Friday, August 27, 2010

Shining Star!

It was Shining Star Award day and Olivia was up bright and early! We got her dressed and ready and headed for the bus. She was all smiles and excitement! (She had grown out of all her summery shoes. I was lucky to find one pair of white sandals still at WalMart. Whew!) Thank you, Aunt Lori, for Olivia's beautiful dress. You always have such great taste!

Her excitement faded at the bus stop, however. She was wondering what kind of award she would get. I told her to ask her neighbor, Jennifer, who received a Shining Star award last year. Jennifer told her she would get a paper with a star and her name on it. Olivia just looked at Jennifer with her mouth hanging open and said, "All I get is a stupid piece of PAPER???"

I almost fell over!!!!!!!! Jennifer's dad was laughing so hard I thought his coffee would shoot out his nose! Olivia went into a funk. It turned out she was actually expecting a trophy or medal of some sort. I explained to her that medals and trophies get lost and damaged. We could keep the certificate safe and she'd have it for always. She was still disappointed, but not as much as she was at first.

Here she is in the cafeteria with the other award recipients, waiting for the ceremony to begin. She was all smiles and excitement again. Whew!

(She's walking a little stiffly because she was afraid her shoes would fall off.) We found out there were two groups of awards - "Shining Star" for academics and "Bright Star" for being very helpful. They started with the 4th graders and worked their way down to the Kindergarteners. I was amazed that the principal seemed to know every kid's name. But then I found out that they all had stickers on their left arms that she could read as they came up. Ha! Afterwards, we got to have cake, fruit and tea/water before the kids had to go back to their classrooms. Olivia changed into play clothes and, since her class had gone to the library, we got to drop her off there.

Student Council elections are coming up and we got to see all the posters clogging the walls. One kid had gone so far as to put a picture of JFK on his poster... Some things never change...

Monday, August 23, 2010

We Have a Shining Star!

Olivia got home this afternoon and I went thru her folder, as usual. Her folder holds the activities she did during the class day, plus any extra messages her teacher or the school needs us to know.

Today, there was a blue sheet I hadn't seen before. It said "Shining Star" on it. I have to admit that the first thing I thought was, "How much is this going to cost?"

But, here's what it said...

Dear Parents:

Your child has been selected as the Shining Star of the month for our class. A Shining Star is chosen in every homeroom each month as a way to recognize students for academic performance. A Shining Star works very hard to complete class assignments and learn new concepts. Your child exhibits all the qualities of a Shining Star.

Whoo! Hoo!

She has to dress up and attend an awards ceremony Friday morning! There's even a reception for parents. Wow!! What a way to start Kindergarten!!

To celebrate, she chose dinner at the Irish Pub down the street, and we invited Aunt Debbi, since Daddy was stuck at work. He'll be able to make the awards ceremony, however, and that's even better. I was careful to tell her that we are proud of her whether the school thinks she's a Shining Star or not, but that it was great she had earned this special honor. She's proud as punch!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Penelope Pig!

as sung by... Olivia!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Landscaping - Before and After

We had some big changes made to the side yard and the backyard. They were long overdue. Here are the before and after shots to show the difference. We don't have all the nice finishing touches done because that can wait for cooler weather and less mosquitos!

Our backyard is bordered by a hill. A hill full of scrapy little trees and bramble bushes and stickery junipers. There was no easy way to get up to the bramble bushes, so the area didn't get used for anything except for me to dump grass after mowing the lawn.

Here is is before:

And here it is after: Whoo-hoo!


Here is the area off the front porch/walk. Nothing remarkable. It's all downhill to the neighbor's driveway and filled with yet more stickery junipers.

Here is the view from the neighbor's driveway, looking up towards the front porch.

This is now the view, downhill, from the front porch!

And the new view, uphill, from the neighbor's driveway. We know the neighbor is happier! Mark cut down the whole huge 2 1/2 story bush that was growing on the corner. It opened up the whole area. Yeah!

