First Day of School 2014

Posted August 18th, 2014 by Sally and filed in Doozy, Firsts, Kiddos, School, Whoozy

Today was the first day of school for our household (beware: lots of pictures ahead!) and to say we were all excited would be an understatement. We’ve had a great summer, our first without any type of school schedule. But, our kiddos are their parents’ children, so more routine is always better than less.  By the first of August, we were kind of ready for our new normal, even if it does come with more driving and homework.

I spent last night worrying over the drop-off schedule so that Ava wouldn’t be late for the 0810 bell and how best to juggle Noah into the mix so that no one ate breakfast too early or showed up too late. In the end, I decided to drop Ava off first and have Noah tag along for that. We could leave the house later that way and it worked out great. We dragged our feet as long as we could before we left, but still arrived to school before they’d opened the doors. At least this time we weren’t alone! A big crowd was gathered when we showed up, so we had plenty of company. Noah and I walked Ava to her classroom and she got settled in. She was happily coloring a “welcome to school” worksheet when I left a minute later.

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In her report at the end of the day, I learned that she had not eaten her sandwich at lunch because it was too cold (a big deal for PBJ, apparently), had eaten half her yogurt cup (and left the rest of the open yogurt cup in her lunch box), had PE and recess, read a “mind story” about a monster going to school, does not remember any of her fellow classmates’ names yet, and she kept her behavior clip on the green plate all day. So far, so good, I think. Tomorrow brings more firsts, as she’ll be riding the bus on Tuesdays and Thursdays and will have Music class.  By the end of the week, I think we’ll all be old pros at this school thing.

Noah returned to Mini U for Pre-K this year and we are all thrilled that his teacher from last year, Ms. Donna, has moved up with him. They were only together for about 8 weeks last school year, but were fast friends. Their mutual love of baseball might have something to do with their instant connection. (wink, wink) She and I had a good chat this morning and I left feeling confident that many of our challenges from last year were going to be resolved in this new academic year. Everything about school was familiar and that got Noah’s day off to a great start. Drop off was a breeze. When I picked him up, he had had a GREAT day and was sweaty and exhausted from playing on the playground. He has grown up so much over the summer and is going to make huge gains this year. I can’t wait to watch him grow and learn!

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We’re off and running! Here’s to a great 2014-2015 school year!

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T-ball 2014: Wrap-Up

Posted August 16th, 2014 by Sally and filed in Doozy, Firsts, Kiddos, Whoozy

If you’ll remember, we spent all winter (and this one was a loooong one) talking about when baseball season would be here.  Well, it arrived six weeks ago and ended this morning.  We signed the kids up to play their first-ever season of T-ball through our local YMCA and they’ve had a pretty great time.  Ava’s got a golden glove, whether she wants to admit it or not, and Noah really likes to bat and play first base.

Things I want to remember about this season when we get ready for next season and forever:

– Sign the kids up only if they really want to. If they get signed up, they will play the whole season. Period.

Ava was all for signing up when the signing up happened, but decided she wasn’t really in love with playing t-ball. In spite of this, she was actually pretty good and always played hard during her games. Have to remember to let it be her call when it’s time to sign up next year.  Noah LOVES baseball but, at three, loses patience with the pack-ball nature of the game and with the rigid structure of non-backyard imaginary play. Also, he’s really good at following a coach’s direction – a very pleasant surprise. Another year of maturity will probably serve him well next season.

– If you don’t volunteer to coach, only coach when asked.  Also, an organized volunteer coach is earning his sainthood every practice and game. Say thank you…often.

We did a lot of sideline coaching during the first couple weeks of the season. Then, we started sitting in the outfield (the safest place to be since the ball is NEVER out there) after that. The kids did a lot better when there were fewer competing voices and we learned a valuable lesson about the real reason for their participation. Six words only: “We love to watch you play.”

– Six weeks is a long enough season for kids this age. Don’t get overzealous and try to let it take the whole summer.

So glad we tried tball this summer because I think we all learned a lot. It’s good to get fresh air on Saturday mornings and I’m sure this is only the beginning of our organized sporting activities.  We’ve gotten a taste of what’s in the future, but, for now, we’re glad to be done with the season. We were so happy to watch them play.

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Leaving Las Vegas

Posted July 14th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Family, Firsts, Kiddos

One of the realities of military life is that, when your family arrives in a new town, you know that the end of that place is just over a few horizons. You live your life in a sort of temporary way – nothing so precious that it’s not possible to walk away from it. But, we spent four years in Vegas and, while many things about it drove us crazy (heat and wind, anyone?), I think we all found that we were surprised by the depth of roots there when it was time to leave.

After a low-key, use-up-the-leftover-pyrotechnics Fourth of July, it was time to really get ready for the movers. Even though someone else packed up all our stuff and did the heavy lifting, we still had to do quite a bit of work to be ready for that process. Pictures, shelves, & curtains had to come down. Holes in walls had to be spackled and touched up. Suitcases had to be packed for the week-long roadtrip looming before us and boxes of essentials readied for arrival at a new home in Dayton. Luckily, I was done with work by this point, so could spend days while the kids were in school getting the house ready. In fact, they were at school while the movers were packing us out, so they arrived home to lots of boxes one day.

