navygreen: ('Affairs:' recap)
An update about me, eh? It seems so long ago that has happened. I received the sweetest email from [livejournal.com profile] hearts_refuge a few months back asking for just such a thing, but it still has taken me so long to get here.

The truth is, my life really is about cookies. And sweets. And even foodie recipes, from time-to-time. I've become a "food blogger" over a "life blogger," and it almost happened without my consent. After all, I dearly love blogging, and have for almost a decade now (next month!). I suppose it has happened as my interests have changed, you know? Where I once was nothing more than a stay-at-home mom and my children were young, I had tales of creative afternoons, of butterfly kisses on boo-boo'd knees, and pictures of happy boys who always took a moment to smile for the camera. Now, however, I have been a work-out-of-home mother, and my boys have become independent young men that only ask for bandaids if there's blood and kisses in a "real" emergency, and who never have time to stop for a picture.

Life has changed, I suppose.

This month brings about the end of an era for me. In just three more days, my "baby" Jack will become ten. TEN! Oh, I cried and cried on that day when A.J. turned a decade milestone. I still don't know why... it's just a number even now. But, oh - it's THAT number. And once again, I'm faced with it, but this time? This time, my "baby" is TEN. YEARS. OLD.

And to add teardrops to teardrops, in just two more weeks, A.J. will officially become a teenager. THIRTEEN! Where has the time gone? Indeed, where have the three years gone since I lamented his babyhood?! I just cannot believe the young man he is becoming before my very eyes. In fact, he's almost above my very eyes, for we are spot-on in height with one another now (I'm 5'6"), and he is but one size away from Philip's shoe size already. I daresay that he will pass his dad in height (Philip is about 5'10"), and I do not think it will be very far in the future. Friends used to mistake A.J.'s voice for mine when he answered a call, but now they exhale in wild amazement, "That was A.J. on the phone? Not Philip?!"

It all happened so very fast. I do not want to speak of the days passing, for we have already realized that, though he only will attend 8th grade this year, it still means that next year we will have a HIGH SCHOOLER in our midst. *tears*

Those of you on my Facebook know more of the in's and out's of our days, and what falls here in my journal is not much more than a recap most times. The summer is passing, and with it, the days are becoming shorter. We're not yet to the point of "cooler," but I know that it is coming. School was scheduled to begin on August 24th, but the Minot school systems lost six schools to the massive flooding, and there has been a scramble to gain and provide enough portable trailer classrooms all over the city to recreate those that were lost. Therefore, school will not officially start here until September 6th. The governor was kind enough to grant Minot a 5-day loss of teaching days, and the students will attend on two planned holidays instead (ie. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) instead, but will end the year as scheduled on the 25th of May next year.

The flooding situation affects every part of our life, I'm afraid. On the military base, we are still not connected to the main water supply in town, as the line breaks that need repair are underwater even now. When we are connected once again, I'm sure there will be a longer process than normal to flush out over six weeks' worth of muck and sludge from the lines. Despite the water all around, we still have major thunderstorms every few days or so as well. While I wish that the city would not receive even one more drop right now as they try to dry out, I'm thankful for the water here on base. Without it, our filtration systems would not be running from the creek beds, and we would be in an even poorer situation. Finally, however, the state-issued "boil order" was lifted from the base, and that has been a welcome blessing.

The devastation downtown is unmeasurable. So many parts of town are still diked, and will likely not be "unearthed" before the fall season fully arrives. Many businesses and restaurants are still closed, their black windows haunting the main strip like sad skeletons. Friends post pictures of their homes, and they are nothing more than shells, walls barely standing and held together only by various layers of mold. It is such a sad, sad affair. :-(

I hope to keep writing on real life, but I won't make promises at this point. I thank my friends that have checked in here and there, and I still read almost daily, though I comment rarely. :-)
navygreen: ('Affairs:' recap)
It's been so long since I've updated, and I really just don't know where to start!

Cookies are just constant at this point, and I couldn't be more grateful. This creative outlet fell into my lap when I never expected it, and I find so much joy in decorating each set. The easy ones are pleasing, but the challenging designs make me reach beyond my abilities, and I feel like I learn something new each time. It's win-win in my book.

Easter has now come and gone, and it was such a busy, busy week! This is the third year that A.J. has decided he's "too old" for Easter egg hunts, and it is such a bittersweet moment for me as a mom. He's growing up so very much, and so quickly lately, it seems, but I realize that he would rather now be an "adult" and watch the "kids" hunt for eggs. He did, however, pitch in and help Jack and me color Easter eggs on Friday night... with a bit of begging on my part. (I wanted it to be a nice thing we could do together on our night at home while Philip was working.) Once he's doing something, he has a good time, and this was no exception.

Still, I can't bear to think that next year might be Jack's last year to hunt eggs before he makes the same proclamation. Then again, Jack so enjoys being "just a kid" and isn't it quite the same hurry to grow up as A.J. I think it has a lot to do with being the older vs. younger brother, as well as a good deal to do with their completely different personalities.

