Sunday, July 25

Movie Night

After Touch a Truck on the 10th, the Gray's hosted a movie night at their house, complete with yummy popcorn popped in an old fashioned popcorn maker.  Noelle was excited to see her good friend McKenna who she doesn't get to see that often when Little Gym is not in session.  We made some brownie pops to take and they were a big hit!  (more so with the adults than the kids!) We watched the movie Cars and had a great night of fun!

Here is a pic of all the kiddos who were there...can't you just hear them saying chheeeeese!

Ty surprisingly sat down and watched most of the movie.  Of course, when I went to take a picture of this phenomenon, he bolted.  Not sure what is up with the look on Noelle's face here...maybe a sad part of the movie???

Beer belly...check.  Grill...check.  Food...check.  All Ty needs is a beer and we've got a typical male pic here!

Touch A Truck

On Saturday, July 10th, I took the kids to the big Touch A Truck event being sponsored by a local church just north of our town.  It was super hot, but I knew the kids would absolutely love it, so we stocked up on water and sunscreen to see all the cool vehicles.  A hot air balloon was scheduled to be there too, of which Noelle has developed an obsession for, so we had to at least stop by for a little while.  There were not a lot of people there which allowed Noelle and Ty plenty of opportunities to roam around and hang out with all the cool trucks, planes, etc. 

When we arrived, Noelle said, "Mom, I think we are at the wrong place!!"  I asked her why and she said, "I don't see any hot air balloons, do YOU?!" No little girl, I didn't see any either..turns out the company just had the basket out for kids to go in...LAME!  Everyone was interested in the balloon part, so I'm not sure why they didn't just put it up and take kids up and down (like 10 ft up) for a quick ride.  Here they are confused in the basket, LOL.

They got to check out a cop car...Ty looks awfully comfortable in that back seat...not sure if that is a good sign!

 The kids really liked seeing all the cool gear on the fire truck.  Unfortunately, they were out of fire hats, but the kids scored some crayons, badges, stickers and mini fire hydrants.

Next on the tour was an MTD bus.  We all enjoyed a little time in the wonderful air conditioning before headed out to the next stop.

Here they are on a digger...

Noelle was thrilled that she was actually going to be able to go inside a plane! Once I told her to head over in that direction, she took off in a dead run.  She felt so special being able to sit in the cockpit and check it all out.  Ty must've like it pretty well too because I ended up having to climb up and pull him out!

There were about 5 other planes there, but we chose to observe those at a distance since I really didn't feel like battling Ty to get out again.  We even got to see one taxi down the runway!

Other cool things they got to see were a dump truck....

a Fed-Ex truck....

A tow truck...

an Army jeep...

A medical helicopter...

And probably the MOST important vehicle of all...The Ice Cream Truck!

Saturday, July 24

On Making Difficult Decisions

For the last few months or so I have been agonizing over where to send Noelle to preschool this fall.  In true Renee fashion, I have extensively researched every preschool in the area and spent many a night tossing and turning weighing the options of each one.

You see, we tried a part time preschool last December.  Long story short- it was a complete disaster.  Noelle ended up being violently ill for three weeks straight which we ended up figuring out it was situational stress.  God bless pediatric specialists, and God bless health savings accounts.

So you see the big picture here....Noelle could possibly react the same way so I wanted to really make sure this second time was a pleasant experience for her and that if something did not go well, the teachers would be equipped to handle it.

I am not a big fan of daycare centers.  I have never felt 100% comfortable walking into one and as happy and go-lucky as most of their teachers are, I can never quite shake the feeling that the chain centers all after one thing- the bottom line.  Not that there is anything against them, but the places around here were not turning out to be the places I want Noelle spending the better part of the next two years.  Due to our work schedule, Noelle will have to attend a daycare/preschool combo, which I was not especially happy about.

After sharing my frustrations with our in home provider, Lisa, she recommended a place we'll call Noelle's preschool (NPS).  I'll admit that I have driven by this school for the last 3.5 years and sometimes (ok, a lot of times) thought, UGH that place looks like a dump! Who'd send there kid there?!  How good can it actually be?!

I know.  I'm a snob.

Because I respect Lisa's opinion, and let's face it, she spends just as much time with my kids and has been in the game long enough to know what's good and what's not, I went to check it out.  One of the many benefits of an in home provider- they love your kids and have their best interest at heart.  Plus, it's really helpful to have a mentor to help this young mom out.

So I called up NPS and scheduled a visit.  Keep in mind I arrived on high alert, with my critical eyes ready to go.  Upon entering the building, a musty smell assaulted my nose.  The place was older, well loved some might say.  The rooms were smaller than most centers, the desks, chairs, cots and toys had all seen better days.  The community rug, while very clean, was so old it made me want to go right out to the nearest store and buy these kids a new one.  The playground probably hadn't had an upgrade in 20 years.  The bathrooms had fixtures that I am sure are originals.  The teachers were plainly dressed in jean shorts, tshirts, and tennis shoes.

I continued to take in the environment as the director shared with me all the pertinent center info and I asked my list of questions.  As soon as we walked in the 3yr old room, I could tell Noelle was very comfortable there.  The director said we could stay as long as we'd like and left us in the room.  Right away the teachers made her feel very welcome and she got to sit on the community rug and participate in the group activity.    She got in line with the class as they went out for playtime; came in and had snack with everyone a while later.  At one point she looked at me and said, "Go."  I said, "Do you want to go home?"  She said, "No, I want you to leave."  I took that as a sign that things were going well.

