Friday, August 19, 2016

Ready, Set.... Go - 1st and 4th Grades

Time is short, it is almost time to go.  I think they're ready...

1st grade - Ms. M. has been excited all week and ready. Today, she is nervous.  Today, she isn't eating much.  We've talked to the Doctor about her stomach issues and she has medicine to help, but I suspect these are nerves today more than anything else. She looks beautiful today in a new dress from her Grammie. Her hair is curly and she has all her things packed.  She is most excited to see her friends.  She has the teacher she wanted, but her friend Paisley isn't in her class.  She took that with surprising grace and is ready to play, learn, and enjoy her big kid 1st grade desk all to herself.

M is in an interesting place.  She adores horses, creating things, telling stories, and listening to books, especially our family books featuring Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. She has an amazing memory for anything in those stories.  Less so for other things.  She is a pretty typical middle child when it comes to seeking attention, bouncing all over, etc... She is tall and thin, and loves all her outfits and accessories.  She has a big fun personality and loves to be with her friends, but is a little shy in new situations.  She has a big beautiful smile and long, long blond hair, bleached by days spent swimming in the summer sun.  She would gladly snuggle and watch synchronized swimming or Phinneas and Ferb.  She cannot stop talking about horses... did I mention that? It seems she may have found her passion, at least for this year and she is taking lessons every weekend with her friend Ashtyn.

M is a study in contrasts as she can be the best helper, cool, confident, and ready to do whatever you ask.  Or, she can be whiny, not tell the truth, and drag her feet.  I know this is a phase as B totally did this too, but it is a frustrating as usually she is just SO awesome and fun to be with... until she isn't.

She loves playing with her cousins and brothers. Recently, she's also figured out playing alone and makes up many games, stories, and scenarios in her room with all her dolls and toy horses.  She's doing better at putting all of her things away, but also playing with toys more and using them creatively.  At one point recently we had a whole herd of imaginary horses living in our back yard, all with lead ropes made of belts.  Sometimes they came inside to visit? She does love being outside and will gladly work in the garden, dance in the yard, or go on nature walks. She says she is nature girl.  Yesterday, she randomly built a second club house in the garage.  This was very creative and cool.  Save that she used spray paint in an enclosed garage and we didn't talk about it first.  See contrasts.  Love the creativity and ability to put her imagination in to action.

She is strong, smart, a good friend and ready for 1st Grade.... just a tiny bit nervous.

4th Grade - Mr. B is in an awesome space.  He is happy, light hearted, talking easily, chill, and exhibiting a newly refined sense of humor. (For example, last night he told Brent a lengthy story about his Minecraft Mod.  I asked that he tell Grandma a story about his day a bit later.  He began with, well I told my Dad a story about Minecraft, but apparently that did not meet mom's standards. We all laughed, he gets me and has a lovely dry sense of humor).  He is learning to show he is kidding when there is doubt using his expressive eye brows.  He is able to do tons of things by himself and a great helper all around.

He continues to read hours a day.  He reads all kinds of things and thanks to the Kindle Free Play never runs out of books even when his parents don't get to the library frequently enough.  He loves video games and youtube videos of people playing video games.  He loves swim team.  It was the huge hit of the summer for him.  He is a massively better swimmer, but also more confident and has found something he really wants to do as a physical activity, not just something to do to fill our requirement that he have some activity.  He is joining a swim club in the fall to refine his strokes and compete through the school year.  We're all very excited.

  While he waits for school to start, he has been going on Pokemon Go walks around the neightborhood, or walking around UCO or Mitch Park.  I like that it gets us outside and visiting a variety of places even if a fair bit of the time he's staring at my phone.  He does have a lot of Pokemon stories to tell and is enthusiastically telling us about all the creatures. This week after the babysitter had left and E was already in school, he admitted that maybe, just maybe he was ready for and looking forward to school.  I think meeting his teacher helped as it is the only male teacher in the school and a big math/science guy.  Also, his friend Luke is in the class.  Not being new this year is better.  Also M's friend's mom, who he knows well, will be teaching his reading and social studies.  He seems happy with the prospect of the new year, and dare I say excited about school again?

So here we go.  They are currently helping Grandma drop their brother off at school while I wait for a call.  Here's hoping I get to walk in the building with them and hug them one more time in their new classrooms.  If not, we're all OK and will survive.  Grandma is with them and B is ready to lead the way. Hooray for confidence, independence, new adventures, learning, and a brand new school year.

Update - I did make it in with Grandma and the kids for drop off.  My call ended just as M was putting her lunch box in the bin.  It was very fast compared to prior years.  No prolonged good-byes.  Lots of kids were already seated and there were less parents around than usual. I got my hugs and a quick photo, then bye.  M seemed nervous, but generally I think they are ready and good to go. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Night Before Pre-K

Tuesday, E begins Pre-K at St. Elisabeth Ann Seaton.  Yes, that is really happening.  How is my baby in pre-K?