We attended a big party at our friends' house - the Mendezes. Matt and Amber are always such gracious hosts, and we really enjoy our times there. Jack and Bryce are peas-in-a-pod and usually disappear off to Bryce's room. Among all of their other friends, one of A.J.'s classmates was there as well - a fellow 7th-grader named Kendra. The two of them paired off just as quickly, and we were perfectly content to just gab with all the other folks. I had brought Easter Bunny Bread, sugar cookies, and Pineapple Carrot Cake to share, and all were big hits. I've never actually witnessed an entire platter of my cookies disappear in just a few hours (usually folks take the cookies home or tell me, "They're too pretty to eat!"), but I was overjoyed to see it this time! I came home with lots of empty dishes, and that's the sign of a good party in my book!

Philip has been working on his truck with the help of some friends. I sure hope they figure out whatever is wrong with it, and soon. This next month is extremely busy - we've got A.J.'s track season and Jack's outdoor soccer season going at the same time, as well as two major band performances for A.J., and there's lots of traveling involved, as well as activities at the same time. Eek! On Philip's days off, however, we jumped into a new-to-us series, and have been watching 24. We finished the first season in four days, and we're a few episodes into the second season now. We also recently saw both Arthur and Scream 4 on 'Date Nights,' and we're very much looking forward to this weekend for another night out when Fast Five hits theatres!

I'll try to be better about popping in more regularly. I was so good at the beginning of this year, and now I'm slacking so terribly! *hangs head in shame*
navygreen: (AJ: camera)
My goodness, A.J. looks so very tiny in that icon up there. *points* That's from the Christmas where Heather gave him his own camera, and he took a picture of me taking a picture of him. Aww. ♥

Speaking of A.J. now, here's a snap from this afternoon:

A.J. delivers the mail to the front door.


I was in the middle of taking pictures, and he had been outside sledding with friends. I didn't even notice the mailman drive away before I heard a soft knock, knock! at the front door. I opened it, camera still in hand, to find A.J. with the day's mail. I surprised him by taking a quick picture. It was only fair since he had surprised me!

I love how it was so unexpected, and I love that his lip is so cold it's actually sticking to his teeth. Every day, I'm amazed by just how BIG he is becoming. It feels like he changes every single day. His voice has been deepening over the past two weeks or so, and let me tell you... that is just TRIPPY. I haven't heard his voice crack in the middle of a word, but one sentence is said in his "kid" voice, and the very next sentence comes out in a "big man" voice. Several times over the weekend, I was flipping out, laying in my bed in the mornings, because it sounded like there was a man talking with the kids downstairs (and Philip was sleeping beside me). It is just crazy!
navygreen: (Music)
First off, my heart is swelling! Look at my sweet boy, bedecked in a "marching uniform," and ready to perform in his very first parade:

A.J. ready to march in his first parade.


Philip and I were both band geeks, and the band hall was probably my most favorite place to "hang" at school. Over the years, I taught flute lessons, and I always worked hard to stay first chair. I also twirled batons, flags, and guns in marching band, and was section leader to boot.

My school years' heart resides with the band. Marching band, specifically, trumps even the joy I had playing in Symphonic bands.

I couldn't have been more proud this evening as A.J. marched in the Homecoming parade for Minot High School downtown. We were all there, and we were supporting!

More pictures! )
navygreen: (Boys: hug)
Well, I've got a yummy plateful of fresh Snickerdoodles in front of me, so I figure I can make a post now. *wink*

Jack began his indoor soccer league last Tuesday night. It runs for 13 weeks, and he has practice and/or games on Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Youth Center. The center here is amazing, by the way - voted 'Best in the Air Force,' and it is the largest in the Air Force, too. It is just insane how many activities are going on each and every time we walk in the doors. I swear, the very first time, the boys' heads were absolutely spinning, trying to take it all in.

But back to soccer! His team is made up of 7 & 8-year-olds, and though it is mostly boys, there are at least three girls on the team, too. On the first night of practice, the coach scrimmaged the team for the entire hour, getting a feel for what the kids could do. Jack played goalie for over half of that time, and he rocked it. Philip and I just were amazed at how much his skills have improved in the last year, and it is evident that Jack has really worked hard. I also think it was extremely helpful that his last league team had six players and two coaches. With a ratio of players to coaches of 3:1, the kids got oodles of personalized coaching instruction, and that had been wonderful.

He was catching high balls in picture-worthy "leaps" at the goal, and he was rolling like a pin to block the fast-moving floor shots. He was on fire! In the second half, he was dribbling through the players in a way we've never seen - we couldn't say enough good things! He had so much fun, and each day he tells me how he can't wait for the next Tuesday or Thursday (whichever is closest) for practice again. I am SO happy that he is loving this sport more and more each year!

*runs to pull the next batch of cookies from the oven*

The Friday before last, A.J. had mentioned to us over dinner something about his school having a Geography Bee. I'd never heard of such a thing, so I questioned him and learned it to be very similar to the Spelling Bees I was familiar with from my own school days. He said that he'd need to stay after school for the Bee, and that he, "won't ride the bus home that day, Mom. You'll have to come and pick me up later." I asked if we could attend the event, and he said he thought so.

We planned to do just that. I was expecting it to be the entire sixth grade competing, and I imagined it would take a while, too.

Last Tuesday morning, I received a call from A.J.'s teacher, Mrs. Kreutzbender, and she wanted to give me the details on the Bee. She explained that the Bee would begin at 3pm, so we would need to be there before school let out (the normal school day ends at 3:15). She also told me how very proud she was that A.J. had managed to take the top spot in his class after only eleven days in the new school, and that he would be one of ten students competing from the entire school.

