Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the year...the First Day of School!

Daniel was so excited/nervous he had
a hard time falling asleep last night.
Edward's all "Been there...done that."

 They only deigned to take a "nice" picture together if it was followed by a series of "goofy" pictures.

We didn't realize until this morning that Daniel had picked out a first-day-of-school outfit that perfectly matched his new shoes. He swears he didn't do it on purpose, and I believe him. His idea (and Edward's) of "outfit selection" is "whatever is on top of the pile in the drawer." Yesterday before they got dressed, I just mentioned that if they had something they specifically wanted to wear for the first day they should be sure NOT to wear it yesterday since that would result in it being in the laundry today. It's the little things.

By all accounts it was a good day. Daniel told me, "First grade is AWESOME!" Let's see if that holds up when the homework starts. He also said he'd give it two thumbs up. Edward was more nonchalant, but was very excited about "a secret." I thought I'd find it when I opened his backpack at home, but he said, "No, Mom, it's not something you can touch." Woah...getting all metaphysical. It turned out to be that Edward's homeroom is paired with Daniel's for weekly "reading buddies." I doubt the brothers will be matched up together, but still a fun way to share part of a school day.

All in all, a successful first day!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Let's get into our way-back machines and add to the blog a celebration of the end of Daniel's Kindergarten year. His class shared some of their favorite songs with the assembled parents on the last day. 
Then they all got to cross through the "Welcome to First Grade" banner and emerge as 1st graders. This was all topped off with ice cream sundaes on the playground. Doesn't get much better!


Flanked by Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Turnquist
During the last week of school, I took this photo of Daniel
May 2014

Which put me in mind of one from another era. I didn't realize until I went looking for it that Daniel has been playing on this playground since before he was a year old!
December 2008
While we're on the subject of Daniel, he had a summer celebration of his winter birthday in June with six friends--three from pre-school and three from Kindergarten. We had squirt toys for all as well as a pool, water balloons, pizza and cake. Good times!
Someone's eager to get started; note "swimming pool" cake

pizza and watermelon, lunch of champions

water relay

musical chairs--by request of the bday boy
School starts tomorrow! The last day of vacation seems like a good time to reflect on some of the summer fun I missed blogging about.

The boys were persistent, though not whiny, in their requests for another camping trip. The first weekend of August the weather conditions looked favorable, so we loaded up and headed to Backbone State Park, about two hours away. Actually, it should have been closer to an hour and 40 minutes, but inevitably, construction slowed us down. We picked this park because I'd heard great things from friends about its beauty, especially the namesake hiking trail. Also, it had a "tent-only" campground that didn't require reservations or a two-night minimum. We thought we'd found a nice site, though later in the evening we would learn that our neighbors were not too concerned with the 10 p.m.-6 a.m. quiet hours rule.

We set up the tent and then split up to collect (boys and me) and buy (John) firewood. On our hike from the campsite in search of firewood, the boys and I spotted two deer eating dinner beside a creek. Their nature camp training allowed them to spot the scene, silently point it out and then stand still to observe without scaring the deer away. Priceless!

We gathered plenty of kindling to go with John's fire logs and soon had a fire burning for our hot-dog dinner. I'd looked up "camping recipes" before we left, but decided I'm just not that ambitious.
Burning sticks
S'mores for dessert, of course!
We did not get a great night's sleep, to say the least. Neighbors were loud until close to midnight, so that I was determined not to try to keep our boys quiet in the morning. But then the same neighbors got up and started being loud even before we did! I also discovered in the middle of the night that my air mattress had a slow leak. Both of these factors combined to ensure this would be only a one-night stay. Still, I do love the early morning light and air and stepping outside just after waking up. I just don't love the non-bed and non-bathroom (pit) that accompany this sort of rustic living. I was once lucky enough to have the ideal combination--a full bed on the sleeping porch of my aunt's family cabin overlooking the Puget Sound. Sleeping outside on a real bed while listening to the gentle lapping water and with a bathroom and kitchen just inside the door--Paradise!

But back to Iowa--we had muffins (store bought in advance) and cereal for breakfast, loaded a backpack with water and granola bars and set out to find the Backbone trail. The park map left a lot to be desired, but we eventually got there and were not disappointed. The boys each packed his own pouch with "essentials" for the hike--a whistle/compass combo, flashlight, band-aids, granola bar. I carried all the water in the backpack.

We were tired when we got back after about two and a half hours (recall the lack of sleep) and not excited about PB&J for lunch, so we decided to go into the nearby town of Strawberry Point. (Unbeknown to us, the very next week, this town would be the foil in a Jon Stewart bit on The Daily Show.) Thus re-energized, we headed to the Backbone lake to fulfill another of the boys' long-standing wishes--paddle boats. Unsurprisingly to the parents, the boys were much more interested in using their feet to dangle in the water than to pedal the boats, but it worked out to everyone's satisfaction. And from there we headed home to our showers, our toilets and our beds!