The uniform pieces have all been gathered.  He has a spiffy new Ninja Turtle lunch box and the cutest little loafers.  I'm pretty sure he has no clue what is coming.  We've sent kids to pre-k before.  This one feels more shocking. I think it is because he seems younger due to his smaller size, he is our last, and because this pre-k is a at a real school rather than at a Mother's Day Out. The upside to that is lots of cool things like spanish, art, P.E. and music specials like a regular school along with time in church and learning about God.  Also, his teacher has been doing this for 30 years so is clearly a pro and ready for a room full of 4 year olds.

The harder part is he is going a bit longer than either of the other two did (8-3:15 when they went 9:30-2:30).  That said, that is only 15 minutes longer than his preschool day last year. I'm dreading real school things like car pool lines and learning the ropes in another place.  I have the usual crazy mother guilt about not having spent enough time with him, particularly enough one-on-one time now that he is part of trio and since I began working longer hours last fall.

The best part is probably E himself.  He has a completely loveably, snuggly, sweet personality.  He is the first to take care of me, give me pats, and tell me I look beautiful. He is polite and very good at remembering to say thank you consistently and sweetly. He brings ice water for he and I to share every evening during book time.  He is able to infer things in ways that his Dad and Brother sometimes struggle to do.  For example, an off handed mention of not having had enough water or why are there so many shoes all over and he is off to fix both those problems without being directly asked.  Love it.

He wants to take selfies and hold my hand.  He wants me to carry him up to his nap (and basically will not nap if I don't and someone else dare take him).  He smells his ragged blanket and has a look of pure bliss.  He loves animals and trips to the zoo.  He loves baby tomatoes and more fruits and vegetables than his siblings combined and eats huge quantities of them if left to his own devices. He is quite aware that his smiles are killer and will pull one out to win his point.  He talks so much like a grown up now and it is hilarious to listen to some of the things he says.  He can quote large chunks of Hamilton and will gladly finish lyric lines if you start one. Louis the Lion is his favorite stuffie of the week... we have four lions and I am only vaguely aware which one is Louis, but he is adamant to have that particular lion and no other right now. He loves dragons.

He has a vivid imagination.  He randomly has been wearing his brother's batting helmet often while at home, but has no interest in playing baseball right now. He still loves his "guys" -- really any small figure and increasingly gravitates to LEGO mini-figs and changes out their hats or other costumes.  He is glad to sit close and watch.  He can swim 100x better than two months ago and will swim 5 ft to the ladder, climb out, jump in (often with a ninja kick or cannon ball) and swim to me, over and over and over.

Of course all is not perfection cuteness and joy.  He has recently developed an unfortunate tendency to scream or hit when he loses his temper or doesn't get his way.  He is prone to the occasional stubborn off over chores. He cries easily sometimes.  He is 4.

I am so very proud of him. I  am so honored to be his mom and feel so loved by him every day. He is unique, wonderful, and amazing. I want him to stay just as he is in this sweet, magical, loving moment. I know it can't be.  There have already been tears and will be more.  I am not good at change.  I hope the year to come is amazing for him. I hope he learns, grows, makes great friends, learns to read a bit, and still loves in his sweet way, snuggles daily, and holds my hand.  I love you my sweet E.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Vacation 2016: Little Sahara State Park

Location: Little Sahara State Park, near Waynoka, OK
Date: 8/2/2016
Fun Facts: Little Sahara is not a desert, it was created by sand deposits from Cimarron River; It is famous for dune buggy riding...which we didn't do, of course. 

This park was only tentatively on our agenda, but the existence of the state parks passport system and an extra hour or two of time put it on the radar.  The park ranger here was slightly less excited to see us, but did have a live rattle snake rattling away from the front desk... he also gave us the passport stickers we were missing from Gloss Mountain State Park.  He was less good at directions so we drove around some rather run down picnic/camp areas for awhile before seeking out more help in finding the overlook. 
Here we are walking up the winding, beautiful path to the overlook complete with nearly stormy Oklahoma sky. 
Panorama from the outlook --- yes, the dunes are strangely far away and kind of small looking --- it is weird. No idea why the outlook is so far from the thing we're looking towards.  Brent and I think this may be a situation where grass/forest is taking over the dunes.
Can you see them? 
Ok, here is a more zoomed in view.  There were a bunch of telescopes where you can see all the tracks on the dunes from the dune buggies.  The dunes are 25 to 75 feet tall for reference. 

This was the last stop on the trip and the kids were a bit punchy.  They were having a great time in their own way though. 
The telescopes intended for those in wheelchairs are also the perfect height for 4 year olds!

We observed, discussed, and pondered if dune buggy riding is something we might do if the park were open longer.  We did get to watch some other people on dune buggies. I am told there are 1600 acres of dunes... apparently not in sight?

