Thursday, August 30, 2012

First Day of School

All too soon, school is back in session.  It helps that we really, really, really like the school that the girls go to.  I don't believe there is one schooling option that fits all...all kids or all families...but for us, for now, this works!

The girls got up excitedly Monday morning, ready to start the year.  Amanda was a total wild card...we weren't sure what we were going to get when the day actually arrived.  But, bless the Sweet Lord, she did good.  She did better than good...she did great!!  I mean look...she even wholeheartedly cooperated for pictures!  :) 

 Its so nice being a "veteran" this year.  We feel like know-it-alls and it made for a much smoother first morning than last year.  (The school is transitioning uniforms this year...Avery is wearing the new one and Amanda is wearing Avery's from last year.)

Amanda has done this walk countless times to drop her sister off and then to pick her had to have been a little surreal to her that she was finally big enough....I know it was for me!

 Love that I got a little wave.  :)

I cried as I turned my back and left them there.  Shaun told Aiden, I think Momma needs a hug.  He snuggled in so tight and said, Momma, I love you berry SO much!  I think he also promised that he would never, ever leave me.  :)

The girls got out at noon the first day and Shaun and I were there to greet them.  We got relieved!  :)

It was Z's first day, too.  We spent a considerable effort over the summer trying to get permission to put him into the girl's private school, but the state (from quite high up) would not allow it.

In our opinion, and according to state testing, the public schools in our low income area are...whats the word?  Well....lets just say lacking.

Its unfortunate, but we feel like we did everything we could and we intend to make the most of it.  In fact, his home school books came in yesterday!  There was no homework for him in 4th grade last year, so we're going to see to it that he learns this year, whether its at school or here at home in the evenings.  He's a bright kid who has a hunger for learning so we're going with it!

He was perplexed when I asked him to stand so I could take his picture.  What's this for?  First time getting your picture taken the first year?? much to teach you, Buddy.  :)

While his elementary school undergoes major repairs, the entire school population was moved into a wing of the middle school for the year.  Its less than ideal and has been complete mayhem this first week while they sort everything out.  So far I've gotten the right kid everyday, so I guess its not all bad.:)
Many people have asked me if Aiden is going to miss the kids during the day.  No WAY!  He's all alone with me or with Shaun or, better still, both of us together.  What is not to like about that??  Only a couple days in and I am LOVING our time together.

His verbal skills are increasing daily and we have both entertaining and somewhat in depth conversations.  Snippets from yesterday:

Mom, I appreciate you!
Oh, I don't have any pants on!  That's interesting!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Project 365, Week 34

Well...what do you know?  A full week has gone by and I posted glad I have this project to hold me accountable at least once a week!

I have so many things I can't bear to see not recorded, so I hope to get on that soon.  That, and all the other areas in my life that have fallen off lately.

School starts tomorrow :( and the apartment gets moved into on Saturday :).  We are coming to the end of life as we've known it this summer.

August 19
My day started early, with a 4:49 AM arrival to Boston.  Shaun, Z and Avery came and got me, then we stopped by my dad's house to retrieve the the other two.  SO good to be back with everyone. 

 My beautiful, toothless girl is aging rapidly!
August 20
No picture.  Catching up....

August 21
We did an overnight kid swap with Cousins...Z got Nathanael....
 ....and Trevor got Amanda.
 Later the three big kids and I did the dreaded back-to school shopping.  Last year it was just one, this year three.  For the girls who go to a tiny, private school that means everything....paper towels, tissues, wipes, pencils, glue, crayons, etc, etc.
 August 22
No picture...a hard day.  Kicked it off with a rare and inevitable fight with my husband, followed up by social worker overload.

We had the bi-annual planning meeting on behalf of Z.  There's really not too much of the meeting I can share, but it was quite emotional to sit across from Z's mom and listen to someone tell her she needs to do A-L in the next short amount of time or they will seek to have her parental rights terminated.

It was (and has been) obvious to me that his mom loves him and her other children, and it was heartbreaking to witness her endure this meeting.  What a hopeless life without Jesus!

I think I spoke too soon about not being a crier.... I might just become one!  :)

August 23
The whole family was at the apartment for the morning, then we joined some friends at the beach.
 It'd been many years since we'd been to a New England beach and we were astonished at the crowd...on a Thursday afternoon!  Guess we've grown accustomed to Florida beaches where shoreline is plentiful enough to spread out.