Turns out, an obstacle course of boxes was a pretty great way to spend an afternoon on the plasma car.

Although, I will admit that an obstacle course of boxes is a less-than-restful way to find your way to bed at night.

And, since there wasn’t much to do in the house in the evenings with no stuff and all that time to work during the day, we made sure to get a few Las Vegas highlights checked off our list.  We didn’t spend much time on the strip in our four years, so the kids had never seen the Bellagio fountains or the flowers there, so we went to visit one afternoon before dinner.

Surely the rainbow in the fountains that day was a sign of good things to come?

After three days of packing and truck loading (and a final job interview for me…talk about a stress-filled week!), it was time for the final load of boxes to drive away. This was our first move where we had kids who would know what was going on.  When we left Edwards, Ava was six months old and her source of stability was, simply, us. Both kids were leaving the only home they’d ever known and that had the potential to be pretty disruptive. So, we talked about it a lot and talked about what would happen with our stuff and how it would get to our new house. That’s all pretty abstract, though, so we thought it might help to watch the truck drive away.

That day was a day of big goodbyes. It was the kids’ last day at school – a place that they both loved and full of people who loved them. Thankfully, the kids did fine, but the teachers and I were sort of a blubbering mess. It took me so long to feel comfortable leaving my kids in daycare.  Bright Horizons was truly a blessing of love and comfort for all of us.

With Ms. Nettie, the only teacher who had them both and was still there when we left.

Last day of school cupcakes to share with her class.

We got home just in time to watch the last few boxes go on the truck and see it all drive away. But, like with all military moves, the departing family never does it alone. Of course, the Hoffmans were there to help us crazy-wave to our truck as it drove around the corner.

Just four Air Force kiddos, taking it all in stride.

I can’t even begin to describe the grody bums and feet we cleaned because of their perch. Some things about Vegas are NOT missed. ;)

And, because there’s been no major moment in the last six years for which the Hoffmans have not been present, they were even there for our last meal in our house – even though it was only in the generous spirit of the meal they provided.

The next morning was Matt’s final out appointment at work, so the kids and I took it kind of easy first thing in the morning and camped out in our now-empty home. (Thank goodness for wi-fi!! Never, ever disconnect that until the day after you’ve left a house.)

Then, to make it painfully obvious how much we would miss them, Sarah came over to deliver a vacuum cleaner and take my kids for the day. And, for her effort, Noah randomly threw up on her while they snuggled after nap. She didn’t even bat an eye. Seriously. Is there anything that says friendship better than that?

We shared one last awesome Caspers/Hoffman family night with some take-out PF Changs and fun and then it was time for one last crazy-wave to say good bye.

In spite of all it’s challenges (and maybe my best effort to the contrary), Vegas has forever become a place that will feel like home when we visit. And, as always, the people were the hardest to let go. It’s such a strange and wonderful life we lead. Off to the next great adventure!

Grand Canyon 2012

Posted May 16th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Doozy, Family, Firsts, Kiddos, Whoozy

Even though we’d lived within 400 miles of a natural wonder for four years, we didn’t get around to visiting until a month before our PCS. (That’s the way it goes, right?) We were so fortunate to make our first trip to the Grand Canyon with Grammie & Grandad, who were also on their first trip.  We all met at a McDonalds in Williams, AZ, and then drove into the park together. Of course, when we got to the sign to make it official, we had to stop for a photo opportunity!

From there, we headed straight to the visitor’s center to pick up some maps (Whoozers was demanding one since we wouldn’t give up the one we were navigating the car with) and to get our first view of that big hole in the ground. Let’s just say…it definitely delivered a “wow” moment. They weren’t kidding when it was named “Grand.”

We were fortunate to be staying in one of the in-park lodges with an adjoining room to Grammie & Grandad.  Oh, the luxury of adjoining rooms!  Easy access to hand kids off one direction or the other so everyone has a chance to shower, a place to hang out after bedtime and, most importantly, double the space for kids to run amuck during the short time we spend inside on this trip. Such a great thing!

After we got the lay of the land from the visitor center, we watched a short movie about the history of the canyon and then went to check in at our room. We got settled, grabbed some dinner and then headed out to watch our first sunset. Because we had heard a few horror stories and were extremely paranoid, Ava spent her visit to the Grand Canyon on a leash. We wouldn’t normally go for something like that but we figured better safe than sorry. Whoozers was mostly cooperative when we explained that we just wanted to keep her safe.  But, when we got out of the van to head to the lookout point, she cracked us all up by saying, “OK, who’s going to walk me like a dog?”

The next morning, Grammie and Grandad went to watch the sunrise while the rest of us caught up on some sleep.  Then, we headed for a wonderful breakfast at a historic lodge before our big hike down Angel Trail.