So, we made our own sand fun. M create this sand cake with shiny rocks and sticks for candles (hint, her birthday is this week). 
E joined in the fun.  The sand was delightfully soft. 

 There were lots of beautiful wildflowers  - most of them seemed to be yellow.  It also smelled distinctly of sage.

And then we were off for a 2.25 hour drive home through the land of oil wells and wind mills.  The drive happens to be about the length of Hamilton so we listened to that one more time and everyone was happy, if tired. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Vacation 2016: Alabaster Caverns State Park

Location: Alabaster Caverns State Park, near Freedom, OK
Date: 8/2/2016
Fun Facts - 330 stairs on the 3/4 mile long tour, only one of 3 caves with black alabaster, no stalagmites/tights so you can touch everything, my grandpa visited on his senior class trip and ran through it in the dark.  This last fact is insane after having walked through with lights and having had the lights turned off only briefly. 
Price: Tours are free for those under age 6,  $7 for kids 6-12, $10 for those 13-61, $8 for those over 62

This is our only photo as cameras/phones are not allowed in the cave to keep tours moving along and safe.  The tour guide did begin the tour with showing E a few sleeping bats, which was adorable. 
Photo via of Travel OK
The kids' two requests for vacation were lots of swimming and caves.  Done.  The caves were perfect for kids. The tour is 45 minutes and happens ever hour.  It moves a long with not that much talking and you can touch everything *(rare for caves).  There are cool lights, hand rails, and lots of slippery floors.  They loved it and so did we. 

Photo via Travel OK

 These are called George and Martha Washington's bath tubs.  Our Hamilton obsessed kids thought that was great.  The bath tubs were created by swirling water.  The caves really reinforce the power of water and time.
Photo via Travel OK
You can see some of the water coming through here.  There were lots of cool shapes and facts about Selenite/alabaster.  We bought a piece of selenite as our lone souvenir of vacation and the kids love handling it. I am so glad we made the trip. The caves were an awesome experience and the kids are now full of interesting mineral facts and excited about more cave exploring in the future.  This was B's favorite stop of the trip. 

Here is a video about the caves from Travel OK
Here is the historic Waynoka train depot where we stopped for lunch when we sadly discovered the German restaurant I'd been hoping to try is closed on Tuesdays.... 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Vacation 2016: Boiling Springs State Park

This year, our summer vacation was a roughly 3.5 day tour of northwest Oklahoma.  This is part of our system of having vacation in Oklahoma one year and out of Oklahoma the next.  Due to random technology issues, I'm going to blog by site we visited rather than in chronological order.

Location: Boiling Springs State Park, near Woodward, OK
Date: 8/2/2016
Highlights - beautiful forrest, crystal clear streams, oldest Burr Oak Tree in OK

Ok, so, spoiler alert, that video is the extent of the "Boiling Springs" --- that said, do not let that dissuade you from visiting as this is a completely lovely, beautiful park with so much more to offer.

 Boiling Springs was the 3rd of the 5 State Parks we visited, but the first time the staff explained the awesome State Park Passport system.  Our kids are very excited to visit them more parks, get their passports stamps, and achieve the various medallions.  Check it out!  The staff at this park seemed over joyed to see us and is even mailing us stamps from the state parks we had already visited.  SO cool. Also, note the cool stone work. Almost all the parks we visited were built by the Civilian Conservation Corp or WPA.  That was a heck of a program and decades later the work has held up/been maintained beautifully.
 The first, short trail at this park lead to this "River" B seems skceptical.  M is still clutching her passport.  We talked about animal footprints near the bank and why this water is clearer than in some other places we have visited.
 Here is E walking back from the stream.  He spent most of the time in this park clutching the trail map.  He doesn't know how to read maps, but liked to think he was navigating.  We also tried to spur some of the hiking along by pushing him to be the leader and go a bit faster than he was at the back of the pack.
 The colors are really off in these photos, but it was gorgeous.  This was mostly the kind of forest/wood with few under story plants, but just lovely
 The streams were all completely crystal clear and spring fed into sand streams.  There were zillions of tiny frogs all over.  Everyone wanted Ro to be there as he would have adored it.  Just so many frogs and these interesting bugs with blue bodies and black wings.
 This was the lead pack, waiting for Mr. E to take the path at his own pace.
 It doesn't really fit in the photo, but this is the allegedly 300 year old Burr Oak that is 18ft around.  Allegedly the oldest Burr Oak in Oklahoma. This trail was 2 miles long and the kids just did amazingly great.
 So many trees, so many photo ops.  M and I really lead the pack on the way back as there was a little bit of Pokemon hunting happening too.  Interestingly the GPS in the pokemon app seemed to work better in most of these places than our map aps or the paper hand out maps, hmmm.

I am a sucker for a beautiful walk in a quiet wood.  It was a lovely cloudy day and a perfect day for a walk in the woods.  Oklahoma remains full of delightful surprises!


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