  Todd took him to the pediatrician the next day for a doctor's visit on another matter + an eye test -- which he passed with no problem.  (whew!)  how scary!!   The "other matter" mentioned above.... Mercer had croup!  He hasn't had it in 3 or 4 years.  It's not as bad as you get older.  I don't believe it's life-threatening like it is for a baby or toddler, but it did hurt his throat pretty bad.  <poor guy!>

The weekend before that, Isabella got sick!  One of the things we were supposed to do was to have a high school friend & her daughter over for an art lesson.  We pushed it back to the following weekend and caught up.  It has been more than 4 years since getting together because our friend + another mutual friend we called to meet up with us afterwards have never met Isabella.  OK - doing a one-on-one art lesson with our friend's 6 year old was fun!  This picture is at pizza on the square after the lesson & the little girl in the middle is the budding artist~  

On a side note.  The 7 year old girl on the left - her name is Olivia.  Isabella's *FAVORITE* name is Olivia.  She names all of her dolls, worms, rollie-pollies, birds flying in the sky "Olivia."  :)  

Speaking of the square.... it is CRAZY how much activity there is now that Pokemon GO game has been going on.  Todd loaded the app on our phones so that Mercer (and he?) can play.  There is a giant group of virtual "animals" that people can catch on their phones near the courthouse.  We noticed 40-50 people just hanging out around the plaza at the courthouse since it started. One day, there were well over 100 people.... these people just sitting around on their phones!  crazy.  

The good news is that this game is getting people outside.... and - instead of having virtual meet-ups, people are sort of interacting with each other -- still on their phones -- but at least they're seeing live people now instead of hiding out behind a game console at home!  Such an odd time that we live in~  

I LOVE this photo of Isabella's nose pressed against the window at the ballet studio on the square.  She starts taking classes there next month and I think the ADORABLE factor will be high.  Stay tuned~

We did lot of other little random things this summer.  Our main go-to outing was the pool that's not too far from our house.  We went to an outdoor movie with a friend.   Hosted / Mercer went to some sleep-overs. 

Had a "picnic" at Todd's office because a concert in the park right next to his office was rained out.  (and - you'll notice her new fav hairstyle.... pigtails!)  We went to a bonfire at a friend's house 'til past midnight.  We visited a new pool / min-water park.  We went to some events at our local library.  We had some game nights / played a bit of UNO.  We had some movie nights.  We went on lots of walks around the n'hood (chasing Pokemon!) and working in the community garden. 

I would say, overall, our summer was sort of low-key, but they both had a good summer.  We'll still go to the pool for another 1 1/2 months because it's open into September.  We'll try to do outdoor stuff still, but, with school activities and sports starting up, we'll get back into that groove.

Isabella graduated from the 3 year old room this week.  They had a cute celebration with some performances and songs.  They were presented with a serious award and a silly award.  Hers was "most-improved" and "future scientist" for her love of bugs, worms, and being so inquisitive.  

At our school, we have a 1 week teacher planning session while the students are off.  (Staff kids come to the school, though and someone watches them while we work.)  THEN, we start back the following week.  

Isabella will start in the 4 year old room.  She does seem to enjoy our school now and hardly ever mentions the old one.  We still love the old school, but, I am glad that she's finally accepting this one as "hers" now too and not just my school.   She already knows the teacher in the 4 year old room because she goes there every day for after school.  It will not be a big adjustment for her, but we're making a big deal about her moving to a big kid room.  

She says that she's going to be bigger than her friend "next week."  This girl, pictured, is clearly 4"-5" taller than she is.  She is constantly saying that she's older.  She's a big girl.  "I can do ______ (fill in the blank with any activity) ______ because I'm older now."  She also claims to be a teenager.  She does like to hang out with the older kids and - yes - act like one of them.  They think it's cute (for now), but whew, sometimes we really do think she is 3 going on 13.  yikes!

I had to change rooms (twice in 3 weeks) but it will now be set for the school year. And the room I was in for the 3 week July session had a bad roof leak, so I'm glad that I am not in there anymore.  During the July break, the kids had to come with me to move & set up my room.  These pics are of that temporary room.  Isabella had to self-entertain while I unpacked!

My new room is exactly the same minus the green wall.   I've got to figure out how to get my new room set up again while juggling teacher training next week.  This job has been nothing but a JUGGLE.  Seriously.  

