Friday, August 29, 2008

My Busy Bee

Abby's first day of school was Monday.

Last year she was a terrific turtle. This year she is a busy bee. And she sure is excited about it! All summer long she's been talking about getting to be in the class with the "big kids." After watching her big brother go to school last week, she was more than ready for her first day.

Her "meet the teacher" day was cancelled because of Tropical Storm Fay. But, she wasn't nervous at all - she walked into that classroom like she owned it.

Oh, yes she did.

Of course, Drew was very happy for his little sister. They are buddies, you know.

I've got a little teacher's pet on my hands. She loves everything about school! Loves the activities, the learning, the play, the friends, and the teachers. She is very obedient and I can tell by the way she describes her day (or a few of the other children) that it would never cross her mind to misbehave at school. And to be honest, she's quite offended when the other students are not "good listeners."

I am so in love with her teacher. She has an excellent reputation. The kids are busy in that class and they will be learning so very much. But, they are having so much fun too! It's just the right balance. Her teacher is so loving and she sings all day long! I love the positive attitude she exudes to the parents and children - in fact, I'm in awe of it.

On Wednesday, she opened the door at dismissal to greet the parents in line. She clapped her hands together and said, "Oh, thank you so much for sharing today!"

We all looked at each other a little confused as "show and tell" wasn't until Friday. The mom at the front of the line said to the teacher, "I'm sorry, we didn't bring anything to share. What were we supposed to bring?"

And, after spending 4 hours with a class full of 3 year olds, Abby's teacher joyfully replied, "Oh, I just meant thank you for sharing your children."

And, I'll admit, I thought to myself, "Yep, my girl certainly is a sweet gift to share."

She truly is.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We Love The Wii

My mom bought a Wii.

Her house just became exponentially more popular.

Tropical Storm Fay kept us out of school 3 days last week. The Wii ensured that I used those days to turn my children's brains into mush. We played it for hours.

Yes, hours.

I was not prepared for how much we would all love it. Or, frankly, how addicting it is.

Wow - Drew looks like he's having a blast!

But, you've still gotta concentrate if you want to win...

And, he did win! This kid got tons of strikes and spares. Check out that bowling ball in the center of the lane -

Drew thought his kid sister wouldn't be able to do it, but she hung in there with the rest of us. Proof that even a 3 year old can work this thing.

Aunt Anna tried to show them good bowling form.

Instead, they would wildly throw their arms over their heads. It didn't matter though - their strategy worked. And they celebrated each and every time...

I present to you - the 2020 Olympic Wii team!

After bowling we moved on to Mario Kart.

Drew improved with each game he played, but Abby had a little more trouble. It helped that she got to drive the "princess car." It also helped that Grams has an unending supply of M&Ms at her house.

This game belongs to Aunt Anna though, so it just went back to law school with her. I don't think she'll have time to play Mario Kart at law school. Just because she got a job offer doesn't mean she can slack off in her studies. She must have papers to write and 35 books to read.

Aunt Anna - send Mario Kart home! Please!

And then I finally managed to get a turn. And then I couldn't stop until I won. Until I was the best. Until I was the champion.

Or, until I needed to take my kids home for dinner lest my husband realize I let them spend 3 hours at Grams' house playing video games...

So, one last game with my Drew and then we finally called it a day.

I don't have to disclose who won that game. You can't make me.

And, then I called my mom Friday night around 9pm. It was girls night out and we had just finished dinner. We weren't ready to go home yet, but we didn't know where we should go.

I casually mentioned that my mom got a Wii. So, we made the call and invited ourselves over. We stayed for a few hours. Austin was there too, so we all took turns bowling, boxing, and playing tennis.

Gone are the days of nights out dancing or getting a drink at a bar. We spent our girl's night out playing the Wii. I guess I should be embarrassed to admit that, but we had so much fun that I don't care!

And, we didn't have to recover from a hangover the next day.

Although, I think we were all pretty sore from the tennis and boxing.

It's all about trade offs, people. All about trade offs.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lucky Me!

A few days ago, I entered a contest over at Pioneer Woman's blog. She is quite popular on the world wide web, and if you haven't read her blog before then you should definitely check it out.

