"When you called me to be a Mama, You didn't ask for perfection. But that with every breath, I'd point them to You."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our Kindergarten Rock Star

Jaden had his first day of Kindergarten last Thursday, and when I picked him up at 3:30 it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. He LOVED it. And now four, full days in... he still does.

The morning of, Cody and I took him out for breakfast at Village Inn, and I felt like it was MY first day of school. I had no appetite, could hardly eat and had nervous butterflies in my tummy. Jaden on the other hand... finished his whole plate of eggs, sausage, fruit and toast, orange juice... and was still hungry for more. I was nervous for the little things. Like -- what will the car line be like? Will we be late? Will we have time for pictures in front of the building? Will he cling to me once we get to the door? Will I be able to hold it together in front of him? Does he have the right clothes according to the dress code? Etc. Etc. Etc.

We got to the school in time, took a few pictures in front of the building and then walked him to his classroom. Ms. Kimpston had a coloring page set out for each child with their name on it so he knew which desk to sit at. He hung his bag up in his locker, grabbed his supplies box out of his cubby where we had placed it at the open house the night before, and promptly sat down at the desk across from another little girl to begin coloring. I kissed him on the cheek, didn't look back as we walked out the door and made it all the way to the car before I shed my tears.

I thought about him all day. Prayed that he was happy and knew that we loved him. And couldn't wait for 3:30. When I got there to pick him up, he walked out the door with a huge grin on his face and said, "I LOVED it Mommy!" And every day since, he has said the same thing. He's been at the top of or completely off their "good choices" chart every day. He has been given a super star student sticker one day and a tattoo on his cheek another for being a rock star in class. He's enjoyed gym, art, music and library and loves lunch time. He even loves the dress code, and I must admit that Brandon was right on the first morning when he told Jaden, "You look cool, Jaden!" We've been told by three other teachers -- one of them a retired Kindergarten teacher from the same school - that Jaden was given the best teacher there is, and that he will learn a lot. He's met the principal a few times who calls him by name, and I personally know three teachers in the building that are looking out for him and telling me that he's doing awesome.

We feel so blessed with how all of this came together and worked out. We love his school, I already have a good relationship with his principal, and he's happy there. I'm sure at some point the novelty will wear off, but he's off to a great start.

We made it. He rocked it. All is well.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Brandon the Preschooler

Whew! What a week this has been. Our oldest starting Kindergarten, youngest starting preschool... and a whole lot of rollercoaster emotions to go with it all. We sent Brandon off to preschool on Tuesday for the first time, and I'm so glad that he will be a preschooler for two whole years so that I can still call him my little one for a while longer. ;)

The night before his first class, we took Jaden's bag that he had used for two years of preschool and added Brandon's name to it. This made it official to him, and he was so proud to have his name on that bag. In fact, when he carried it through the hallways after his first day, he was going up to random parents he'd never spoken to before just to show off his bag! "It has my name on it! It's my new preschool bag!" It's not a new bag at all - very used, and we probably should get a new one eventually - but it's new to him, and after watching Jaden use it for two years, you could just see the confidence Brandon felt in himself while holding it.  (Even though it is almost as big as he is!)

In keeping with tradition, I took Brandon out for a special breakfast date the morning of his first day just as I have been doing with Jaden. He was too excited and hyper to eat much, but he did serenade the entire McDonald's with his version of the ABC song... over and over again. ;)

He's three!

(We shared a breakfast... this wasn't all for him!)

Once it was time to drop him off for class, the nerves started to set in with him. First of all, we could not get him to actually cross the parking lot and go to the doors. He saw dandelions sprinkled throughout and insisted on collecting every single one of them to put in his preschool bag and bring home with him.

When we finally got him to the building, he was in no mood for pictures.

And by the time we got him inside to line up with his class? This is what he looked like...

