Saturday, August 20, 2016

Back to School.

Back to School: Anderson

This kid is in official school-1st grade! I forgot to take a picture of him with his teacher, so I made him pose at Kroger. Some people have Pinterest poses, we have lunchables. You know, just keeping it real. 

I love how grown up he looks here, yet he is still willing to pose for me. Also, his socks are clear evidence that, while he humored me and wore a "fancy"shirt on the first day, he is still keeping true to himself when it comes to getting dressed. 

He is most excited about:

-not going to the church camp anymore (whatever. It was actually amazing)
-finally getting to do Science
-getting to do real math (he was so excited about how many pages the math book has-it was the only detail that I could get out of him the first day)
-checking out 2 books at a time at the library

And, most of all

-1st graders get to do the monkey bars!!!!  I am so glad that there is a purpose to school now. 

These are the items that Anderson chose for his "All About Me" bag. This clears up any confusion over whether or not he likes animals. 

Brandon goes to work before we leave, so he left Anderson a note for his first day. 

Noni & Bop picked him on his first 1/2 day & took him to lunch at Texas Roadhouse to celebrate being in 1st grade!

I have been LIKE A BOSS so far this year and we have left our house no later than 6:50 everyday INCLUDING the 10 day period where Chloe kept getting sick all over the house, every morning. . The secret to this is my incredible OCD gene that REQUIRES me to have everything ready the night before, a ridiculously early alarm clock time and my ability to yell at my kids enough to get them moving. Also, and perhaps the strongest reason of all, is the fact that I do actually want to keep my job, which not only requires me to be there at a certain time but is literally across the county. When you really have no choice but to get a move on, you do just that.  We are often in the car line before the school opens, which not only allows me to actually make it to work on time, but lends itself to amazing selfies. 

Also, the eyepatch is still, very much a part of our lives. This should be it's own post, really. 

Clare & I have continued our tradition of hanging out at Open House! Jack & Anderson are not in the same class, but they are right across the hall from each other, so we will take it!

Back to Still at School: Max

Because I did not have consistent time off over, Max didn't actually leave school over the summer (much to the disappointment of our bank account.) He is still going strong and I am so happy that he truly loves his school. He struggles a bit in the morning on the first day of the week, but he loves his friends, his teachers and all of the fun stuff that he gets to do. 

And, I love that I get pics of him every day! 

He insists on carrying his backpack by himself everyday. He also helps me sort out all of his lunch box (some in the fridge/some in the room.)* When I get there to pick him up in the afternoon, he gets so excited & runs over to get his stuff and show me his art work in his bag. 

*Y'all. I love my kids and love doing things for them, but the lunches...For the love. WHY DOES HE NEED A LUNCH EVERYDAY? Sigh. 

His teachers told me: Max always has such good days. He makes such good choices & he inspires his friends to make better choices.

I love that he is good at school because if he has to choose home or public, I like that I have tricked other people into thinking he is well behaved. Also, I know that what they love about him is his straight up silliness. I just love that Fergus. 

Back to School: Me

Here is the thing about this year: I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT IT! This is the first time in 5 years that I am not starting a new job, a new position, having a baby or starting a new school! I am comfortable enough with where I am/who I am/who I work with that I have really good feelings about rocking the year. This does not mean that I will not stressed out, overwhelmed and basically a frantic hot mess every day, BUT it does mean that there will at least be an occasional break from the spas time.
 Also, Denise is at AE again, so I should  never, ever complain about anything again. 

Also, my office is now complete with a giant inflatable ring toss. 

I hate that I did not do a better job of documenting my classrooms/work life throughout my career so I am going to try & make up for it now. Just keeping it real, work is actually a big part of who I am and I want to remember these stops along my path.

I work with some pretty amazing people.

Leaving my comfort zone 5 years ago was, without a doubt, one of the greatest challenges of my life, but I am SO grateful that it happened because having the chance to learn from so many different people over the past 5 years has permanently changed me personally and professionally in so many positive ways. 

All in all, it is a good time. is also an exhausting time. The real life of my job is that it is just a lot of hours. We leave at 6:45am and are usually not home until after 6 on a GOOD day. There are a few "Easy" late nights like Open House/parent nights/ meetings and then there are the really long night that usually involve sporting events or travel. This will be my 11th year spending my Friday evenings in the fall on a high school football track and I can say without any hesitation that there really is just no tired like "football season-Friday night" tired. An intense 15 hour day at the of a really long work week will make you feel like you've run a marathon, BUT it will also make you the winner on your FitBit Friends board, so it is not a total loss.  And, to be fair, I love everything about being a part of the entirety of a high school experience and am pretty accustomed to some sporting events. 
Also, what about that sunset at our first game??