Let’s be honest, there’s not a bad view of the Canyon.  Even the little spot right outside of the restaurant was a scenic vista!

Since our bellies were full and we were full of energy, we geared up and struck out down the Bright Angel trail.  This is one of the trails folks who are hiking the whole Canyon would use to reach the bottom.  We only intended to go a little ways down before turning around and heading back out.  We were carrying a baby on one back, had a pre-schooler on a leash, and a woman deathly afraid of heights along for the ride.  Needless to say, we took our trip pretty slowly and were careful not to push too far.

This was about as far as Grammie got before she turned back to go enjoy the Canyon from the safe space of a large window. Grandad walked her back and we kept on moving downhill for a ways.  Then, we found this….

It’s a very valid warning about the dangers of hiking the canyon unprepared.  However, signs like that are just begging to be mocked. Exhibit A…

Eventually, Grandad caught up to us on the trail and we climbed down a bit more before turning around.  The path back up was more of a mental journey than a physical one, as we had a very tired preschooler on our hands.  But, she was able to press through and make it back to the top.

Do you see Grandad in that photo?  Look at the clearing in the middle…he’s wearing a yellow shirt.  Didn’t seem like that far, but photos don’t lie!

Of course, when we were done, we all felt a little like this…

We grabbed some well-earned lunch back at the top of the canyon and then spent the rest of the afternoon attending the necessary lectures to earn Ava her Junior Ranger badge. We learned about California Condors and did a few activities in here Junior Ranger book. The swearing in ceremony was so cute!

And then, it was time for another sunset at yet another lookout point.

The next morning, Matt and I went to check out the sunrise while the kids slept safely in the room (hooray for adjoining rooms!). It was gorgeous and I think there are some photos somewhere, but I don’t have them ready for this post. Because we’d exerted ourselves so much the day before, we were all running a little low on energy and decided to take a bus tour out to one of the edges of the Canyon.  We got off the bus at several stops to take a ton of photos and look for Condors (we actually saw three on this trip!).

Even though this was a bus tour, we still ended up doing quite a bit of walking.  First, we felt like this…

And then, we ended up feeling like this…

So, it was time to take a break and just sit and look out at the very edge of the world.

The bus ride back to civilization was crowded and we had a couple of squirrly kids on our hands.

So when we got back to the hotel, we figured a little “off leash” time was in order.  And, by, did they ever love that.  Some previous resident of the hotel had set up an amazing fallen-log fort and it was just what these safety-confined children needed.

After that, it was one more sunset, one more breakfast and then a last look at a piece of majestic American terrain.

We piled back into the van and headed for home. We were so glad to share this experience with Grammie and Grandad and don’t know how we would have managed without them.  Now we can consider that major item on our American West bucket list checked!

Ava & Noah – Children of God

Posted May 13th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Doozy, Firsts, Kiddos, Whoozy

In November, on the first Sunday of Advent, we attended our first church service at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Boulder City, Nevada.  It’s probably no coincidence that we would find our church home (after a long search) at a place named after the patron saint of travelers.  The congregation there welcomed us with open arms and a tolerance for noise during service and we’ve been going ever since.

We’d been attending for a couple months when Father Jim came to us during coffee hour after the service and asked, “Well, what are we going to do about baptizing these kids?” That was all the invitation we needed to get the ball rolling on just such an effort. Finally, on April 29, 2012, both kids were baptized in the presence of many family & friends, and welcomed by a church family that has shown them wonderful love.

All dressed up and ready to head to church.

We named our siblings and Brooke as godparents, but were lucky enough to include special friends in the ceremony also.
Thanks to John, Liz, Ricardo & Brooke for joining us for the service.

Grama Sue & Grampa Steve made the trip for this special event also.

Rev. Shirley always serves as deacon for baptisms at St. Christophers. Such a lovely lady.

Noah didn’t like the first bowl full of water, but calmed right down for the second and third.
He had decided that John was his “person” that day and wouldn’t give him up for anything.

Ava was so ready to be baptized.  She answered all the questions in the service herself and then hung her head over the bowl like she couldn’t wait. She even took out her headband before they started so she could really get wet!

Both kids were anointed with oil after baptism. It smelled really nice!

In the Episcopal tradition, all one must do to receive communion is be baptized.  That means that Ava’s first communion was immediately following this ceremony.  While Father Jim said the liturgy, Ava was hanging over the railing begging him to hurry up! He could hardly get through it because she was cracking him up so much. When it was time, she practically leapt over the railing to take communion.  She was so excited!

Following the service, the congregation hosted a lunch and cake to celebrate the kids.  They also gifted them with beautiful crosses which now hang right over their light switches (because for some weird reason, that’s just where they go in our house).

Rev. Shirley always provides the cake for baptisms.  Such sweet people here.

The fam with Father Jim in front of church.

These kids are so loved and St. Christopher’s has been a blessing for our family. What a wonderful day!