Monday, August 31, 2009

Last Year of Preschool

At last the big day arrived for Abby. She was super excited to go to preschool today and to be in Mrs. Mann's class. Mrs. Mann gave us an information sheet about all the things they will be doing in her class this year. It sounds so fun and interesting I kind of wish I could be in there with Abby.

My first day went great too. It started with a delicious breakfast provided by the school board. When all my little students arrived the day went so much smoother and calmer than the first day last year. There was really just one student who cried off and on through out the morning. Thanks God for answering many prayers about this day. I guess the highlight would have to be the little puppet show I put on for them to illustrate our classroom rules. I really had them cracking up. It was fun!

Here is Abby with her Western Heights Preschool tote ready for her last year of preschool (sniff, sniff).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Grade and Other New Beginnings...

Our week started off by taking Avery to First Grade. Just writing that makes me a little sad again. The girls are growing up way too fast! Avery has had a wonderful first week. She still has a whopping 12 students in her class. She came home every day telling us about all the neat things she got to do that day. She especially liked the reading loft in her room where they get to take turns reading. I am so thankful that Avery loves to learn and be at school. I often pray about this so I give God all the glory. She has already taken the STAR test which helps determine their reading level. The test determined that she was on a 2.6 reading level which means she is reading like an average 2nd grader in their 6 month of school. She gets to check out books from the library that are on the 2.4-3.4 reading level. Her teacher told us that it will be a challenge for her to make sure Avery has material and activities on her level. The gifted and talented teacher (who is also a friend and member of our church) is going to give her ideas. Wes and I are thrilled.

Ready for First Grade?

Avery and her teacher, Mrs. Pughe.

Her new backpack. Avery likes the fact that her lunch box matches it and can snap on the outside of the bag. I picked this out at Old Navy on a great sale this summer. Thankfully Avery loved it too. I am pretty sure she would have picked out some pink backpack with Disney Princesses on it, if I had let her choose one all by herself. Sorry, I just get tired of pink and princess stuff. Does anyone else feel that way? How long do you think I can get away with "helping" her choose her things? Ha!

Her first day before Kindergarten last year. She looks so little.

Wes, Abby, and I went to eat lunch with Avery on Friday. We had a great time eating our yummy Sonic, visiting with Avery and her friends and playing with them on the playground. Poor Abby was very sad when it was time for us to leave.

Friday was also the day of Avery's first soccer practice. Wes took her shopping last week to get her soccer shoes (pink and black) and shin guards (pink). Several days before the first practice Avery put on all her gear and enjoyed wearing it around the house. One day she had her soccer gear on with a ballerina outfit. I should have taken a picture. Wes has enjoyed practicing soccer with her. Wes will be the assistant coach but could not make the first practice due to very important business (aka fantasy football draft with his buddies). Avery did a great job blocking some attempts at goals when she was assigned to be the goal keeper . She also hustled very hard when she was not the goalie. Other parents commented on how fast she was and how much she hussled. She loved it! She was pooped when she got home. Abby had fun watching and cheering for her. She would give me stems of grass and tell me we had to wave it and yell, "Go Avery!" She is her sister's best cheerleader, I am pretty sure. That just warms my heart. Abby also enjoyed running lines along the sidelines as Avery's team ran.

Saturday night we had family game night. We played Princess Checkers, Princess Bingo, and a Dora ABC game. Good times! Abby has really matured and does not get upset when she looses a game. Last night she was running around saying, "Avery got a Bingo! Avery got a Bingo!"

Abby has been counting down the days until preschool starts. We begin tomorrow. Abby's teacher is going to be awesome! She is very sweet and upbeat and I know Abby is going to have a great time.

I am a little nervous about tomorrow, I have to admit. The first couple of days are always hard with my two year old class. They are two - need I say more? There are usually lots of tears. But, I am hoping the calm kids will keep Carrie and I laughing with all the silly things they do and say.

Wes has been busy with his grad classes lately. He is pursuing a masters in Conflict Resolution from ACU. Most of the classes are online and he is really enjoying it. He took some classes last year, but he took a break when all the cancer stuff came up. He has made excellent grades so far, mostly 100's. I am proud of him!

I will let you know how tomorrow goes...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Does Summer Have to End?

