Sunday, August 30, 2015

On the Eve of First Grade

To Our First Grader,

Here we are ready to start your second year of school. We loved watching you bloom in and out of the classroom last year. And yes, even though I say and do in a way miss the early days of your life in infancy and toddlerhood, I am loving this season of your life, the elementary years.

Even as you learned to read, which would seem to be the skill that stands out the most in kindergarten, the thing you learned to do that amazes me the most is the way you can add and subtract in your head (no finger counting). The other thing I will always remember and love from your early learning years is your passion for health. You are very aware of what is healthy for you and what is not, and for the most part you are very self conscious about eating the right things. You will eat the occasional sweets, but you LOVE your fruits and vegetables and make sure we all know that we should be eating more of them too. I hope this awareness and passion for fueling your body with what's good for it stays with you for life. This is definitely one of my weaknesses, and  you don't get this from your father or me, but we're so glad you're that way anyway.

Even though we will forever have a momento from kindergarten art with the ceramic water dish you made for the cat, my fondest story is probably the one of you climbing the rope to the top in gym. Between that and the way you impress people with the way you fly across the monkey bars I hope you keep that strength. It should serve you well in some athletic capacity at some point.

First grade is picking up with even more activities and involvement than last year with soccer again, finally horse back riding lessons, gymnastics, the move from co ed baseball to softball, Girls Scouts, and you want to do some sort of music lessons so I guess hopefully we can find a way to fit them in. You are your parents' daughter in the way you love to be busy and socialize. I worry sometimes that it's too much but you're a smart, high energy, very capable kid so even at six I trust that if it gets to be too much you'll let us know and we can reevaluate together.
Even with soccer for instance sometimes I'm not quite sure if it's your thing. It's the most aggressive sport you've done so far and even though you may be definitely the sweetest kid I know, aggression doesn't easily go with that, but you improved by the end of the year last year so maybe you'll become a soccer player this year. You have loved gymnastics since you were two, and I feel that no matter what activities end up being your thing the skills you learn in gymnastics are great for any sport. You love animals, your friends here have horses, and your dad grew up riding horsrs so finally you'll get the chance to hopefully master riding a horse so one day when you're older you can enjoy riding with friends and hopefully your dad too (I'll watch). You're better at softball than soccer I think, and since that was my thing growing up I'm of course excited to see how playing softball goes for you in the spring. As much as I loved it though, again if it doesn't end up being your thing I'll get over it. I know at some point one or two of these things will become your main passion and eventually that will be what you throw your time and efforts into.  But for now enjoy trying all these new things until you find that thing that you can't live your childhood years without.

I think one of the greatest things from the past year was watching the friendships you made. There is a group of about five of you girls I think that became pretty good friends, and I think three of you are even on the same soccer team this Fall. Even though after being in the same class together last year you are all split up between all the first grade teachers, but hopefully the friendship you all began last year continues this year. As two people that spent our whole childhood in the same small town, your father and I really wanted that experience for you and your sister, and one of the great things about that is you'll spend your childhood going to school, playing sports, and making memories in and out of the school house with the same valuable set of friends.

I love it all, kid. I love watching you excel in the classroom and your love for learning. I love watching you on the athletic field or gym, I love seeing the relationships you're building with girls that will hopefully only get stronger as you all grow up through these school years. You love life, kid, and I love watching you live it and enjoy it. Even though in the last year you have also learned about the art of being defiant and questioning your parents and unfortunately even occasionally being a little mean to your little sister, we still think you are such an awesome, great kid. You really do have such a loving, sweet heart. You set a good example not just for your sister, don't forget that she is always watching  you, but for others as well. I know you didn't necessarily sign up to be a leader or someone that people look up to, but you are. You don't have to be perfect, and you will make mistakes, but just keep being you, the kid with a big heart, a passion for people and living life, adventurous with little fear, and a love for being theatrical no matter who is watching.