One of my former students/good friends, Saasha, is going to be a teacher and I have entrusted her with my amazing podium that was built by Pops & Uncle Frank. I know she is going to be amazing and I feel so honored that to have been a part of her journey!
Because she is amazing and knows where I need the most help, my mom brought me dinner a few nights when the school year started up. There is nothing like a giant container of spaghetti to bring you back to your childhood and make you appreciate your parents. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Anderson's Nature Box.

If you have ever read even one of my blog posts, you know these things:

1. Anderson has a lot of energy. 
2. Anderson is obsessed with Nature. 
3. Max is a tornado. 
4. I take too many pictures. 

Back to #2. At some point about 3 years ago, I got out an old shoebox to store all of the random nature stuff that Anderson would bring me throughout the days. Over time, it has morphed into little containers to divide the stuff and a sturdier box to house all of the items.  

Periodically, he will take everything out and look through it and one day I decided we should do an inventory, so we know what all we have and I realized...he has some pretty cool stuff. I also realized that we are inventorying this, which means my genes are actually alive in him somewhere. I love everything about this whole process because, as I am sure you already know, this is exactly how TEDDY ROOSEVELT began his conservation journey. I believe in brain washing the whole story around here. 

Not every item has a story; most things were just found somewhere and handed to me with a, "Hey mom, put this in my nature box." Actually, most of the items can be attributed to his time with Bop, so I probably should get him as a guess author for this post.  But, here are 2  stories related to the coolest things in the nature box:

1. Lizard Tail: This is our favorite, for sure. "We" have a favorite, I am totally invested in this, too. Last summer, in an effort to fill some hours, we visited a little creek about a 1/2 mile down the street from our house. To be honest, using the word "creek" is maybe setting the bar a little too high, because many times, including on this particular day, there is no actual water in it. But, sometimes there is water and Anderson can catch minnows, so we call it a creek. Anyway, on the day that we visited, there were no fish, but we were walking in the million degrees, trying to keep Max from freaking out*, and we saw a blue tailed lizard! I think Anderson caught it with his net (we always have a net with us) and we used Max's sippy cup to store him. Anderson noticed he had dropped his tail, so we frantically started looking for it. I found it STILL WRIGGLING, trying to go down some hole. In hindsight, I don't think a tail can think or have controlled movements, but it sure seemed like it was trying to intentionally go down the hole. Anyway, I grabbed it and we whooped and hollered and knew, right then, that this was going to be the mother load for the Nature box. I sound crazy that I was so invested, but y'all, a lizard tail! We did let the lizard go, but we are grateful for his moment of panic that resulted in a huge win for us.  

*Max is a boy who has a lot of energy and prefers being outside, BUT nobody can keep up with Anderson. It's just a true story. 

2. Snakeskin: Somehow all of the good stories start with, "we were trying to fill some hours..."and this one is no exception. We are frequent visitors to our library and both boys always wants to play in the park that is right there, as well. I usually let them because I want all library memories to be wonderful and amazing, just like the ones from my childhood are. Also....we are usually trying to fill those hours. A few Saturdays ago, we visited and spent quite a bit of time walking around, trying to keep Max entertained (see above) and looking for cool stuff. We saw fish and bugs and Anderson hit the jackpot when he found a snakeskin! He was so excited about it, of course, so there was lots of enthusiastic yelling. Perhaps the best part was looking up and seeing an entire extended family, dressed up, taking pictures on the bridge above us. Every child and male with them looked at us with longing, as they were sweating to death in matching prints and we were living a seemingly* carefree Saturday morning just playing in a creek. The snakeskin was almost completely intact and I was very careful with how I handled it because I just knew this was good stuff. We spent a bit more time walking around & exploring and by the end, everyone was soaking wet, thirsty and starving. As we headed to the car, I set the snakeskin on the tire so it could dry a little as I loaded everyone and tried to clean the nasty nets. Then, I got in and drove off. Then, way too late, I realized I FORGOT the snakeskin. I told Anderson I forgot and it and he was so sweet, replying, "It's ok, Mama, we caught a real snake, so that is a better memory anyway." I was floored because you know that this kid is just not easy going or flexible. 