She often holds giveaways for fantastic prizes. Last week she was giving away a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS3 to one random commenter in the photography section of her blog. I currently have Photoshop Elements - reading her posts about photography are what led me to ask for Elements for Christmas (thanks, mom). I've been happy with it but I knew I would LOVE a copy of the real thing so I could follow her tutorials and download her free actions. I crossed my fingers and left a comment - #3477 out of 4,598 comments.

I checked my email early the next morning and found comments that had been left on my blog from people I didn't know. They were congratulating me on winning the prize!!

Needless to say, I was ecstatic! I'm way under qualified for CS3, but the thousands of pictures on my computer are pretty thrilled to be able to see what all the fuss is about.

Almost as fun as winning the prize (valued at $650, folks) is the fact that since I won the prize just a few days ago, well over five hundred people have visited this blog to see who won the contest. Lots of them are clicking around and staying for awhile to check things out, and a handful have even left comments on my most recent post about Drew starting kindergarten.

That's a lot of visitors as far as I'm concerned, and it's been so much fun to check my sitemeter stats and watch the number of visitors continue to grow.

Thanks, Pioneer Woman, you really made my day!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dear Drew,

Today was your first day of kindergarten - such a big milestone.

I remember your first day of preschool two years ago. I dropped you off on the playground and you only hesitated for a moment before you began playing with some of your classmates. I got back in my car and was so proud of myself for not crying even though it was so hard to say goodbye to you. I pulled around the corner where I could watch you playing from my car for a few minutes, just to make sure you were still having fun. All of a sudden, you turned around towards the gate where I had dropped you off. My heart broke. I knew you were looking for me. Looking to see if I was watching you play. You knew of no other way. I had always been there - watching you and taking care of you - always there for you to run to if you needed me.

I wasn't there this time though and my heart stopped for a moment as I watched for your reaction. You kept looking - trying to find me among the other moms who were dropping off their own children. After a minute, you stopped looking. I couldn't bear to imagine what you must have been thinking. Did you think I had left you? Did you know I was coming back in just a few hours? Were you worried because you were surrounded by strangers? You were standing there by yourself and then one of your teachers came over to guide you towards the sandbox. I finally started to drive away but then had to park the car because I couldn't see through my tears. Your teachers later told me that you had a great day and only began asking for me after lunch - saying you missed me and wanted me to come take you home. It was only an hour later that I picked you up and you were so happy to see me. You did great that year - preschool was only one day a week.

Last year, you were scheduled to go to school every day, but that never happened. I kept you out at least once a week so we could do something fun together. That is one of the benefits of preschool - it's completely voluntary so I kept you for myself much more than I probably should have. But, we had so much fun on those days (most of them spent out at Disney) and I don't regret a single second of it.

Because now you HAVE to go to school every day. This is kindergarten. The big leagues. I can't just keep you home because I've been missing you. The days are longer and there won't be as much time for playing like there was at preschool. There definitely won't be rest time. Daddy and I went to open house and found out that kindergarten is serious business these days. Your teacher is wonderful, but there are lots of requirements and expectations, and the days are jam packed with learning. I know your teacher will make it fun though. She seems like the perfect teacher for you - structured, yet very kind and caring.

Last night was difficult for me as I tucked you in for bed. It's hard to be confronted with this enormous change that leaves no room to deny the fact that you are growing up. You are gaining more and more independence and you've left your baby years far behind. However, you will always be my baby and those reflections on your first 5 years of life are what left me in a heap of tears for most of the night.

I'm so blessed that I was able to stay home and spend that time with you. It's the best thing I've ever done in my life.

As we drove to school, I told you that today I would hold your hand as we walked to the classroom and then tomorrow you could walk in front of me to show me that you know the way so you'd be ready when I'm not allowed to walk you to class anymore. At first you agreed and then you told me, "Actually mama, I can walk in front of you today. I know the way. I'll show you." I wanted to tell you that it was ME who needed to hold YOUR hand, but I knew I needed to let you build your confidence and trust in yourself.

So that's what you did. You walked in front of me - checking over your shoulder a few times to make sure that I was still there. As we got to the classroom door you suddenly grabbed my hand and looked at me with uncertainty. We walked into the classroom together and your teacher told you to pick any seat you liked. We chose blue (your favorite color) and you were just fine.