Wow! I didn't realize he had earned SUCH an honor! When he had mentioned it to us, he hadn't made it sound like he had already competed to get to a certain level, and he certainly didn't mention that he was one of ten. Amazing!

We arrived at the school on Wednesday afternoon about ten minutes before the Bee was to start. I asked in the office for Jack to be released from class a bit early so he could watch A.J. as well. The kids were seated at the far end of the library, two to a table, and the parents were to sit/stand at the other end. As such, we could barely see A.J. in the farthest table.

A.J. during his school's Geography Bee.


The kids were so nervous. After asking the first two questions without a single response from any child, the librarian stopped the competition and made everyone take a few deep breaths. It was still very intense, and you could see it on the kids' faces. In the first round, each child was asked an individual question. They could answer the question from another kid if that person had already guessed incorrectly, but they still didn't receive any credit for it. A.J. missed his own question, but he correctly answered the questions of two other children. In the second round, the kids had to write down the answer on their paper with a giant marker. A.J. wrote down the wrong state in that round.

The Bee went very quickly. Once a child had two misses, they were excused from the remainder of the Bee. At the end of the second round, seven kids were dismissed, including A.J. At the end of the verbal third round, two more children were dismissed, and the winner declared. I don't remember her name, but she was a girl from the other sixth grade classroom.

We were still so very proud. A.J.'s teacher arrived in time for the third round (school had just let out), and she gave him a big pat on the back and congratulations for making it this far. The librarian said that there were small tokens for each child competing, but that there was a shipping snafu - they hadn't arrived at the school in time. A.J. will be bringing that home later.

*more cookie-ing*

I think all the recipients of last week's mega-mailing have received their goodies/gifts. I've not yet heard from my Grandpa, but he's not really a phone guy, and he doesn't have a computer, either. I still have two boxes left to mail, but I've been sitting on them for a while. One is ready, one is not - but going to the post office on base is just a drain. The one in town, however, is huge and efficient. Also, they have an adorable old-tyme post office right in the lobby - literally taken directly from the railroad tracks years and years ago. So quaint! I could have dreamt the day away just looking at it!
navygreen: (PotC: Barbossa - which way?)
We're on the home-stretch now: 530 miles down, 208 left to go. We will make it to Minot AFB tomorrow!

A la Kevin Smith, I yelled as we passed the border: "NORTH DAKOTA, I am IN YOU!"

*giggles*

Now the knowledge is out in the open, and that feels nice. Even so, it still gives me a great little thrill that we kept our moving news so locked down for six months to just a handful of special people in real life. I love that folks didn't know until I chose to let them know. For the sake of the boys and their church/school situations, it made things much simpler. Thank you, my LJ friends, for keeping mum on the subject since June - hee!

And it sounds like our friends in Nebraska have had more than a bit of snow since we left. We got some on Sunday night that put us in a tizzy over whether to leave or not... but we decided that we couldn't wait and then risk being trapped by the larger storm system due on Monday night. Apparently, we made the VERY RIGHT decision in leaving, as they have been nothing but blasted by snow since we left.

Meanwhile, I'm not a great big ol' fan of South Dakota. There was hardly any accumulation going on along the interstates, but the 3-5" of snow that was already in place was whipping across the lanes, and we felt as if we were driving in an intense fog. For most of the roads in SD, we were buzzing along at 35-40mph... in an area with a speed limit of 75mph. Philip's truck pulled the U-Haul, and he was the one equipped with our GPS, so I was lolling afterward. At one point in the afternoon, he was at 1/4 tank of gas, and I had a solid 1/2 left plus Jack and both kitties sound asleep. We made the decision for me to whip on and find a place for dinner and 'free time' for the kitties, and then it took Philip another 40 minutes or so to catch up to us.

I was super-nervous this morning when we hit the blustery roads, but by mid-afternoon, I was asking Philip to go faster. I'm more than a little proud of myself for keeping it together and pressing on. :-)

Philip just brought me a hot fudge sundae from McD's while I'm down here in the hotel lobby using the computer. Mmmmm!

My friends have more than kept me occupied with texts and Tweets. Thank you, all of you, for checking in so frequently. If nothing else, I catch up on potty breaks. ;-) Oh, and [livejournal.com profile] kerryblaze, thanks for the LJ gift, too!

[livejournal.com profile] hearts_refuge, did you get your box yet? Mailing that sucker out involved being a party to the most RIDICULOUS conversation ever. Seriously, I was shaking my head in bewilderment and looking around for a hidden camera.

[livejournal.com profile] kp_nut, I received your Christmas card in our last day's mail. Anything else should be forwarded right now, but yours came just in time. Thank you!

On a side tangent, our hotel tonight has the best showerhead ever. Goodness, it was relaxing to stand there forever after the chilly parking parade. I also love how hotels have neverending supplies of hot water. Philip jumped in with me, and then afterwards, Jack took his bath. We were dressing in our jammies and giggling, listening to Jack singing, "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" while he bubbled away in the tub.

I can't wait to download some pictures. I've not taken any of the trip, but I have several from before that I think will be keepers. We were SO PROUD of A.J. in his very first band concert last Thursday night. I was so tickled that we were able to stay until that point (the next day, Friday, was their last day of school), and that he enjoyed it so much. We sat in the second row, and I took a bunch of snaps. He is one of six clarinet players, and he clearly knew his stuff.

