Tuesday, August 31, 2010

James' First Day!

James is a Koala Bear!

Our little boy is now fully immersed in the Koala Bear classroom at the Children's Center - technically the 4 year old classroom (even though he doesn't turn four until February.)
It's a big deal for our little man - he's finally the eldest Long at the Children's Center - so he's no longer in his sister's shadow.

When he plays on the playground - he plays with his own friends - not what Anna wants him to do - and he rejoices in being the first one dropped off.

We love, love, love the teachers in this classroom - Ms. Tyniko and Ms. Sam are some of the best teachers in the Center - and we couldn't wait for James to be in their class.

In the few weeks since he's been a Koala - his writing skills have really progressed - and he is very close to being able to write his name (except for that pesky "s" that's giving him trouble.)

Like the rain boots in the above photo? I picked them up for him at Target a few weeks ago. We've had to pry them off his feet ever since. Literally.

Signing his name in the class journal for the first time ... with a little help from his little personal mini-me, Jack.

Oh my sweet baby James - where has the time gone? You are going to learn so much this year - what an exciting year for you!

Sweet Summer

My written post about our summer vacation starts below - it's taking way too long to move pictures around in blogger - so I'm stopping the madness and just writing captions - scroll through down the longest.post.ever to see lots of fun pictures - and hear all about our lazy days at the beach.....

Bathing Beauty Anna - the little girl who insisted I take her picture in a gazillion poses ....

I love the mischievous look on James' face in this picture - I think about 0.6 seconds later he was off in the water again - splashing and terrorizing his sister no doubt....
This is one little boy who L-O-V-E-S the beach - the sand, the sun, the waves, the water, the seashells.... he loved it all.
Best laid plans... we rented a bike with a baby-trolley for the last day we were at the beach - with the intent that Deonne would take the kids on a bike ride while I finished up packing and cleaning out the house... which was an excellent idea... except for the pouring rain that morning. At least the threesome were able to go for a ride along the meandering bike paths the afternoon before we left.
Grandpa - and the two older Longs... walking back to the car along the path from Botany Bay.
The next series of photos are from our family walk along Botany Bay - a beautiful place that I could spend hours at - just looking at the sea - feeling the breezes - and picking up sea shells.

We spent one afternoon painting with watercolors...

... and sticking our tongues out....

Aunt Mary reading to Anna...

... and Uncle Harry reading to Jack...

Some scenes from the Edisto Marina - located on the Sound side of the island - boats always bring back bittersweet memories of my Dad - and his love of boating...

Bored James - literally climbing the walls (and windows) while waiting for our dinner to come the night we went out to eat with Uncle Harry and Aunt Mary.

No words can describe the happiness in this family group.

Anna picking up seashells with Aunt Mary.
Our summer vacation this year was lovely. A full week at the beach – complete with warm weather, sunny skies, the salty ocean, sandcastles, sea creatures, movie nights, yummy food, and family time together.

We headed down to Edisto Island (my new favorite East cost beach) on a Saturday afternoon, checked into our house, and were settled by evening. I hadn’t been to Edisto before, and had no idea what to expect as far as the house, the amenities on the island, what the beach (or access to the beach from the house would be like), or how long the drive down would take – and was pleasantly surprised by all of it.

It turns out that Edisto has everything you need, and nothing you don’t. One grocery store, one gas station, a few beachy-boutique shops (enough to satisfy my need to pick up a few souvenirs), a few local restaurants, an ice cream/movie rental shop, and outdoor outfitters (bike rentals.) The island is mainly filled with beach houses – ranging in size from large to small, ocean front to second or third row – but all within walking distance to some sort of water access.

George and Pink's - the local dirt-floor fruit and vegetable stand - where we loaded up on local produce for the week.

Our house, Sound Investment, was located on the Sound side of the island – meaning we were not right on the Atlantic Ocean coastline. I think we were technically third row – but the backyard of the house was located right on a bike path – that was in turn located behind the second row houses – and we were maybe a half a block in from the cross street.