Gorgeous day and great waves!
 Sweet girls who love our kids...when we are together, we don't do much kid-watching.  :)
 We got back just in time for football, cheerleading and...First Grade Orientation!  Our little Manda-Girl is leaving us this year.  :(
 August 24
Fun Friday this week was at the apartment.  We cooked hot dogs on the open flame, watched a movie on the laptop and had a sleepover on the brand-new hard wood floor.  It was declared "the best Fun Friday EVER!!".  Seriously?!?!
August 25
The boys hard at work....precious to see how much these two love each other.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Project 365, Week 33

This week has a VERY long story attached to it, but I'll give you the VERY short version, just for some background.  

My maternal grandfather died in a tragic horse accident when my mom was two years old.  My maternal grandmother died of cancer when I was three years old.  Obviously I didn't know them but I also knew precious little about them.

A few years ago, my cousin Melody started thinking she wanted to change that.  At Christmas we started talking about taking a trip to Montana to meet people who knew them and to find out all that we could.  She kept the wheels turning and suddenly we had plane tickets.

My mom, my sister Amy, my niece Renna, Melody and I all made the trip.  It was a working vacation but we also had tons of fun and saw and heard amazing things.  We came away with nearly all the answers to our questions, or at least as many answers as we can have more than 50 years after the fact.

So very thankful to Pop and Kiki and Shaun for making it possible for me to go!

August 12
Fresh flowers at the airport bathroom...nice touch!

August 13
The day started out crazy, dealing with lost luggage and rental cars at 1 AM.  When I finally got to my destination, I crashed for two hours and was up at 4 AM for the day.  My cousin and I left for Montana, taking the scenic route.  Well, its all very scenic, but we took the long way so we could see Mount Rushmore.

We had dinner with family, went through old pictures and memorabilia and I saw a picture of my grandfather for the first time.

August 14
We had picked up my mom and sister and niece from the airport the night before and the next day we all headed out to the town where my mom was born and where much of the family still lives.
 This day included a trip to the Dude Ranch where my grandparents met, a visit to the cemetery and a family dinner.
 August 15
We stopped at a fun breakfast place and then we were off the explore the upper west corner of Yellowstone Park.  More beautiful than I remembered and another incredible weather day.
August 16
After visiting several different relatives homes, it was time for the big family reunion.  They were able to gather about 100 people for the occasion, most of whom I was meeting for the first time...others I hadn't seen in 25 years.

They put together a family tree board with names and helpful in figuring out who belonged with who.

Me, sister Amy, Renna, Cousin Melody & you see any family resemblance?  That's all we heard from the MT kin....can't complain about being grouped with these pretty ladies.  :)

August 17
After an early morning breakfast with my mom's dear Uncle Paul, we dropped off Mom, Amy & Renna at the Billings "International" Airport then hit the road to go back to Denver.
 We saw more amazing sights along the vast lands we passed.
The only picture I have from home for the week...Avery lost her other front tooth.  Way adorable!
August 18
I spent Friday evening and then all day Saturday with my BFF Shelva and her family.  They recently bought a house in Denver.  Though we slept on different floors, we counted it as a sleepover...something we did with much frequency "back in the day".

It was fantabulous walking around her city, taking our time over brunch coffee and having the kinds of conversations we simply don't usually have undistracted time for.

We are different in so many ways, but our 22-year old friendship has stood the test of time and distance.  Love you, Shelva!
I left Denver at 11:15 PM and am now back home with my family.  Couldn't be happier about the trip, couldn't be happier to be back home.  I am so very, very blessed.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Too Late to Come Up With a Title

All my good intentions to catch up with blogging this week ended up being just that...good intentions. Turns out, cell phone service is a bit umm...spotty in the hills of Montana and an internet connection is rather hard to come by.  The horses don't seem to mind but I am happy to be back from my time warp.

After spending the week in Montana, I am back in Denver visiting a friend before I fly back home tomorrow night.

Endless stories and pictures, it seems, from our trip, which I can't wait to share...."soon".  :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

True Life Decisions

During our 13-hour road trip yesterday from Denver to Montana, my cousin Melody and I talked about a LOT of things.  I think it was somewhere in the hills of Wyoming that we got on the subject of choices and decisions...not which brand of running shoes should I buy, but the bigger, more important life ones.

I was reminded of this post by John Tiller, which I originally saw on Michael Hyatt's blog.  You don't read his blog?  I subscribe to it and its really good reading every morning....highly recommend it!

I've posted the entire thing here, and the part I really came away with, other than to only open the top part of the window in the kids rooms, is highlighted.  It was an "ah-ha" moment for me back in April when I first read it and I've thought about it lots since.