Even better, he surprised the heck outta me when we arrived back at the TLF that night. I had watched Mr. Holland's Opus with the boys the previous weekend, and A.J. had been particularly interested in the clarinet player's struggles (which I expected, and which is the reason I suggested the movie, besides just loving it to pieces myself). He told me he wanted to play something for me, and he pulled out his clarinet...

... and then he played THAT TUNE from the movie! He played it by ear, having guessed and practiced it by himself all week. I was ASTOUNDED! I told him he's really got a gift, and that not many folks can "hear" notes like that, and especially not just three months after beginning to play an instrument. He just grinned and played it over and over, working on figuring out the next note as he went. Wow!

I should probably get moving here. No one's waiting on the computer, but I would like to get a long, lazy sleep in, and that means I should start snoozing soon. 'Night, all!
navygreen: (A.J.)
Philip and I were both "band geeks" in school, taking it all the way through graduation, and even taking multiple classes. I was always first chair and section leader for my flute section, playing all the solos and piccolo parts, and I took three different band classes during my senior year. I even taught lessons a couple years. Philip was a percussionist, and took two classes his senior year as well. We practically lived in the band hall - in fact, that's where we met our freshman year!

Last Tuesday, we attended a beginning band class orientation for A.J.'s grade. He's been excited about this for most of the summer, and we are definitely encouraging his enthusiasm. The students were asked to pick list three instruments they were most interested in, and then the band teacher would test them on all mouthpieces, consider their favorites, and send home a recommendation. The recommendation would be based on the strengths of the student, as well as the needs of the forming band class.

A.J.'s picks, in this order: 1) clarinet, 2) trombone, and 3) flute.

Now, my mama heart began flip-flopping at seeing his listed choices two weeks ago, and I wasn't sure how to handle things. You see, if he was truly interested in the clarinet or the flute, I didn't want to discourage him from choosing it. However, I didn't want to hype up either, thinking that he might be choosing the flute because he thought it would make me happy, or because we already have two of them (which wouldn't have mattered, as we'll be getting him a new instrument of his own anyhow, but he didn't know that). And the trombone? Well, Philip actually played that for a year before switching to percussion, and A.J. knew this, so I hoped that he wasn't picking it because he thought it was what his dad would want.

But... *quibbles* ... it's just how it is, but the flute/clarinet are generally perceived in school as "girly" instruments. At least, that was definitely the case in my schools in Texas, as well as our school in West Virginia - I can't be sure of anywhere else. There was one boy clarinet player I could remember, and cripes, he had so much fun made at him! My mama-bear instincts put up a guard the moment I saw "clarinet" on his paper.

Yes, I know that some of the world's most accomplished clarinet/flute players are men. I do. It has always irked me, as a flautist, that male players have so much more ease in playing, just by having longer fingers, and I'm sure the case is the same for clarinet players. But I also imagine that those same male players have suffered much ribbing, especially in their earlier years. And I was so nervous of how A.J. would handle the negative attention, should it occur.

At his orientation, he really perked up at seeing the baritone. He had never heard of, nor seen one, and he thought it was so much more interesting than the tuba. He still thought the trombone was pretty slick, and I was inwardly praying, "Go brass!" Not that playing a brass instrument is any easier, but because I know that A.J. doesn't have a tendency to let jokes "roll off his back," and I was so worried. While A.J. was checking out something else, Philip and I briefly discussed our concerns with his band teacher, and then left, hoping for... well, we weren't sure, really.

Over the next few class days, the band teacher tested all of the students. Today, she sent home recommendations, and we are now to begin shopping for an instrument. On A.J.'s paper?

"CLARINET"

I have been enthusiastic for him, and he is just elated to have received a recommendation for, "my first choice, Mom!" Oh, but my tummy is doing cartwheels, and my heart prays that he won't have additional challenges because of his instrument choice, but that if he does, he grows to effectively handle them. Music has been such an important part of my life, and playing an instrument has been a great joy...

I wish for that for my sweet A.J. in his new adventure.
navygreen: (A.J.)
A.J.'s new look


OMG, he's SO excited about these! Then again, I can't blame him, because I remember myself what it was like the first time I put on glasses and could see CLEARLY again!

Two more. )

I'm glad he likes them. It makes the transition so much easier. He picked out a special case, and he's happy to have them. It's only been an hour, and he keeps running up to say, "Mom! Guess what I can see from here now! And from here! Oh, and I can read this from all the way over here now!"
navygreen: (School)
A couple weeks ago was the school year's last 'Breakfast & A Book' morning, that I attended. The busy school activities kicked into HIGH gear this week, however, and there seemed to be something every day!

On Tuesday, I went to school early in the morning again for 'Muffins with Mom.' A.J. and I chose banana nut muffins, while Jack had a chocolate chocolate chip muffin. This event was well-attended, and there were probably 30-some mothers there with their children. In fact, the library was so packed that they boys and I chose a place on the carpet in a corner of the book aisles. We ate our muffins, drank our juice, and then browsed the Book Fair set-up. It was a nice time, and I was glad to see so much participation this time.

