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Sunday, November 15, 2015

October and Half of November Wrap-Up

The month of October has been full of many emotions, both happy and sad. On October 19th, Chris grandmother, Maxine Condra, passed away after struggling to recover from another stroke. She will be greatly missed. I don't think I'll ever be able to think of green beans without remembering how this was her trademark dish that she cooked for many family gatherings and would flavor them with bacon fatback and "cook the green out of 'em."  The loving way that Chuck stood by her side and took care of her "in sickness and in health" until death did them part was a beautiful thing to see. The kids haven't quite fully grasped death as a concept yet. Riley is a little closer though because when I told him the news after picking him up from school, he replied, "Mom, that's the first human we know in heaven! Leroy was the first dog in heaven and now Grandma Condra is the first human." Maggie told Chris at dinner that night, "Dad, Grandma Condra died....on a cross!" Hmm...glad she knows the story of Christ's death, but she may have over-generalized this just a tad! Riley was so sweet in his prayer that night as he asked God to let her "be happy in heaven and everyone here be healthy."

A few other stories from this month include the following:

  • At another dinner time, Riley remarked, "This is the tooth-hundred time I've had an eggroll to eat." 
  • Maggie is quickly learning how to shift the blame. Discovering a black mark on her clothes, she concluded, "Somebody drew on my shirt and it wasn't me. Maybe it was Spencer or one of my friends at school." Spencer is our dog-sitter who Maggie rarely sees. Silly girl!
  • Riley can be so loving with his words. The other day, I wanted to celebrate Riley's good grades on his first-ever report card, so I pulled out an "Honor Plate" that I had painted a while back from one of those paint-your-own-pottery places. I explained how proud we were of Riley working hard and doing his best in school not only with learning a new language, but also being a good listener and a respectful friend. Upon hearing all this, Riley responded to me with this, "Mom, that really burns my heart up. You know that means I love you." Later he told Chris the same thing and added, "It also reminds me that I'm awesome." Glad he has a healthy sense of self-esteem! :)
  • Just the other day, Riley told Chris, "Dad, I like to play with you and spend time with you." Chris does a great job of coming home as soon as he can from school, being patient as he is bombarded with stories and requests from the kids the minute he walks in the door, and then changing clothes and taking time to play with the kids until supper is ready. Lately, he and Riley have been bonding over playing basketball. 
  • Another time, Riley just came up to me and gave me a hug and said, "Mom, I love you." I gave him a big hug back and said, "Riley, I sure do love you too. Know how much? To the moon and back." He said without missing a beat, "Well, I love you to Krypton and back!" Krypton is the planet Superman is from. Such a cool thing to hear from my superhero-loving, affectionate boy! 
  • Maggie came home excited  from school about the "Jack-O-Land" that they made at school and how Ms. Morris turned off the lights and it glowed in the dark. 
  • Nan and Pap came to visit us for Halloween as you'll see in the pictures below. And Nan got a kick out of the story that Maggie told her about eating a lot of popcorn at the "movie -ater".
  • One of Riley's little idiosyncrasies is that he does not like to have his closet door open even a little. He says it makes him a little scared. That's one of the reasons he sleeps with both a nightlight and a lamp on. 
  • For November's verse of the month we are learning Psalm 150:6 that says "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord." Immediately after hearing this verse, Maggie made the connection to a song that's on one of the scripture CDs we have in the car and started singing "I will praise the Lord at all times. It is praises is always on my lips." I think the "it is" part is supposed to be "His". What a beautiful thing to hear from the mouth of our 3-year-old. 
  • My 5-year-old continues to amaze me with what he says as well. The other day I was saying how I'd be thankful for winter because that means the grass wouldn't need to be cut as much and then we started talking about how it snows sometimes in winter. Riley informed me that he knew all about snow and "the figurization of it up in the clouds". Later relaying the same story to Chris at dinner, he added the details that "raindrops drop on a flake and it calibrates into snow." I love his love of learning, even if it isn't completely accurate yet!
  • Speaking of words that get a little mixed up sometimes, I was painting Maggie's toenails during our "Maggie and Mommy Time" that we have each day. And I was asking Maggie her favorite color and she said it is was "white pink, not dark pink." 
  • I love Riley's prayers from his heart. For Veteran's day I asked him to say a special prayer for the people who are veterans and helped fight for our freedom. His prayer went something like this, "Dear God, Thank you for the veterans for saving our world and for fighting evil. Some are gone. Dear God, I hope you can help them, The End." 
Here are some pictures from the last few months. One of my favorite traditions with the kids is to dress up like pirates for "Talk Like A Pirate Day" at Krispy Kreme and then deliver the free donuts we get for wearing costumes to fire fighters and police officers to let them know how much we appreciate their service. This is our 3rd year doing this together and I hope it's something that we can continue for many years to come.
Look at my little diva! Here she is all ready for her school pictures!

 And look at this tech-savvy kid--surfing the web all by himself!

 Maggie got to go on her very first field trip at preschool and Grandmama was able to chaperone. They went to Cherry Place Farm and got to feed animals, play in a corn pit, eat some popcorn for snack, go on a hayride, and pick a mini pumpkin to take home. From the report we got, it sounds like it was a pretty successful day!

 This year, we decided to go to the Anne Springs Greenway Fall Frolic as our festival outing as a family. There were a lot of activities for the kids to choose from including a corn maze, hay ride (which had a really long line so we didn't go on it this time), a canoe trip around a lake, a hay bale maze, a corn pit, a petting zoo, and of course, we had to check out the snack trucks and ended up with some Kona Ice snocones.