All that to mean we were within very easy walking distance of the beach. Thanks to some great advice from my friend Nici, I purchased a beach cart – so we were able to load up all amenities we might need (cooler of drinks, sun tent, towels, beach toys, diaper bag, camera, sunscreen, jelly-fish spray, beach chairs) and easily take them to the beach.

The house itself was lovely – I wasn’t sure what it would be like on the inside (because you never can tell what you’re going to get from internet pictures) – but again, was pleasantly surprised. It was spacious, had plenty of room for the kids to run and play, a good sized kitchen that opened up into the living area, a separate den and big screen TV upstairs for movie nights, bedrooms for everyone – oh, it was perfect for our family.
One of many movie nights....
The big screened porch had rocking chairs, and I adored sitting there in the mornings, sipping my coffee, looking at the enormous live oak trees in the backyard that were dripping with Spanish moss, and listening to the deafening sound of the cicadas as they made their morning music.
Jack and I - enjoying our morning coffee together....

Downstairs we had an outdoor shower (necessary for washing off sandy kids before sending them up to get dressed after a morning on the beach), a large parking area (that served as an excellent bike riding venue and splash pool area), a wicker love seat swing, and Adirondack chairs.

The kids had a t-total ball at the beach.
James ran, and I mean RAN up one side of the beach down to the other. Our location on the Sound provided a perfect place to let the kids run and play and be free without constant worry over them being pounded by the ocean front waves. And when we were there during low tide – there were oodles of tide pools for them to splash around in, pick up sea shells, explore fiddler crabs, and dig in the sand.
The first morning we were out on the beach the kids made friends with an older boy. He was out early catching bait fish with a shrimp net for later larger fishing purposes. He was so kind and gentle with the kids – let them help him pick the fish out of the nets and store in his cooler – showed them how to throw a net – explained patiently what he was doing – and allowed D and I some much needed quiet time.
And while all this was going on – Jack was content to sit and splash and dig - or do his 'happy dance.'
Deonne dug a hole that filled in about half-way with water. Jack literally sat in it like he was in a bathtub – digging in the sand, splashing in the water, grinning the entire time.

Later that morning – the kids got to see the boy and his dad (or uncle, I’m still not sure who he was) catch a shark! Yes, a real shark! (Okay, so it was only 24” long – but it was a real Hammerhead Shark – and Anna and James delighted in touching its soft body and seeing it’s fins wiggle.
We were also very lucky in that some of our very dear friends were at Edisto the same week (Nici and her family) so we were able to join them several times throughout the week for dinners, trips to the beach, and visits to the local ice cream shop.

During down time (rest time) we painted pictures, watched movies, read books, relaxed…. And the rest of the time we rode bikes, splashed in our kiddie pool, colored a lot, and spent a lot of time in the sun.

Deonne’s aunt and uncle joined us for a few days at the start of the week – which was a real treat. Uncle Harry brought his boat all the way down to the coast to take D and the kids shrimping. And while Anna enjoyed driving the boat, she said she got bored, and didn’t want to go again a second time. James had fun – I think he just liked being with his daddy and Uncle Harry. Unfortunately, the ‘catch of the day’ wasn’t all that fruitful – so we ended up having to supplement our Beaufort Stew with some shrimp from the local fish monger (who I assume was out in deeper waters than D and Harry and the tidal marshes). But all of the shrimp was sweet and tender – nothing like fresh caught seafood to make a great meal.

We had another treat – when Deonne’s mom and dad came down for a few days toward the end of the week. The kids L-O-V-E spending time with grandma and grandpa – and I think their enthusiasm wore poor grandma and grandpa out after just a few days! The last night they were with us we headed out to Botany Bay – a protected bay that is the location of several old historic plantations. It is such a cool place. I would love to go back again when we have more time to spend there. It’s a short walk along the marsh out to the actual beach – that is covered with shells. And when I say covered – I mean covered. There are literally thousands of shells – ranging from typical seashells to larger conch shells. And because it’s protected (and you get fined up the wazoo if you’re caught taking one) they are EVERYWHERE.

