Monday, October 29, 2007

2007 Fall Retreat

We went on our Fall retreat with church this past weekend and had a lot of fun. The weather was good-not too hot & not too cold. The girls had a blast having a "sleepover" with so many friends. There were 18 of us in the cabin we stayed in. 11 of those were ages 12 & under. The room the girls slept in had 8 of those 11 children. Gracie enjoyed getting to stay up a little later than the "little girls" with LA, reading on the porch. They didn't stay out as late the 2nd night, mainly because of the high winds that had started that evening. The screened porch was pretty cold! In the past, Chris has stayed with us, but he stayed with the guys this time so it was just us girls. There was actually 1 guy who stayed in our cabin with his family. He & their little boy were the only males in our cabin. Poor guys, huh?!?!

We left a little after noon Friday (Gracie didn't have any school that day!) and a group of us went to eat at a place called "Yoder's"-an Amish restaurant. We then continued on to camp, getting there late afternoon. We got all of our cabin arrangements squared away-as far as who would stay in what cabin, etc. We then just started enjoying being there! We played games and the kids enjoyed playing on the slide & swings and just running around down by the lake. In our cabin, we stayed up way too late playing a hilarious game called "Apples to Apples." It's very fun! After a too short night of sleep, we got up & got ready for the day which started with a breakfast prepared by a few of the ladies. Mid-morning, we had a lesson presented by one of the men then had some free time before lunch. We played "Apples to Apples" again while the kids ran around. Gracie really enjoyed "fishing." She used someone's fishing pole that didn't actually have a hook, but she sure enjoyed casting it over & over. Katie enjoyed climbing up the slide & going down over & over.
After lunch, there was a big amount of free time. We spent some time in the paddle boats then went to a somewhat nearby apple orchard. It was really pretty up there and they had great apple cider. Unfortunately, the bees also liked the cider so you had to drink it fast! (Chris caught me swatting at the bees-lovely, huh?!?!) When we got back to camp, we sat out by the lake some more while Gracie "fished," Katie played, and Chris took both girls along with a couple of friends out in the paddle boats again.

We had dinner that night then Chris presented a lesson. Afterwards, they had a bonfire where smores were roasted. It was pretty cool out but not too bad. The wind picked up a lot that evening though. All throughout the night, it was blowing really loud. I worried a couple of times about how sturdy our cabin really was! Before going to bed, our cabin + some of the husbands played "Loaded Questions"-another really fun game! Hilarious when you have a few goofy husbands who enjoy getting a laugh out of people.

Sunday morning, we got up for breakfast then started packing up our stuff & cleaning. We had church then continued cleaning & packing. We headed home-tired but with good memories. We stopped for lunch in Greenville, SC then continued on our way. We were soooo tired after getting home mid-afternoon. I took a loooong nap then slept late this morning (Gracie didn't have school again today due to parent/teacher conferences!)

A little before noon today, I headed over to the school to help with passing out cookie dough. Our school sold $40,000 worth of cookie dough (PTA gets about 40% of that!) and today was the day for parents to pick it up. When I got there, the truck had just arrived and the men were bringing the many, many boxes into the cafeteria. Shortly after they started bringing in the boxes, parents started arriving. I helped for about 2 hours then left to go to our conference with Mrs. Z. Chris met me for that. We had our conference about Gracie which went really well. We are very proud of her. She had all A's & S's and Mrs. Z had really great things to say about her!

We then went to pick up our own cookie dough then I went home to eat some lunch. There weren't a lot of PTA helpers, so I decided to go back to help some more around 3 or 3:30. (Chris had taken off today to "recover" from the weekend.) I took Gracie with me and she had a blast playing with a couple of girls who were there helping their Mom & Dad with the cookie dough as well. (Their mom is actually our PTA president so I guess she "recruited" her husband to help!) They "helped" a lot by getting tubs of cookie dough that we needed to fill orders as well as helping people take their dough out to their cars using the carts and then bringing the carts back. They really were good helpers.

Chris & Katie came over around 6:30 and helped a little. We put Chris on the phone to call people to "remind" them that they needed to come pick up their dough. I think Lecia (our president) was going to stay until 8:00, but we left around 7:00. Compared to what we started with, there weren't a lot of orders left to be picked up, but there were still quite a few. I'm not sure what she was going to do with what was left over until parents show up to get it.

I got my first paycheck from my little part-time job! It's not a lot but you know what? It's enough to pay for Gracie's violin lessons + her violin rental, so I'm pretty excited! I hope I can continue doing this work for them!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gracie the cowgirl?