I have mixed feelings about summer coming to an end. For the most part I don't want it to end. I have enjoyed the traveling (even though 5 trips in one summer can wear on you). I will miss the relaxed schedule and all the fun outings with the family. Part of me is ready to get back into more of a routine.

We have done a lot since the last time I blogged. The first thing we did after Zenith was to head back to OC a few weeks later for our middle school camp, Cornerstone.

Our awesome intern, Chris, with Avery, Abby and their friend Ally.

Our other awesome intern, Jessica, with Lindsee and Hannah.

The girls and Ally had VIP passes to the huge slip-n-slide at camp. The perks of being a youth minister's kid...

A few days later we went down to Frisco where we stayed at the lovely house of Carrie's sister, Missy. Carrie, Nikki, Sybil, Avery, Abby, and I had such a fun time swimming in the pool, going to a nearby park to ride bikes, eating and playing at Gattiland, and hanging out at the house. Wes and I are so thankful for these friends God has put in our lives the last couple of years.

Riding bikes at a cool park in Frisco.

The girls enjoyed all the rides at Gattiland.

The three gals swimming like fishes.

Going for a ride?

Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Yummy!
A day after returning from Frisco, our Youth Ministry had our Middle School Lake Day out at Lake Texoma. We are blessed to have some members at church that live on the lake (the mom is actually our family's doctor). For the past several summers they have invited both our middle schoolers and high schoolers out for two separate fun lake days. They take us out on their boat. We go tubing, play in the water, cook out, and have a peaceful devo right by the water's edge. We have other members that bring their boats and water toys as well. This year, I finally got to ski again!!! I skied often in high school and a few times in college. It had been 12 years since I had been given the opportunity to ski. I was thrilled. I was hoping it would be like riding a bike. Sure enough, it was. I got up on my second attempt and stayed up until I was plumb exhausted. The only reason I didn't get up on my first attempt was because my skis slipped right of my feet. I didn't have them on tight enough. Anyways, it was super fun. I LOVE skiing!!!! On the way home I got pulled over for speeding for the first time in my life. What a humbling experience! I was 4 houses away from home. Wes and the teens were on the bus 50 yards away watching it all happen and several parents were in the church parking lot. Lovely, I know! Thankfully, Wes told them of my perfect record. I prepared Avery. (Abby was fast asleep.) "A police man is coming to talk to Mommy." She, of course, wanted to know why. I told her, "I think he might think I was going too fast." He could have just given me a warning, but no, he chose to damage my unblemished record! When we got home Avery was very serious, "Mommy, why did that policeman have a gun on his belt? The Bible tells us not to kill!" I had to explain to her that sometimes they have to chase bad guys or protect themselves. I went to the judge a week later and was able to get deferred adjudication. It won't go on my record if I do not get any other tickets in the next 90 days. Unfortunately, I still had to pay the fine. Lesson learned the hard way!

Hangin' out on land.

There is nothing like worshiping God by the water.

Wes, our youth minister/cook.

The day after Lake Day we were reunited with some very dear friends. Alexis, Amy, Lauren, and I have been close friends since high school. Amy and I have actually been friends since 6th grade. She had just moved from Hawaii and I had just moved from Kenya. Lauren and I hit it off in 8th grade. She had been a missionary kid in Antigua and her Dad worked at ACU like mine. Right away, we hit it off. The three of us got really close to Alexis in the later part of our high school years. We were all counselors in one cabin during Opportunity Camp. Alexis started coming to our youth group with us from then on. We all went to ACU. Lauren was a year behind us. Lucky for her, she got to hang out a lot with college students during her Senior year of high school. After college we all got married and moved to separate towns. We all try to get together at least a couple times a year. We email and talk on the phone some too. Amy and her family left 4 years ago to be medical missionaries in Paraguay so she didn't get to be a part of our gatherings. It was especially good to see Amy again after 4 years.

We had a blast catching up, swimming in Alexis' pool, eating Ashley's wonderful burgers, and watching the kids play together. Amy and Jeff have 5 kids now, (yes, 5!), Jason and Lauren have 3, and Alexis and Ashley just had a precious little girl. Baby Kendall will be running around with the rest of them before we know it.

