Monday, August 31, 2009

School Bus

Today was Ella's first day riding the school bus. She'd been working on me for about six months to let her ride the bus to school (yes, she started her plight in preschool) and we finally did decide that was probably the best option. She'll be meeting friends from the neighborhood on the bus, I'll be meeting moms at the bus stop, we won't be idling our car every day for 20 or more minutes, and she's on the bus for only about 8 minutes at a time. Getting on the bus this morning Ella was very excited but gave Jonathan a sort of worried "I can't believe I'm doing this" look. She sat up front and waved and blew kisses at us as the bus drove away. I have to admit it's hard to put Ella on the bus and have faith that she'll make it where she supposed to go and then get on the right bus to come back home to me. The bus was about 20 minutes late this afternoon, definitely heightening my anxiety. But, sure enough, the bus pulled up, opened its doors, and there Ella was showing the bus driver her bus card to confirm she was at the right stop. I had to wave at the bus driver from behind my camera when she asked where Ella's mommy was. Ella told us bits and pieces from her day as we walked home and Jonathan and I both noticed that she already sounded so much more grown up. She's got her room number, teacher's name, and bus line number all memorized and she was already going on about how she only gets 15 minutes for lunch and didn't even get to eat her sandwich (this awesome little girl went straight for her veggies, grapes, and cheese cubes--I'm so proud!). She had another good day at kindergarten, though, and I would definitely say I'm having a tougher time adjusting to all of these changes than she is.

Ella walked to the bus stop in the rain this morning.

Jack waited patiently for Ella's bus to arrive this afternoon. Even though it wasn't raining, since he got to bring his umbrella with him to the bus stop this morning it had to come with him once again.

Jonathan and I both breathed a sigh of relief to see Ella getting off the bus first.

Boys Outing

While the big kids were at school today (namely Ella, Miles, and Kathryn) we took a group of 6 little boys for a tour of the Metrolina Recycling Center. Each day about 250 tons of recyclables from the entire Charlotte area are brought to this facility, sorted, and pressed into bales to be sold to manufacturers. As part of our tour we learned about what can be recycled and why we recycle, saw a puppet show, and viewed inside the live operations of the facility via a remote control camera (even getting an up-close look at all of the cool sorting mechanisms).
The center also has a viewing platform where we got a look at a HUGE pile of plastic recyclables and several bales of aluminum cans. After a walk around inside, which also included checking out another way to recycle--turn things into art, we went outside to check out all of the trucks coming in and getting weighed. Messy piles of trash, things getting smashed, and noisy trucks--what more could a boy want? Well apparently to these rowdy boys, most of the fun was being surrounded by their 4-year-old brethren (a.k.a. partners in crime).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tradition in the Making?

We hope a cook-out at the Hulls to mark the end of the Summer continues to be a tradition. Everyone always has such a good time. Another tradition--Brooke taking some great pictures of the affair (thanks again, Brooke!). It's fun to compare the picture to last year's to see how much the kids have grown. Kathryn and Austin are a fun new addition to the round-up of kids: Kathryn, Griffin, Austin, Ryan, Ella, Miles, Hayden, Jack, and Noah.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Tonight we headed down to Clover, SC for a going-away party for a good friend, Heath, and his family. They are off to New Jersey within a month and his hometown Clover friends gave him the proper Southern send off, complete with barbecue, potato salad, and banana pudding. Jonathan met Heath through a friend of mine, but, after helping him secure a job at Jonathan's old company, they've become good friends. Most of the partygoers were hometown friends and family, but we had some interesting connections to Heath that actually made Charlotte feel like a small town to me, too. At the party was a good friend of Jonathan's from Davidson, Erik--I remember meeting him back in his long-hair days on the Davidson Campus in 1998. Erik actually came to work at Jonathan's old company, too; thus the connection to Heath. And, one of my former colleagues (we made manager together at Deloitte years ago) grew up with Heath. We still hang out with Mory and his family from time to time through our friends the Miners--he'd actually seen all of the pictures from our Lake James camping trip so we talked for a while about how "the other half camp" (can you call it "roughing it" if the air-conditioned bathroom has a steam room?). Regardless, while we were doing all this catching up, the kids had the run of the place. And when I say "the place", I mean the huge expanse of land this Clover house was on, complete with woods, dirt piles, scrap piles, and critters. The kids, ages 4 to 7, enjoyed playing behind the shed (less easily supervised, of course) where the dirt and scrap piles were. Favorite toy of choice? A bow and arrow set. They weren't quite strong enough to pull it back very far, but it was still a little unnerving to see Ella standing at the top of the dirt pile the boys were "aiming" for. Next order of business--building a fire. The oldest boy had the kids spinning the arrow back and forth into a scrap piece of wood. There was never any threat of the kids actually creating a fire so we did what most small town parents have probably done for generations, let the kids be. You could see the sense of freedom and exploration in Ella's and Jack's eyes. After the sun went down, one by one the kids came hootin' and hollerin' in to show all of the grown-ups the catch of the day--frogs. Ella had one between her hands while Jack was carrying two around in a bug house. Ella named hers Hopper and had her mind set on keeping him. It took a bit of convincing, but she finally did the right thing and walked deep into the woods to let him go. All in all, it was a fun night. We caught up with some old friends, the kids made some new friends, and we enjoyed a truly small town, Southern Summertime night.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Our Kindergartener

