Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nebraska Trip: Memorial Day Weekend

It's become tradition to travel back to Nebraska in early June to visit my family. It began the first summer I was a stay-at-home-mom with Tory and had the flexibility to do so, and is now one of my favorite activities each summer. I like to visit when there's no major holiday bogging down everyone's schedules and the weather is generally cooperative for travel. Plus, a major bonus - my cousin Jen (a teacher) and my sister Ashley (a teacher's assistant) have the summers off from work, so we get to plan lots of fun outings with the kiddos.

This year, my dad was unexpectedly diagnosed with congestive heart failure about two weeks before my trip to Nebraska. Doctors discovered his aortic valve was 95% closed making his heart function very weak, and he was quickly scheduled for open heart surgery on June 1. Fortunately, I'd already planned to visit that week and had the ability to extend my stay and help my parents in any way they needed.

Andi drove to Nebraska with the kids and I on Thursday, May 26 for Memorial Day weekend. We planned a low-key weekend at my parent's house, and also attended a high-school graduation party for my sister's step-son, Caleb.


Memorial Day Monday, the kids and I took Andi to the Lincoln Airport so he could travel back to Minnesota for work, then continued on to Omaha to see my childhood best friend Ashley and her family. The day was hot and sunny, so Ashley filled up the kids' swimming pool in the backyard, Neal grilled chicken and wings for lunch and we sat in the backyard together for hours. It was a blast!

Look at these big kids who were just babies yesterday, I swear!

The next day (May 31), my sister and I met our cousin Jen at the Lincoln Children's Zoo for a play date. This is the third year we've taken our kids to the zoo together during my summer visit, and everyone always has a great time together. The Lincoln Zoo is the perfect size for little kids, and has unique play areas for the kids, a real train that circles the perimeter of the park and a beautiful butterfly garden. This year, Aden was particularly thrilled to ride the train (he still talks about it) and the weather was the perfect temperature. We had a great time.

The rest of our Nebraska stay was devoted to my dad and his surgery, so I think I'll blog about that time separately as it really felt like a different visit. I'm glad I was able to stay there for such a long period of time, and see and do things with family and friends before / after the surgery. It softened the emotional impact of seeing my dad in such a frail state, and allowed me to spend more time with him. More to come ...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tory's Last Day of Preschool (2015-2016)

Tory finished another year of preschool at the end of May. Our sweet girl had a great year -- one of much growth in physical, emotional and social development. I think we both felt a bit sad to see such a positive experience come to an close.

This was Tory's third year attending preschool in this particular school building, and her second year in Ms. Janna's class. It's become a consistent part of our weekly schedule, and a familiar place to see friends. Next year, she'll attend preschool in a different school district with a new instructor, new classmates and double the amount of school hours. She'll have the chance to experience new things there, but we'll always remember the memories we made in this particular ECFE program.

First day of preschool (September 2015) // Last day of preschool (May 2016)

Andi and I made the decision to enroll Tory in a second year of Ms. Janna's 3-4 year old preschool class (vs. a class that meets more days/week geared toward 4-5 year olds), and it proved to be wise decision. Tory met (and in some areas exceeded) expectations academically, and being one of the older kids in her class this past year gave her the confidence to handle rules, routines and transitions with ease.

I've seen the greatest change in Tory's literacy and math skills this academic year. She is able to identify and name all uppercase and lowercase letters, and is beginning to produce sounds for about half of the letters in the alphabet. She is also starting to understand that a sequence of letters represents a sequence of spoken sounds. Once she masters that, she'll be ready for early reading! It boggles my mind to think we have a child who'll be able to read in the near future.

Tory's made dramatic improvements in writing her first name this school year. She correctly holds her pencil with a three-point grip and can proficiently use a scissors. I never want to forget the way she writes her name (Tory) and my name (Mom) on every drawing or assignment she creates. They're the two words she knows how to spell by heart, and a simple way my baby girl shows me she's growing up.

Her imagination is blossoming, and now she'll draw detailed pictures of people doing their favorite activities (fishing at the cabin, watching fireworks) and hearts and stars to show her adoration.

One skill that surprised me recently is Tory's ability to quickly identify a group of 1-5 objects in a sequence. At first glance, she can look at five dots in a row and tell you there's five dots there without counting them individually. Doesn't that seem like something a big kid would be able to do? It's evident how much she's growing into one.

Tory's preschool class was filled with boys this year (8 boys; 5 girls), and two of her favorite friends were Mohamed and Abel. It was a bit of a harmless love triangle, really; Mohamed adored Tory and always asked to sit on the carpet square next to her at Circle Time. Tory seemed to gravitate toward Abel though, and often talked about playing shark Legos and dinosaurs with him. Fortunately, we have play dates with our ECFE class scheduled this summer because I'd be sad to see these friendships fade after the school year ended.

Tory and her friend Mohamed (who's 9 months younger, by the way. Look what a peanut she is compared to her classmates!)

Tory with her teachers and certificate of class completion

Tory is eligible to attend kindergarten next year (2016-2017 school year), but after much deliberation Andi and I decided to enroll her in a pre-K program four mornings/week. She makes the age cut-off by one day which would make her one of the youngest children in her grade. I'm very confident in her skills academically, but I think another year of preschool will give Tory a boost in social and emotional development. Besides, what's the rush? Let them be little.

Until then, bring on the summer fun! 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Signs of Summer

Anytime we're at the lake is wonderful, but summertime (or in this case, springtime that feels like summer) is magical. There's no place better than our lake cabin on a warm, sunny day.

The weather in May was GORGEOUS and our little family enjoyed many boat rides around the lake, playing in the sand at the beach and ATV rides in the woods. Fortunately, our cabin is located in a bay where the water is "warmer" than other parts of the lake, so Tory and Aden have been swimming in the water for a few weeks already. I put emphasis on the word "warmer" because the water temperature it's about 60 degrees. Too cold for this mama to join them for a dip!

Andi purchased a stand-up paddle board a few weekends ago, and that's one activity we've all enjoyed doing in the water. A paddle board is similar to a surf board, but works by standing on it and propelling oneself with an oar. It doesn't take much skill -- only balance -- and is perfect for the calm waters in front of our cabin. Either Andi or I paddle while Tory and Aden ride along on the front of it.

The fish are coming into the shallow, structured parts of North Pipe Lake, so Andi, the kids and I have spent quite a bit of time fishing together. Andi gave Tory her own "real" fishing pole this year, and she's surprisingly good at casting her line out and reeling it back in. A few of the fish she's caught were on her own accord! I'm learning to enjoy fishing myself, and love that it's something we can do together as a family.    

Of course, Popsicles are mandatory on warm weather days. Tory and Aden begged me to take them to town one Saturday morning to pick up some frozen treats to eat by the lake. It's funny to watch as Aden gobbles his up as quickly as possible and Tory gives hers a series of nice, slow licks. Then with true brotherly love, Aden tries to bully Tory into giving him the rest of her treat! She's so sweet, she usually does it.

Bring on summer! I'm excited for all the memories we'll share at the lake in the next few months.