Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kindergarten Graduate

My little boy is growing up! Benjamin just finished his last day of kindergarten today, and is looking forward to first grade. He's already met his new teacher, and knows a few friends who will also be in his class. He had a fun year.
 For the last day, the elementary school hosted a giant picnic for all the families to join. We brought our blanket and some lunch and had a great time with everyone.
 Here's his class. I think out of about 20 kids, only 5 were girls. Mrs. Lillick was really great with them!
The boys all huddled together for a spontaneous group hug.
 After the picnic, Peter, Nora and I headed home for naps, then waited for Benjamin to come home on the bus. Don't these two look more and more like twins?
Similar to his confident, no-looking-back stride onto the bus at the beginning of the year, he hopped off today, totally ready for summer. I'm not so sure I'm ready for all that summer brings, but I'm getting there. I saw this DIY "summer camp" on Pinterest, and think it might be just what we need! A little structure, some fun, some learning. It seems a little like home schooling (which generally intimidates me), but just for the summer. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The End of the Beginning

 Peter just finished up his first year of preschool. It's amazing to me how fast time flies! Since he's an October birthday, he'll have two more years of preschool before he starts kindergarten, but I'm still glad we had him go this year.
 The end of the year celebration is always at the Bailey's pool in their backyard. The Baileys are a family in our ward whose children are mostly grown. Sister Bailey brings in a professional Montessori teacher and keeps a portion of her home permanently set up as a classroom. She does this as a service, so the small monthly fee we pay goes directly to the teacher. It may not be the closest preschool to us, but there really are no comparisons as far as I'm concerned.
 Peter with his teacher, Mrs. Brown, and Sister Bailey. We love them!
Peter's come a long way this year. He's sounding out words with ease, and his writing has significantly improved. He's made friends, and has developed confidence in his abilities. He's able to entertain himself, "use his words," and stay on task. According to all of his primary teachers and leaders at church, he's the best behaved Sunbeam in his class, which I'm sure has lots more to do with his preschool than with me. I'm sure proud of my Peter, and feel blessed to have such a great preschool for him. We'll miss it these next few months!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bunny Hutches

Baby bunny season is back! We have two little hutches in our yard, which Paul made sure to carefully mow around. Here's one of the mamas. Just after she removes the wadded ball of dried grass from the hole, she nurses the babies inside (that's what she's doing here, even though it just looks like she's resting). It's really sweet to watch. I love the bunnies in our neighborhood because they're 100% maintenance free. I don't know that we'll ever get our kids pets...Paul and I have very strong differences of opinion about whether dogs or cats are best. Let's just say we both had pretty extraordinary pets growing up, neither of which could ever be replicated.
The other day, the kids were making bunny hutches in the basement and wanted to show me. They also wanted to sleep in their hutches, which we let them do.
The kids have recently taken to the basement a lot more, and it's been wonderful! For a while, I was the one encouraging them, turning on lights before they'd go down, staying down there with them, etc. I think the breakthrough may have come when I let go of my hyper-organizing tendencies and let them really own the place. They're in charge of keeping it clean, and I (for the most part) stay out of it. The toys may not be in all the "right" boxes anymore, but at least they play with them! They must really love this new freedom.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Grandma and Grandpa Time

Well we feel spoiled! We got to have Paul's Mom here just last month, then this week my Mom and Dad came to stay for several days. We had such a wonderful time together, and packed a lot in! The first day was spent warming up to each other, although that didn't take long...
We all went to Benjamin's baseball game together...

