Monday, October 31, 2011

Dressing Up

My kids love to dress up in costumes. I love to dress up too, and I always have. I don't have that many great Halloween memories from my childhood because my mom never really decided whether or not our family would celebrate Halloween. I never knew from year to year if we would or not. I remember always being very disappointed on the years we didn't do anything. For that reason, I let my kids dress up and go trick-or-treating. We talk a lot with the kids about the scary things we see in the stores and in some people's yards at this time of year. We choose fun, light-hearted costumes. And we reach out to the people in our community. This year required two costumes for Snapper and three for Pepper. We couldn't manage to double up. But it worked out great because I was able to make everything. I bought the material on sale so it hardly cost me any money at all! I think the grand total for 5 costumes was $22!

Wednesday was Bible Character night at Awana. Snapper dressed up as the tree in Psalm 1, and somehow I managed to not get any photos of her. Bummer! Pepper was Moses from John 3:14. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. Pepper had recited that verse at Awana the week prior, so the timing was perfect.

On the 30th, our church hosted Trunk or Treat for the community around the church. We did an Angry Birds themed trunk. The kids wore their Halloween costumes and we all had a blast. Snapper chose to be a parrot this year because she knew my friend Tracie's little ones were going to be pirates. Snapper thought it would be funny to be the parrot carrying around the pirate.

Book Character day at school landed right on Halloween. All the kindergartners and 1st graders dressed up as their favorite book characters. Pepper was Brother Bear from the Berenstain Bears series.

And then tonight was Halloween. Originally we had planned on spending the evening with friends in another part of town. But Pepper and I were sick late last week, and I just didn't feel up to going anywhere tonight. We stuck close to our house and took the kids trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. We live in a lovely neighborhood, so it was really pleasant being out this evening. We walked around the beautiful lake that is a block down our street and the kids got a lot of candy from the gorgeous, lakefront homes. It rained all day and cleared up around 4:00, so it was nice and cool and the air had a wonderful, fall-ish, wet leaf smell. We walked around for about an hour, and then came home to hand out candy. Matt set up a table with coffee and cocoa, and we took advantage of the BOGO candy at Publix to make sure we had enough. We had been hoping to meet some of our neighbors this way. To our disappointment, we only got 3 trick-or-treaters. To my delight, we finished the night with 4 monster bags of candy left over, and a whole container of pumpkin spice creamer! It was a very fun week. 

Now we begin the countdown to Thanksgiving in earnest. We're looking forward to spending that weekend at a friend's beach house in the Florida Keys with our wonderful friends Brad, Kathy, and Vonette. And then Christmas is right around the corner! I've made great progress on my Homemade Christmas challenge, but I still have a lot to make. Can you guess how I'll be spending the 55 days until Christmas?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Then and Now: A Post for Snapper in Years to Come

As of 2 weeks ago, Snapper has been doing swim team for two years. It has become a really important part of her life. She is at the pool 4 afternoons each week. Most of her friends swim with her. We moved in June largely to be closer to the pool and to get Snapper into school with these swim friends. We believe that the solid relationships she is forming with this awesome group of kids is extremely important for her, especially since she has gone to so many different schools in the past years. We're hoping to keep her in this same school district all the way through the rest of school. We couldn't be happier with all that swimming brings to our lives, and its many benefits for Snapper. I hadn't planned on posting about this, but tonight I was looking through some 2009 photos with a friend and I came across photos of Snapper's first swim meet. I was blown away at the difference in my swimmer girl. I thought it would be fun to post them, just as a way to mark how she has changed.

Little Snapper, age barely 7, at her first meet swimming for the Arkansas Dolphin-Lasers. Crying during warm-up because the 20 minutes of continuous swimming was too much for her. Crying on the starting block because she was afraid her goggles would come off during her dive. Struggling with asthma. Didn't know any of her teammates yet, and very shy about introducing herself. Enjoying practice, but not too sure yet about this whole swim team thing.

