Saturday, August 30, 2014

Recap Series Vol. 3-School's Out for Summer and Back in for Fall

Hank had a great year at school-In May he finished up his 4 year old preschool year at Grant Park Cooperative Preschool with Ms. Ellie and Ms. Kellie.  After a difficult start to his school career the year before in a school that just wasn't a fit for our very bright and stimulation seeking boy, this school was the perfect fit for him.  He was allowed to be very creative in small groups and work through project based learning-working on larger projects for longer periods of time.  He has made amazing friendships this year, and we've really seen him blossom socially (aka all he wants to do is play with friends now).  They have a farm to school program at the school where the children make the lunch everyday from the local farms (yes we have farms in the city)-Hank, our notoriously picky eater, has found a love for lentils, quinoa, and all sorts of funky legumes-this is probably the biggest achievement of the year in my eyes.  Hank
had such a great year in fact, that after much deliberation we decided not to send him to the public preK next year and let him stay and complete his prek year at the Co-op.  Hank has an early birthday, and many of his friends are starting kindergarten,  and while he's technically not a "redshirt" because of his birthday we hope that keeping him in the same school will help build his confidence for kindergarten next year.  

So, being real I'm actually writing this post  after his first week back to school, and so far so good!  He's really enjoying being a "second year swan" and the leadership roles he gets in the class-he's also won the award for biggest swan as he is a good 3-4 inches taller than the next tallest kid in the class (still wondering where his size came from).  He has two new teachers this year-Ms. Stephanie and Ms. Christa.  

In other school news, our sweet little Lucy is very interested in going to school, and being in the ladybugs class. We originally held her out because tuition and parent requirements for two kids enrolled were both higher than we'd like, and honestly she just didn't seem ready to go 3 months ago.  However, we're now changing our tune, and if she gets potty trained we plan to enroll her midyear right before she turns 3.  What in the world will I do with myself with two kids in school?  Lucy, who is nothing like her brother and sometimes I wonder how exactly these two children raised in the same house could possibly be so different, is really a preschool teacher's dream.  She dances through the house everyday singing nursery rhymes, organizes crayons according to everyone's favorite colors,  and lines her dolls up in "circle time" to read stories-I'm pretty sure she's going to think the ladybugs class is the greatest place on earth.  

I look at these pictures of Hank, and hardly recognize him.  While most people look at him and see a boy the same size as an average 8 year old, I still see the 10 month old that I spent countless hours rocking back to sleep at night. Only a few months, and he will be 5-which means I've been a parent for 5 years (and while it does "go by so fast" as everyone says-I feel every second of those 5 years and it sure shows on my face in the form of wrinkles, bags under my eyes, and maybe a few grey hairs). 

 This boy is one very bright little boy, and I hope more than anything for him that he has a wonderful year full of friendship, new experiences, and lentils!    

Here's to preK!

Recap Series Vol. 2-Easter

Easter is a funny thing in our house-Hank doesn't understand why the easter bunny is just a man dressed in a bunny suit and not a real rabbit, and Lucy is always brought to tears that the easter bunny is not an actual rabbit that she can feed grass to like the ones in the neighbors yard.  Anyways, we always have an egg hunt in the park that is a huge hit, and I make my kids dress in their "easter finery" for about an hour and take some pictures (they can thank me later that I don't make them wear smocking, bonnets, and knee socks).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The spring re-cap series vol. 1

In an effort to document my children's lives since I can hardly remember anything anymore I must resort to these re-cap posts that detail months of their lives.  They'll thank me someday, right?  I'll attempt to hit the high points of our past few months over the next few posts....

Over spring break we headed north for our first full family trip to the Smokey Mountains with the grandparents.  We had a nice cabin (complete with hot tub which was likely Hank's favorite feature of the trip) and spent a few days exploring one of our favorite places with the kids.  I mean traveling with kids is a lot of things-mostly totally exhausting and completely opposite of a vacation, often requiring days upon returning home to recover, BUT I do think our kids travel pretty well and honestly it is easier now that there are so many of them.  It could be that after 5 years of parenting we have just mellowed and lowered our expectations to rock bottom or it could be that we're just getting better at it-I'll go with that.  Either way, as long as the crew is all together they seem to adapt pretty well and enjoy the change of scenery.  Hank found his love for historic grist mills, Lucy enjoyed the abundance of streams to throw rocks into, and June, as usual, just enjoys being along for the ride.  Lots of waterfalls (Lucy's favorite), hikes, wildflowers, and even a horsedrawn wagon ride...The kids still ask me all the time when we can go back to the Smoky Mountain.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Remind me to never do that again

After 6 painful months under construction, not to mention the full frustrating year prior to that working through the planning and permitting process we are now enjoying our beautiful 5 bedroom 3 bathroom 2400 sq foot home.  I've been asked many times if I would do it again, the answer is NO.  I knew the process would be stressful/frustrating/expensive etc...but similar to having children, you don't really know what you are getting into until you are already there and it's too late to turn back.  