We can't wait to watch another year of your childhood unfold. As we said before we believe in you and you'll be great. We love you to the moon and back. Have an awesome first grade year, our girl!

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Looking ahead to Fall and Balance!

Even though I'm sad to see summer go, and I am really not looking forward to winter again (last year's was so long, cold, and snowy), I am excited about Fall and the school year ahead as a whole. I knew last year job wise was a transition year. I took a position I knew was temporary that I hoped would lead to something I'd really want full time. And it did! I am very excited for my first full time position at the school I loved working at part time last year.

After years of so many transitions and adjusting to those transitions I'm really looking forward to a year of feeling settled. Nate's in a new position, but it's a position that's moving him ahead in his educational leadership goals so aside from me needed more at home to give him the flexibility he needs to move forward things should be fairly balanced. I am so looking forward to that balance. As a working mom, balance is something I have struggled with for years. Mainly because I thought I needed to be the super clown of the circus show that could juggle way too many balls. But I am done with all of that; we are in place where I am needed more at home and less in the financial security department. No more grad school, no more coaching, no more teaching the college class ( I will miss that though), no more sharing a car to save gas money but wasting time, no more running 15 minutes out of the way to pick up kids in different locations. I got a sense of this last year after the holiday break, and it was fabulous. With my assigned teaching schedule for this year and being home with the girls by 4:00 every day I should enjoy something I've craved for so long: balance.

If the experience of it last year showed me anything it was me being balanced is not just a benefit to myself but to the girls, to my marriage, and to the running of this whole house. We all make the different choices we make because of what's best for our families, and even though at one time I was more ambitious with what I wanted to do there was a point I overwhelmed myself so much I found myself totally burnt out. Between the motherhood choices of working or staying at home, I was at one point confused because here's what I learned. I enjoy my work so much more when I don't let it consume me and my time. I have found an enjoyment for my work again which makes my heart happy and even though there are still stressful days knowing I have time with my family in the evenings and on the weekends gives me the peace I think I was missing.

There's more than just balance to look forward to this Fall too. Not only am I needed more at home because of Nate's new position but my girls are getting older and busier. Averi starts soccer again next week, she'll finally have the horseback riding lessons we've been trying to set up since June this Fall, she talked me into letting her join Girls Scouts, and I think she wants to try out for her school's talent show late this Fall so her and her dad need to figure out some song for her to do. On top of that her school constantly has family evening events that I'm sure we'll be attending at different points. This is the last year of it just being Averi's activities. Kenz will be old enough to start soccer and tball next year and will be in school the year after that so in about two years it's going to get kid busy crazy (but I LOVE it).

Mine and Nate s birthdays are this Fall but more importantly  Kenzi's fourth birthday is this Nov, and her party is just one of almost every single weekend between now and New Year's that is full with something ( I think we have one or two weekends left open in Nov). On top of Ave's activity schedule, Nate is playing in a 30 and over men's baseball league on Sundays. We have an out of town trip each month Sept-Dec. Spring through Fall is always extremely busy for us, and as you know I love it that way. But it's also usually why I'm ready for hibernation for the next two to three months come January. When our week nights aren't busy with kid activities and weekends with family plans Nate and I will be catching up on this Fall's line up of shows that we're looking forward to as part of our down time together. Our shows include Nashville, Blacklist, Empire, and our favorite Walking Dead. If we can watch the first three seasons before season four starts hopefully we'll be adding Chicago Fire and PD to that. Let's not forget it's Steelers season again and what's looking like another Blue October with Royals play off baseball! Add in the changing leaves, apples and pumpkins, sweaters and boots, and anticipation of the holidays I'm pretty excited for this time of the year.

Happy soon to be Fall, everyone! Hope it's a great time of the year for you and have a great school year!