But - I'm hoping that it will be a better year!!  I have another science teacher that I'll be teaching with on occasion, but will be doing a lot of planning with.  I also have fewer subjects that I'll have to prep for.  Fingers crossed with will go smoother than the first 6 months I've been there!  
Here's a last day of school picture with the middle and high schoolers that I'm working with.  (We had a 1/2 day of cleaning rooms and taking down stuff from the 2015-2016 year (in my case it was moving rooms).... followed by cookout in the plaza between the buildings and some silly string craziness.  

Todd and Mercer have a fun "last day of summer" planned after he meets his new teacher.  We'll post first day of school pics soon.   

Here we go again:  back to the real grind.  

Summer did go by a little too fast........

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

our vacation got off to a rocky start + 4th of July pics + another newspaper clipping

About the last 100 miles of the drive down, Mercer started to feel bad.  We had to make a lot of stops.  He was feeling sick the next day too.  THEN Isabella started to feel bad - which lasted a couple of days.  THEN I did as well.  

It seems that all of us were hit with the same thing.   It definitely slowed us down.  But, we still worked in some cool things.  We visited the beach a couple of times, the hotel pool a couple of times and took several excursions. 

Our first excursion was close by -- at the giant state park which was near our hotel.  So close that we rode bikes over there and tooled around the park on two wheels.  (Mercer and I rode a tandem bike while Isabella rode in the child carrier on the back of Todd's bike.  

This is the last summer she'll be able to fit in that thing~~)  We were hoping for a little more to do at the park with the kids.  Thankfully, we joined up with a group of camp kids playing at a banyan tree (way way cooler than the nearby playground).   We saw raccoons in the trees and GIANT lizards scattered about (invasive / feral green iguanas that were a couple of feet long).   We took a loop around the park and stopped for a snack along the Intercoastal Waterway to watch the boats.

Our next excursion also involved the Intercoastal Waterway, but this time we traveled by boat along it's waters.  There's something called "Millionaire's Row" along the banks.  

The water taxi driver told us a little bit about the houses (including one that sold for 27.7 million, but the owner didn't like the way it looked and was doing a major renovation on the exterior. Yikes!)  

There were beautiful yachts all lined up as well.  We took the water taxi to Hollywood Beach, south of Ft. Lauderdale to grab dinner and walk around.  Hollywood has a great boardwalk, perfect for biking.  Mercer says he wants to go back sometime and rent some of the cool low-rider bikes that we saw.

On the way there and along the way back, there were lots of natural areas as well as industrial areas.  Port Everglades - one of the busiest ports in the US - was actually very interesting.  We enjoyed watching cargo ship loading and unloading, the mechanics of draw bridges, and the like.  Mercer said this was his favorite part of the trip.  

The next day, we went even father away.... we headed farther south to the Everglades!   We took an airboat ride across a very small portion of this 1.5 million acre park.   It is not a stagnant swamp (like we went to just before Isabella was born).  It is considered a moving body of water -- it only moves 100' / day.   It feels sort of swamp-y, though.  We saw fish and turtles.  It was not 'til the end of the boat ride that we saw one alligator.   There are lots of places for them to hide. The shallow (sort of open) water where the airboats travel is not where they hang out.  The kids were not happy about having to wear ear protection and were also not happy about the loud noise of the fan motor.  I think the heat had gotten to them too.  Unfortunately, the compressor in Todd's truck's air conditioner went out.  We were in south Florida.... during the summer.  It was ridiculously hot and stifling.  Our poor kids - who weren't feeling well - were definitely getting lethargic in the car with all of the heat.  It felt like we were in the desert -- only with an extra layer of humidity enveloping us... suffocating us.  You can tell in their faces from this series of photos that they're not feeling well.  

The place we went was technically in the Everglades National Park, but the tour company had added other stuff there too in order to make more of a show of the whole thing... to entertain.  

They had a guy who did some education on and later pinned down an alligator.  They had a baby alligator that people could hold too (including our brave 3 year old!)      Here's a funny tee-shirt that we had to snap a picture of.  Too bad Isabella wasn't wearing her Hello Kitty shirt!

We met up with dad and Charlie so they could take the kids back home with them.  Ever since last year's trip to the beach where Todd and I had our little kayak / snorkel excursion.... we wanted to do more snorkeling.  

After we met for lunch and left the nearby manatee education center, Todd and I headed down the scenic route back south -- mainly along A1A weaving in and out of old and new beach towns.  