Bigger Snapper, age almost 9, at a mid-summer meet with her Florida team. Swimming a mile or more during practice and coming out of the pool ready to run a mile or ride her bike. Only deals with asthma when she is sick. Bold and confident, bonded with her teammates, fiercely competitive, cheering for her team, and completely loving every aspect of swimming, except for push-ups and lunges on dry land days.

Timid dive at the first meet, October 2009

Strong, gorgeous dive now, April 2011

Notice the absence of muscle tone in her back and shoulders, October 2009.

Check out the muscle tone now! She grins when she sees this photo, taken October 2011.

Yay for swimming and yay for Snapper! Baby girl, this post is just for your memory book.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Awana Funny

When I was a kid, I have the privilege of participating in Awana at a local church. In case you're not familiar with it, Awana is a weekly Bible club for children. Kids work through a handbook, memorizing Bible verses and touching on important theological principles. They hear a Bible lesson, earn awards, and play fast-paced, exciting games. It is a great program, and I am thankful for how it grounded me in my faith when I was a child. My kids are in Awana now, and they love it as much as I did. This week as they were working on the memory verses, they said a couple of funny things that I don't want to forget.

One of Snapper's verses was Luke 12:6-7.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows.

Snapper had learned the verse well, but she had a mental lapse when we were reviewing the verse on our way to Awana. She got to the last sentence and instead of You are worth more than many sparrows, she said, "You are worth more than a bunch of pigeons!"


Pepper's verses this week were John 3:14-16. John 3:14 says, Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.

Pepper announced to me that this is his favorite verse in the Bible. Why? Because it has a snake in it, of course! He repeats that verse over and over every afternoon when he gets home from school, emphasizing the word snake.


Pepper has also been learning the books of the New Testament. We have a fun song that helps, and Pepper loves to sing the song. He sings it over...and over...and over. Between the song and the snake verse, I'm definitely getting my Bible exposure daily this week. Last night on the way to Awana, Matt and I started using our hands as puppets to lip sync to Pepper's New Testament books song as Pepper sang it. Pepper thought that was the funniest thing he has ever seen. He laughed hysterically, still trying to sing. He laughed until he was snorting and crying, and all the rest of us were laughing along with him. This is one of those memories that will stay at the forefront of my mind when I remember Pepper at this age.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Swim Weekend

Two years ago when Snapper's swim lessons teacher asked me to have her try the summer swim team at our community pool in Little Rock, I never dreamed we would be where we are today. At her last meet in September, Snapper posted one of the fastest 8&under girls 25-yard butterfly times in the state of Florida in the last 2 years. She amazes us with her love of this sport, her hard work at practice, and her consistent great performance at meets. When the opportunity came up for Snapper to go to an out-of-town meet, we decided she has earned it.

We left on Saturday morning for a meet at a club 2 hours away. The 3 other girls on Snapper's relay team got to go too, which made it extra special. We all stayed in the same hotel and we focused on making it a fun, relaxed weekend for everyone. At the meet we all set up our canopies and chairs together. Some of the kids brought board games; some brought soccer balls and volleyballs. In the long waits between swims, the kids ran around and played together. Every time one of the kids went to swim, the others came along to cheer. We all shared dinner together at Olive Garden, and ate breakfast together in the hotel. At the hotel on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, we took all the kids to the hotel pool to play. All the parents sat around and visited. Even if there had been no meet swimming, it still would have been a really great weekend.

But there was meet swimming. We found that the relaxed atmosphere, play time, and support from their teammates made all the kids swim better than ever before! All of them put down new best times in multiples events. Snapper tracks the USA Swimming Motivational Time Standards and tries to earn faster cuts each time she swims. At this meet she got BB cuts in her 50-yard butterfly and backstroke, which are faster cuts than she has ever gotten before! It was really exciting for her. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the weekend.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Progress Report Bragfest

*Disclaimer* This is a proud mommy brag post

Last night was our parent-teacher conference with Pepper's teacher. I was really curious going into it, because Pepper has been going through a stubborn phase recently. I knew his teacher had some problems in September getting him to complete his class work, and I wasn't sure if that was stubbornness or just adjustment to kindergarten. I really didn't have a clue what to expect from the conference. I didn't need to be concerned. From his teacher I learned that...

