Sunday, August 31, 2014

August in an instant

August simultaneously crawled and flew right by. Leah was soooooo beyond ready to start school again, so those first two weeks were a bit painful. We tried to fill them with fun things, but it seemed there were always extra hours in the day. But, no fear, school did, actually, start. And we made it through the summer mostly unscathed! 

I'm calling it a win. 

The final two weeks of August were filled with adjusting to new regular schedules (first grade! preschool!, piano lessons!), sending Ryan off to Finland (but this time for only a week, not three) and of course, getting sick (so. many. tissues.). 

As of today, we're all good. And settled. And smelling fall. 

And it smells goooooood. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Kate and I are venturing into new territory over here, as I joined a co-op preschool with a few of my friends. There are 5 kids total, so once every 5 weeks, I teach Kate and 4 of her cute friends all about the alphabet, numbers, patterns, senses, seasons and other themes. 

So far, so good. Though, I haven't had to teach yet. 

Kate was so excited for her first day. She packed her new backpack very carefully (mostly her own personal diaper bag) and was very serious about making sure Leah didn't take the pink bows to school with her. 

She put on her best game face for her photo op (or she at least tried to narrow it down to a few of her best faces), complete with shouting hooray for the garbage truck driving down the road and picking her little button nose. 

And just like that, this two year old is off to her first of three years of preschool (hence the pre-pre-preschool sign). She's going to do great things, this little one. Of that I am sure. And I'm glad I get to come along for the ride.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

catch up

I'm slowly playing catch up (mostly for my own record keeping), but for those who have been asking, I'm now caught up through June, which includes: 

Boston Marathon (weekend and race)
A trip to Springfield, IL
Day trip to Galena, IL

And a few others in between. I postdated them all, so for some reason they weren't coming up in any RSS feeds. 

Next up is the last seven weeks of our little summer. And after that I hope to get back to some more thought-provoking posts that have been swimming around in my head, as opposed to a travelogue. Though I wouldn't trade those travels for anything (except maybe a cure)! 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

first of first

The much-anticipated first day of first grade has been two years coming. Every time I think, I'm not old enough to have a 1st grader I remember that, actually, I'm old enough to have a 2nd grader, and then I immediately feel better. 

We had a successful meet and greet night where we walked through Leah's classroom, saw (and sat in) her new chair and desk, dropped off all her school supplies and met her new teacher, Mrs. Radosevich (yes, I spelled it wrong on the sign). She has one of the same aides as last year and one new one. AND two of her best buddies from Kindergarten are in her class this year, one being a locker buddy. 

It was also nice being able to send her back to the same school, with no huge changes - the first time that has ever happened in her 5+ years of school. I almost didn't know what to do with my free time. 

Leah was up and ready to go on the first day way before the bus arrived. She knew exactly what she wanted to wear (still loves those horses!) and she was incredibly efficient all morning. We played outside for a good 20 minutes just waiting, waiting, waiting. We had ample time to get pictures (and Kate was not about to be left out). And the grin on Leah's face could not be wiped off. 

I send her off each day just hoping we are doing the right thing. Hoping that everyone at school believes in her as much as we do at home. And they do. They believe in Leah because Leah makes them believe. The light in her eyes and her grinning, gregarious personality almost force others to believe. She's in there. And she is going to do some amazing things this year. 

First grade is off to a first-rate start. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

swim days

One of our favorite summer activities in Iowa is "swim days", courtesy of the fabulous Sister Cropper. The Croppers are a family in our ward (local church congregation) who open up their pool to the ward members and their friends every Tuesday, all day. 

I know. 

When I grow up, I want to be like Sister Cropper. 

My girls LOVE swim day and start talking about next Tuesday on our way home from the current swim day! 

I think Leah feels free in the pool. She's really good at kicking and moving around to where she wants to be. She just graduated to this life jacket this year and it worked great! She's tall enough to stand in the shallow water, but still kicks and swims everywhere too. 

Kate has become a little fish and loves kicking and floating on her back (this is her smiling - seriously - she is grinning here). She thinks she can jump off the side of the pool, but really she's just hopping and then I pull her in. 

Kate got so used to seeing Sister Cropper in a swim suit that when she saw her at church recently she looked at me and said, "Mom! Sisser Copper all clean!" 

There's always an abundance of food and friends and we usually spend about 3 hours there just soaking in the sun. For now we've packed away the sunscreen and hung up our suits and towels to dry. Can't wait until "next Tuesday" June 2015. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

10 mile goal: report

Remember that goal we had to run or walk 10 miles this summer? 

Well, the girls basically blew it out of the water. 

As of the last day of summer vacation, they walked more than 20 miles. They really surprised me! Most days we went more than a mile. The girls were exhausted, which was the goal, and usually happy to boot! I carried each girl ONCE (on different days) for about a quarter of a mile, and that is it. 

We picked a lot of flowers. 

Took a few breaks. 

Twice (or thrice?) we went with dad. 

 And once we went with friends. 

 Once we checked out a brand new trail. 

And once Kate and I went sans Leah (who was running around at camp), allowing us to find a path less traveled and much rockier. Kate was a fan.