We stopped at a nice little spot on the swank Jupiter Island called Coral Cove.  According to some write-ups about good snorkeling destinations, this was one of them.  It was a pretty cool spot and we went out for a bit, but the waters were very rough and we decided not to get too banged up against the rocks that protruded from the water.  We did get to see a school of fish + lots of holes and pockets in the rocks which were interesting.  We got to see a wedding that was being staged along the same set of rocks.  Then we stopped for dinner at a marina that we had visited the previous year with the kids which was in the town we stayed last year.

The next day, we took a tour boat out to a spot in the ocean and got in some better snorkeling.  Todd started not to feel well while in the water (thankfully his was NOT the ick that Mercer, Isabella, and I had).  He did get in some underwater action, however, and got to see some of the beauty under the water.

My camera (in a waterproof case) wasn't taking pictures as I wanted, so there are lots of shots of beautiful teal-green water.  Without knowing it, I also took this little video clip.  Face masks are flattering, huh?!   

Ahhh... technology.   

We also got to go out / meet up with a former co-worker one night.  With the tough week we had with the kids (and - admittedly - me too... I was tough at times)  it was nice to have a little down-time at the end of our stay to decompress.

While the kids were with their Florida grandma and grandpa, we received lots of texts, photos and updates.  They went to a bouncy house / inflatables place.  They played with the dog.  They visited with their aunts and uncle.  They even got to "help out" with some chores (on a tractor)!    It doesn't seem that they really missed us at all.  


We made it home in time for Mercer to march in the 4th of July parade with his Cub Scout group.  Here are some shots as the boys wait for their turn to march / some of the staging & set-up.  They were in the middle of the parade & it took about 40 minutes after the parade for their turn to start.

The older kids (boy scouts) were carrying the largest flag in the county.  The younger ones - Mercer's group - was carrying a smaller flag, but still of impressive size.  At some point, he decided to stop carrying the flag and just start waving to the crowd.  (This pic snapped & sent to us by a friend in the crowd.)  He liked seeing people he knew along the way.   

Between the walk to the parade staging area, then the actual parade route, we walked at least 3-4 miles in some pretty hot / humid weather.  By the end of it, he was "done."  He asked if we had to do it again next year.... was it required as a Cub Scout?  (nope... but kind of cool that he finally got to be in the parade.)  Isabella told me that when she's a 9 year old boy, she will walk in the parade too.  (um..... ?)

One thing that moved me (but also bothered me) while walking with the boys:  only a handful of people stood for the flag and saluted.  They were all elderly men who seemed to wear some sort of veteran t-shirt or hat.  It bothered me that more people did not take seriously the request by the Scout parents at the front of the group to stand to honor the flag.  But - I teared up each time that one of these gentlemen stood at attention until the two big flags had passed.  I am sincerely glad that Mercer walked -- even if he doesn't get the depth of his troop's actions.

We walked back up to the square for fireworks, then did a few little ones of our own once we returned home.  Isabella ("Little Sparkler") loved them.  

Right before we went on vacation, there was a local "celebrity" who visited the venue where Mercer is attending summer camp.  The 17-year old singer had a hit last year called "Watch Me [Whip]"  Most people call it the "Whip / Nae Nae" song.  ALL of the kids at school sing it / do the dance.  (at Mercer's school and at my school.)  Isabella knows the words & does a little dance to it too.  

It's definitely popular here, but I believe it was popular across the country for awhile - making it to the top of the Billboard chart. 

So, in the effort of journaling / documenting mementos for Mercer, here's a copy of a newspaper clipping that someone from the City sent us.  


My last school break is over this week.  We don't have too many things planned.  I took the kids roller skating / laser tag / play place today.  (It was really quite funny to see how unsteady Isabella was on wheels.  She couldn't stand up at all, but she was so excited and so happy.)  We'll visit a little water park later this week as well.  Tomorrow, I have to go into school and set up my room.  I finally have a room of my own. That should be a *fun* day for Mercer, Isabella, and me (kidding!)

Our school was going through a rough time / I stepped into a lot of turmoil -- without knowing it, of course.  We do not have a big high school population, so I'll be transitioning a little bit to the Middle School team (with some of the kids I was already teaching in 7th - 10th grade) and will swap off with another science teacher between Middle / High.   The work load may be a little less on the science side, but I will be teaching a 7th grade history class (YIKES) and will be integrating architecture into more of the students' curriculum as well.  This has been a challenge -- joining in at this job.  I AM getting a LOT of varied experiences, however.

Closing with a sunrise picture from the beach.  If I'm feeling overwhelmed, I just need to go back to this scene with the waves lapping on the shore.........