                                                                       Fall 2012
The Fall that trying to get them in a picture together was a hilarious disaster.
                                                  Fall 2013 after Averi gave Kenzi a mullet
                                           Fall 2014: The Fall picture that wasn't a disaster.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Same Journey; Different Paths

I've had a few, and I mean very few, friends that I have shoved away. The difference between them and the ones I hold dear to my heart is this: They think they know, and they don't and won't ever understand. You know what I'm talking about. They think they know what makes your life easy or hard, they think they know how stressed you should be about something, they think they know how you should do things, they think your priorities should be the same as theirs, they think your choices should be similar to theirs if you want to do "it" right. I'm talking about the one who judges and criticizes when she really has no idea. She thinks you need to be on the same path of this journey as she is.

Hopefully you have the friends too though that I do. These friends just get it. They know they live a totally different life than you but for different reasons it has its own struggles and stresses. But they don't compare; they just understand life is hard sometimes.. They know you made and make different choices than them, but they know you both have the same goal of happy kids but you're just taking two different routes to get there. They know you make mistakes, and even if it was a mistake they would have made a different choice to avoid, they know we all make them. Just at different times, in different ways. They don't focus on your flaws or mistakes but on the positives that make you the woman and mom you are. They get that you may be on the same journey that is life but that you're traveling a different path.

I'm going to use my sister for an example .My sister is one of the best people about not making me feel  judged. We're both working mom of two to three kids. We have different jobs, we have different numbers and personality of kids, different support systems, and different additional stress and struggles. Just because she has one job and I have a different one or that she has this support or not that support it doesn't mean one of us has it easier or harder than the other. We just get that some days are hard; some days are great. Some days we just want to vent; some days we just want to be left alone. We're both on this journey of motherhood but we get that our paths are different and the best thing to do for each other is just understand.

The thing is everyone has a story that is full of struggles and triumphs, none of us are truly exempt.
Every one of our past experiences vary from everyone else's and those past experiences is what leads to our doubts, to what we purse, to how we live our life, to what we fear, to what we overcome, to our choices, to the paths we take.  We all have different priorities; different things are important to each of us because of our influences and experiences, and even though yes, we may all argue that family is the most important thing, how that actually looks is different for each of us. None of us walk the same path on this journey of life or parenthood.

We all carry  baggage and we're all packing a different load. In most cases we don't know the full truth of those struggles that lead to the things we see and sometimes want to judge. Even as much as I can be an open book on here sometimes, in some situations only the surface is skimmed. We don't know a person's full story; we don't truly know how easy or hard someone's path is because we're not living it. They are.

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Saying Good Bye to Summer 2015



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saying Good bye to Summer 2015

Summer is drawing to a close. This has felt like a long summer on one hand and a short one on the other. Our actual summer vacation from school was only eight weeks when it's normally nine or ten; however, because we worked half the school summer vacation if we're not looking at summer as the actual break from school but more so the stretch of time with nice warmer weather (especially after the winter we had) and the time for hanging out with friends and family it's felt like summer since we went to the beach in Alabama in April and won't end for us until we go to the beach the weekend after Labor Day weekend, which makes it feel like an awesome long summer.

It really has been an awesome summer. Summers haven't always treated us so great in the past. My most memorable summers before this one were probably the summer I got married and the two summers after my babies were born. 2005 was my first teacher summer and we spent it moving and adjusting to moving in with each other, and I'm not going to retell that disaster story but it was even more of a disaster than what I've shared so it does not go in the books as a good summer. 2006 was better but stressful. We bought the house in the city but thought the best financial decision to have our funds to close would be to be nomads for the two months of summer vacation so we had no set home and just traveled around visiting various friends and family while trying to deal with paperwork from out of town. Not the smartest decision we ever made but another one of those let's just make this harder on ourselves because it's going to save money. 2007 was great because we got married and went on two honeymoons with one to Mexico and one to the Finger Lakes. 2008 was a great summer too because we found out we were pregnant with Averi and took one of our best trips, our didn't know it at the time babymoon two week trip to California. 2009 was Ave's first summer. 2010 started two rough summers in a rough. My car broke down leaving us stranded three hours from home for three days, and it turned out it was going to cost us way more to fix it than it was worth. While I was freaking out about that financial disaster Nate was quitting the City school system and we were anxiously waiting for a job offer for him with the county. 2011 was the summer of Nate's truck accident that tore up his back and we had to fight with an insurance company all summer to repair his truck and get him the treatment he needed to fix his back and my grandpa passed away. The summer of 2012 was Kenz's first summer and my last full summer off with my kids. It was a great summer. The summer of 2013 was quite the opposite. 2013 was the year I was a mental angry, bitter mess. Again no need to tell that summer's story again. Last summer wasn't too bad; it kind of falls in the middle. Nothing too rough comes to mind when I think of that summer but it doesn't necessarily stand out either. And now for the summer of 2015.

