Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another Year Older

Every year at this time I am in utter shock that my children have turned another year older! There is nothing like your children aging to make you feel very old. But because I can't stop or reverse time it happened, Aiden turned 9! He was very indecisive about what he wanted to do for his birthday as he wasn't sure if he would rather have a big present, a big party or a big trip! He finally consented to a small family party and then a trip to Disneyland sometime later this year. I was all for that idea as the last thing I wanted to do was plan a big party for a bunch of boys in the midst of starting school! So I sent out a quick email inviting Aiden's grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins over for pizza and swimming. No invitations, no fancy food, no theme or decorations...Ya right! Thanks to a little something called Pinterest, what was supposed to be a small casual gathering became a themed/planned party! I found a gazillion great ideas including but not limited to Lego themed party ideas, candy bars, banners, wreaths... I just had to make a few fun things! So of course the party became a little more time consuming and costly then I had planned! If either of my children cares about getting a lot of attention and all the hoopla, it's Aiden! He was just as excited about the balloon wreath and Lego cake as he was about the presents! I don't know if its because he appreciates crafty things or because he was flattered by all the time spent on him! Either way, it was worth all my time and energy!

We had such a great turn out and it's always nice to have a reason to get our families together. I am always surprised by the shear size of it but that's what happens when practically everyone lives in the same city! As much as I had dreaded the thought of planning and preparing for a party initially, I was so happy that we did it as I remembered that last year Aiden's birthday was in South Africa with just our tiny family. This time around he deserved to have as many people as we did help him celebrate! We kept the food simple and just ordered pizza, which was great because no one had to spend any time in the kitchen. The kids all swam and some of the braver adults, and then we all came in and watched Aiden open up way too many presents. He received some pretty great gifts and I would say he is VERY spoiled! He definitely got everything he wanted between transformers, gift cards, cash, video games a DS and a new bike! WOW! After opening up all those gifts we brought out the cake! I have never had any luck with birthday cakes. I don't know why I can not successfully bake and frost a cake but even with my several failed attempts I refuse to give up. I so desperately wanted to make a cool Lego cake and according to the blog post I found, it should have been very simple. But even with all my planning and practice, the cake left something to be desired! Fortunately, it tasted good!

One of the other great ideas I have seen through blog stalking is to interview your kids on their birthdays. I so wish I had done this all along because it would be so fun to see how much they change! As I think back over Aiden's 9 years I can picture him watching every episode of the Wiggles and Stanley then on to Spongebob and Phineas and Ferb. My favorite was his overwhelming obsession of all things DINOSAUR! Here are his newest faves and things of interest at the ripe old age of 9:

Favorite TV Show:         Good Luck Charlie
Favorite Movie:              Transformers-all 3
Favorite Musician:          Bruno Mars
Favorite Toy:                  Transformer action figures
Favorite Thing to Do:     Play video games
Best Pals:                        Enoch, Kevin & Mattie
Favorite Food:                Hamburgers
Favorite Book:                Diary of a Wimpy Kid
What do you want
to be when you grow
up?:                                 Marine (what? this one was new to me)
Favorite Color:               Blue
Favorite place to
visit/live?:                       Utah-Because of the dinosaur museum at Thanksgiving Point

It's very rewarding to age in this family as G-Pa gives you a dollar for each year!

This was hiding in the garage and was the final present! Sweet new ride, Aiden!

Stole this idea off Pinterest...cute, right?

Best present of all...Dad was here to help Aiden celebrate! Paisley is happy about having her uncle Twent here too!