On January 9th, 2003, my life was going according to the plan that I had envisioned. I was thankful for many things. At the top of the list was my healthy three-year-old, Eli. I had no idea that everything could change so quickly.
On that day, our precious toddler pulled a little red Playskool chair across his playroom under an open window. He then climbed upon the chair, hoisted himself over the window sill, and pushed out the protective screen.
Just moments later my wife went searching for him, noticed the empty room and the missing screen, looked out the window and witnessed our only child laying lifeless on the asphalt driveway thirteen-feet below.
Eli had suffered a severe head trauma and was med-flighted to the nearest university hospital. For the next three weeks, no matter how hard I pressed, doctors could not tell me if he would survive.
He did survive, but our lives would never be the same. Here are three leadership lessons that I’ve learned through this life-altering event:
  1. Determine your values before a crisis hits. In crisis, you act on instinct. You default to what you truly believe. John Maxwell makes a case in his book, Today Matters, that we really only make a handful of true decisions in life.
    For example, we might make a decision at some point in our lives to manage our money well, serve our family, live healthy, or live out our faith. In our daily choices, thereafter, we simply manage those decisions that we have already made.
    Crisis creates defining moments because it reveals the decisions we have already made. Upon arriving in the emergency room on the day of the accident, I found my wife huddled in the corner of a small room crying uncontrollably. She explained what happened and it was clear that our son might die.
    I looked her in the eyes and I said, “No matter what happens, we will NOT let this come between us.” She agreed. We didn’t make a decision that day. We were simply affirming a decision that had already been made.
    Eighty percent of marriages fail after the serious injury or death of a child. Today our marriage is stronger than ever, despite our tragedy. I’m convinced that’s because our decision to make our marriage succeed had already been made before the crisis hit.
  2. Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God. Mark Batterson introduced me to this phrase in his recent New York Times best seller, The Circle Maker.
    When our son was hurt, we worked and we prayed. We did everything humanly possible to make our son well. We invested tens of thousands of dollars into uninsured therapy equipment.
    We received training to administer an intensive home-based therapy program. For three years, eighty percent of our waking hours were spent doing therapeutic treatment. We worked like it depended on us.
    We also prayed consistently, like it depended on God, because we needed supernatural help.
  3. Be willing to burn your old vision and embrace a new one. Despite years of prayers and the best treatment possible, Eli’s brain injury has left him with significant symptoms. Now twelve-years-old, he walks with a cane, the entire left side of his body is weak, he has a severe stutter, and his sight and memory are seriously impaired.
    One of the hardest things that we had to do was to acknowledge, several years after the accident, that it was time to live life with disability. It had become a reality that we could not change.
    Instead of continuing to try to fix what we could not fix, or denying that this new reality existed, we had to develop and embrace a new vision for our child: A vision to make a positive impact on the world, despite his challenges.
    Eli has pushed through his challenges and he has lived into our new vision. He playsMiracle League baseball and participates in one-mile running races. He may not finish first, but he always finishes!
    He now sings, speaks, and races to raise money for organizations that help kids with special needs, such as the Miracle League and Children’s Hospital. He has become a voice that advocates for other kids, some of whom cannot speak for themselves.
This was not my original plan. Some days I still dream about my old vision. But that’s gone. It’s time to embrace our new realities and experience the blessings that come with a new vision.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Project 365, Week 32

Ah...what to say.  It was...a week.  It was filled with enough emotion and exhaustion that I actually cried.  I would say that "I'm not a crier" but that phrase bugs me because its usually said while someone is crying.  Let's just say crying is not my "go to" way of handling emotion when I'm frustrated or angry or hurt or happy.  I can get crying pretty easy when I am worshipping and thanking God for who He is, but outside of that, "I'm not a crier".  :)

But when I called Shaun after yesterday's wedding and he said I rented the apartment this morning, I cried.  Relief!  The end is truly in sight!! did I get sidetracked like that?? much to blog about and I truly expect to get some time to do that very soon.  I leave for Montana today for what promises to be a fun and crazy adventure.

Gotta go, but I'll update soon!  I miss being here on my blog!

August 5
Work morning at the apartment.  Z has no idea how grateful he'll be for all this knowledge someday.
Shaun's mom put together a family picnic with her four kids and their families....water balloons were involved.  :)

More water at home.
 August 6
Grandparents came to visit us at the football field, so the kids discovered the snack shack.
August 7
Cheerleading is fairly laid back, so Aiden and Amanda joined in this day.
We were admiring the sunset on the way home and the kids insisted I stop and take a picture.  I'm raising them right!  :)

 August 8
We love to read on the porch!

Pretty girl.

 Good buddies.

August 9
Walking home from the apartment, doing a little work along the way.
 August 10
Getting all dolled up.
August 11
Shaun texted me this picture while I was shooting a wedding.  The tooth had been loose, but a stick being ripped out of her mouth during a game of Peter Pan and Captain Hook finished it off.
Fun wedding day!