And last, but certainly not least - our old retaining wall, off the neighbor's driveway. (The neighbor planted those awful privet bushes, so Mark left them for him to prune.) The wall was deteriorating, drainage was a problem, and we could never simply walk all the way around our house. Very frustrating. Part of the reason it looks so bad is that we never went down there. We only own about a 10' strip, then comes the neighbor's bushes and driveway. We'd totally forget about it.

And here's the new retaining wall and fence!!!!!! A masterpiece!!!!! The privets are gone, and the neighbor even cut down some that were on his side of the property line. Drainage has drastically improved and we can walk around the house now!!!!!!! We are very happy and I think the neighbor is even happier. (There is a space under the sunroom that isn't blocked by the fence, so we have a dog gate up there for now. It will be replaced by white lattice asap.)

But don't forget the fence! (I thought I had a better picture, but it's late and I don't, so this is what you get to see today.) No more unknown kids cutting thru our yard!! Now the girls and dogs can play safely and I don't have to stand over them every second. Yeah! We cleared out a TON of brush from the top of the hill for the fence to be installed. We have a little more work to do there (in cooler weather) and then we'll fix it up and maybe put an adult swing and platform there. We'll actually be able to use our property! And, ultimately, if anything happens at Mark's work, the house is more saleable than before. (Hopefully we won't have to deal with that...) I have to say that the steps and retaining wall are as solid as you could want. If a tornado came thru, the house would be gone, but the steps and wall would still be standing! The guys who did the work for us also did some incredible work for our neighbor on the other side, and now they are working for another neighbor as they totally re-landscape their backyard and install a pool and hot tub. The fence guys were fantastic, too. It's nice to have such good work done by professional people at a reasonable price.

Well, Grandma Helen, I think this brings us up to date! All the news that's fit to print! I'll try to do better from now on!

Brooke's First Day of Preschool!

Brooke has been doing so well that we knew she was ready for preschool. Besides, she wants to do everything her sister does. I told her she was going to go to school just like Olivia and she thought that was great. But, as the time drew nearer, she wasn't so sure. Just before school, she declared that she wanted to stay home and play with mommy. We were gentle but firm and told her she would have fun and needed to give school a chance.

And so the day came. She brushed her teeth (she LOVES to brush her teeth).

And got all her supplies together. (And her pillow.)

But, as we headed out the door, the smile started to fade and she clutched her pillow tighter.

When I got her out of the car, she started telling me she just wanted to play at home again. I reminded her that she needed to give school a chance and that she would make new friends. She must have decided that was the way to go, because she marched across the parking lot like a trooper - AND without her pillow. As soon as we got into her classroom and she found her seat, everything was fine. She never even said goodbye, because she was already listening to her new teacher read a story!

The teacher, Ms. Jennifer, looks like she's about 24. I was amazed to find she has a 13 year old son. Good genes!!

And here she is after her first day (morning) at school! Happy and proud as punch!! (The apples on the tree are the thumb prints of each of the students.) The next school day, she couldn't get into the building fast enough. When Olivia comes home in the afternoon, Brooke can't wait to tell her what she did in school that day. They are already working on their letters and numbers. It's a sweet sight!!

And now I have some time, 3x/week, to get stuff done all by myself!!!! Yeah!!
Next post: The New Landscaping!!!

Ballerina Brooke

Brooke has started talking about ballet. I re-discovered a ballet video tape and barre we had in the basement, and she had a ball with it. She likes dressing up the most. She is SUCH a ham!! It's fun to look at her and wonder what she'll be when she grows up.

Olivia recently did these pictues. She fights with Brooke, but she loves on her just as much. Typical siblings (yeah!).
The first picture says (phonetically): I love my little sister cause she is fun to play with.

The program keeps posting this sideways and I can't get it to stop. But, this is a picture of Olivia and Brooke. Brooke is saying, "I love you" and Olivia is saying "I love you, too."