This is what Lauren wrote to us before we met:
I have been thinking about how much our lives have changed and the struggles and blessings that we have all been through since we were all together. We have struggled with moves, changes of jobs, financial insecurities, deaths of loved ones, illnesses, hospital stays, premature births, spiritual warfare and cancer (to name a few). We have also been blessed with moves, new jobs, new babes, spiritual warfare, new homes, new brothers and sisters added to our spiritual family, and the blessing of seeing God in action throughout it all (to name a few). I would love if we could have a special time of prayer tomorrow. Nothing super structured or anything. But just a little time set aside to thank God for all we are blessed with and that we can all be together again.

It was very encouraging and moving to pray together after a joyous day of catching up with friends that are so dear to my heart.

Bree, Avery, Ginny, Emie, and Abby.

Alexis is great with this age!

Abby and Ginny. Yes, Abby is licking the noodle.

The kids took a break to watch Bolt on the big screen.

Wes jumping for the ball. The dads all had fun doing this.

The whole gang. Started off as 4 good friends, then went to a group of 19!

I love you ladies and I am blessed to call you best friends!

The week after that was Christian Theater Workshop or CTW. Every summer the kindergartners - 12th graders put on a play. We invite kids from the community to participate as well. This year we had 135 kids working together to put on a play about Esther written by Jeff Walling. And if that's not enough, our brave directors decided to let 4 year olds participate as well. Abby was thrilled! The older kids with larger parts practice for two weeks before the production. The younger kids just have a week to learn the songs and their few lines. They are at the church from 9:00-3:00 for day camp, learning songs, rehearsing lines, playing games, and going to Bible class to learn the story of Esther in detail. The girls enjoyed every minute of it. We received an audio CD several weeks in advance so the girls could listen to the songs and learn them. Avery and Abby popped the CD in right away and listened to it over and over again until the play was completed. Since the play they still like to listen to the CD and now they watch the DVDs of previous CTWs. The are eager to get the DVD of this year's play.

The girl's townspeople costumes.

Abby in the center of the stage. She was in her element, for sure.

Time to be a sheep, Abby on the left.

Avery is the sheep on the right.

Avery was in her element as well. She loved every minute of the acting!

During CTW I got to help with the props and I helped sew Abby's costume. I am so thankful Mom taught us how to sew. I can't sew a dress, but I can mend, sew curtains, and do some very basic things which have come in handy. Thanks Mom!

A week later we headed to Hot Springs Village for our vacation with Wes's family. That place was amazing. Ernie and Debbie rented us a nice house right on Lake Desoto. It was perfect. We were right on the water so we could go for a swim anytime we wanted. There was a peaceful little waterfall starting from the house which led into the lake. There was a large shallow area with pebble rocks on the bottom. We also had a dock that the girls like to jump off. We had access to a boat right on the dock too. The girls would have stayed in the water all day if we let them. We enjoyed pulling the girls behind the boat on a tube and looking at all the other houses around the lake. One day, we went to Lake Ouachita which is the 2nd clearest lake in the United States. It has over 1000 miles of shoreline with 200 islands in it. We rented two boats, a large pontoon boat with a slide from the upper deck and a ski boat. We had tons of fun tubing, water skiing, knee boarding, and sliding down the slide. Wes, Ernie and I jumped from the top deck (about 15 feet above the water) into the lake. I asked Avery if she wanted to try thinking she wouldn't. She agreed right away. Wes held her over the rail and I was in the water waiting for her. She loved it! She and I also did it together at the same time. She is so brave! I was proud of her and Abby for courageously trying out new things. Abby had fun sliding down the slide from the top deck into the water. She was too cute riding in the tube holding her thumb up (the signal telling us to go faster). At the house Avery and I swam to a nearby inlet together holding onto a float. When we got ready to swim back she informed me that she wanted to try to swim the whole way back by herself without the floating device and without me helping her. She proceeded to do just that, all the way back to our dock (about 80 yards) by herself. I was right by her cheering her on and ready in case she needed a break. Maybe we should be thinking about her being on the swim team in the future???

We had such a wonderful time, catching up with family, playing card games, fishing, and just relaxing. Thank you Encalades for making this memorable trip possible!

Our home away from home.

This is Island 39 on Lake Ouachita where we stopped for lunch and to play.