On Wednesday, Philip and I had both taken the day off from work, and I made sack lunches for the entire family. We carted the lunches up to the school at noon, and we began eating with Jack's classroom. Ten minutes later, A.J.'s class came down for lunch, and instead of sitting with the 5th graders, he joined us at the 1st grade tables (I asked his teacher for permission, and she had said it was fine). The four of us jabbered on, and Jack's classmates asked us lots of questions. I packed identical lunches for Philip and myself as I normally do for the boys on cold lunch days, and I learned that it's WAY TOO MUCH FOOD! (A sandwich, chips, fruit cup, pudding cup, milk, and a juice box.) I was *so* stuffed when I finished everything! The boys' lunchtimes are 40 minutes long, and they are supposed to eat for 20 minutes, and then finish with recess for 20 minutes. Because we were there, both of the boys stayed longer and spent the extra time with us. It was a really pleasant time, and I'm glad we both got to attend together. There were five or six other parents around, but most of the cafeteria kids seemed shocked that BOTH of A.J. and Jack's parents were there! :-)

Wednesday afternoon, we attended parent-teacher conferences. Philip went to A.J.'s, and I headed to Jack's. Both of the boys are doing so well, and it's always fun to hear good stuff about your kids, right? Jack's teacher was just glowing about his creative writing, as well as her HAL recommendation for him. Since third grade, A.J. has been in the HAL program (High Ability Learner), so we're familiar with those standards and weren't surprised. It's awesome news for Jack! I could go into a bit more detail about Jack's conference, but it doesn't seem quite fair... as Philip wasn't quite as prolific about the nitty-gritty details of A.J.'s conference. ;-)

On Thursday morning, Philip took the boys to school early again, this time for 'Donuts with Dad.' He said there were probably 15 fathers there, and that he had a good time. He took along books, and they were able to read just a bit before the bell.

Thursday evening, we ate dinner a bit earlier than usual, and then skidded out the door to head to the skating rink. We arrived about half an hour late for the 'Pirate Skate,' but we got right into the action. Students were encouraged to come in pirate garb, so Jack wore his well-used, homemade pirate costume once more. (I made him leave the sword at home, as well as his holster. I also made him drop his eye patch to just around his neck each time he entered the skating floor. I figured he needed all the depth perception he could get!) Jack really took to the rink this time, and by the end of the evening (only 1.5 hours later), he was skating with good speed in the center of the track (as opposed to having a death-grip on the wall). He was probably falling once in each lap, but he'd just pop right back up every time. A.J. improved his skill as well, gaining more speed, but still clinging anxiously to the side. Philip and I made a promise to ourselves to bring the boys skating more often - after all, how else will they learn the skill and become better if we keep bringing them so sporadically?

Close to the end of the night, the rink did some drawings for prizes. I heard them call out, "Jack!" and yelped in excitement while skating, but then the DJ finished, "From the 2nd grade." Well, poop. After calling out three more winners, however, the last name rung out, "Jack! From the 1st grade!" And I whooped again, clapped and cheered as our Jack made his way to the music stand. His prize included a lollipop, a free drink coupon, and a free skate pass - neat! Once he claimed his prize, he headed back out on the floor. While Philip, A.J. and I were still standing at the music stand, the DJ yelled out to announce a Grand Prize drawing... and it was, "A.J.! From the 5th grade!" And we were ecstatic again! A.J. was right under the guy's nose as he called out his name over the loudspeakers, and then he went to the front desk to claim his prize: a GIANT bag of candy, and a free skate pass, too.

Sweet! Philip and I quickly giggled about really having no excuse not to bring them skating again now - they both had won free passes, even! :-)

And Friday? No school - yay!

Also, we received a note home at the beginning of the month that a piece of Jack's artwork had been chosen to hang in the Lied Activity Center here in Bellevue. Each year, the local schools create a mural of student artwork, and it was an honor for one of his pieces to be chosen to hang proudly. Jack has played in his second year of the Lied's indoor soccer league, and after his game one morning, we strolled upstairs to try and find his piece.

Jack with his artwork
Jack with his artwork.


Two more pics. )

School-wise, this week should be pretty quiet. Home-wise? This week is gonna FLY! :-)
navygreen: (A.J.)
A.J. has been a part of the school's HAL (High Ability Learner) program since the third grade, and as such, he often has extra projects that he is working on - some at school, and some at home. Here's some information on a recent project he completed:

HAL students increased their knowledge and understanding of the development of written works. The students studied the Six Trait Writing Model which covers Ideas, Organization, Voice, Sentence Fluency, Word Choice, and Conventions. Special focus was placed on Ideas and Word Choice during this unit. They used these skills to create original works of writing.

The main project for this unit involved creating a PhotoStory 3 project on the computer. Students picked a topic and photographs to accompany their topic. They wrote narration to go with each photo, focusing on creative word choice.


To see A.J.'s project, following these instructions:

- Go to http://www.bellevuepublicschools.org
- Under the curriculum tab, click on the word "HAL"
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Ediger's Site"
- Click on "Fort Crook"
- On the left-hand side of the page, click on "Student Work"
- Click on "5th grade Photostory Projects"
- Click "AJ"

If you watch it, let me know! :-)
navygreen: (A.J.)
Yes, THAT movie.