We have tomato plants for the first time. We're learning lots, so next year's crop should be lots better. We're trying to find a good spot to plant a small garden in the ground instead of in pots. The guys who built our fence said to use a post hole digger and plant the seedlings almost entirely in the ground. They all have so many tomatos they can't even eat them all. We'll see next year...

Olivia is very proud of her plants!

The other day as I was watering Olivia's plants (hmmm...), I realized the tops of several stalks were bare - they'd been eaten! Eeek! Pests!! What was eating my (Olivia's) plants??? And then I found them - the largest caterpillars I'd ever seen!!!!!! I had hopes that maybe they were actually Luna Moth caterpillars, but after a search on the internet, I was disappointed. These guys were Tobbacco Hornworms and they turn into Carolina Sphinx moths. They were so big I didn't even know how to kill them. They would make a huge mess if I stepped on them. They were large enough we ended up naming two of them - Bruce and Stanley. They even ate the tomatoes!! Olivia talked about them like pets. And then, as suddenly as they appeared, they were gone. We guess the birds got them, but they had to be BIG birds. I kinda miss them... (The guy pictured below is Stanley.)

Missing Pictures

In trying to delete the extra space between my pictures and text in the following entry, I accidentally deleted a couple pictures. And you can't just "put them back". So, here they are.

This is part of the "Grossology" exhibit at the Children's Museum in Chattanooga. It explains about all the gross things our bodies do. This guy is a giant talking faucet that explains about allergies, colds and snotty noses. He was huge and really impressive. He moved and talked.

And this is the bee hive. The wall is glass, so you can see inside. (Sorry about the glare/reflection.) Mark LOVES the bees. He used to have a couple hives in Colorado.

There, I've got all my pictures now! Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Here you go, Grandma Helen!

Grandma Helen called the other day and put me "on notice" to update the blog! She checks it every day! This doesn't catch things up ALL the way, but it gets us closer to present day. One day I'm going to learn that it takes lots less time if I do frequent, short updates, instead of letting too much time pass. One day...
Of course, we have been bowling. The girls love it. Brooke usually poops out before the second game is done, but then she lets Olivia and me bowl her frames. That's good because we can use all the practice we can get. We were there just the other day and they were having a Junior tournament. Wow! Those people were serious. One boy wore covers over his shoes (like a surgeon) when he wasn't bowling. I guess he didn't want to mess up his sliiiiiiiide, for when he lets go of the ball. On the topic of shoes, when we got home I had to carry Brooke into the house for nap time. I left my bowling shoes in the car and forgot about them. When I finally got them out, hours later, the glue holding the soles on had actually dissolved in the heat! I got some sticky stuff from WalMart to fix them. I hope it works...

We owed Debbi an Anniversary Lunch for being home one year with Brooke (a.k.a. We Survived China). We took her to Featherstones cause we all like it so much. Brooke still loves her Aunt Debbi! Once again, all I can say is Thank Heavens she was along!!!!!

Olivia posing - yes, that's a scratch across her face. Brooke's fingernails grow out every night like a werewolf. They were just playing and Olivia ended up like this.

Here's some attitude!!!!! She is so spunky!

Debbi had her hardwood floors refinished, and her pug needed a place to hang out to avoid the super-stinky fumes. So, instead of 3 lazy dogs sleeping on the sofa, I had four. Mugsy is such a sweetie!! He did so good! He slept in his bed - on the foot of our bed. Things got crowded, since Lucy wasn't giving up her place. Ha!

WHAT A FACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This picture won't mean anything to anyone else, but it means a lot to me. It is our new mower. The old mower is kaput!! YESSSSSS!!!! I have had to use the old mower for the last seven years. I have HATED that mower for seven years!! It was heavy as lead and totally uncooperative. (If I was a big guy like Mark, it would be fine, but I'm not...) So, now we have a nice simple Honda that I can zip around with and not feel like I'm going to have a heart attack. (Our yard isn't exactly level...)

Future architects.............. Uncle Robert will get them into Clemson...