Another fun summer day was a combo Kernels game and Planet X game night. Planet X is sort of a smaller version of a Chuck-E-Cheese, with pizza, video games, rock climbing, bumper cars, laser tag, and on this special occasion, face painting. The occasion was a fundraiser for the Summer of the Arts organization, for which John is a board member. This group puts on a series of summer festivals in Iowa City.

The boys always ask for face painting at these festivals, but the lines are always ridiculous and it seems like a lot of $ for something you'll just wash off in a few hours anyway. But this time it worked well. Edward requested these eyes on his eyelids--creepy! Daniel got a batman mask, but I can't seem to find a picture--will have to check John's phone.

This event was on a Sunday evening and the Cedar Rapids Kernels had an afternoon home game that day, so it seemed like a good combo. The boys had participated in the Kernels Summer Reading Challenge, reading 1,000 minutes to earn a whole spate of prizes. (These could be claimed in 250 minute intervals as you "arrived" at each base on the activity sheet, but we saved it all for one trip.) They got a free game ticket as well as a wristband for unlimited access to the Fun Zone. They would have been very happy to stay in this area the whole time. In fact, I'm not sure they were even fully aware there was a baseball game going on!

After the game, kids were invited onto the field to run the bases, play catch, and get player autographs. Ours were primarily interested in the base-running.
Daniel rounding second; Edward on his way from first
Coming home
Running in a crowd toward home

Other summer fun included:

Grandpa's birthday
Note the Lego cakes and number 71

Johnson County Fair (OMG it was so hot! And it rained while we were there which did nothing to cool but really ramped up the humidity.)
"Pirate ship"
Messy science day at the public library--wading pool full of oobleck!

This was before the full body immersion

I don't know what this was, but it kept the boys occupied and giggling for a while one afternoon.


 Not all of it upside down on the stairs, but hey, we take what we can get. As noted above, the boys completed 1,000 minutes of reading for the Kernels Summer Reading Challenge. This also doubled as minutes toward the public library summer reading program. They finished the library program with five weeks left of vacation so we created a bonus Kenyon Summer Reading challenge seeking 500 minutes with the prize of The Lego Movie DVD. We did not take into account that the final two weeks of summer included all-day, exhausting, outdoor camps, so we still have about 100 minutes to go, but we'll make it by Labor Day, which is the true end of summer, right?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Last Sunday, we tried something new as a family: stand-up paddle boarding. Just last year the city opened a new park/recreation area with a small lake and contracted with a local business to provide a boating concession there. Canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and paddle boards are available to rent by the hour. We've biked the trail around the lake and Edward and I tried kayaking earlier this summer when Daniel was enjoying a week off camp and having a sleep-over with Grandma and Grandpa. The paddle boards had piqued our interest, so we made a plan and off we went.

We decided just to get two boards for the hour as we didn't know if we'd like it well enough or have the stamina for a full hour. This was a good choice, though I'm told we did not do a good job splitting the hour evenly. John and Daniel went first and didn't think they were out for a full half hour. They were expecting Edward and me back in time to take another turn. But time is not really the first thing on your mind when you're paddling around a peaceful lake with a light breeze to keep cool (and blow you ever so slightly off course.)

Daniel receiving instructions and a push off
Paddling like a pro

Edward back paddles away from shore
Ready to cruise

We ended up running a bit over the hour as it seemed the breeze had picked up by the time Edward and I were returning to shore and it was kind of tough to steer. He grew quite frustrated and stopped paddling at one point, but I had to explain that there really was no way for me to do it for him, so he'd have to keep going. That was a tricky thing about paddle boarding with kids, but ultimately I think a good lesson. Edward eventually got himself going in the right direction.

 Then Daniel, who thought he hadn't had a long enough turn, went back out again with John (who would have been quite satisfied to leave well enough alone) and ended up getting stuck in the marshy area you can see just behind the beach launch. He was standing there pulling his paddle and barely moving. The water is not deep, and we could have gone in to get him if things had gotten desperate. But with John's coaching from outside the marsh and our encouragement from shore, he inched his way slowly back to open water and decided to call it a day. But not before some splashing fun in the lake and off the dock!

(See what I did there with posting as if I hadn't taken a nearly three-month blog hiatus? Apologies for the virtual silence. I promised my mom some new material in time for her birthday next week, so will try to fill in some of our summer adventures in the coming days. Also, watch for 1st day of school on Tuesday!)