 For Red Ribbon Week at school which is a campaign to remind kids to say no to drugs, Riley had a blast participating in the different themed days. Here are two pictures from the week. He loved the idea of wearing fleece pajama pants with a shirt and hat for mismatch day and he made a pretty handsome rooting-tooting cowboy for "Give Drugs the BOOT" day.

 Both kids were super excited this year to create faces on their pumpkins. They weren't quite as much help scooping out the pumpkin "guts", but in the end we got the job done!

On Friday, October 30th, Riley participated in his first ever Tiger Trot, a school fundraiser where kids run laps outside and collect pledges and donations that go towards improvements around school. Family members were invited to come along and participate, cheer, and support the little athletes. We were blessed that Nan and Pap were able to drive down and attend. It really made the event all the more special for Riley to have Pap run along with him. Maggie and I even got in a few laps as well! 
 We love Senora Notaro's bright smile and passion for teaching and family! She just returned this week from a quick 2-week maternity leave after adopting a precious baby girl named Billie Ella. Senora Notaro has a 10-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son who happen to be adopted as well. 

 We are proud of the 9 laps Riley was able to complete in the 20 minute time period. He ran most of the time and only took a few walk breaks. Principal Maness talked to the kids about "Making a Difference" both in living a healthy lifestyle and in supporting the school. Winthrop athletes were on hand to share their favorite stay healthy tip.

 Some afternoon fun with pumpkin carving, vampire teeth, and glow sticks!

Halloween day and night were spook-tacular!! The kids got to attend a neighborhood festival complete with bouncy houses, face painting, pumpkin painting, a cookout with hot dogs, hamburgers, and lots of yummy side items, and a hayride to check out all the scary decorations around the surrounding streets. It was a great way to keep the kids entertained as they counted down to the time where they could dress up and go trick-or-treating. Chris and I joined in on the fun again this year and went as a Superhero Family. Maggie and I were Princess Elsa and Queen Mom and Chris and Riley were Spiderman 1 and 2. 

 Here's a picture of Riley and Isabella (not only a neighbor, but also a good friend in Riley's class). And here are Maggie and Leo. Leo also lives down the street from us and is in the same preschool class as Maggie.

It was a real "treat" to have Nan and Pap participate in the festivities with us! 


 One of the best part of Halloween of course is checking out all the amazingly sweet loot! Riley loved sorting his candy into groups while Maggie loved chowing down on Tootsie Roll lollipops!

The teacher side of me still loves to put together activities to reinforce what the kids are learning at school. So we did some "experiments" with our five senses. We learned some phrases in Spanish too. The kids got to guess what objects were inside 5 eggs using their sense of hearing and then they got to feel those same items that were placed in brown bags using only their sense of touch and see if they were right. We used our sense of smell with different spices and I had them close their eyes and try to sniff out the one that smelled like mint and the one that smelled like pizza. Of course, the one they loved best was using their sense of sight to look at different food items and then taste them with their tongue. They had to see if they could correctly guess which item was salt or sugar and then we talked about the different kinds of tastes-sweet, salty, bitter, and sour (you can see Riley's puckered face above after tasting lemon juice). It was a fun, learning time with my "sweet" kiddos!

 An idea on Pinterest inspired us to create a banner of objects from nature that spelled out "Give Thanks". The kids did a great job helping glue down popcorn and sunflower seeds, various leaves and sticks, and even long blades of grass. This year, we are literally counting our blessings. Each day,we have a different prompt that is inspiring us to think of something special that we are thankful for and then we're writing them on a list under a special home decor sign that I believe my grandmother gave me one year as a gift. One day, Riley got to go around with the camera and take pictures of things he was thankful for. So the pictures of the Transformer, Dad, and family were a few of his favorites. Maggie got a turn as well and popcorn, a Leapster, and Irving topped her list of things that she appreciates the most. For me, I'm so thankful for this beautiful home that God has blessed with me, but more importantly, I am thankful for the people with whom He has given me to share it! Life is short. Our next breath is not guaranteed and I hope that my life can be a reflection of loving God and loving others. Chris, Riley, and Maggie are among my greatest joys and biggest treasures and I am so grateful that I get the opportunity to experience life with them by my side.

Riley's school has a mission to teach children to "Make A Difference" in the lives of others. Each week the principal features a student in his weekly newsletter who is making a positive impact in a big or small way. Here's what Riley e-mailed his principal:

Riley would like to tell you in his own words how he has made a difference:
"Mr. Maness, Sometimes I gave all my money from my allowance and I am making a difference for other people. I'm getting money because I am doing my chores. I am using the money for people to get animals like rabbits and chicks. The rabbits are going to help the people to buy stuff. The chicks will grow into a chicken that lays eggs and they use the eggs to buy stuff like food, clothes, and medicine."

So just to add a little more detail-we decided to support Heifer International and purchase some farm animals for people in need in other countries. Both kids get paid a daily allowance and in the past, we would ask that they donate just one of the up to 5 coins that they earn to give back to the church or others.The responsibilities/chores are pretty basic like brushing teeth, making their bed, setting the table, saying please and thank, and not whining when they talk. This month, we decided to focus on this project and created a little chart to track their progress. Riley earned some additional money one day by doing extra chores around the house like cleaning the bathroom, taking out the recycling, and helping me sanitize my music instruments. We've really appreciated his sacrifice these past 2 weeks because he chose to give his entire allowance to meet his goal even faster. We've been talking about how blessed we are in our country and how many people in other countries can't just go to the grocery store or refrigerator whenever they want. This is a pretty tough concept to comprehend, but it's starting to make a little more sense. We have so much to be thankful for and isn't it only natural that if we've been given so much that we would want to share it with others?! I hope that the attitude of gratitude lasts longer than just this month and that we will continue to give back whenever we see the opportunity arise. 

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