Friday, August 26, 2011


Anna has been looking forward to the big Father Daughter camp out for a couple of months now. She was so sad when she realized that her dad was not going to make it home from Canada in time to take her. She had conceded that she would go with a friend and her father but when that didn't work out she was really distraught! What she didn't know was that we had already booked a ticket for her dad to come home and take her! It was nearly impossible to keep the secret and I almost blew it several times. The same weekend was also Aiden's birthday so he too was going to benefit from this huge surprise! The day that dad was expected to arrive I picked up Anna from her friends house and when she told me that they were getting ready for father and daughter the next day she started to cry. She was so upset that she was going to miss all the fun and begged me to find someone to take her. I pretended to call a friend in the neighborhood and then told her that they agreed to take her, just so I wouldn't have to watch her suffer any longer! That night Trent's mom went to the airport to pick him up so that I wouldn't have to explain to the kids why we were going to the airport. At about 8:30pm, when the kids should have been in bed, there was a knock at the door! I told Aiden to answer it and while he took some convincing since he was only in his underwear, he finally ran upstairs to see who was there. I was a little disappointed at the level and shock and awe but he was nonetheless very happy to see his dad standing there! When he yelled "daddy," Anna came bounding up the stairs and flew into his arms! She too seemed to be expecting him or something because I didn't think she acted that surprised but they were both thrilled to have him home.

The following day, with several hundreds of dollars worth of junk food, and new camping gear (including a toilet Anna insisted that Trent buy because she was terrified of the bathroom situation) they headed off to the mountains. It was supposed to rain, so instead of pitching their tent they decided to sleep in the van (I knew that was a smart purchase). Trent said the evening was a bit awkward at first because he had set up camp away from what became the "main" camp and didn't feel comfortable walking over to a group of dad's he hardly new to hang out! (Men are so funny)! He just sat around his own fire while Anna ran around with her friends Crystal and Natalie and a new little girl Sage. Eventually, Sage's dad came over and sat at Trent's fire, so Trent made a new friend too! At bedtime, Trent said that he and Anna stayed up for awhile just chatting! Anna asked about a hundred questions such as "what's your favorite color", "what's your favorite t.v. show", etc.! Oh if I could have been a fly on the wall during that conversation! The next morning they woke up and had breakfast with everyone and then played some games. Anna very excitedly told me about all the fun games they played including one game where she smeared shaving cream all over Trent's face and then threw coco puffs at him! She then got to shave off the cream with a Popsicle stick!

I am so thrilled that Trent was able to come home and that they could have this time together! Anna had a great time and it will be a memory she will never forget! I'm not sure how much fun Trent really had but he is a good sport and I know he loved spending time with his little girl!

In Way Over My Head

After a one year leave of absence (oh how did that go by so fast) I have returned for my last year of grad school! My first class of the semester, was Neuroanatomy and as I sat there among 50 1st year master students fresh out of undergrad and nearly a decade younger than myself, I felt a little out of sorts! As the professor began to lecture I than felt out of my league! What was supposed to be review and probably was for all the eager beaver newbies, was practically new information to me! I have not had an anatomy class for over 5 years and it was never my best subject anyway! Just the mention of neurons and axon potentials gave me such overwhelming panic I wish I had access to Xanax! I could only hope that the other students were as lost as I was but that hope was squashed when several of them were able to respond to the professors questions without a moments hesitation! The only fortunate incident the whole day was that I sat next to one smart cookie and she was able to dumb things down for me during a couple of group activities. I kept telling myself that I would be okay as I have pretty good memorization skills and they may be the one thing to get me through this course! So while I may not learn anything I may be able to regurgitate a few answers onto a test. My BS skills are also going to be applied in this course, because I already have a paper to write about the clinical implications of glia cells and I don't even know what those are! Wish me luck, I'm gonna need it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Finally Back to School!

It has been a very long summer break for Aiden and Anna, since they have not been in school since April, and today was long over due! After much deliberation they started 1st and 3rd grade again at Benjamin Franklin West. I am very fortunate to have such flexible kids as I am not sure how I was able to convince them to not only repeat their grades (they never actually completed 1st and 3rd since the school year in SA is different) but to also go to a new school outside of their neighborhood! You would think these kids were in a military family as they have yet to stay in the same school for more than one grade! Hopefully, for their sake, we stay put and they can stay at Franklin for a few years!

Aiden and Anna with Aunt Kristina
The kids woke up extra early today and where dressed and ready to go an hour before it was time to leave! There would be lot more peace in this home if every morning were like this! I could tell Anna was nervous about starting school because she was moody moody moody this morning! WOW! Anna is also much more like her dad, and does not think highly of school, so she was not excited at all! Aiden on the other hand is much more like me and couldn't wait to go back! Even after all these years, I am still excited to go back to school and can't wait to start next week! Since I am only working 3 days a week, I was able to have today off and take the kids to school on their first day.  One of the perks of attending Franklin, is their Aunt Kristina teachers 5th grade there and it was so fun to see her this morning and have her show us around! I know it is a huge comfort to the kids to have a family member on campus!