My mom got Gracie this cute shirt and she wore it today for the first time. I thought she looked so cute I decided to take a picture to send to Mom. Since I was downloading it anyway, why not post it on my blog too, right?!?! She was being goofy-acting like she was a cowgirl. It does look kind of "cowgirlish." Today is also "red day" for "drug week." I think there's a more official title, but most of you with kids in school probably know what I'm talking about. She hasn't said a whole lot about this being drug week, but I know they've talked about it. Her teacher put up a cute door decoration saying something about "we pledge not to do drugs" then they traced their handprints and colored them red, white, & blue. Gracie's hand was so tiny compared to most of the others! Also, apparently in health they talked about addiction. Mrs. Z explained how if she has a bag of M&M's she will keep eating & eating. I explained how I'm addicted to diet Coke! Sad, but true. I guess they also talked about how some people can drink a glass of wine and be fine while others drink too much of it and it's not good. I wonder if they talked about the fact that I'm addicted to eating, too?!?!? UGH!

This morning I walked by her room while she was making up her bed and heard her saying the Scriptures that are taped to her wall. When I was doing her hair later, I mentioned to her that I had heard her saying them. She said something like, "Yeah, sometimes I just say them without even thinking about them." I explained that that is the point, that she will know them so well that they will be so in her brain that they'll also be in her heart and she'll just know them. Her Wednesday Bible Class teacher told them a story the other day that I just thought was great! She was explaining why it's important for them to know the memory verses they get in class. She told them about a lady she knew who had been very sick. I guess she must have been in a coma because she said she couldn't talk or hear, but she could think. She said that all the memory verses she'd learned were in her heart so she could think about them. I thought that was a neat way to get the idea across to these 6, 7, & 8 year olds why it's important to put God's Word in your heart. I think it made an impression on Gracie.

She had her 3rd violin lesson last night. Her teacher said she is doing well and learns fast! I was glad to hear that. I think she only has 4 more lessons until her December recital so I'm a bit nervous about what she'll really know to play. We didn't start her lessons when everyone else did in August, so she's getting a late start. At this point, I think we'll continue with the lessons next semester which I guess start in January. We went up to the next size violin, but it's still pretty tiny!

She is still enjoying school. I was there yesterday, and she really amazes me. I know I'm her mother, and this may be braggy, but "this is my blog, and I'll brag if I want to!" Right?!?? She is very well behaved and is making good grades. She is learning soooooo much this year and just soaks it up like a sponge. She is enjoying math so much more now and is doing better with it. She's done fine in the past and always had A's on her report cards, but she just didn't enjoy it at all, and it seemed laborsome to her. This year she will still make some mistakes due to not paying attention and has to ask me for help from time to time, but it definitely seems to have "clicked," and I'm very thankful. I really credit Mrs. Z for that and the methods she has used in class to teach it. She is still reading all the time and is taking AR tests a bunch! She made her AR goal for the 9 weeks (well over her goal) so she got to pick a FREE, brand new book from the library as her reward. Last year they would have popsicle parties or popcorn parties, etc. I like giving them a book much better! That's another thing I really like about this year. Last year (no offense to Mrs. S-it was just a 1st grade thing I think) they pretty much helped them get to their goal-which to good readers was way too easy-and then she wasn't encouraged to take more tests. This year, Mrs. Z lets them read & read and test & test. It's such a good incentive for some kids. She is also encouraging those who are doing really well to test on chapter books. We checked the AR list last night to find some of the books we have at home so she can start testing on those. She is learning a lot of science & social studies and seems to really enjoy it. They've been talking about animals & mammals. She said yesterday they wrote about mice and how they're mammals. I think Mrs. Z had die cut large mice for them to do their writing on. That's the kind of thing I really like. She is incorporating the science learning with a writing activity and having them do it on a large die cut mouse. That may not sound like a big deal, but I love it! It's way more interesting than writing it on a piece of paper or doing a worksheet on mammals. I also love the way she is so supportive of me coming in to help. She doesn't just give me busy work; she gives me things to do that really matter-I like that.