This letter arrived in the mail this week, addressed to the parents of A.J.:
Dear Parents,

In accordance with the life education material presented in our health curriculum, your child will be shown a video about adolescent changes on the date indicated below (March 10th). Boys and girls will be separated and shown the movie pertaining to their gender. Our school nurse, Mrs. H (for the girls) and Mr. W (for the boys), will be conducting a discussion following the video. Students will have an opportunity to ask questions at that time.

Sincerely,
Principal


*groan*

THAT video. I remember being shown that video in the fourth grade, and though I'm sure it's a different one by now, it was cheesy, horribly acted and sooooo embarrassing back then. I hate that A.J. will have to go through such an uncomfortable experience, while - at the same time - I cannot believe that he is possibly even old enough to be doing this!

Philip came in and read the note over my shoulder when we first received it, and he just began shaking his head and saying, "Wow." He then said, "How is A.J. old enough for this? Gosh, how are we so old that this is already happening?"

Dude, I know. UGH.

A decade.

Aug. 23rd, 2008 11:58 pm
navygreen: (A.J.)
Ten years ago today, the 23rd of August, I gave birth to my first baby.

It is a happy milestone, but mentally, I'm also really struggling with this one. Why? Ten is just a number - like any other.

Today, as the clock rolled over to 11:19, I told A.J. this: "You are exactly ten years old now. It is now 12:19pm in West Virginia, so you are officially ten." I teared up just saying it, but he thought it was pretty cool.

But.

I had a baby TEN. YEARS. AGO.

It's just... wild.
navygreen: (Jack: swimming)
I've posted about it in passing a handful of times, but I've never made a post specifically for swim lessons. It's among those things I'd been "meaning to" for so, so long, but now I'll just pop in a bit of backstory as relevant to the picture post that I'm wanting to make.

The boys began taking swim lessons over a year ago - on May 1, 2007, in fact. As with every new 'first,' I did take along my camera for the event, and I took over 200 pictures that evening during their first lessons. (Hey, I had to document it well, as I needed to have lots of photographic evidence to email to Philip in Iraq, right?) I had tried to sign them up in March, but by the time I arrived at the Lied Center, all the spots were taken. The same thing happened to me in April, even though I went hours earlier on the special "sign-up day." Finally in May, I was at the Center right when the doors opened, and I secured them spots.

I had asked a few questions about level assignment when I was registering them, but the head swim instructor (Leslie) was not there, and the man who answered my questions wasn't really sure of anything specific. I told him the skills that each of the boys had, and he placed them in levels. As it turned out on the day of their first lesson, both boys were incorrectly placed.

I had enrolled Jack in the Preschool level because, well, he *was* in Preschool in May 2007. Not only that, but he'd never had any swim education before. A.J. had a bit over the summer of 2006, as Philip and I had made concerted efforts to teach him certain things, and so he began in Level 2. By the end of the first lesson, however, Jack was blowing his peers out of the water (no, not literally!), and so he was moved up into Level 1.

And they have made slow, steady progress. During the summer, they had swim lessons two nights as week, and on other days, I took them to the pool 2-3x/week as well. We had a LOT of swimming last year! During those heavily-watered months, the boys made better progress in lessons, having more of an opportunity to practice their skills. Once the school year began in August, we decided to keep them in swim lessons all year. We figured that it would be easier to keep their skills up to par (if they lapsed until summer again this year, they'd probably forget quite a bit), and they would have the opportunity to advance a bit more. During those school months, however, the Lied Center drops their lessons from twice a week down to just once - on Saturday mornings for 30 minutes.

So, after nearly 14 months of swim lessons, Jack and A.J. are now in Levels 3 and 4, respectively. We anticipate Jack passing Level 3 at the end of this month, as he passed his "mock test" on the second-to-last lesson last month, but then decided to goof around during the real test. *shakes head* He was pretty disappointed to learn his results, and I think he learned a valuable lesson in that. We're not sure yet whether A.J. will advance to Level 5 after this month, or whether he'll need another round still. Either way, he absolutely adores swimming lessons, and we're happy that he does.

Whereas Jack has currently picked soccer as his sport of choice, A.J. has his eyes set on swimming. We've promised him that once he finishes all six levels offered at the Lied Center, we will then enroll him in the Bellevue Swim Club for competitive swimming. He is so stoked for that day to come!

And it has been so very nice this year to know that the boys are fully independent in the water. Last summer, it was tough on me all the many times I took them swimming: Jack wasn't quite good enough to swim unsupervised by me (even with lifeguards all around), which meant that I couldn't really enjoy seeing A.J. swim on his own. Not only that, but our favorite pool has two special waterslides, and Jack was 1/2" too short to ride them on his own. Of course, the waterslides were his favorite part, and because I had to ride with him each and every time (picture about 20 times each swimming day!), I missed so much of what A.J. was doing - I couldn't see *him* go down the slides, I only caught a handful of his jumps from the diving boards (and it was his first summer to attempt the high-dive, too!), and I couldn't really see his "free play" in the shallower ends. And because Philip was deployed, there really was only me most of the time, and I just don't split well enough in two. *sigh*

Not this year, however. For one thing, Philip and I can both be there. For another, the boys are BOTH now fully independent in the water. By the end of Level 2 in swim lessons, children have mastered the concepts of the basic freestyle. A.J. has spent the last two levels working on different strokes and technique perfection, and Jack has done the same and is now almost two levels past that as well. While being able to swim proficiently allows you access to the diving boards, there is still a height requirement for the waterslides. Thankfully, Jack has grown almost 1-1/2" since last summer, so he now can do that on his own as well!