There were no tears today and even though I waited right by the classroom door to make sure Anna was okay she didn't even look back at me! I was very relieved that we did not have a repeat of her 1st day in SA! I can't wait to pick them up and find out how it went! I think this is going to be a very good year!

In preparation for their return I asked them some questions and here are their responses:

#1 What are your hopes for this school year?

Anna: "I meet lots of friends, that it will be fun and that nobody bees mean to me. Oh and that I will be good and the teacher will like me."

Aiden: "To have fun and get smart."

#2 What is your favorite subject?

Anna: "The playground."

Aiden: "Math and Science." (not my child)

#3 What do you think you will learn this year?

Anna: "Lots and lots of math."
Aiden: "Lots and lots of math." (I interviewed them separately, and they responded the exact same:)

#4 How do you feel about going to Franklin?

Anna: "I feel weird because I only know one person (a little girl from church). But it will be a good school."

Aiden: "Very weird."

Aiden is already at that age where he is embarrassed to take pictures and refused to pose for longer than 1 second, especially if anyone was around!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's All Over

So it's vacation has come to an end! Today was my first day back at work and I am still not sure how I feel about this! It's hard to believe I was away for a whole year and it was good to be back with my fellow Speechies and Psychs! There is something very comforting about being around people with the same interests and lingo, and I'm not gonna lie, I love catching up on all the teacher drama! They really should do a reality show in a school...Anyway, I had a training first thing this morning and thank goodness for the I phone! Not sure what I would have done for 4 hours if I didn't have access to Facebook, Words with Friends and my email...Tomorrow I have another meeting and then I'm headed to my new campus for the first time! I have met the other therapist I will be working with and she's great! I'm going to miss my better half from Highland Park, Melissa, but fortunately I will still get to see her at our abundant amount of district meetings! It is always hard having to start from the beginning meeting new people and creating relationships, but fortunately my one God given talent is socializing so I know I will be just fine!

I thought I was going to be devastated giving up my free time, but it feels good to have a purpose again! I so desperately wish to be one of those amazing mother's who is fulfilled by her daily responsibilities as caregiver but I have never received any pleasure from this! Of course I love my children and I have so many proud moments that make me thank my lucky stars I have them but the day to day grind of motherhood is not my favorite thing! I think I enjoy working so much because I feel succesful at what I do and I can see when I'm making a difference...maybe if I set some objectives and progress monitored my children I would see some results but without the cold hard data it's hard to see what if any improvement we are making! I will say that having last year off with the kids at school all day was great! I loved being able to craft, volunteer, shop, read, do lunch dates and sleep whenever I wanted to! I know that is very selfish but everyone needs a little "me" time...I think I just require a bit too much! But that being said, it's time to get off the couch and do something and since I'm still not going to get mother of the year anytime soon, I at least may now be in the running for the Special Ed. Teacher of the Year award...but even that's probably years away! :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Wedding in Portland

Taking advantage of the awesome public transportation in Portland!
My friend Cody and I took a little trip to Portland to attend the wedding of our dear friend Adrienne Urban! I always told Adrienne I would never miss her wedding and true to my word I was there to help her celebrate the big day! We arrived in Portland early Friday morning and spent the whole day walking around downtown. While I was expecting to find a big bustling city, downtown Portland actually has a very quaint small town feel to it.  We had lunch at the Portland City Grill which is located on the 30th floor of one of the only "skyscrapers" located in downtown. The view was incredible and the ambiance and food definitely makes this a "must" when visiting Portland. Friday night we attended the rehearsal dinner at the Bridgeport Brewery. It was so fun to see Adrienne and meet her AMAZING fiance. Cody and I both agreed that we liked him instantly and everyone we met who knows him has nothing but incredible things to say. We are so happy for Ade and thrilled she found such an awesome match! We were a little nervous that it may be a bit awkward at the rehearsal dinner since the only other people we knew there was Leanne and Debbie Haws, but we were welcomed immediately and instantly connected to some of their friends! It was a great night and we were happy to be apart of it!