It was the summer about people. Making time for family and friends is a top priority to me, and I know many share that same priority. But in our case many of our closest friends and all of our family are long distance. It's very easy to let time and distance get between those relationships. I've seen relationships with limited distance fade over time due to lack of connection between parties. But I am so adamant about making plans that overcome the challenge of distance and time.  I don't want to use distance, lack of time or money as an excuse because the relationships in our lives really are the most important things.

We had that awesome vacation of just the four of us in April but then we met up for a great weekend with a bunch of Nate's college friends, including one of the groomsmen in our wedding that we haven't seen in a couple of years. We got to go to two O's games, including one with again friends of ours that we haven't seen much of since we've moved out of the city. We were able to spend a day or so with our two really good friends and their families down in Virginia that we do usually manage to catch every couple of months. We've seen and hung out with and have more upcoming plans to hanging out with our Baltimore family friends including upcoming parties and a beach wedding celebration. We're starting to make friends too here in town and it's been great hanging out with them too. With my parents coming out this week it will make for two weeks with my family this summer, five weeks with the girls' great grandmother, and a week with Nate's family.  I have two uncles, one grandmother, and my cousin and her family unfortunately that I didn't catch this summer, but beside them I feel like we've been able to catch everyone or we will here in these last few weeks of summer's plans that really matter to us (and I need to make it to see my college roommate again soon). Those we missed we hope to catch soon.

We hit our usual family traditions of summer fun and added a few new things with the drive in, down into the Inner Harbor for the Science Center, went camping, spent time at the ball fields between Nate and Ave's schedule, golfed, fished, went to the town carnival, saw a concert, attended a wine festival, binge watched more TV shows than I have in my entire life combined, did a bunch more work on the house than we planned, and spent several evenings outside around the fire.

There were dark moments in this summer with the biggest one being saying good bye to our Bettis and the dark cloud that hangs at times with the knowledge that there should have been a third Glenn baby this summer. I've spent time on the sorrows of them both, but this post is for reflecting on the great things about this summer because there are many things that were great and to be thankful for, and after some previous rough summers this one deserves a positive reflection in the memory book. It really was a great summer of quality time with family and friends. We watched this Ted Talks video the other day that said something that I've believed in my heart for a long time and that is this. "On our deathbeds we won't look back at our lives and wished we worked more and took off less time. No we will wish we made more time for the family and friends in our lives that matter. That is what we will regret." And I've known that for a long time which is why we live the way we live, and there are no regrets here in that choice. That time with family and friends these last few months is what made this summer.

Hope your summer was great and memorable.

                                                       Family day at the Science Center
                                                   Worlds of Fun with the Williams Cousins

                           Our playdate with the best friend from the fourth grade and her girls
                                                   An awesome night with my college bff
                                                   My parents with their three daughters
                                                        My parents with their five grandkids

                                                            Visiting great Aunt Barbie
                                          Nana's back porch with Grandma and their cousins

                                                       Taking care of her baby cousin
                                                  They love their big cousin
                                                          Uncle Bob and Lala
 Backyard fun with our Phi Psi family (Goetzs, Fassingers, Pantanos) and our Baltimore brother Benjamin