I had thought about the last thing I would say to you before I left. I decided to keep it simple as I looked straight into your eyes and told you, "Drew, I'm so proud of you and I know you'll have a great day. Just know that I'm always loving you. I am always loving you." You leaned over to kiss me and said, "Oh mama, I'm just loving you too!" I hugged your sweet body as the teacher let the parents know that it was time to go. You waved goodbye to me without hesitation.

There's been a lump in my throat all day as I try to imagine what you might be doing. And the tears are so close to the surface whenever anyone asks me how I'm doing. We spent almost every day together this summer, and Abby and I were definitely missing you as we continued with our day. I lost track of how many times she asked, "Is it time to go get my Drew yet?"

And then it finally was time to get you and I waved to you from the car as we waited our turn in line. You had a huge smile on your face and you waved to me excitedly. You bounced into the car wearing a hat that you had made and you said, "It was a great day, mama! I love kindergarten! I made this hat and the playground was my favorite part!" I breathed a sigh of relief and soaked up all of your excitement. I couldn't have asked for a better first day for you.

I know this is just one big step in that process of letting go. It is so very hard for me to do. For the first three years of your life, I knew what you were doing every day at any given moment. You were my entire life and I yours. Slowly, with each passing year, I've had to let more and more of that go - it's my job as your mama. And, this kindergarten year, it is a big step towards even more independence.

I'm so proud of you. So very proud. And though I'll have to continue to let go, I know it will only be so I can watch you spread your wings. Through it all, no matter what might happen, I just want you to know that I'll always be here for you. You will never have to look far to find me. You can be sure that I will always be within reach, loving you more than you will ever know. I am your biggest fan, sweet boy.

And, just remember -

I am always loving you...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grow-Out 2008

We are in a bit of a transition here...

Miss Abigail is growing out her bangs.

I took the kids for a haircut about a month ago and as soon as I got there I had second thoughts about getting her bangs cut. I've really liked Abby's hair with bangs, but lately I've wondered how she would look if we grew them out.

Older. Definitely older.

I assure you this was not a decision we made lightly. We consulted our highest fashion authority, Aunt Anna. We were given the green light and so began grow-out 2008.

I just like to keep you up to date on the latest breaking news around here...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Jump! Slide! Swing! Play!

Drew and Abby have enjoyed many fun activities this summer. Most of them involve air conditioning because that's of the utmost importance during these long, sweltering Florida summers when it's impossible to be outside for more than 10 minutes at a time.

Anyway, I've been joking to people that I feel like a cruise director lately. The kids wake up and their very first question is always, "What are we going to do today?" Unlike a cruise though, the answer is never, "Well, we're going to eat until we can't stand it anymore and then hang out by the pool while sipping a nice, cold drink. Catch you later at bingo!"

No, it's never that.

Two of our favorite indoor activities have been My Gym and IPEZ (bounce houses). They both offer lots of opportunities to expend their limitless energy.





This is Miss Cassie. My kids LOVE her. Can you tell? This is circle time at My Gym and they always make sure they are as close to her as possible. I'm kind of invisible when she's around.

Abby participated in a My Gym class a year ago while Drew was at preschool. It was fun, but she wouldn't let any of the teachers help her because she was really shy and only wanted her mama. She was going through a phase in which she was only fond of the people in her immediate family. It's hard to even imagine these days because of her outgoing personality. But that's what it was.

One day, Miss Cassie was trying to draw Abby out of her shyness and she noticed Abby had a little tattoo of a butterfly (only temporary). It turned out that Miss Cassie had a tattoo (a real one) of a butterfly too!

Can you say BFF?

Abby still wouldn't have anything to do with any of the other teachers, but Miss Cassie had her heart and full devotion. They would (and still do) compare hair styles, earrings, and clothes - always looking for something in common.

For most of the summer, my kids didn't even want to go to My Gym on Wednesdays because as Drew would say, "No thank you, mama. Miss Cassie doesn't work on Wednesday. She has the day off."

And I understand why.

Miss Cassie is one fun, energetic, and super-cool chick.

