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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Finishing the School Year Strong, Special Events, a Big Birthday Bash, and the Beautiful Beach

We had some special themed days in April and May. I found some neat superhero themed devotions and videos to use with Riley and Maggie and one of our favorite activities was to end with a “Make Your Own Dumbbells” snack and the superhero traits chart (see pics below).

Another day, Maggie got to dress up for Western day at her preschool and since she has a summer birthday, we sent in a special snack for her to share with her friends as they sang “Happy Special Day” to her. We decided to make some cowboy hats that were made with chocolate-covered Pringles, Rolos, and Twizzler licorice.

On March 28th, I interviewed for a second grade position at Sunset Park Elementary School. Just 2 days later, I got the call offering me the job! After checking with a few folks and doubling checking one more time that there wasn’t an opening at Richmond Drive, I accepted the job. God knows me so well and was able to answer my prayer that I be able to go back to a familiar area of teaching and be able to have time to plan and organize myself before the start of school. I’m blessed to be able to do both! I’ve had several chances to observe, talk with teachers and my new principal, and even get several Donors Choose grants funded with fun resources for my classroom. Chris is most excited about the fact that I was able to get all my stuff moved out of our garage and attic and into my new classroom last week. Now he may actually be able find some tools in the garage without tripping over my boxes and tables. Here are a few pictures of the classroom that I am moving into. These are the BEFORE pictures (as in before I moved in all my stuff and organized everything and also finished moving some of the previous teacher's items into another classroom as well): 

We had the pleasure of celebrating Riley turning 6 on May 12th. He began the day by eating a chocolate sprinkle donut for breakfast that Maggie picked out for him, knowing he’d love. After getting dressed, he got to open up his big present-a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Electronic target practice game. He had school on that Thursday, so I met him at lunch and took some Ninja Turtle cupcakes in to share with his class. After school, Riley got to open up a few more presents and the highlight of his day was getting to go to Hickory Tavern restaurant and order his favorite food--a cheeseburger for his birthday dinner. Dessert consisted of a huge hunk of chocolate cake that was almost as big as Riley! Grandmama was able to join us as well and that made the meal even more special.

Then a few weeks later, we hosted a combined birthday party for Riley and Maggie at our house on Saturday, May 21st. The party invitation sent out on Facebook read:
Cowbunga Dudes and Amigas-You’re invited to
An A-“Dora”-ble Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Combined Birthday Adventure
Come on Vamanos-Let’s Go fight crime and swing through trees
As we crawl through sewers and save animals on safaris
We will “Shell-a-brate” Riley’s 6th birthday with pizza and more
And also have Maggie the Explorer’s Fiesta for turning four
It’s going to be “Turtlely Awesome”, so grab your “map”
Follow it and finding the party will be a snap!

We had been preparing for an indoor party because the forecast had been calling for rain in the afternoon, but we got pleasantly surprised with gorgeous weather! This helped a lot since we had 16 kids for the party and who-knows-how-many-adults. I’m so thankful Chris’ parents came in town early and were a huge help in setting up for the party. I used the Dora theme of following “Map” to collect little party favors for their bags. The kids did really well with the outdoor scavenger hunt in the park and after playing a few quick games of “Pin the Spot on the Jaguar” and “Punch Out Shredder” with tissue paper-covered Solo cups with prizes hidden inside, we moved the party indoors to eat. The menu consisted of Raphael’s Cowabunga Pizza, Mikey’s Veggie Tray, Sewer Lids (aka Thin Oreos), Mutant Ooze (aka green Jello), Turtle Slime Punch, Abeula’s Fruit Salad, Boot's Bananas, Diego’s Animal Rescue, Map’s Cheese Sticks, Taco’s Taquitos, and Dora’s Mexican 7 Layer Dip. A big thanks to my mom who helped make the giant bowl of fruit salad and layered chip dip. We had a TMNT cake and Dora and Boots cupcakes to add to the festivities. 