  • Pepper is extremely bright. She thought I'd spent a lot of time working with him on academic stuff. The reality is that I do only the normal amount of work with him. I don't want to put any pressure on him. He gets great instruction at school, and he doesn't need a second school day when he comes home. We read together every day, I help him with his homework, and I am working with him on forming his letters correctly when he writes. Other than that, I don't do any school stuff with him. He is just really bright, and he absorbs everything that is going on around him.
  • Pepper is very advanced in his literary skills. He scored as high as he could score on his placement tests.
  • Numbers are, as I expected, his strongest ability. He only missed 4 questions on the diagnostic math test of skills they need to have mastered by the end of kindergarten. Seeing as how he took the test one month after school started, I'd say he's doing pretty darn well.
  • He is already starting to write sentences, which surprised and pleased his teacher.
  • His progress report grades were all 100%. I didn't realize that those percentages were based on actual test scores. All our past schools have not given percentage and letter grades until 3rd grade. They have done the E (excellent), S (satisfactory), and N (needs improvement) style of grading for the younger grades. This school gives actual grades starting in kindergarten. A+ in reading, language arts, social studies, science and math! WHAT?!? That is one smart cookie of a 5-year-old that I have!
  • His behavior in class is outstanding. He listens well, doesn't speak out of turn, participates in discussions and activities, speaks respectfully to his teacher, and is consistently kind to his friends. The only area he needs to work on is time management and completing class work in a timely manner. After this discussion with the teacher, I suspect Pepper doesn't care about his class work because it is boring to him. It is time to talk to the gifted teacher and get him going in the talent development program. It will provide additional challenge for him.
Needless to say, we are very proud of our little buddy. He isn't outspoken like his sister is, so it can be hard to tell what's going on in his head. I realize now that there's a lot going on in his head. He is very bright, and I know now what he's capable of. Time to develop it!

Snapper has never had an ounce of trouble in school. Her kindergarten teacher was the first to recognize her potential, and she has continued on that track, consistently landing at the top of her class with very little effort. This year has been a bit different for her. She has surprised herself and us by bringing home her first C on a  test, and consistently scored B's on her reading tests. We've been frustrated because the tests are open book tests. There has been no reason to get low grades (a B is low for Snapper who has only ever scored lower than an A on one test) when the answers are right in front of you. After this morning's conference, we learned that...
  • Snapper's ADD combined with her giftedness is a factor in her lower grades this year. She overthinks everything, and asks a lot of unnecessary clarifying questions. Her teachers told us that Snapper reads deeper into questions that she needs to, and she has difficulty taking questions at face value. For example: Mrs. Jackson orders 10 pizzas for her class party. Each pizza has 8 slices. There are 20 students in Mrs. Jackson's class. How many slices does each student get? Snapper wants to talk about different scenarios. What if some students only want 1 slice? Does Mrs. Jackson want any pizza? What if a student is absent? What kind of pizza is it?
  • The reading and social studies tests require that the students pick out important information to determine the answers to the questions. To Snapper, all the information is important. When she underlines pieces of important information, she ends up underlining everything. It is all interesting and important to her. For Snapper, whose recall ability is incredible, an open book test is overwhelming. She can't pick out what information is most important. The teachers gave us some great strategies to work with Snapper on this. It means I will need to spend more time with her, reading with her and teaching her how to discern what information is important, and what it not.
  • Snapper is an amazing writer. Her writing teacher is delighted that she is using what she's learning in class--vocabulary, voice, similes, grammar--and applying it to her writing. She packs her writing with detail and variety, and her teacher says she is going to go far with her writing.
  • Snapper has an A+ in science, and is barely shy of A+ in Language Arts and Math. Her math skills are advanced, and she has already mastered 58% of the 4th grade math standards. This percentage is among the highest in her grade!
  • Her behavior is excellent. She has developed a wonderful circle of friends, she loves to help and serve in the classroom, she uses good manners, and she is an enthusiastic participant during class projects and discussions. 
I am very pleased with how both the kiddos are doing in this new school. I am proud of their hard work and excellent grades. I just have to gush about their teachers, too. They know my kids, and they are working hard to meet their individual needs. I always have a tiny smidgen of guilt in me when I talk with most of my family about having our kids in public school. I always get the feeling that they are less that pleased with us for going this route and not homeschooling. But after today, I am reassured that this is absolutely the right thing for my kids. Snapper is receiving the support from her teachers for her special needs that I would not be able to give her. Consistently working with other gifted kids challenges the way she thinks and makes her a stronger girl. Pepper needs the structure and interaction with other adults. The growth in him in the last 14 months since he started going to school has been remarkable. I am so thankful for our school and our wonderful teachers. And I am proud of my kids.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