The thing that amazes me is how Gracie is able to "tune out" things that are hard for me to tune out. For instance, I'm there during their specials time which happens to be Library the day I'm there. I'll be honest-I'm picky & critical of teachers. Don't get me wrong-I'm not critical to them. I'm very supportive & appreciative and willing to pitch in & help, etc. However, I watch & observe things and-being a former teacher-I think I notice things that others might not. It is truly a hard transition going from being "teacher" to being "parent." Anyway, the library aide was doing their library time yesterday and I had to bite me tongue not to say something to the lady. If you've read my blog much, you'll notice that I don't typically say negative things about the school or teachers because I don't think there's much good to come of that. I like to look for the good, HOWEVER, this lady didn't want to work with these kids, sooooo she didn't work with them a whole lot! I was in & out during the class and she just kind of left them on their own for much of the time. She had read them a book then given them an independent assignment-which is fine-and then they could check out books when they were finished. Again, all fine in theory. Sweet Gracie, and some others, were working diligently on their assignment. There were 3 or 4 boys-at least-who need a thumb on them 85% of the time in my opinion who were completely off task just about the WHOLE time. I don't know that they did any of the assignment OR checked out books. I don't think the lady even noticed. She would say, "2nd grade, you're getting too loud" a few times as she sat on her boo-hine at the computer or put books back on the shelves. I asked Gracie, "Does it not bother you that some of the kids are talking & stuff?" She kind of laughed and said, "No." I said, "Why not?" She said, "It just doesn't." She can just tune it out and does what she's supposed to do and doesn't appear to be negatively affected by some of the misbehavior hardly at all. Me on the other was driving me crazy!!!!!!! I was really dumbfounded that the lady seemed to care so little. Again, this was the library aide, not Mrs. Z. Sure, Mrs. Z gets frustrated with some of the students sometimes (I know I did when I was teaching-if I hear the name J-o-s-h S-c-h-l-e-p-r to this day, I kind of groan. That kid needed love, but oh how he pushed me! He came back almost every day the next year to say hi which amazed me because I was so tough on him. I do wonder about him and hope he's doing well!) but I've never seen her just go sit down and work on administrative tasks while a group of students is completely off task for such a long period of time. Miss Stack & Mrs. Stauffer would never have done that either. Anyway......I'm guess I'm due a little venting from time to time, right?!!?
Speaking of Miss Stack, I get to observe her (well, really mostly listen) to her working with groups of kids while I'm doing my tutoring because we're in the same room. She is now a reading teacher rather than a K teacher. She works with small groups of kids for 15-20 minutes at a time. I am continually amazed at what an awesome teacher she is! Her teaching style is incredible and she is so loved by each & every student. She truly makes each student feel like her favorite and she is so effective at getting them to listen to her without raising her voice or acting frustrated. I listened to her one day and felt like a little kid in rapt attention. She was whispering something to them and I found myself being really quiet so I could hear what she was saying. It was such an effective way to get the kids to listen to her rather than snapping at them. She is just one of those teachers who was born to teach-she's just so good!

I was able to talk to a couple of the other mothers from Gracie's class yesterday. I'm trying to get together things for "Fall goodie bags." I talked to 3 of them and they were all very nice and eager to help. I'm hoping to hear back from a few more today.
My sweet Katie Boo is doing fine. These pictures sum her up really well. Laughing & being silly! She loves to put on "High School Musical" music and dance & dance-it is hilarious! One of her best friends is moving this week-across the country-so we're a bit sad around here. His parents are some of our good friends too. I know Katie doesn't really have a clue what's going on although we've told her that Dillon is moving, but she's going to realize it next week when he's really not here anymore. *sniff sniff*

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Trunk or Treat

Tonight was our Fall Festival & Trunk or Treat at church. Our Fall Retreat is next weekend, thus the reason for having the trunk or treat a little earlier than usual. Gracie was a princess, and Katie was a lion. I tried to put whiskers & a nose on her, but she really didn't want them, so I didn't push the subject. Sometimes you just gotta pick your battles. Here is my tired, but cute lion. After trunk or treating, she didn't immediately want to eat the candy but wanted to play with the play-doh she got!
I told the girls to stand by the scarecrow. Katie said, "No, it's a 'nicecrow,' he's smiling."

Friday, October 19, 2007

We got lost.....AGAIN!

We went to the corn maze again this year. (This is a map of the maze.) However, this year we actually made it out on our own rather than having to be led out by an employee! Some friends from church went with us; it was really a lot of fun. The kids~our 2 + 2 younger ones~along with a pre-teen & a teen, were all troopers. Gracie was so into it and was very determined that we would make it out. Katie enjoyed being spoiled by the older kids who carried her on their shoulders or backs most of the way! Along with the large maze, there were fun things for the kids like a "marshmallow maze" which was hay bales wrapped in white plastic, a toy tractor course, and pigs & goats to look at. Just in case you're wondering.....NO, my girls did NOT need their jackets. We had brought them just in case, and they both wanted them on. About 15 minutes after Gracie had hers on, she was shedding it and complaining of being hot. It was quite hot!