After some food, the kids tried their luck at some of the outdoor stations that we had set up: a safari obstacle course with a zebra tent, a tunnel and a cave, and ninja training activities like throwing the ninja stars in a bucket, tossing a pizza (aka Frisbee) into a box, and knocking out “bad guys” (aka balloons hanging from tree branches) with swords (aka pool noodles). We also had a giant bubble making station, but it ended up being more of a mess than a success. 

Riley and Maggie had a great time diving into their gifts, but it sure made it difficult for my poor mom to keep up with who was opening what and from whom as tissue paper, gift bags, and wrapping paper were flying left and right. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good party. The kids loved being surrounded by all their friends and family and I don’t think they minded having to share the attention with each other. I’m not sure how many more years we’ll be able to get away with throwing just one party. Pretty soon I bet they’ll want to have a few close friends over to celebrate in their own ways.  But for now, I got to have some fun putting on a themed party.

The night before the party, we went out to eat with Nan and Pap to a Japanese steakhouse. It was the kids first time to experience this kind of meal and while Riley loved it and “ooohhh”-ed and “aaahhh”-ed at every trick, Maggie spent most of her time hiding her head in my lap. She didn’t like the flames and fire tricks one single bit. She did manage to eat some rice and edamame, but only after the chef had completely left the table. Riley, our bottomless pit, sucked down his own plate of hibachi chicken and tasted quite a few other meats as well including steak and shrimp. We couldn’t quite get him to be adventurous enough to try the soup or the salad with ginger dressing yet. That’s okay—there’s always next time!

The end of May wrapped up Maggie’s year at preschool with Mrs. Cranford and Ms. Morris. We ended with a class party cookout down at Leo’s house. Cindy set up the Shark Park water slide/bouncy house for the kids and lots of chairs and tables for the grown-ups. The kids had a blast playing together one last time. Maggie’s teachers gave out awesome gifts to every child: a pack of bubbles, a large ball, and a personalized photo album with highlights of all the events and special activities from the year.

I was able to wrap up my time teaching music at Goddard and while it was bittersweet to have these 3 years of music lessons and relationships come to an end, I’m also greatly looking forward to my next chapter in teaching. I received some very thoughtful gifts from my students though. Check it out:

We were able to attend an end-of-the-year program in Riley’s classroom on May 31st. Riley and his classmates treated us to a program of songs performed in both English and Spanish and then his teachers prepared a slide show featuring all kinds of pictures from the year as well. I have to admit I got a little teary-eyed during the “First Grade, First Grade” song that was sung to the tune of “New York, New York”: “Start spreading the news, We’re ready to go. We want to be a part of it…first grade, first grade.” We can’t believe how much our little man has learned this year and we are so indebted to Mrs. Smith and Senora Notaro for all of their hard work!

My aunt Melissa planned a special Taylor-extended-family outing for Memorial Day weekend. We went to Brevard, NC and stayed in a rental house and she mapped out several hikes to waterfalls that were nearby. We arrived Friday night after making an after school pit stop at TC’s Shaved Ice. We ate pizza, played a few games, and got well-rested for our excursion. After a hearty breakfast Saturday morning, we headed to Dupont State Park where we hiked to three different waterfalls: Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls. Riley and Maggie were enthusiastic hikers for the first little bit, but by the last waterfall they were both pretty tuckered out and begging to be carried. So we let Grandmama and Papa take them home after our picnic lunch in the parking lot and we headed to one last waterfall with Rodger, Melissa, Dylan, and Brooke called Bridal Veil Falls. This waterfall had its moment of fame when it was featured in the Hunger Games movie. While the trail to the waterfall was not nearly as scenic as the other falls, this waterfall was one that we could actually walk behind. It made for a neat picture and an “I’ve done that” experience. That evening we had a taco bar for dinner and homemade vanilla icecream with warm from the oven brownies. We woke up to a rainy Sunday, but managed to find some indoor activities like playing Pokemon, the Game of Life, a giant 1,000 piece puzzle, and a ping pong doubles tournament to keep us busy. We got to visit with Andrew, April, McCall, and their newest addition, Mattie Jane before we had to leave town. It was awesome to spend the weekend together with everyone and do something that featured some of the most beautiful spaces made by our Great Creator.  