Ella started kindergarten today. What a glorious age this is. For 5-year-old Ella it is still cool for your parents to walk you in to school, dote all over you, and even hug and kiss you in front of your friends. Yet, at 5, Ella is independent enough to just saunter in to her new class like she owned the place, introduce herself, and then take a seat and start drawing. She is ready for this huge step and we couldn't be more excited for her.

When she got home from school today I asked her how her day was and she said, "Fun." Then she started telling me, and often acting out, all of the things they did today. This first week, the kindergarteners are doing a staggered entry where each kindergartener only goes to school for one day with about six kids in each class. The school does this to evaluate the kids for the purposes of balancing the classrooms, which will be assigned tomorrow. So Ella told me that there were three tables for evaluating the kids recognition of upper- and lowercase letters and their sounds, ability to read words, and then ability to pick out the first letter of a word by hearing the word spoken. From the sounds of it, though, this was just a small part of a very active and fun day. They read a story about a raccoon whose Mommy's kiss on his hand gave him comfort on his first day of school (we were told to kiss her hands before she arrived at class today) and then they each made their own raccoon puppet. She also made "some special secret gifts" for us. She ate almost her entire healthy lunch and snack and thought that the school lunch "the girl with the hair past her shoulders" ate looked disgusting (but she didn't say that to her, of course). They played some game where they ran around different colored circles in the gym with the P.E. and art teachers. And, they went outside to play on the playground, where she saw and said hi to her friend, Hayden (a 2nd grader who is Ryan's big brother).

When Ella looked as if there was nothing more tell, she'd spilled it all, she suddenly looked at me with wide eyes and a big smile. She said, "One more thing--I LIKE KINDERGARTEN." We are so proud of our wonderful Ella.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Budding Seamstress

Ella took it upon herself to fix some of Gator's toys, that were busting at the seams, as a special surprise for him when he returned from being groomed this afternoon. She picked it right up, making stitches exactly as I had instructed her. It really won't be long before she surpasses my own sewing skills. Once she finished stitching up two of Gator's toys, she started running around the house searching for more things to fix. Luckily, a busting teddy bear of hers satiated the sewing bug for her because I think I came pretty close to having a few of her dresses that needed mending stitched up with pink yarn. Ella got really excited when I told her that fashion designers first draw and then sew. That seemed like a double whammy for her. Maybe now that we finally have DVR (woo hoo!), Ella and I can watch some Project Runway together.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Jumpy Place

The "jumpy place with the alligator's mouth jumpy" is one of Ella and Jack's favorite places to go. We haven't hit one of these places all Summer. But, since today is one of our two last days of Summer (well, Jack doesn't actually start school until after Labor Day) and all 1st graders+ started school today (which means no big kids around and the neighborhood pool is closed during the day), it seemed like a good occasion to go jumping. We met our friend Ryan for about 3 hours of energy-sapping ("Woo hoo!", says Mommy) jumping and games. This was definitely a great way to enjoy one of our last few unscheduled days for a long while...
"Chomp!" Jack's too preoccupied with the teeth to smile for the picture.

Monday, August 24, 2009

School Open House

We went to an Open House this morning at Ella's new school. Our sweet girl Ella will start kindergarten this Thursday and she couldn't be more excited. Ella picked out a school shirt for Spirit Day and had it on before I could even pay for it (yes, that pink camo shirt is actually a school t-shirt). We explored all of the kindergarten rooms, met all of the teachers and aides, checked out the cafeteria, art room, media room, gym, and music room, and basically got a lay of the land. We love our new school and are all excited to finally be more of a part of our local community (Ella's not the only one hoping to make friends through our neighborhood school). Because she went to preschool so far from where we live, there will only be a few familiar faces at kindergarten this year. But, I know it won't take long for our little social butterfly to meet some new friends and feel at home at her new school. She's an amazing kid and I admire how she can just jump right in to new situations and experiences--I'm the one with trepidation! At the end of the open house today, Ella didn't want to leave. She was just having so much fun exploring her school. Don't worry, Ella--you'll be spending lots of time (sniff, sniff) here soon enough. I will miss having so much time with you every day (gosh, I'm lucky), but I'm excited to see you grow and thrive....but, for now, let's enjoy our last few days of Summer...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Moment of Peace

