Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to School

The kids started school a few weeks ago- on August 12. Before that, we had gone to take a tour with the principal, met with the counselor on a different day, had "popsicles with the principal" on the playground, had Peter's kindergarten teacher over to our house, and had cookies with kindergarteners on the playground, attended another kindergarten orientation (about bus safety), and went to "meet the teacher." A LOT of Back to School stuff- and much more than I would typically do, but we needed it this year. This summer got to be pretty lonely when things settled here with no friends around to play with. 
Benjamin is in third grade this year! He had no fears about starting as the new kid, and just charged onto that bus with the same enthusiasm as he always has. His teacher is Mrs. Huffer, and she seems nice so far. After all that back to school stuff, it's amazing I only met her once, and only very briefly. As far as I can tell, he fits right in. I guess I shouldn't be surprised about that. I think boys are less cliquish in general. Big sigh of relief here!
 Peter was so ready to start. He left his backpack at the school the previous day while at "meet the teacher," but he wasn't even rattled a bit by having to use a silly little drawstring bag on his first day. The night before, he had carefully laid out his chosen outfit across his rug so he could be all ready. Then he just marched on the bus, not even looking back, and came home happy. He's been like that every day since too! His teacher is Mrs. Jacobs, and she is just as sweet and caring as they come. I feel like I should be mourning for the baby who is gone, and my big boy who has taken his place and is leaving me every day, but he's been ready for a while. And I think I've had enough time to adjust to that.
 Our bus stop is just on the corner next to our house, and there are four other kids there! We had a family move in right next door to us with two little girls Benjamin and Peter's ages, and they've become best buds. Every day after school, they're just itching to get back out and play with their friends. I've really enjoyed getting to know the other moms at the bus stop too- both of them stay-at-home-moms. We never had that in our old neighborhood, so this feels like a luxury to me!
 So now it's just us ladies at home every day. Nora is ready to start Joy School this week. She is having fun with Lydia, but I can tell she needs a little more interaction with friends her own age. She really misses Peter.
I've had a few people follow up with me after my tirade about schooling vs. homeschooling. Honestly, I didn't really consider doing it this school year, although I haven't ruled it out as a possibility in the future (middle school, perhaps?). I'm glad I took the time to study up on alternatives to my children's education, and I'm especially glad to be associated with so many amazing, successful (and real) moms who do homeschool their kids. It's been an eye-opening journey for me, and it was good for me to let go of some of my own prejudices. At least for now, I feel like our kids can do a lot of good being in public school, and learning doesn't have to stop when they come home. And so far, I have only had good feelings about the new school they're at. Hooray for a new school year!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Michelle and Zak's Wedding

While Paul was still in France, I needed to find a way to get to my sister's wedding in Utah. A friend of ours graciously agreed to watch my oldest three for a day and a half so I could just take Lydia on the flight during the overlap between our trips. It was Lydia's first time flying, and she did great that first stretch!
She even slept for a good chunk of it! I was patting myself on the back for having over-packed my bag of entertainment, but it probably had more to do with the plane being nearly empty and there being lots of room to spread out.
We were there by 8:30 that morning, so we had the day to help a little with wedding preparations. I spent the morning meeting and getting to know my soon-to-be brother in law, Zak. I also got to have lunch out with my brother, Nathan- because honestly, after that entire trip last month, Cafe Rio never happened- and that needed to be remedied!
My sister Michelle requested that I make her bouquet, which was a little surprising since  a) I have zero experience with flowers or arranging them, and b) my Grandma who lives fifteen minutes away from them is a trained florist. Her mother was a florist too, so it's in her blood. Anyways, I agreed as long as I could collaborate with her, and had a marvelous afternoon doing it. She is a jack of all trades, and I love any chance I get to learn from her.
And here was our finished bouquet! Michelle and I found an inspiration image on Pinterest that we both loved, and went from there. I think it turned out perfectly for the look we wanted. 
Lydia was back at my parents house during all this, and got a few minutes in with just Grandpa.
I think they bonded. :)
The next day, we celebrated my brother Nathan's birthday. It was a fun morning with several of my siblings there.
Then we got ready for Michelle's wedding! The ceremony was perfect. I loved being there in the Salt Lake Temple, reliving some of my own memories and being a part of hers. It was nearly ten years ago that Paul and I were married there. How time flies!
Michelle and Zak looked radiant! They really do seem good together.
The kiddos did great outside the temple during the ceremony with some of my cousins. But while we were taking pictures, Lydia was hard to keep track of. There were something like 87 weddings that day, and she just had a knack for getting lost in the crowds of bridesmaids and photographers.
We were lucky to have seven of the eight siblings there together. We were only missing Rachel, who unfortunately could not get there. She was in the middle of a move with her young family - from Germany to England, and there was a problem with her visa. We missed her!
The reception turned out great. Michelle and Zak even got to spend a good chunk of the evening dancing as they had hoped.
I had a marvelous time catching up with lots of family and friends who I hadn't seen in years.
The centerpieces that I also helped plan (not assemble) turned out really pretty, although I don't have a decent picture of them. We used old vintage books, hydrangeas in wide glass bowls, candles in assorted glass jars and lace layered over linen. 
Lydia was a trooper. She had a looong day, but she made it. She even got to dance with the beautiful bride herself.
The next day was Sunday, so I got to go to church with my Mom and Dad and two of my brothers- David and Bryan. Lydia had some great bonding time with everyone, I thought. She is so cuddly and affectionate. We also had dinner with Zak's family, and they were really cool. Michelle and Zak will be living near his parents, so it was nice to get to know these people who will be so much a part of her life.
That evening, Lydia and I boarded our flight to head home. I'm sure I was a little overly confident after the first flight, but I could not have been prepared for how disastrous it was. First of all, the flight was almost completely full. I counted it a miracle that the middle seat in our row was empty, because I couldn't see any other empty seats anywhere. Unfortunately though, that one extra seat wasn't quite enough for Lydia to spread out like she likes to when she goes to sleep. She spent the first hour and a half just wiggling and thrashing and occasionally screaming- trying to get settled. When she finally did, she only spent about twenty minutes asleep before she woke up SCREAMING from the air pressure (probably coupled with teething pains in her two bottom molars) for maybe an hour. And there was nothing I could do. The lady next to us had been somewhat understanding the entire time, but I could tell she had reached the end of her limit and was crouched into fetal position, eyes closed, plugging her ears. I have never felt so helpless. It was awful. Lydia finally quieted down once we landed, and I apologized profusely to everyone. And then I just cried and cried on the way home from the airport to Paul, who I hadn't seen in over a week. It was a great reunion! ;)
So other than the flight home, it was a marvelous trip for me. I was so grateful to be there and to witness that special ceremony. Nothing quite like it. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