Don't get me wrong...I can't imagine a better place in the world to live and raise my family than Grant Park and the thought of having to leave my village behind would be I am thankful that we were able to survive this process and now have a beautiful home large enough for our family that allows us to stay put.  When I say beautiful home I'm not lying, I still have moments where I cannot believe this is all ours and am overwhelmed at how perfect it is for our family (part of that has to do with the fact that we custom designed just about our entire house down to closet shelving to accommodate our exact needs).  

So at about month 4 of renovation we were finally closed in with walls, windows, a roof, and insulation...but lacked most of what builders call "finishings" i.e. paint, trim, doors, tile, light fixtures etc.  This has to be the most frustrating point in the process--you feel like you are SO CLOSE but in actuality you are SO FAR.  This is also the point that the big ticket expenses are all behind you-HVAC, framing, roofing, sheetrock, electrical, plumbing etc.  So this means that when you sit down with your builder to "take a look" at the financial spreadsheet you just about fall out of your chair at how much you've spent compared to how much work is left to be done.  

Anyone who knows my husband understands a few things about him 1. spending money is more painful than passing a kidney stone and because of this 2. he feels that he can accomplish anything on his own to save a buck.  Another thing about my husband-he is generally very unflappable, calm, composed, it takes a lot for him to get upset/fired up etc.  In our 6 months under construction, I'm pretty sure I saw him upset/fired up more than I've seen him in the 14 years I've known him-typically related to money :)

So of course he has it in his head that he's going to do all the finishing work to save us money--because he has so much time on his hands with a regular full time job, 4 rental properties to manage, and 3 kids?  Our builder repeatedly tried to convince him that he would not be able to accomplish this on his own.   Anyways, it took about 2 weeks before he realized that it took him 5 days to hang a door and that at this rate of work we'd be done in approximately 2037 and all our children would be in college.  At this point, we start hiring our own mexican crews and with the help of Hehu and Joel we were able to finish the project.  It was also about this time that our friendly neighbor Paul (remember him from the historic committee days) approaches us about showcasing our home on the annual tour of homes.  I immediately respond with NO, but Johnny has other ideas.  He only tends to accomplish anything with a bonfire under his butt, so he somehow convinces me that this is EXACTLY what we need to finish the project.  So now the clock is set-we have 2ish months, a deadline to have our house not only finished but "tour ready".  I must mention that our house has become an absolute chaotic mess, storage floor to ceiling in all rooms-nothing has it's own place, basically a disaster zone across all 2400 sq feet.  

Long story short...we meet our deadline to the tune of- the tour starts at 1030 am and at 1029 we are moving furniture into the freshly painted playroom-both completely covered in paint head to toe.  I'm pretty sure neither of us have ever worked so hard and tirelessly on anything in our lives-up into the wee hours in the weeks leading up to the tour with me on repeat "we're never going to get this done, can we back out now?".  Where are the kids while this is happening? they are here, generally being completely unhelpful as usual.  We trimmed, painted, organized, furnished, and cleaned the entire upstairs and downstairs (and even spent a few days working in the yard).  The house looks amazing, and likely would still not be finished if we didn't have the deadline.  The tour of homes was amazing actually, and despite the enormous stress leading up to it...I cannot tell you how amazing it is to have hundreds of people walk through your home all weekend telling you what a beautiful home you have.  It was definitely one of those bucket list items that both Johnny and I had, and was truly an unforgettable and really emotional life experiences (particularly the road to get there).  The tour went on all weekend, ended Sunday night at 5:00 at which point Johnny and I crashed.  I think we were running on pure adrenaline up to that point and it took a few days before I could move again.  The amount of blood, sweat, and tears packed into this house has to be enough to last a lifetime--but I'm not gonna lie I'm already thinking about a new kitchen :)

Some pictures of the finished product....come visit anytime!  We have room for everyone!