A few days later, we got the joy of celebrating with Maggie on her official 4th birthday. She requested a breakfast in the shape of a puppy. Then she opened her big present from Mom and Dad which was a toy camper and doll with a doggie on a leash. We spent the morning playing with this and having Maggie and Mommy rainbow pedicure and manicure time. This precious girl was so excited about finally turning four that she announced to every stranger who talked to her about her latest milestone: “I’m Maggie and I’m four!” (as she enthusiastically held out four fingers). We were originally planning to go camping on this day, but the weather didn’t cooperate so instead we picked up Riley from his last day of school and headed to Old MacDonald’s (Maggie’s choice restaurant) for a delightful lunch. Then we decided to try out Ray’s Splash Planet, an indoor water park in Charlotte. I think Maggie had a smile on her face the entire time! She LOVED following her brother around and going down every single slide multiple times. Then while Riley got to go down a bigger slide for taller kids, Maggie explored the whirlpool area, Lazy River, and basketball hoop game.

We got our chance to go camping as a family the following night. We had planned to go to Chester State Park, but when we arrived it was already full. So we drove a little further to Lake Wateree State Park and lucked out with one last spot there which happened to be a lakefront site. The kids helped Chris set up the tent while I cooked brats on the camping stove for supper. The after dinner building of a fire and eating s’mores was a hit as always. Although Maggie prefers to eat her marshmallows “uncooked” now and Riley prefers for his to be burnt. Our campers awoke bright and early on Saturday and after breakfast they tried their hand at fishing. Riley and I had a nibble and pulled a little fish up out of the water, but it managed to get away before we could fully reel it in. It satisfied Riley’s desire to catch a fish though and we moved on with our day. After breaking down camp, we took the kids to the playground and then on a hike. Maggie loved setting up races for all of us to do and especially enjoyed when she was leading the pack. Riley preferred to check out the trees and nature a little more closely and take his time. I love how our kiddos are so unique and have their different ways of expressing themselves.

Riley poured over this Lego Ninjago book most of his time in the car and whenever he had downtime. We absolutely love how our reader sits with his legs crossed and gets so fixated on the text!

To help the kids not lose all of the awesome skills they’ve acquired, I came up with a little Summer Learning Bingo Board and a Helpfulness Chart where the kids have to spend some time completing some tasks to earn their afternoon screen time. It’s only been a week, but they’re off to a great start so far! We also did a short unit on How To Be A Bucket Filler by using kind words and actions. I LOVE summer and all the time that it allows for special activities, trips, and learning experiences and it always helps me to have somewhat of a plan in place. So after tweaking last year's calendar and bucket list, we now have our new and improved 2016 Summer Fun Calendar and Fisher Family Bucket List. I look forward to seeing how many memories we can create over these next few months! We've got a great start on some already, like having our first watermelon of the season!