Two hours passed by and I started to realize that this was the place for Noelle to grow, learn, and excel the next two years until kindergarten.  I started looking through the lens of a Noelle and not the snobby brat who walked in the door two hours ago.  Once I put those glasses on, I saw a whole new center.

I saw teachers that truly cared about their kids, who had 4 year degrees and had taught there for 16 years. Teachers who cared enough to ask me and Noelle what she likes and how they could help her be successful there. Teachers who talked comfortably throughout the two hours with me about some really cool professional development opportunities they took advantage of a few weeks ago.  To most, that might not be a big deal, but as a teacher I know that if you aren't getting better as an educator, you're getting worse.  Hearing how, even after 16 years, they continually seek out these opportunities was music to my ears.

Instead of an outdated playground, I saw a shaded backyard with a built-in tree house, lots of fun equipment, while not brand new, served it's purpose just fine.  I saw the butterfly garden the 4-5 yrs olds made and the vegetable garden created and tended to by the 3-5yr olds. I saw how teachers diffused situations amongst the children and how Noelle fit right into the mix of it all.

When we came back in, I no longer saw run down classroom supplies and materials. I saw materials that were used often by the children who were comfortable enough to go pull out a basket of crayons or paint and do their own independent activity.  Of course the materials looked used- they were!!  I wonder how the kids at the other centers got the beautifully labeled baskets of crayons and paints off the top shelf? 

It was a sobering experience to say the least.  I learned a lot about myself and my preconceived notions that day.  I now know why I never felt 100% comfortable at all the centers I'd visited before.  On some level, something bothered me.  Sure,  the pottery barn decorations and wonderfully decorated rooms were great, but why didn't I feel comfortable having Noelle attend there?  I needed to look past the materialistic things and find a program of sustenance.  Noelle doesn't care if the furniture was bought at pottery barn for kids or from target 10 years ago.  Noelle cares about feeling welcomed, loved, safe, and secure. 

As I left, I stopped by the director's office to say thank you, but she had left to go buy sweet corn at the farmer's market for tomorrow's lunch.  I smiled and couldn't help but wonder if the kids down the road were eating as healthy with their catered-in lunch.

Jeremy wrote me a letter the other night that brought tears to my eyes. Just about our love and our life in general.  I love how you found a great place for Noelle to go to school and I love how you let your heart help you come to that decision.

Many times I judge things by what I see, when really, I need to do a better job of judging things by what I feel.  I think if I do that, I'll walk away a winner every time.

Sunday, July 18

Swim Lessons!

Dear Noelle,

This year you were old enough to take swim lessons all by yourself!! You are such a big girl and I couldn't believe how brave you were- trying all the new exercises and listening so well to your teachers.  We got really lucky this year and had the same teacher as the parent/tot class last year!  You were SO EXCITED to see Sarah and could hardly stand still while I put sunscreen on you the first day.  Here are some pics of you doing your special skills in the water...

kicking your feet

Front float

Working really hard to submerge your entire face...I think I will buy some goggles next year and that might help some.

using the kick board

swimming with the noodles

walking with your favorite teacher after "diving" for rings in the deep end

getting ready to head to the deep end

Back float

getting all cuddly and dry

Overall, you did a super job in the level 1 swim class and your teachers wrote on your skill card that they loved your hard work and determination!! You passed all the skills except going completely under that water. You have been using all your skills when we go out on the boat and when we go to tot time at the pool in the mornings and Daddy and I can tell a big difference with your confidence in the water.

Love you,

Tuesday, July 13

Wrapping up the 4th Fun

For the actual July 4th, we head to the lake to spend the holiday with the Hunt's.  It was perfect weather for boating and we all had a great time!  Noelle and Ty donned their life vests and got ready for swimming.

They enjoyed time in their boats and spent a lot of time kicking and swimming around.

All of Noelle's swim lessons paid off because she finally ditched the boat, noodle, etc and swam with just her life vest.  She even jumped off the boat to her cousin Ashley.  Once she found the freedom, we could not get this little girl out of the lake.  She even had lunch, snacks and drinks, all while in the lake.  She is a fish for sure!!

After a long day at the lake, we headed over to Grandpa's campsite for a delicious feast of all sorts of wonderful food.  Once we go there, though, we decided it was best to get on the road and head home.  The kids were exhausted and on the verge of meltdown mode.  Here are a few pics of me and the sun kissed sweeties:

Noelle tried one sparkler and DID NOT like it one bit.  Oh well, guess I'll save them for next year because you know Ty will love them!

Tired little babies.  I'm sure we've all felt the way they look at some point, haha!

This last picture of Ty really surprised me.  His eyes are a dead ringer for Jeremy and it's the first picture that he looks a lot like Daddy.  (He also looks like he said F&#* when he dropped his goldfish- another similarity!

So we finally wrapped up our 4th of July celebrations.  The kids got to wear their cute red, white, and blue outfits I'd been saving all winter :-) and we had a blast.

When we got back to town, Daddy took Noelle to see the 4th and final fireworks show of the year.  Next 4th will be hard to beat for sure, but you can bet we'll be trying!