The girls playing in the beautiful clear water by the island.

The gang after lunch, taking it easy on the island.

Avery and I getting ready to jump off the roof of the pontoon about 15 feet in the air.

Avery's splash below. Here I come!

Avery and I having the time of our lives.

Avery about to slide off the boat.

Abby is a hoot to ride with on the tube.

Abby - "Look! No hands!"

Getting some Nana loving.

Wes's Aunt Laura, our fearless boat captain.

Wes had a blast slaloming.

Fishing off the dock back at the house. Blake was the only one who caught a fish all week.

Aunt Nette and Granny enjoying the boat ride.

Avery had lots of fun with sweet Tripp and Aunt Katy.

Abby tuckered out after a fun day in the water and on the boat. Check out that wedgie!

Granny and her great granddaughters.

Lunch on the dock with Nana.

Avery liked to tip me over. Ha!

Wes and Abby going for a ride on the kayak.

Avery's turn on the kayak.

The ski boat with Abby and Wes in tow.

They were waving to us while we were on the pontoon.

Avery got a nice bruise from falling between the dock and the boat. Thanks Katy for saving her!

Getting ready to do one of my favorite things!

I love this!

This lovely snake was 3 feet in front of me on the last day of our stay. Thankfully, the girls were on a boat ride at the time. Granny, Aunt Nette and I watched it for a while. We never did tell the girls about it. We didn't want to freak them out. We played at this same spot for hours every day. Yes, I was freaked out!

So, that was our summer. Tomorrow, Avery starts 1st grade. I can't believe it. Time needs to slow down! Thankfully she has Mrs. Pughe who goes to our church. This was an answer to prayers. It is comforting to know she will be in the loving arms of someone we know personally. Her daughter is actually in our youth group. Avery was excited to find out that some of her close friends will be in class with her. She has 12 students in her class. Last year she only had 14. There are only two classes for her grade level again. Hopefully, her class will stay that small all through elementary. The new Kindergarten class at Hyde Park has 3 classes because there were more students this year.

This year I am one of the vice presidents on the PTO. We have already met three times since the spring. This PTO is awesome! They do so much for Hyde Park teachers and students. It was like that when I taught there too. This year one of our main goals is to build a covering and lay cement for 6 picnic benches outside of the cafeteria. We have almost $20,000 in savings, so it should be no problem. One parent has already offered his business to help lay the cement for free.

I was also appointed Room Mom for Avery's class by some other parents. I couldn't say, "No". Oh well, shouldn't be too hard, right?

Earlier this week Gina cut Avery, Abby, and my hair. She did a fabulous job as always, and kept us entertained as well. Thanks Gina! You are truly talented! Last night we had a great time with my family at the Chowning Water Park. Dad and Gina got a couple of blow up water toys for the grandkids. They had a blast sliding, splashing, and even washed rocks. Ha! Dad grilled us some delicious chicken, potatoes, and vegetables. Dad has become a great cook. I told him he had come a long way since we were little. On one occasion when Mom was at a women's retreat, she had left several meals for us. The last day she was away we were supposed to eat the leftovers from these meals. Dad thought it would be good to mix all of them up in one huge pan, rather than just heat them up individually. I remember him piling huge piles of the "stuff" on our plates. I remember saying, "Baba, I don't think I can finish all of this." (Baba is father in Swahili.)

The happy couple preparing our yummy food.

The cousins having fun!

Sweet Aivlyn.

Mylen having fun.

Tomorrow is a teacher work day for me at the preschool. They provide free childcare for our kids and the board cooks us lunch. Nice! We have orientation Thursday night and the first day of school is next Monday. Abby is excited and ready to start her last year of preschool. Sniff. Sniff.

I start up Kid Fitness classes up at the gym again the first week of September. I am also hoping to do some tutoring in the schools this year. I have enrolled Abby in an educational/gymnastics/ music program at University of Gymnastics. The owners also own one in Plano and I have heard great things about it. While she is at that program, I hope to tutor in the elementary schools. Blessings on all of you as the school calendar resumes and the summer fades to fall.

I wanted to leave you with this hilarious music video about youth ministers. I especially appreciate their lyrics about youth minister's wives. Enjoy!

Youth miniStarZ