Later that evening, I dropped Anderson off at a birthday party (1st drop off party; it does get easier) and, on a whim, drove back to the library just to see if it was still there....and it was, just waiting for me to retrieve it. Score. 

*Also, sweating to death. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Summer: July

I have this job in education and everyone always think that I get entire months "off." 
I mean, no. The answer is really just no. 

I am incredibly lucky in the fact that I did get almost 5 weeks off, which I realize is way more than most employees get off in the summer. But, most if it was spread out and I was still doing various forms of work EVERY DAY anyway because summer is actually one of the busiest time for a school administrator. (File that under "Things nobody told me when I took this job.") But, I will take sneaking away to make phone calls*, doing webinars in the closet* and working on stuff late at night over having to actually go into work those days because I get lots of hang out time with the boys. And, as it turns out, I am pretty much in love with my job, so I am definitely winning. I had to go back full time towards the beginning of July, but when I look at these pics, I realize that are pretty much masters of cramming fun stuff in on the weekends. 

*Never. This is how many times I have actually had a work related conversation with anyone  without my kids suddenly deciding that their arms were falling off, the sky was caving in and they were 5 seconds away from dying of thirst. When I think about it, how I still have my job is actually a surprise to me. 

Anyway, on to July festivities!

This giant tree fell next to our house (NEXT TO-Super thankful for that) and we spent some time climbing it, measuring it, etc. The best estimate that we could get was 37 feet! Also, Anderson took this high quality shot of me. 

Spots has become quite the member of the family and often makes appearances to watch TV, hang out with us, reminding me that he is worth all of the trips to Petco for mealworms and crickets, etc. 

Also, the patch is still very much a member of our family. 

This is generally the result of what I find when they are playing alone. 
Totally worth it for those few minutes, actually. 

You know, or this. 
I am really good at documenting outings and activities, but am trying to do a better job of the other 99% of our time. There are so many times where they are just doing things like this-destroying giant chunks of ice while in underwear. 

A pool party for a friend turned into a lake party, as well. Since I am a huge fan of all day activities, I embraced this. I did not, however, embrace adjusting pics to be the right way. Sorry. 

Anderson literally has more energy than anyone I have ever met. 

The rest of us do our best to keep up with him, but being the baby brother who has just a normal amount of energy will catch up with you occasionally and you have to take a nap on the boat. 

One glorious evening was spent at the Brimer's where Clare even cooked us a delicious meal!

Love those 4 kids and cannot wait until Charlie is in the mix!
We went to the park with some of Anderson's kindergarten classmates and he quickly led the charge in trying to catch turtles instead of playing or doing normal park things.
 I guess this is actually our normal park thing, but the other moms seemed a little nervous about the dangling over possibly flesh eating bacteria infested water with a net. 

Sometimes I walk into find Max just living in his own world. This kid seriously wins at life. 

Animals/insects of all kinds. Always. I cannot stress this enough. 

Another random activity-chasing food coloring down the ditch. Seriously, they had so much fun with this and it provided yet another opportunity where our ditch rescued us from a long day. 

Clearance chalk paint from Target. 

A pretty short (3 hours is short for us) visit to Ijams resulted in some really awesome sightings-a snake AND a giant snapping turtle in one pic!

This guy was the hit of the trip, for sure. 

Anderson did a football camp with his buddy, Noah. It was FREE, so I was all over it.
 He did not love it, but it was free, so....whatever. 

I promised Lucy a trip to Build a Bear for her 3rd birthday, which was in January, and we finally made it! She was so stinking cute during the entire process. It was really fun to spend time with just her and I am looking forward to more opportunities like this in the future!

Many visits to McFee.


Overpriced ice cream from the ice cream man because we really should do it at least once per summer, right? Also, I was attempting to "play Science" as Max requested, but it was really just too hot outside to do anything but eat ice cream. 

There is a little creek that we can walk to down the street and we are frequent visitors to try & catch all things. One day we walked down there in the 98 degree weather and I pushed Max in his stroller to speed up the process. My fitbit later thought that I had been "Outdoor Mountain biking" for 48 minutes. I mean, yes that is pretty much the same thing as parenting boys. 

So many heart emojis need to be used here. 

Cow Day=Free Food=Tradition!