 ...and it was a late night for some. Luckily, Peter had Grandma there to catch him before he nodded off on the bleachers.
 Benjamin loved playing catcher. The next day, Grandpa got to join me as a volunteer in Benjamin's class. We had a great time!
We tackled a few projects around the house, like the bathroom sink that still hasn't been reinstalled since the new basement floor went in. My Mom also donned her wonder-woman cape and PAINTED MY KITCHEN. I thought that was pretty heroic of her! It's now a nice soothing bluish-gray, instead of the egg yolk yellow it's been since before we moved in almost five years ago. I love it!
The boys got to read books with Grandma, who also happens to be a super story teller. Speaking of stories, we just so happened to bump into a certain sister missionary at the temple one night. I may or may not have been responsible for this "chance" meeting (although we made sure to get permission first!). :)
We played tourists a little with Grandma and Grandpa and visited the Cohokia Mounds.
Somehow in living here all this time, we've never been up to the top of the arch. My Mom and Dad decided to fix that too.

We climbed aboard the wonka-vator, which was really just a futuristic looking pod that creaked and bumped all the way up and around to the top, making us all a little nervous! You could watch out the little door at the interior of the arch on the way up.
Once at the top, we hung out in a little airport terminal-looking room, and looked out the windows. Benjamin immediately found the Cardinal's Stadium.
Peter looked out the other direction and spotted boats along the Mississippi...
...and of course got silly with Grandpa.
It was very cool being way up there!

Later that evening, we headed over to our city's annual vehicle fair, which was slightly underwhelming compared to previous years. Still fun, but hardly the same impressive array of all things mobile.
Nora especially loved the tractors.
What is a visit to St. Louis without a trip to the Science Center? Pretty boring, if you ask my kids. That was their one request to do with Grandma and Grandpa while they were in town. My Dad, who is recovering from knee surgery, sucked in his pride a little and got a wheel chair for this particular outing. The kids certainly didn't mind!
 Nora was coding in binary to get the miniature train to run. :)
After the Science Center, Grandma and Grandpa treated us to lunch at a favorite place of ours that's down town. We watched the root beer bottling machine while we waited. YUM.
The last day was Sunday, so we took them to church with us. My Mom even joined me in the nursery for the last hour to get a taste of what I do.
Benjamin and Grandpa really bonded on this trip. It was sweet to see that relationship strengthen.
We all enjoyed having them, and were sad to see them go. Benjamin's first words when they left for the airport were "I wish Grandma and Grandpa could be my parents and that I could keep my toys and bunk beds and basement." Yeah, that would be pretty awesome!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Kansas City Temple

 Ever since we passed the new Kansas City Temple during our drive out to Utah last summer, we knew we wanted to go back to really see it. The open house was all last month, so we decided to make a little overnight trip of it. We found a hotel nearby with a kid-friendly pool...
 ...and played all afternoon in it to recover from the four hour drive. Unfortunately, Benjamin was just a few inches too short to ride the giant three-story slide, but there was a small kiddie one that they all enjoyed.
 Nora took a little warming up to the water, but by the time we were leaving, she was the hardest to drag out.
 Peter was having a blast, and would not hold still for any pictures.
After we got our wiggles out in the pool, we got dressed and headed over to Liberty Jail. It was a really special place, and I think the kids learned a lot.
 The camera was in the car for some reason, so these phone pictures were all we had.
 Knowing what the harshest winters here are like, it was almost unbearable to imagine what it must have been like for Joseph Smith and the others who were imprisoned here. That was a really trying time in our Church's history.
 After the Liberty Jail tour, we had dinner at the small-town Mexican joint. It was SOOOO good. I miss real Mexican food.
The next morning, we left the hotel and went to the temple. The kids weren't too jazzed about standing in line...
 but I think they really liked it once we got inside.
 I had a conversation about the artwork and symbols used throughout this temple with a man who I think must have been heavily involved in all of that. He pointed out to me that the olive branch motif was everywhere- etched on every window, on all the carpets, on many of the fabrics, and on the stair railings. Paul noted that among the many meanings of the olive branch, perhaps one possible meaning here was "extending an olive branch" to the people of western Missouri, who just four decades ago- by law- could shoot a Mormon. Given the peaceful feeling that was there, I think that statement was probably accurate.
By the end of the temple tour, the kids were done, so we just got back in the car and headed home. It was a short trip, but so worth it. I'm really glad we could go!