 On Thursday of this week, we were able to make a quick trip to the beach as a family. We left after Maggie's well-check doctor appointment where she received 2 shots and a finger prick and was such a brave girl that she didn't even cry. The nurse did a great job being speedy and I did my best to keep her distracted and not looking at what was going on. The reward she chose afterwards...purple bubblegum! And because she is always thinking of Riley, she picked out some Ironman Sour Apple flavored gum for him. What a sweetie! We got to the beach around 3 pm and were able to splash in the ocean for a bit before going out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant and playing miniature golf at Jungle Lagoon afterwards. Riley and I both made two holes-in-one and Chris made one. Maggie kind of hockey-puck-coaxed her ball into the hole most of the time. But we all had a great time and Riley was so enamored with the place that he was begging to go back and play the second course. Friday morning, we ate breakfast in our room and hit the beach by 9 am. We played until lunch time and then spent a little time in the outdoor pool. Unfortunately, it was too cold so we didn't last long there at all. We had a little downtime while Daddy got his run in and then we headed out to an icecream store and Broadway at the Beach. The kids got to visit the magic store and see some cool tricks, check out some beach souvenir stores, and each put together their own bag of candy at the It's Sugar store. Then we made the drive to Garden City and ate a delicious seafood meal at Sara J's (well, 3 out of 4 of us chose to eat seafood-we couldn't get Riley to deviate from his cheeseburger streak although later he did admit that Maggie's popcorn shrimp tasted really good!). We ended the night by playing some arcade games at the Garden City Pavilion and buying a shark's tooth necklace for Riley and purple braid bracelet for Maggie at one of the many Eagles beach stores. The kids got to bed about 9:30 and Chris and I were able to sit out on our oceanfront balcony and enjoy some beverages. Our room got upgraded the second night because the first one didn't have a properly working A/C or fridge. I hated to complain, but I really appreciated the outcome! It certainly beat the side view of the pool/parking lot/sliver of the ocean. :) The kids slept in a little this morning, but still made it to the beach for an hour or so before we had to shower and check out. We ended our trip with a lunch...I mean breakfast at Lenny's Pancake House. It was short trip, but oh so sweet! 

Collection of Comical Quotes:
·         Mom to Riley: “Son, what’s going on at school these days?” Riley: “Reader’s Workshop.” Me: “What are you reading?” Riley: “Oh, you know…books.”
·         Maggie recently had a friend in her preschool class whose mom got engaged. She got a little confused about which word to use and commented one day: “She embarrassing because she’s about to get married.”
·         Riley’s homework calendar had a task last month to count up from 76 to 100. He was counting aloud and paused briefly at 79. Maggie, who had been listening the whole time, piped up and shouted out…”80!!”
·         Dad to Riley: “I’m concerned that I’ll miss you when you leave for your mission.” Riley: “Don’t worry, I’ve got a second jet that will have a tracking device that will help you navigate. Just push the button and tell it to take you to New York Mountain and when you see a jet with a ‘T’ on it-that’s us! The T stands for teammates-me, Maggie, McCord, Jake, and Isabella.”
·         Mom sarcastically to Maggie: “You sure are agreeable today.” Maggie: “No, I’m not!!” A few seconds later, “What’s agreeable mean?” Me: “That you don’t argue.” “Maggie: “No, I don’t.”
·         Chris to Maggie: “Don’t worry, kiddo, we won’t leave you.” Maggie: “Okay, grown-upper. Thanks!” Chris and I laugh. Maggie responds adamantly: “It really is grown-upper!”
·         Maggie: “That’s my flavorist candy.” Her new invented word for favorite flavor!
·         Chris and Maggie have a new favorite game to play. It always starts with Maggie howling (which she seems to do a lot these days). Then Chris will remark: “Where?” Maggie jumps in and says: “Wolf.” And then they keep repeating the phrases over and over until our little werewolf wears herself out.
·         Riley recently got back from a trip to the dentist with his bag of dental goodies. As he was perusing through it, he excitedly commented to Chris: “Yes, I’ve ALWAYS wanted an Oral B toothbrush! You can go to the website and download the app and it will tell you how long to brush.” Riley now reads everything from the backs of toothbrush packages to signs on the road! As we were heading to the beach this weekend, our helpful boy said, “Hey dad, that sign says ‘Left lane ends 1 mile.’” And then a few days ago, he was looking back over his Lego instruction booklets and found out that if he gave some ‘product feedback’ he could be entered to win a Lego prize. So he completed several surveys and was very hopeful that he would be selected as a recipient. I hope for his sake, maybe one day he is!
·         We’ve been learning a little bit lately about what it means to be a bucket filler and use kind words and actions to make others and ourselves feel happy. Both kids have caught on quickly and have been demonstrating thoughtfulness and kindness on a more frequent basis. Riley likes to tell us at dinner that he has a secret for one of us and then he’ll proceed to come over to our ear and whisper, “I love you so much.” And just the other day, he told Maggie “I love you so much. My heart is bursting with love!”

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