Because Noni is a rock star, she took them to the Clinton Fair and let them play overpriced games, check out livestock, get snow cones and have tons of fun. 
I showed up at the end of it and took pics, which usually seems to be my contribution. 
Speaking of the village supporting my life, Clare picked up Anderson from his camp and took him to the zoo! Have I mentioned that she already has 3 kids? Or, that it was at least 99 degrees outside? Or, that Anderson has more energy than a kindergarten class combined? Clare knew all of this things AND still spent an entire afternoon raising him and he had SO much fun!

Brandon & I celebrated an ENTIRE DECADE of MARRIAGE! We celebrated by gorging on sushi at at a little Japanese place near our house. 
It turns out that life is a pretty nice set up when you get to spend it with this guy. 

Spent some time* at the Library Park just doing a little exploring. I am holding up a necklace that one of my favorite people ever, Tess Waibel, made for me! 

*Over 3 hours. Seriously. 

We found a snake and against my better judgment (and Bop's advice in my head,) I let Anderson catch it. 

I took a picture from the sidelines; I am just realizing this. I mean, I do feel a little bad now that I let this go down. 
But...he was so proud!

Anderson had a party at Putt Putt and he & Max spent quite a bit of time winning hundreds of tickets after it was over. Seriously, they kept winning them; it was crazy. 

Max is still thoroughly embracing the fire situation everywhere he goes. 

Why yes....that is a picture of Anderson & Lily ACTUALLY GETTING ALONG! Huge shout out to Noni for figuring out that blue cake can bond them together and even get real smiles. Who knew?

Max is like Houdini. You know, if Houdini was also a tornado. 

He manages to escape from our house on a frequent basis and on this particular day, I snapped this pic because I just could not get mad at him. I mean, how amazing was his life half dressed in this moment of rain??
 Pure bliss. 

The WormPie girl herself, just getting chubbier by the day. What actually makes her look so much bigger remains a mystery. Is it her fur? Her body? Her attitude? 

Since I did have to work almost all of July, Anderson went to an AWESOME summer camp. Well, many days the grandmas were to the rescue of our bank account and this guy's happiness because they watched him, but he went to camp on the other days. 
He went swimming, played outside, played games, did Science, went on field trips (to splash parks, huge pools, rock wall climbing places, IMAX, etc) but he still cried every morning. When you are a Mama/Noni/GG's boy, you just don't care about that stuff. BUT, I know it is important that he learns some independence (he has to keep up with all of his stuff) and I cannot imagine any scenario where this kid did not have some kind of outlet for his energy/need to interact with other kids for an entire month, so it really has been good for him. 

On the day pictured above, he LOVED it because they went to the Chattanooga Aquarium and they have a sting ray touching area. What he said to me on that day when I picked him up sums him up more than other sentence that he has spoken this summer- "Mama, I was the only one in my group who touched a sting ray! My shirt got all wet and it was so cool!"

Risk taking-check
Touching nature-check 

When I had to go to Nashville for work, Brandon stepped in and provided many an outing such as another visit to PuttPutt for games and ice cream. 

Their expressions in this one crack me up. 

Noni took Anderson to ChuckECheese with Nicole/her kids and Anderson was thrilled to ride with Levi. He really was, I think, but he is not going to actually smile. 

Noni & Bop had a shrimp boil one night with their neighbors and invited us over for dinner and backyard festivities. My mother is basically the party planner for her neighborhood. 

Y'all know if there is a Harry Potter festivity that WE WILL BE THERE! Books A Million had a celebration for the new book and the only thing that was disappointing was that Anderson refused to wear his Hogwarts robe. They had snakes and owls, which were HUGE hit with my kids, of course. After Max touched the snake, he grinned and said, "That was SO cool!"

Best of all, Anderson was sorted and, just like we have always expected, will be in Gryffindor. 

We even went to Sonic for dinner and it was one of the first times that any kind of dining out* was pleasant. It does, in fact, get easier. 

*I know it's Sonic and not a real restaurant but our frugalness/work & life schedules/picky eaters just don't lend themselves to real restaurants, so we count this. Also, we were definitely dining out...side! Ha ha ha.

We lived up the last day of July by spending pretty much all of it outside. Max was so, so proud when he "caught" a butterfly on his leg at the splash pad. 

Later that afternoon-Max stepped INTO the citronella candle.
 He is ok, but this kid will KEEP US ON OUR TOES!

Denise & Adeline spent the afternoon with us, which made it even more fun! 
Nothing screams childhood more than a pizza picnic in a tent. 

And, because she is an awesome grandma, GG took these crazy boys to JumpJam! Love a blurry pic of Max on a "jumpaline," as he calls it.