The following day, we decided to venture out of the city and took the MAX to the Japanese and Rose Gardens. (Portland has amazing public transportation)!!! The gardens were beautiful and definitely worth seeing. Everywhere we went in Portland we were amazed to see gorgeous massive trees. It is truly unlike any place I have ever seen and I was beyond impressed by the beautiful scenery, clean air, perfect weather and how well kept the city is.  I also have to compliment the food! I loved everything I ate, and besides the wedding the food was the highlight of the trip! After our trip to the Japanese Garden we literally jumped off the MAX when we spotted a little bakery on a corner downtown. I ate the most interesting and delicious sandwich ever! It was so good I had to take a picture! After our yummy lunch we did a little shopping as I still needed a dress for the wedding! I had brought something that I purchased in AZ but it was a bit pricey and not all that special so I was hoping to find something else! At the last minute I found a great dress and with just a couple of hours till the wedding we headed back to the room for some much needed rest!

Since Adrienne is a teacher, she very cleverly hired a school bus to pick up all her guests and transport us to the wedding location! It was such a great way to travel and meet some more of Mitch and Adrienne's friends. We connected to another couple Curtis and Carly instantly and they are our new besties! The wedding was lovely and Adrienne was stunning! The ceremony was perfect and I loved everything the pastor said. It was very touching and just knowing that this is truly a blessed union, made it one of my favorite weddings to date! At the rehearsal dinner Ade had told me that they would not be doing any of the "traditional" wedding activities, as she planned to spend the entire night of the dance floor! True to her word, she never left it and literally danced the night away! It was a great wedding and we had a wonderful time!

We intentionally scheduled a late flight the following day so we could see as much of Portland as possible. An old high school friend of ours, John, graciously picked us up at our hotel and gave us a personal tour! Our first stop was the Vista House at Crown Point which provides an impressive view of the Columbia River. After that we headed just a little bit farther down a scenic route to Multnomah Falls, the tallest fall in Oregon. There is a foot trail that takes you to the top of the falls, and while it was paved, I was still not prepared for the 1.5 mile hike straight up! There are markers letting you know which switchback you are on and I have to say I was a little discouraged when I reached switchback 2 of 11 after I assumed I was already halfway there! At that point I decided that making it to 4 of 11 may just be good enough!  Never wanting to be quitter I pressed forward and actually made it to the top! It felt like quite an accomplishment as it was a particularly hot day and I had had a particularly late night! The way down was much more enjoyable as I could actually look around at my surroundings rather than concentrating on each step! After our little hike we stopped for a much deserved meal in the cutest little town called Hood River. On the way home we took the longer route back to Portland so that we could actually drive passed Mount Hood. WOW, it was a beautiful drive and it was amazing to see Mount Hood still covered in snow. The day was amazing and I am so glad we were able to see and do so much in such a short amount of time.
Just needing a little break!

View from the top

Driving past Mount Hood

This was truly my last hurrah as my year long vacation is now over! I am back to work Wednesday with very mixed emotions! I loved every minute of my time off and really took advantage of it, relaxing and just hanging out. Now I am getting thrown back into my crazy, non-stop schedule!  While it is going to take some getting used to, I know I will be just fine as I thrive in chaos! Bring it on!

Summer Fun

Aiden and Anna along with their cousins Brendan and Maddie just finished a two week summer day camp at the PERA Club (through SRP) and had the absolute time of their lives! Thanks to their Grandpa Dan they were "finally" able to have some fun this summer and literally did every activity this Valley offers! Each day they were off to a new destination, which included Amazing Jakes, Bounce U, Makutu's Island, Golfland/Sunsplash, Big Surf, the AZ Science Center, Broadway Palms to see Cinderalla.....and the list goes on and on. On top of all the field trips they enjoyed magic shows, reptile shows, crafts, movies, swimming and more at the club! I am so grateful they were able to do so much and create so many memories! And of course, I enjoyed this time I had to myself! THANK YOU GRANDPA DAN!