End of Summer

 Summer is officially over here in St. Louis. The boys (!) are in school, and it's just us girls at home now. And I'm finally catching my breath long enough to write down a little of what we've been up to.
We've been thoroughly enjoying our new house. It's been so nice to have such a big kitchen that can handle art projects and breakfast messes and everything else, especially now that it's hidden away from the front door. I think this new layout is going to relax my parenting style a lot.
We've been back to the History Museum a few times. It's funny that this is a recent discovery for us, since we've been living here for seven years now!
 Nora is holding the gun, in case you couldn't tell. ;)
 Peter got another loose tooth, and yanked it out on his own the next day. He and Benjamin have the same big open window up top now. I imagine Peter's is going to look like that for a long while, though!
 We've been taking lots of walks, mostly in hopes of meeting new friends. I think it's hard moving in the summer, because most people send their kids to camps and swimming lessons, so we rarely saw any kids just playing in their yards.
We finally got new neighbors on one side of our house with girls Benjamin and Peter's ages. They have become great friends already, and play together outside almost non-stop.
 We decided to take a quick one-day trip up to Nauvoo to see the new British Pageant. First, we went to Carthage Jail.
 We got treats at the local fudge shop.
 And we admired the beautiful Nauvoo Temple.
 Towards evening, we joined all the activities near the pageant stage, and tried out the handcarts as well as some pioneer crafts and games.
 Benjamin was just thrilled to have a group of boys to play baseball with. The pageant itself was excellent! We were all glad we went.
The next week, we had to say goodbye to Paul for a week while he went to France for a business trip. That's never fun, but we found ways to keep ourselves busy in his absence.
I (probably foolishly) took the kids to the pool on my own one evening during half-price hours. The kids had a great time, but for the majority of the time, there was at least one of the kids out of my range of vision. 
 But we all made it home together and alive. Success.
 The kids really wanted to go to the Art Museum one last time, so we did. We got a quick picture in front of the anniversary cake. St. Louis is 250 years old this year, and so they put 250 cakes throughout the city to commemorate it. If I had been better about planning, we would have made an effort to go see most of them.
 I really love taking my kids to the Art Museum. We're not the quietest or most well behaved bunch (we're working on it!), but I enjoy teaching them a little of what I'm passionate about.
 Lydia deserves her own post soon. She has turned into quite the character, with the sweetest hugs and giggles.
We were also heavily involved in planning playgroups through church, which was good for me. At least once a week, we'd play with friends either at a park or someone's house or at the church.
We said goodbye to some of our good friends of four years. They moved to Utah through, so we didn't feel like we were saying goodbye forever. It was still sad though, and added to the feeling that we were closing one chapter and beginning a new one.