But usually it was just me and my smiley crew, slowly but surely making our way down the paved path. 

We always ended our walks with snacks and water in the back of the car. 

And a few times it resulted it late morning naps. Because it's summer, so why not!?

All in all, a worthy goal, good effort and such a great result. Definitely an activity that will be repeated in summers to come. I'm so proud of those four little legs! 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

the Fosters in farm country

After having such a great time with the Fosters in IL, we all decided they should come check out our neck of the woods. The plan was to have them come see some of the John Deere sights and then we'd all go to Tug Fest, which was perfect since they are from IL and we are from IA. May the best state win, right? 

Well, Leah had other ideas and decided that after a 20-month hiatus, she should start to have seizures again. Luckily, the Fosters totally understand living with Rett syndrome and they just rolled with it, seizures, sleepiness and all.

We bagged Tug Fest (next year!!!) and instead had a quick lunch and then paid a low-key visit to the John Deere headquarters where... 

John and Ava thought the equipment was comfy enough to take a snooze in,

we learned that even though Kate has done a lot of growing lately, she is, in fact, still small, 

and we let two two year olds drive a combine. 

After our Deere shenanigans, we turned on the hose in the backyard and the girls had a great time running through sprinklers and splashing each other in the pool before eating homemade pizzas to recharge them. 

It was short and sweet, but so much fun to spend a relatively low-key day with some pretty fabulous company. And at least John had a guy to hang out with this time! 

Come back to Iowa soon, Fosters! We can't promise seizure-free activities, apparently, but we can promise a good time. (And it was probably good that we didn't go to Tug Fest this year - I heard IL won.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Niabi Zoo

In an effort to explore a little more of our still-new-to-us town, the girls and I joined some friends for a day at the Niabi Zoo (knocking off a summer bucket list item while we were at it!). 

We rode the "choo choo" aka train. How Katrin manages to look good despite the heat and humidity is beyond me. I need to learn her secrets! 

We went on the "up down up down" aka carousel...
...where Leah was pleased as punch to be riding Po the Panda. Only the best for Leah. 

We had a yummy picnic lunch on the grass where Leah gobbled up her food and Kate ran around like a crazy person, only willing to eat fruit snacks, per our usual routine. The only time she sat still was when we hoisted her onto the hippo. (Does every zoo have a statue of a hippo? So far we are having fantastic luck with a picture of our Kateapotamus on a hippopotamus in every location!)

And we saw so many animals. It really was a fun trip with fabulous company. Something we will definitely have to repeat in the near future. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Nauvoo Pageant

The day Ryan got home just happened to be the last day of the Nauvoo pageant, a yearly summer tradition held in Nauvoo that culminates each night with a live show about Joseph Smith and the early latter-day saints and the sacrifice and faith they showed to build the city of Nauvoo and the Nauvoo temple. 

There is a fair held beforehand with bagpipe players, games and activities common to the 1830s and 40s, and crafts for adults and kids to enjoy.  

We knew it would be the last night the pageant was running, but we also knew Ryan would most likely be exhausted after being in a completely different time zone for three weeks and then traveling home for more than 24 hours. But, around 4:00 in the afternoon, we decided we should give it a shot and we made the two hour drive to Nauvoo. 

I'm really glad we did. We were able to walk around for about an hour and the girls had fun making fabric braids (which Kate refused to take off for a few days) and seeing all the entertainment. They wouldn't let Ryan out of their sight! 

The pageant itself was wonderful. The singing, dancing and acting were all top notch. And I really want to make this pageant a yearly family tradition (also because I'd love to watch the show again without wrangling a 2 year old at 10 pm). 

Kate was really worried when they turned the lights off of the temple they had been building on stage for the entire pageant (as the saints left Nauvoo and the temple was destroyed). And it was such a great moment when they lit up the current temple, rebuilt in its original location. Kate was honestly awestruck and was so happy the temple was back again. 

We packed up our sleepy ladies and made it home just after midnight, which made for a sleepy Sunday (never a bad thing!). 

Friday, August 1, 2014

july in an instant

We decided after our lengthy car travels in June, our family hadn't had enough. So, July was filled with a little more traveling. 

Ryan escaped to New Zealand and Australia for 3+ weeks for work and the girls and I road tripped to Kentucky (a new state for all three of us!) one weekend to visit my (visiting) sister and a long-lost cousin, and Chicago the next to visit some Rett friends (and IKEA and Trader Joe's, of course).

We traveled nearly 20 miles on our six little legs on the trails. Double our goal - those girls are rock stars. 

Leah traveled a few cities over for her first-ever summer camp. It was a hit. 

We received a Box Tops label in the mail that traveled all the way from Fiji. Thanks Grandma! 

I traveled up and down the hill in my backyard 60+ times mowing the lawn for the first (and second) time. And Leah ran up the hill all by herself. She was beyond pleased. I don't have words for the incredible feelings I felt watching her. 

And we traveled all around town checking things off our summer bucket list. 

It was a well-traveled and much enjoyed month! Now for the pictures...