We first went to the pool this past Tuesday night. Jack was a belly full of butterflies as he approached the height-checking pole, but when it became clear that he was plenty tall enough, you could see his HUGE grin from a hundred feet away, I'll bet! He was so proud to sport the new "adult" band on his wrist that we now all get to wear. :-)

And, being that it was a 'first' occasion, I had my camera in tow. I took tons of pictures, including those of Jack's first solo slides, his first jumps off the high-dive, and also playing in the water. I was so proud of him. And the difference is so evident in A.J.'s skill once he's set free in loose waters (the lessons are very controlled, so it's hard to get a good idea of what your child can *really* do) - he's phenomenal! His strokes are spot-on, and it was so amazing to watch him beeline across the pool!

But for now, I'll shut up about the lessons and the swimming and leave you with several pictures. :-)

He has another go on the Curvy slide
Jack at the very end of the 'Curvy Slide.'


And many more! )
navygreen: ('Affairs:' recap)
On Thursday afternoon, I sped through my tasks so I could leave work a bit early. I changed clothes there, then headed up to the boys' school for A.J.'s recorder concert. It was an hour-long program, and he did very well playing several tunes on his recorder. I was proud. :-)

Yesterday, Friday afternoon, I again left work a bit early, changing clothes as well. I then sped to the boys' school once more, this time for Jack's kindergarten celebration concert. Yesterday was also 'Rainbow Day' for school spirit, and the kindergarteners had been assigned to wear red (A.J.'s fourth grade class was wearing green.) Jack sang his songs and did the hand-motioning, all the while not falling off the top tier of the stadium rows. He had another speaking part, too! (I didn't know that previously, but I stood up quickly and got a good picture of him during it.) After his program, he munched on some sweets at a cookie reception, and then we grabbed A.J. to leave school about fifteen minutes early.

Then last night was 'Family Fun Night' at the Lied Activity Center. We had hotdogs, chips and soda, and the boys went swimming. (As an aside, it is SO nice now that, after being in swim lessons for a year - and still continuing them - that the boys can easily swim on their own. Not just tread water, but officially SWIM. Philip and I don't have to get in the water, and instead, can watch from the sidelines for now. ROCK.) Jack waited in line for minutes on end to meet with a clown, and he was then rewarded with a balloon bow-and-arrow (orange, of course). A.J. left the pool to join a rowdy game of dodgeball, and - surprise! His team won, though it was a long, hard battle. He was breathless and sweaty, but just grinning as we watched the end of the game.

Everyone went to bed early last night and slept WELL. I don't even remember waking once!

Today, the boys and I shuttled off to the commissary to pick up a few sundry items (stopping on the way to deliver a special card). We grabbed a bite to eat at the BX, then came home quickly to drop off our goods. It was colder and wetter than anticipated, so we grabbed jackets before then heading back out, this time to the Rose Theater to catch a performance of "Horrible Harry." We all really enjoyed the quirky, fun play, and then we drove out to ColdStone Creamery for a special snack afterwards.

Now we're back home, and we've got church in an hour. The rain has been coming down gently for a few hours now, and I can't wait to get back in from church, light some candles and heat up a few pizzas for dinner. It'll be a cozy night in after the craziness of the last several days!
navygreen: (A.J.)
A.J. is practicing his recorder right now. His concert is coming up, and he's been playing it at home more frequently. Without any prompting, he's practicing on a gorgeous weekend day - I'm amazed.

I just heard him remark in the other room, "Boy, this piece has a lot of G's!" (He's playing Au Clair de la Lune.)

The flutist in me is absolutely chuffed. :-D
navygreen: (A.J.)
I remember posting about Jack's award back in another post, but I hadn't yet mentioned that, the following week, A.J. also won the Falcon Gram Award for his classroom.

And Jack was just as excited for him as he had been when Jack won the award! Yay!


A.J.'s Falcon Gram Award.


One more. )
navygreen: (Boys: fall guys)
Each of the boys has had a special moment in the past week. I'm so very proud of them!

On Friday, Jack won the 'Falcon Gram Award' for his class! The 'Falcon Gram' program works like this: any student can win a 'Falcon Gram' at any time throughout the week. Things such as cleaning up a mess you didn't make, helping the teacher with a task, excelling at a particular assignment, etc. - all examples. Jack has won several 'Grams' now since school started, and he's been tickled about each one. His music teacher even stopped by Runza one day to tell me how wonderful Jack always is in her class! *beams*

Each student that wins a 'Falcon Gram' then turns the slip over to their teacher, and they go into a large bowl. On Fridays, the teacher draws one 'Gram' out of the bowl, and that child is the 'Falcon Gram Award' winner for the week. The teacher turns the name over to the principal, and the names are read over the loud-speakers at the end of the school day. The students then report to the principal's office for a special treat. They also are pinned with a special award button. Every two weeks, the recipients' names are printed in the 'Falcon Flyer' newsletter and distributed home to parents. So exciting!