Other things going on in our life:
*Tomorrow is the Fall Festival at church; the girls are looking forward to that.

*Gracie was very excited to tell me today that she got to touch a real snake in science class. She was quite impressed with the experience.

*Katie told us this week, "Boys are marvelous!" Only I think she said, "marbalous." Either way, where in the world would she get a phrase like that?!?!
*Gracie enjoyed wishing her friend, Hunter, a happy 8th birthday after school today.

*Chris was installed as a deacon at church a couple of weeks ago. We're proud of him and the example he sets with his leadership.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Huntsville wedding

This past weekend we were able to spend time in Huntsville, AL with a lot of my family (Mom's side) that we never get to see. As I've mentioned before, my extended family basically gets all together for weddings & funerals. Actually, the last time we were together was for my grandmother's 80th birthday which was 3 years ago, almost exactly. Her birthday was just yesterday in fact! I would say that everyone was there this weekend except Deb (Mom's cousin) and her husband & their twin girls, Kendall & Kelsey. We wish they could have been there as well!

Our family is scattered all over God's earth~South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, & Washington (state). I think that's all.

One neat thing this weekend was "de-lurking" some people with respect to my blog. I was sitting next to my grandfather (Big Daddy) and he leaned over and kind of sheepishly said, "I don't know if you know this, but I found your blog." I started laughing. He said he didn't know if I minded. I told him that no, that was fine. It's a good way for him to keep up with our family! It's just always kind of funny when I discover someone else who reads my blog. I also found out that 2 of my cousins, Angela & Andy, also read it. I think maybe I had an idea that they did, but they actually "admitted" it this weekend. I told them I was going to "de-lurk" them, so.....come out of hiding guys and leave a comment!!!!!!!! :-)

Okay, here goes. I will try to relate the events of our weekend. (Also, for some reason blogger doesn't always recognize my hard returns, so it sometimes looks like my post is one big paragraph. UGH! That is blogger's fault-not mine!)
Thursday, we went to Atlanta to spend the night with my parents. It's the first 3 hours of the trip, so it was nice to get those out of the way in one evening so the next day's drive was shorter. Friday, we got up and headed out about 8:30. My parents rode with us. After about a 4 hour drive and lunch at McDonald's, we arrived in Huntsville at my grandparent's (Big Mother & Big Daddy) house. No other family besides my grandparents were there yet. Katie & Gracie had the best time in their backyard playing with 3 little plastic chairs that Big Mother had bought at a garage sale for 50 cents for all 3. They "made" a pirate ship as well as a secret hideout which was located in the corner of the yard beneath some bushes. Gracie was the queen. I'm not sure who Katie was! After awhile, Gracie decided she wanted a break to read so she settled down on the back porch with one of Big Mother's books.

Shortly after this happened, my brother (Josh) and his family (Beth, Ann Elise, & Morgan) arrived. Gracie called out to Ann Elise and they both ran to each other-then they stopped. It was so funny. When they got to each other it was like they didn't know what to do so they hesitated but then they finally hugged. After that, it was non-stop playtime for the 4 cousins. I'm really thankful that my brother has 2 girls so close in age to my girls. They're all almost exactly 22 months apart-Gracie is July 2000, Ann Elise is May 2002, Katie is March 2004, and Morgan is February 2006! They played & played in the secret hideout and enjoyed having Pappy pull them in the garden wagon. We laughed & laughed at baby Morgan who has the funniest facial expressions. Not long after that, my uncle Joe (father of the groom & my mom's brother) arrived with my cousin Andy (not Joe's son) and his wife, Jodi. They had been over at the church decorating and came over for just a few minutes. Right after they got there, my Uncle Bobby (actually my mom's uncle-Big Mother's brother) arrived with Aunt Laynette (a.k.a. "Bob & Nette.")

We visited for awhile then went to check into the hotel. Honestly, I can't remember for sure what we did for the rest of the afternoon, but I think I took a nap and I think the girls went next door to play with Grammer & Pappy and Ann Elise. Maybe Morgan too-I really can't remember! That night, we had the rehearsal dinner at the church at 7:30. Once there, we got to see yet more family. Beth (mother of the groom); Tony & Jeannie (my aunt & uncle-mom's brother); Angela (my cousin) & her husband, Monty; Alex (my cousin) & his girlfriend, Amber; Austin (my cousin); David (my mom's cousin) & his wife, LeAnne, and their son, Layton; Joel (my cousin & the groom) & his now wife, Ashley; Jon (my cousin) & his wife, Laura, and their son Jay. The rehearsal dinner was fun-GREAT food-and a slide show with pictures of the bride & groom. The bride's dad had sung the song "Butterfly Kisses" which played along to her pictures. It was so sweet!