                                                      An great weekend with college friends

                                                                                                  Loved spending time with Uncle Krock

                                                                   Phi Psi kids

                                A great weekend with our Virginia family (Pantanos and Quears)

                                                                Them and T
                                                                    And their mommas

                                             Another annual Watkins Glenn camping adventure
                                                                       and the drive in

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Travel....we will get there

Some people love the experience of traveling and exploring; others are home bodies that just don't feel that instinctive drive to go. Everyone in my family is the latter; my parents and sisters are all homebodies that would much rather be at home than venturing out somewhere new and unknown.   My mom's twin sister and her parents had the traveling gene though, and they are the ones I must have inherited my love and desire for traveling from. I remember my eighth grade year being heartbroken because my parents wouldn't let me go on the eighth grade field trip to DC and NYC. It was from about that point on that besides the happily ever after family dream that every little girl has, I wanted to travel. I wanted to explore this amazing world we live in. Unfortunately, in college I still didn't have the opportunity because of funds. Rather than spending funds on spring break trips I was working to earn more money to get through the rest of college. But I was determined when I was finished I was going to start working towards my travel goal.

The travel dream, much like the family dream, isn't just a dream that's a one and done deal either. It's a lifelong process or maybe it's a lifestyle, but either way it's not something that can be quickly achieved. Luckily my husband shares this genetic trait, and if the first couple years have shown us anything I think our girls share our love for travel too.

Sometimes I get flustered that I haven't made it to some of the places on my list, particularly out west. Even though there are places internationally I would love to travel just like I knew I couldn't start nationally until I was established on my own after college, I know internationally is a goal I'll have to work towards later in my life like in my retirement/parent to grown children years. But in the meantime I have to remind myself in ten years  I have reached a total of 22 states, Mexico, Canada very briefly, and the Bahamas visited and explored. I would love to hit all 50 by the time I'm 50 so I have 28 more to go. I love sharing this goal with my family . My oldest has visited seventeen states in her six years of life and my youngest  has visited fifteen. I would love to have explored all 50 of them as a family by the time they leave home.  Maybe their adult travel dreams will be to explore our world internationally. 

As someone who finds both the city and country setting fascinating my travel goals revolve around the National Parks and big cities. So far we  have camped, hiked, or canoed the National Parks of Yosemite, Sequoia National Park, Redwoods National Park, Badlands National Park (only one I did as a child), Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Ozark National Riverways, Assateague Island National Seashore Park, Everglades National Park (didn't get to explore much though or take pictures so must go back) , Shenandoah National Park, Allegheny National Forest , Harper's Ferry National Park, Gettysburg National Military Park, Arlington National Memorial, and Niagara Falls National Heritage. I have loved nature since I was child so part of my travel agenda is to explore as many of our national parks as we can. I love exploring the beauty of nature; it really is inspiring to me.  Some of the NP that  are on my must visit list are Yellowstone, Glacier, Acadia, Utah's National Park, the Grand Canyon, Denali National Park, Isle Royale of the UP of Michigan, and Rocky Mountain National Park. Eight big ones left to go.
                                                             Yosemite National Park
                                          Baby girl on the beach at sunrise in  Assateague Island
                                                       Smoky Mountains National Park

Nate with his cousin and grandma and Me and with Bettis in Shenandoah


                                                     Niagara Falls on the Canadian side
                                                       Hiking through the Sequoias
                                                              Harper's Ferry National Park
                                                             the Pacific Coast at sunset

Canoeing through the Alleghany National Forest

Just as I love exploring the different National Parks I also love to experience the diversity of our cities. I   love visiting different states  and cities to experience the different cultures, different foods, different dialects, different people, and explore the history of where we've been as a country. As  for cities I finally got to visit DC and NYC, but also Chicago, Philadelphia (but I want to go back to do the historical stuff) San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville, Chattanooga, Orlando, Charleston (no camera at the time to get pictures of the planation homes though :( ), Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Ft Lauderdale, Tampa, Montgomery,  Nassau, St. Louis (but we need to actually go up in the arch sometime), and if you count beach cities there's Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach/Norfolk, Atlantic City, and Ocean City.  We've passed through stopping for a night and getting a little bit of the city experience in Columbus, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Atlanta . The cities on my must visit list are San Diego, Boston, New Orleans, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Texas but suggestions on city to make sure I don't miss, Albuquerque, Williamsburg, and Savannah. Ten big ones left to go.