On Friday afternoon, the boys came FLYING out of the school and running to the car. BOTH of them were shouting about Jack's win! Jack was ecstatic and smartly sporting his award button, and A.J. was equally as proud, having heard the announcement and Jack's name over the loud-speakers while he was in his HAL session ('High Ability Learner,' aka. 'Gifted & Talented'). They were both just bubbling over with excitement. I can't wait until next week to save the 'Falcon Flyer' newsletter. :-)


Jack's award button.


Two more pics. )

And on Monday, A.J. had a special achievement as well. A couple of weeks before, he'd brought home a note inviting students to perform in sign language the Pledge of Allegiance at the October school board meeting. I signed the form, he returned it, and we hadn't thought much more about it until the night of the event.

I took the boys to the Bellevue Welcome Center for the meeting, and we arrived a few minutes early so A.J. could find his place. We located his teacher, Ms. Johnson, and I found a place to sit and get a few pictures. We were told we could leave the meeting as soon as the students were finished with their presentation, and luckily, the Pledge was the first thing. A.J. did well in signing, and it looked like he and his classmates were having fun. Afterwards, the president of the school board stood up to make an announcement.

As school board members, they make 'rounds' in the schools, dropping in and visiting at all different times. And all Bellevue Public schools say the Pledge each morning, but he storied that his team had been surprised to happen upon Ms. Johnson's class one morning and see the students signing as well as speaking. Ms. Johnson explained that she had begun teaching her class to sign the first day of school, citing the importance of making sure that even people who are hearing-impaired had the chance to "hear" the Pledge. The school board invited Ms. Johnson's class to perform at their next meeting, but they had limited space available (it was a very small 'stage,' in fact).

So before he performed, I'd gone under the assumption that the entire fourth grade (two classes) had been invited to sign the Pledge for the meeting. After the president's announcement, I realized it was only Ms. Johnson's class that had received the invitation - that was pretty special. Another member of the committee then stood up and presented each child with a framed certificate, and the audience clapped. The kids just beamed! (As did the parents!)

After A.J. and his classmates had filed out of the board meeting, I snagged Ms. Johnson to tell her thank you for such a neat event, as well as compliment her on a unique teaching idea. I told her that it was just too bad that so few students turned out for the experience, and as A.J. approached us, she said, "Oh, A.J. didn't tell you? They only gave me permission to bring eight students, so I picked my very best signers. This was very special!" She ruffled his hair as she said this, and he grinned from ear-to-ear!

Wow! No, A.J. had never mentioned that only a select few students had been invited (then again, I guess I hadn't asked). But it was such a neat honor for him! And receiving the certificate was a great surprise - even Ms. Johnson had no idea the school board was going to do that!


A.J.'s certificate.


Six more pictures. )
navygreen: (Candle)
It's "almost" time. The boys have been telling anyone who asks their age that they are "almost": the answers differ just a tiny bit, of course, as Jack is "almost six," and A.J. is "almost nine." One month ago, they were both still telling the "-and-three-quarters" numbers to folks.

There's nothing like the anticipation of a birthday. I do the same thing myself, though I corral my enthusiasm to only include 1/2-birthdays. But I could never, ever say the new age unless it were really true - that's still a lie, in my opinion. Not only that, but it robs a bit of the fun from the actual birthday later on. So we'll enjoy the "almosts" around here for a bit longer, and then I'll be just as happy as my boys on their special day, changing my userinfo accordingly to reflect the new age.

Only five more days until Jack's birthday, and just nineteen days until A.J.'s big day. I see lots of cake in our future. ;-)
navygreen: (HP: Harry - OotP)
The sleepover has been fun for A.J. At 11:45pm last night, I finally had to open A.J.'s door and leave it that way for him and Parker to stop giggling and just go to sleep, and then both of them were back up at 6:25am. I suspect A.J. will be a TIRED monkey later on this evening.

It's now almost 11am, and I think it's about time to clean up and send Parker home. We're running out to Nebraska Furniture Mart today for a "bunky" board for A.J.'s daybed, and then I want to head to Hobby Lobby for more beautiful threads. I've got another project stewing, and I can't wait to start on it. (Of course, I have to finish the beautiful cross I started two nights ago first...) And if we're heading out to Hobby Lobby, we might as well swing by Cold Stone for a milkshake or three. *wink*

Oh, and I've got to drop off a CD of pictures from the Baby Bug shower, too.

And I really want to begin making bookmarks for profit, so I'll put up a post soon about that, too. [livejournal.com profile] ascendinginto, you've got dibs. :-)
navygreen: (A.J.)
A.J. asked about a week and a half ago to have his friend Parker over for a sleepover (school was out by then). We had friends arriving the next day, so I told him we'd have to hold off until this Friday instead. And now it's today, and he's already smack into the middle of hosting his first sleepover. We'll be having pizza in a little bit. ;-)

He also lost his first molar on Wednesday. He's lost several teeth by now, but this was his first molar to come out. He was literally mid-sentence talking to me, when suddenly his speaking turned into a garble. Then he spit out a tooth and held it up, "Mom! My tooth just fell out!" Sure enough, it literally fell out - no blood or anything. Now that's my favorite way to lose a tooth - heehee.

So he received a couple dollars from the Tooth Fairy. And then today is Allowance Day, so now he really feels like he's rolling in the dough.

Oh, to be that young. :-)

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