He went into a pout before going into complete meltdown mode. Looking back on it now, I chuckle, but it wasn't very funny at the time! He did not want to stand against the wall without me, kept leaving the line to throw his arms around my legs and when Mrs. W started addressing the kids and teaching them the right way to walk in a line, he threw himself on the ground - on his tummy - and refused to follow in line when the kids started walking down the hallway. I had to pick him up off the ground, carry him to the end of the line - and hand him off to the teacher's assistant, walking out the door myself instead of taking cute pictures like the rest of the parents were doing! If I hadn't left at that point, the teachers never would have been able to get him back to the classroom.
Needless to say, I was very anxious to pick him up at the end of the day. And when I did, he was in a great mood, talked a lot about preschool, said he was a good boy, that he never got in trouble and that he had fun. He then asked when he would get to go back! And sure enough, I got a good report from his teacher the next day. I knew he would have fun once Cody and I left him. He always puts on such a show for his mommy! ;)

 So hard to believe that my BABY is in preschool! We love you buddy!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dear Jaden...

My little buddy. Well, It's here. I just dropped you off for your last day of daycare. Your teacher and I got a little emotional -- she doesn't want you to leave her classroom, and I wish we could take her with you to Kindergarten. That teacher and that daycare class have been so good for you for the last year. You have grown so much in her care, and it's a little hard to let go of that.

But you asked me last night if today was the day when I would start calling you a Kindergartner. And today is the day. You are ready, and I'm relieved that you are so excited. For the last 5 1/2 years we have been raising you, watching you grow from infant to toddler to shy preschooler to classroom leader. We have been told by your daycare teacher that she's told other parents that you are the child they should want their son to follow and to be influenced by. In her goodbye card to you, she wrote how much she appreciated having you in class - that she could always count on you and that you are such a good role model. I'm not sure any words can make a parent prouder. You are a joy and a unique little soul and a special light in a big world. You are my heart.

And you're about to take a huge step. Not completely on your own but more independently than any other step you've had to take so far in your young life. A pastor from one of our sister church's sent a letter to us recently. This pastor has been helping lead you in chapel once a week for the past year, and he wrote to us about what a huge event this is coming up -- in your life and in the life of our family. He mentioned that this is the beginning of a new world of experiences outside of our protective environment - that Kindergarten is a huge step in the life of every child and represents a major transition for all of us. I have been anticipating this day for a few months now, and though I pray for you constantly, my prayers for you lately have been more intense - more fervent.

I pray that you will have fun. That you will learn and have a desire to learn. I pray that you work hard, continue to respect authority, trust your gut instincts and stay happy. I pray that you surround yourself with those of good character, that you will always strive to see the good in other people and the good in yourself -- even on your tough days. I pray that you will know the One to turn to when you are afraid, that you draw close to Him, use prayer as your strongest weapon and tool and that you will tell others about Jesus. I pray that you gain an understanding of blessings - both big and small - and the importance of thankfulness. I pray that you make lots of friends -- but that you always come to us when you are lonely. Or even when you're not lonely. I pray that you continue to protect and guide your younger brother, that you find something you are passionate about and run with it and that you treat girls how they should be treated. I pray that you remember right and wrong and continue to love your family as much as you do right now. I pray for your safety and your health. I pray all of this and so much more.

You have a tremendous support system around you. You are so lucky. We are Team Jaden all the way.

We love you. We are so dang proud of you. And we will be here for you and with you throughout this long and beautiful journey ahead. Spread your wings, little man... and let your light shine.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Looking back on Summer '13