Abby is much more outgoing these days and she loves just about every grown-up that she meets. Her preschool teachers, ballet teacher, all of the My Gym teachers and the mommy's of all of her friends. There's not a shy bone in her little body.

Despite all that, there's still something extra special about Miss Cassie. She remains Abby's favorite. Maybe because she was the first one to draw Abby out of her shell. Maybe just because of how wonderful she is with kids.

I don't know.

But, I do know she's amazing. And Abby couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Party At The Patterson's Pool!

I've mentioned how much the kids have been enjoying the pool this summer. One of our favorite Sunday activities has been to head over to Sherilyn and John's house after church and then go to their neighborhood pool. Drew and Abby love playing with their friends and the pool is awesome. And huge. And it has a water slide. A really fast, really curvy, really cool water slide.

Drew was hooked from day one. I lost count of the number of times he went down the slide that first day. He must have been exhausted from climbing up all those steps over and over and over. But, he loved it! And he did it all by himself, brave little guy that he is.

Abby was quite content to watch from the sidelines while I took pictures. She only went down the slide once and that was because she was sitting on my lap.

But, she sure does love it when her daddy throws her in the air!

Uncle Austin joined us this past Sunday. We had worn him out by the end of the day! I think he had plans for relaxing by the pool, but my kids had other plans for their uncle...

Did I mention they also have this water fountain?

Abby spends half of her time in the pool asking to go over to the mushroom fountain.

I don't know how often we've been over there this summer, but I know it's been a lot. We have a great time with our friends - the Patterson's are a rockin' fun family.

But, it's also been really great quality time for us as a family while we play in the pool.

Just look at these kids swim!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Way With Words

Anyone in our family would tell you that Abby gives the best hugs EVER! We call them "Abby hugs" - she throws her arms around your neck and squeezes so very tightly that you can't help but laugh at the outpouring of her love.

Abby and Drew love easily and enormously. That is a wonderful thing for this mama who cherishes every single moment of those displays of affection. They happen frequently around here and I wouldn't have it any other way.

In addition to her sweet personality, Abby, like her brother, is always saying adorable things that I really want to remember. So, here's to remembering -

Abby and I were sitting in a waiting room and she was just hugging my neck and giving me kisses and being super sweet. Our conversation went like this...

Me: Abby, how did I get so lucky to be your mama?
Abby: Well, God picked you to be my mommy so I could love you.
Me: Really? That's so wonderful. How did you know that?
Abby: Oh, well, I really don't know it. I just really remember it.
Me: You remember it?
Abby: Yes, I remember when God picked you. Because I loved you the most!

And then she threw her arms around my neck for one of those hugs. Delicious.

Last week, we were all in the car together and Matt was joking with Abby about not kissing boys. She was very serious though when she replied, "Well, I think the rule should be that I can only kiss boys if I know their name."

A few weeks ago, Abby brought me her children's bible and asked me to read it to her. As I began to take the book from her, she held onto it tightly and looked at me very seriously as she held her hand over the book. She told me, "Miss Birdie says this is God's holy words."

I mentioned to Miss Birdie (Sunday school teacher) what Abby had said and Miss Birdie told me Abby listens very carefully to the Bible story each week and she always knows the answers to the questions.

Abby just beamed when she heard the praise.

We were at McDonald's about a month ago (just me and Abby) and she was working her way through a cup of ice cream. I was just having one of those mama moments. Just looking at her and marveling about how big she's grown and how fast the time is flying. I was admiring her sweetness in her pink dress with pink bows and pink flip flops and just loving the fact that she is a girl. I guess I was looking at her funny so she said, "Mama, do you want to share my ice cream?"

"No thanks, Abby. I'm just watching you enjoy it."

"Oh good," she said. "I'm already sharin' it with Jesus."

"Really?" I said.

"Well, yes. You see first it's really cold on my tongue. And then it goes down to my heart where I share it with Jesus. And then it goes to my tummy and I feel nice and full," she says as she points to her heart and then rubs her belly.

I told her it was so nice of her to share and she kind of shrugged her shoulders like it was no big deal.

It's a big deal to me, sweet Abby Grace. I love your heart and I love your spirit and I love your zest for life!