World's Best Alarm

I had a really hard time waking up yesterday morning. I could not get my eyes to open, so I ignored my alarm and buried myself deeper in my pillow. Enter Pepper, wearing nothing but his undies, and shivering violently.

"Mommy, I want to cuddle with you before I get dressed. I'm freezing!"

I, being the nice mommy that I am, (and secretly overjoyed about a few more minutes under my cozy covers) decided to welcome in my 5-year-old ice cube. He snuggled in close, sighed a deep sigh, and looked up at me with mischief twinkling all over his adorable, stinker face.

"Mommy, I am going to stick my face in your nice, warm boobs!"

At that moment in time, my eyes responded favorably to the morning, and my feet hit the floor, ready to go. I guess that's one way to get me out of bed!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

On This Rainy Day...

Central Florida is getting drenched by a slow-moving tropical system today. It is 67 degrees outside, and it hasn't stopped raining since about 9:00 last night. Weatherbug tells me we have gotten 5 inches of rain already, and it will not be stopping any time in the next 12 hours. Needless to say, we scrapped our beach plans for today, and we've made other plans. Pepper has croup too, which influenced our decision to stay home and have a very quiet family day. Here's our agenda for today.

  • Fold and put away 5 loads of laundry
  • Wash all our sheets and make our beds
  • Kiddos are cleaning their rooms.
  • Snapper is on bathroom cleaning duty.
  • I need to clean up the Mod Podge mess on my craft table. All week I have been working on Christmas gifts, and I am finished with the Mod Podge part of the project.
  • Matt and I need to work together on our massive family portfolio for our foster/adopt trainer. It is due this week. We still need to write a letter to the birth parents of the kiddos we'll be adopting, and a letter to the kiddos, too. No, we don't have a match to specific kids yet. That is still a few months away.
  • Matt needs to write another thousand words on his life story, also a requirement of our foster/adopt trainer. 
  • The kitchen needs a once-over.
  • I have lasagna soup to put in the crock pot for rainy day dinner yumminess.
  • Is yumminess a word?
  • Once all those necessary tasks are done, we'll have some fun!
  • The kids and I are going to make papier mache pumpkins using Walmart sacks as the forms.
  • While the papier mache is drying, we'll pop some popcorn, make some gluten free cookies for Mommy, and watch a movie.
  • Matt and I are going to take on another Rock Band challenge.
  • Throughout the day as I have time, I'll work on crocheting the monster caps I am making for Pepper and my nephews for Christmas.
  • I might edit photos so I can get caught up on posting my Project 365.
  • My cinnamon candles are burning, and my plastic fall leaves are adorning my living room. The windows are all open and the air conditioner is off. My precious family is home with me. I am extremely content. Thanks, God, for the perfect fall day.