It has been a lo-ong Summer. It actually hasn't felt that way until recently, though. Whenever we have some down time lately, Ella and Jack manage to end up yelling, crying, or tattle-taling within 5 minutes. It never fails. I can't stand listening to all of the bickering so they get sent to their rooms quite often to cool off and spend a little time apart. Today, our outing involved a good 45 minutes in the car. I usually get my peace in the car by playing an audiobook, something that seems to put them at ease and require the talking to be kept to a minimum. Today, however, the audiobook seemed to have an even more powerful effect--Ella and Jack had declared peace. I turned around to find them hand in hand, smiling, and quiet. Aaahh...I love moments like these.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Going for the Gold...and Green

Ella's and Jack's swimming abilities have really taken off this Summer. Every time we go to the pool, which is quite often, they are more confident and more able in the pool. They have improved so much from the beginning of the Summer until now that we felt it was finally time for the kids to take their swimming tests at the YMCA. The color of your necklace at the YMCA swimming pools determines the amount of parental supervision you need and which slides, if any, you can go on. Without a necklace, a kid has to be within arm's length of a parent--this, of course, was really crampin' the kids' style at the pool. So, Jonathan took the kids to the Siskey YMCA pool this morning and they wasted no time jumping right in to take their tests with the lifeguards. Jack, testing for his yellow, had to roll over to his back and float and then roll back over. He then swam, unassisted, half the length of the pool. Great job, Jack! We're so proud of you for earning your yellow (or gold) band!

Ella, who had earned her yellow band earlier in the year, was testing for her green band. With the green band, a kid can swim in the pool without her parent even dipping a toe in (love it!). To earn her green Ella had to swim the full length of the pool and then jump right into, without catching a breath for long, treading water for a minute. Way to go, Ella! You're swimming with the big fish now and no water slide is off limits for you!

The Brown family was on hand to join in the congratulations and fun. Miles is glad to have another friend in the green. They had tons of fun hitting the slides together. Thanks for the picture, Brooke.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Camping Lake James: Sunday

After a pretty good night's sleep under the stars and a breakfast with some great coffee (for the parents, of course), we walked down to the boat dock to take in the gorgeous early morning views of the lake. The kids were on a bug hunt. They found horned beetles, some huge moths, ladybugs, and even a very cool praying mantis. We all had a great time hanging out, enjoying the great outdoors.

The setting at Camp Lake James is just so beautiful (have I mentioned how beautiful it is?). The kids were all smiles, but probably more because of the company and activities than the surroundings.

It was actually a cool morning so the kids and dads enjoyed a refreshing dip in the pool, then in the hot tub, and then back to the pool.

Back out on the lake, this time in canoes, we checked out some quiet inlets of the lake. Along the way, we enjoyed some family bonding time.

While the dads broke down the tents and packed up the cars, the fun continued for the kids with some lake swimming at the beach of Camp Lake James. Ella and Jack liked finding interesting rocks and plants in the lake while Grace and Cate were on a quest for clams.

I can't believe how much fun we fit into a 24-hour period! This was an incredible camping trip and a great way to cap off our Summer. Thanks, Miners, for taking us along for another great weekend!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Camping Lake James: Saturday

Our good friends the Miners invited us up to beautiful Camp Lake James, a vacation-home community of Tim's company nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on beautiful Lake James, once again--this time, though, we got to camp there! We had an amazing time at the Movie & Campout night held for the members of Camp Lake James, enjoying the amenities that are always available at Camp Lake James and as well as some special events.

A dip in the pool was a refreshing way to kick off our August camping weekend, although, we did luck out with slightly cooler than average temperatures. We couldn't have asked for better weather to enjoy our outdoor weekend.

Even though we've had kayaks hanging in our garage for the kids' entire lives, this is the first time they've gone kayaking. Lake James is such a beautiful, clean, bluish-green colored lake. The waters are lined by sloped forests and the Blue Ridge mountains are silhouettes on the horizon. It's just breathtaking. Ella was a natural paddling the kayak--she was actually moving that thing. I guess it's time to get our kayaks back to the lake.

After the kids swam in the lake for a bit and then a quick rinse off, it was time to head to camp. Camp Lake James has an amphitheatre surrounding a fire pit and stage. For this event, an inflatable movie screen was set up for a showing of The Land Before Time. While we waited for the sun to go down, the kids played games (find the dinosaur egg, a.k.a. watermelon), ate snacks, and had fun with sparklers. We then watched the movie until bedtime. Walking back to our tent when the movie was done, we looked up at the sky and could see the Milky Way--it's not often, living in Charlotte, that we get to see so many stars. I'm very thankful for a clear night.

Now, this is the way to camp with little kids--I hope we haven't set the expectations for camping too high.