After the rehearsal dinner, we stayed around for quite awhile and talked & talked. It was really fun to get to spend time with these family members who we hardly ever get to see. I wish we all saw each other more often!

Saturday morning, most of us met for breakfast at a place called "Little Rosie's." It was really good. Then, a lot of us went back to my grandparent's house where we sat around & visited while the kids played. It was really neat for Gracie & Katie and Ann Elise to get to play with Layton. He is only a few months younger than Gracie although he's actually the son of my mom's cousin. (So, does that make him Gracie's 3rd cousin.....1st cousin twice removed......2nd cousin?!?!?!) They've probably only met once or twice, so it was fun to watch them becoming friends. After a little bit, some of us decided to go bowling which was a lot of fun. I didn't actaully bowl, but I got to visit a lot which was nice. I guess there were about 15-18 of us there. Even the groom came by for a little bit.
We then went back to my grandparent's house where she & Aunt Nette had prepared tons of food. We ate lunch then headed back to the hotel for Katie Boo to take a nap. Well, Chris & I too! Gracie went next door with Ann Elise & Morgan to Grammer & Pappy's room to play. The wedding wasn't until 7:00 so late afternoon, we started getting ready for that.
Both Joel & Ashley's families attend Mayfair where the wedding took place. I guess Ashley's family has been there for awhile. I guess Joe & Beth (Joel's parents) have been there for a shorter time although they had been there a long time ago too and came back at some point after living in Atlanta & Montgomery. Anyway, I guess Joel & Ashley's paths had never really crossed until they both went to the lake with their parents last Labor Day (2006) and happened to meet. Their parents had known each other for a long time. I don't know if the plan-on the part of their parents-was to "set them up," but essentially they did when they introduced them.
The wedding was absolutely beautiful! Joe performed the ceremony, and he did a really great job! It was very God centered. One of the things he read was a letter that Ashley had written in high school. The teacher of the Bible Class had instructed them to write a letter to their future mate, even though they didn't know who it was at the time. Her family had searched for the letter and found it. It was so sweet to hear the things she had written at such a young age about the future mate she was hoping God would lead her to find.

The bridesmaids' dresses were black, then they had these bright flowers with the dominant color being a hot pink. The bouquets "popped" so much against the dresses. Ashley is such a pretty girl, and the facial expressions she made during the ceremony were precious. She just kept looking at Joel and making these excited faces and winking at him. It was just really cute-you could tell that she was having so much fun and was so happy to be marrying him!
The reception was a dessert reception with lots & lots of sweets. It was pretty yummy! Here is Gracie, trying to decide what wish to write down for Joel & Ashley. My aunt Beth is so thoughtful & creative in that she had prepared a "children's table" at both the rehearsal dinner & the reception! We enjoyed more time visiting with family during the reception, and Gracie even got the bouquet! It was so funny! I was taking a picture of Ashley and just happened to turn around in time to see that Gracie had apparently run for it when it was thrown! A little competitive side came out! One of the bridesmaids actually officially got it, but she gave it to Gracie. I guess because she'd put in such a good effort!
After the reception, some of us decided to get some "real" food since we'd ingested so much sugar earlier. We each picked something up to go and went back to the hotel lobby where we sat around and ate & talked some more. The girls were in their pj's and had a great time!
We left early yesterday morning after eating a light breakfast at my grandparent's house. We drove for about 7-8 hours with a stop in Atlanta to drop off my parents. We were-and still are-very tired, but it was a fun trip. I look forward to seeing all of my family again and treasure the time we got to spend together.
I don't know if my "captions" will line up with my pictures, but I'm going to try!
My cousin, Jon, Laura & baby Jay.My family minus the kids. My uncle Tony & aunt Jeannie with their children, their spouses & girlfriend.
Mom with her 2 "little" brothers, Joe & Tony.My cousin, Alex, with Amber.My cousin, Andy with Jodi.My cousin, Angela, with Monty.Uncle Bobby (my mom's uncle), Aunt Nette, my mom's cousin, David, LeAnne, & Layton.visiting on Saturday. My brother, Josh, and his wife, Beth are 2 of the ones in this picture.