As the Last Hurrah (Ha! Ha! Get it, Grandma Helen?) of summer, we took the girls to Chattanooga right before school started. Brooke hadn't been there before, but Olivia LOVES Chattanooga. We didn't rush and arrived around noon. We let the girls play in one of the little ponds in front of the aquarium, then we headed over to one of the little brewery/restaurants for lunch. Everything is within walking distance, so it's a great town to visit.

Brooke ordered spaghetti. We figured we'd be taking leftovers home, since she's not a big eater. But, she surprised us and ate her entire plate!!!! We thought she'd explode!

Then it was back to the aquarium to go thru the freshwater (river) portion of the exhibit. (Brooke had soaked herself worse than we thought in the wading pool, so we had to change her clothes.)

They still have the special seahorse exhibit! I LOVE the seahorses!! They have every shape and size of seahorse. Unfortnately, my camera is not so good at capturing moving pictures in the dark.

My favorite seahorse is the Weedy Sea Dragon! They look like a fantasy drawing come-to-life.

Olivia and Brooke using the center viewing port. I wish I fit in there!

There was a woman doing glitter tattoos, so we just had to stop! (Mark hates this kind of stuff, but I think it's fun. He put up with it today.) We got our money's worth! They ended up lasting a week! First, the woman used a stencil and applied glue. Then she loaded on the glitter. Brooke went with the butterfly. Olivia chose a whale.

Watching the river otters. They move like eels, but they're a lot cuter.

Feeding time in one of the big tanks.

This same frog was sitting in the same spot, looking just like this, the last time we were there. He looks like he's made of bright, green vinyl and sits as still as stone.

I took this picture because the volunteer said that they almost never have their mouths open. It was a "big deal". Ok - if you say so... Brooke didn't like him at all.

And here is your typical nuclear turtle family - dad, mom, and the 2 kids... out to bask in the sun...

Oops! Brooke was caught making faces at herself in the mirror...

The girls enjoyed being able to get up close to the exhibits.

Olivia being a clown...

Brooke being a sweetie...

We made a quick dash to the Children's Museum after finding out they were closing early. It's so much fun for the girls! They can learn as they play. It's a great place.

The Brooke found the make up table...

They have a large art section, music section, doctor's office, archeology dig, etc. Everything is hands-on.

This thing makes horn sounds...

They even have costumes, music, and lighting you can run for the stage.

Digging for dinosauer bones!

And then Mark fed Olivia to the T-Rex!!!!!

The second floor of the Children's Museum holds the traveling exhibits. It changes from time to time. Right now they have a thing called "Grossology" - all about the human body and the gross things it does. What fun!!! But, that's what kids love! Here's a huge Operation game! (and I accidentally deleted a picture of a really neat robot that explained all about runny noses and snot. I can't get it back into place. I'll just add it in the next post...)

I didn't really believe this could smell that bad. But I was wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!! AARRGGHH!!!! They had sweat smells and foot smells, etc. Ack!!

The climbing wall is actually skin and all the pimples, scabs, moles, blisters and the like, that can mess it up. You have to give them points for imagination!

We saw the bee hive (yet another picture I accidentally deleted), and played on the rooftop playground. But the museum was closing and a storm was coming, so we headed back to the aquarium. This time we went thru the sea exhibit.

Olivia loves to touch the mantas. Brooke is not so keen...

We always look forward to the butterfly house.

They don't sit still for long, so it's hard to get pictures.

Then we moved on to the penquin exhibit. This couple were making their nest. Mom stayed on the nest, while dad brought more stones.

This is a mom and baby. The baby is the gray lump at her feet.

Shark cage!! Olivia is looking particularly fierce!

And the jellyfish! I forgot there were so many different kinds. These were pretty.

Brooke was ready to head home. She was VERY grouchy the last few minutes. She was alseep before we backed out of our parking place. It had been a long day with no nap, so she actually did really great. She's certainly a trooper!! It was a fun, tiring day.