                             San Francisco and somewhere on the Pacific coast between SF and LA

                                                         Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN
                                                     Fourth of July in our Nation's Capital
                                        Yes we had to eat the original Buffalo Wings in Buffalo, NY
                                                 Sunrise in Myrtle Beach
                                 Sears Tower in Chicago (tallest building in US after Towers fell)
                                                         Orlando, FL for Disney World
                                    Dr. Martin Luther King's house in Montgomery, Alabama

You can see seven states from the top of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN
                                                      Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN

                                                     beach on the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama
                                                             OBX, North Carolina


9/11 Memorial at night

There are nine states I haven't visited that don't have a city or NP on my must visit list and they are Oklahoma, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Idaho, Minnesota, Rhone Island, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. What are in these states that you know of that I need to add to my must check out travel list?

So even though there's a lot left on my list I have to remember that it's not something I'm going to accomplish quickly and I've made decent headway. We'll just keep chugging away at our travel agenda. Our plans include hopefully next year hitting New England with Boston and Acadia as the main stopping points, and for our ten year anniversary maybe Hawaii or if not that yet maybe we can get away for a couples only trip to New Orleans, then we're going to the UP of Michigan in 2018, and just as soon as the girls are big enough for hiking and remembering the goal is to hit Yellowstone and Glacier together, Rocky Mountain Park and Albuquerque together, back to Yosemite and to check out San Diego, Portland with Seattle and western Canada, I want to take Nate and the girls to the Dakotas and Badlands,  then there's Utah and Nevada left, and the Grand Canyon with Vegas (even though I hate gambling and with my husband's love for gambling am afraid I'd have a money anxiety attack in that city). Finally an adults only trips in there somewhere  to Hawaii and for the Alaskan cruise my grandfather always spoke so highly of when we spoke of his travel adventures. That's twelve trips, plus probably a few others fitting in the nine states I'm not sure what to check out for yet.  I have sixteen years to get it done to reach my goal of covering the US by the time I'm 50. I think I can do it or at least by the time I retire between 53-56.

Then our latest retirement possibility is to join an internationally teaching agency where they send you to different countries  for the school year to teach (I can't remember the one we were looking at a couple months ago. I'm sure it will be someone different by the time we retire anyway.) I think there were five different countries to choose from that we wouldn't mind living in for ten months at a time, and then we'd make a little money to support our travel habit while we're getting to explore a new country in our off hours and days. Seems like a plan to me; I'm sure it will need some revising later but it's an idea to explore when the time comes.

I guess with any dream in order to not get discouraged remember what you have done as you look towards what you still plan to do in the future. This is one of those dreams it's not about the sense of accomplishment at achieving it anyway; it's all about the journey on the way. On top of my goal to travel this country is my goal to get home to both our families each twice a year so the two goals are kind of a tug of war at times when you only have so much money and so much time to plan trips, but we've made it work fairly well so far so just have to hope we can keep at it.

They also say travel is the only thing you buy that makes your life richer. I tend to be a penny watcher, and I always buy the cheaper version of everything. Have never been a label chaser except for the twinkle toes my husband talks me into buying our daughters every other Christmas so travel has and always will be the indulgence I spend my money on. The experiences you get really are a life long learner's dream ( I see why so many teachers are travel addicts). I love that my husband shares this love for traveling and exploring with me, and that we get to share this experience with our kids as they grow up. For all the places we haven't traveled to yet, we will get there. All in good timing and in the meantime we'll enjoy the journey on the way.

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