If there's anything I consider myself an expert in as I age, it would be my ability to appreciate and notice the smallest of moments, the most simple of occasions, the smallest of joys. More and more I take pride in my desire and ability to live simply -- yet fully. To be deliberate about the life we create for our family - to always be working at making a simple life a joyful one for our kids. Whether it be an ice cream cone with sprinkles for no reason or allowing the boys to stay up later than normal to go throw rocks in the lake. And if I fill myself up with these things - and fill our family up with these things - I believe that's one of the greatest lessons I can give to my children. That the little blessings are what make up a life and that if you can find joy in a summer night's sky filled with stars, you will always be okay. I'm learning more about myself through this parenting journey, and the older my kids get, the more I see our influence as parents molding them into the people they will be. I love that at the ages of three and five, both of our boys get excited over a pretty sunset. I love that they are quick to point out a pink and purple sky, that they find a thrill in counting the stars, that Brandon is happiest in a field of green picking wildflowers and that Jaden is at his happiest when his family is surrounding him. I'm grateful to be married to a man that needs nothing more than a relaxing evening around our personal fire pit and a day off to go fishing at our local pond. When I look back on this particular Summer, we created so many special memories in our own backyard and in our little community, and I am grateful for that. There's so much pretty out there. And when I pause and am intentional about how I go through our days, I realize that I don't have to look hard to find it. We adventured this summer. We didn't get on a plane or drive long distances, but our kids are just as happy finding a frog in our own backyard and casting their fishing poles in a lake 10 minutes from our house. Life is simple when you live simply.
Some of my favorite images and moments that tell the story of our sweet summer...

Park nights. We explored some new parks this summer and found our favorites to be Orchard Hill Elementary, Gateway Park and Lookout Park. It doesn't matter what kind of mood the kids are in, mention Park, and all is well. And on those nights when Daddy had to work late, I greatly looked forward to my one-on-one time with them -- pick up a Happy Meal or Subway --- let the kids choose the park to eat at --- easy joy.

Bike rides (or scooter rides) on the trails and to the park. Jaden is finally comfortable going down hill on his bike (with training wheels), and Brandon's legs are finally long enough to pedal his three-wheeler comfortably. Luckily we live in a community surrounded by bike trails, and I have hopes for many family bike rides as the kids grow.

Community events. The music and bounce houses at Live to 9, the Sturgis Falls parade and carnival, Movies Under the Moon and the 4th of July fireworks. We may not live in a big city, but there is always something going on.

Brandon's green thumb. He's taking after his Daddy and absolutely loves manicuring our plants and lawn. And picking those "flowers."

This surprise on our lawn one morning in June. I'm just glad Cody saw it first.

Family grilling gatherings. The best of summer traditions.

Our days and nights at the Falls. Our kids transformed into fishies this summer, and a seasonal pool pass will be a must-have for many years ahead.



All those nights by the water. Big Woods Lake. George Wyth. The Cedar River. There's just something about being by the water that brings out the good in all of us. (Fishing poles welcome but not necessary).



Exploring new places like the local arboretum, the Dubuque River and Beads Lake.

A 4th of July spent at home. Nothing fancy - just a small pool to splash in, some sparklers, red and blue sprinkled ice cream... and some really yummy strawberries.


Our first picnic basket and our first fire pit. These are new staples to our summer activities, and I know when the next warm season rolls around, I'll be itching to get back to them.


Deck life. We spend so much time in our own backyard and on our deck, and in the last couple of years, I've really tried to create a homey environment on our own back steps - an extension of our home with just a few outdoor touches to make it feel cozy. White lights. Pink flowers. Lit candles. Music on. We eat most of our meals out here in the Summer, I sometimes work on the deck table when it's not too bright and sunny during the day, and our kids can entertain themselves for hours in our driveway - playing basketball - riding their bikes, scooters and tractors - coloring with chalk, playing in their water table and helping Daddy cut the grass. Our next home must have a deck... I've learned it's something I can't live without.

Summer nights at the baseball diamond. Though I've never been a follower of the sport, I wouldn't mind our boys developing a growing interest and skill in it. I could handle more summer nights spent at the ball field... with a hot dog in hand. And I love that Jaden always had the biggest cheering section in the stands for every game. We are so lucky to have our families close.
Little ones of mine... thank you for this special season. There is so much beauty ahead of you and around you. Just keep your eyes open.