It was just beautiful. We made it right at sunset – so were able to take some family photos of the kids and some with grandma and grandpa. Of course, I am always the one behind the camera, and never remember to document that I’m there with my kids as well – I need to work on that in the future.

The biggest thing about this adventure – Grandpa hasn’t set foot on a beach in some 40 years or so. Seriously. And who was the one to prompt him to go with us and not stay back at the house? Little Miss Anna – who has her grandpa wrapped around her little finger…. Maybe next year we’ll get him on the beach during the day to build a sandcastle… we can hope, right?
All in all it was a lovely trip. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a vacation for me – keeping up with three little ones, including the constant laundry (which I’d rather do on vacation than come home to 14 loads), the cooking of all three meals for a week, and the picking up of toys was probably more than I do on any given week at home – but it was still a great trip.
I do have to tell one story that isn’t so great though – to document for the family record – the story that happened on Thursday. Otherwise known as the day Jack nearly drowned.

We decided we’d try going to the ocean front side of the island Thursday morning – to see a different area and let the kids play somewhere else than the beach we’d been at all week. Big mistake. Huge.

Turns out the waves out there are very rough – the warnings we’d been given were true. The waves were so rough that not only were the kids banned from even wading out on their own – but I wasn’t comfortable going out with them. I was too afraid I’d lose a hand or drop a kid or be plowed over by a rough wave.

So Deonne took turns with each child – in turn – going out past where the waves were breaking closest to shore – in a sort of in-between place where the waves settled down. Or so we thought.
It was Jack’s turn – and Deonne was getting kind of far out. I looked up and saw a huge wave come up beside him – that slammed into the side of Jack’s head. He looked like he was starting to cry, really cry, so I started motioning for Deonne to come back in. So what happened next was my fault – because I was distracting Deonne – and he was too busy trying to hear what I was saying instead of looking behind him – at the WALL of water coming right at them.
So this huge wave comes crashing over – knocking Deonne down – as in – beneath the water down. I swear I didn’t see hide nor hair of him for a few seconds. Jack either. Then I saw Deonne start to come up – with no Jack.

Now, you have to understand just how rough these waves were. These waves were so strong that they could easily sweep a grown man out to sea – let alone a tiny baby boy. So you can imagine the complete panic I had for a few seconds (which felt like an hour) before I saw his head emerge from the water – screaming and sputtering and mad as hell.
He wasn’t the only one. I marched as close as I could get to the water – grabbed Jack from Deonne’s arms – and proceeded to lose my $-H-I-T right there on the beach – in front of God and everyone. (Oh, and Deonne’s mom who happened to witness the entire event.) I didn’t care. I had almost lost my baby boy. I was tired from a week of keeping up with the kids. I was stressed out. And that was the proverbial straw…..

Turns out everyone was just fine – and the only casualty was Deonne’s prescription sunglasses that were ripped off his head (safety strap and all) in the waves. But my boy was just fine. Both of them.

But other than the Near Drowning Episode – everything else was smooth sailing. And the only other really sad part was the morning we had to pack up our cars and head home.

James keeps asking if we can go back to the Green House. I sure hope so.

Because I Heart Edisto – and would love to make this a yearly vacation for our family of five.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How Did This Happen?

My baby - my sweet little girl - my first born child - only daughter - has suddenly grown up. Right before my very eyes.

And today - today it is official.

Today she began her tenure as a student - walking into the doors of her elementary school for the very first time.

A true 'kindergartner.'

I'm so proud. (And more than just a little bit melancholy...)

Last night Anna carefully chose her First Day Outfit from the selection of uniforms she has prepared and hanging in her closet (including shoes and matching hair bow and socks.) And after she'd brushed her teeth and washed her face, we read several stories; The Night Before Kindergarten, One Smart Cookie, and The Kissing Hand.

I think we both especially liked The Kissing Hand - which is the story of a mama raccoon and her child raccoon who is scared to go off to school - and how she comforts the child by kissing his hand and saying - any time you need mommy, put your hand to your face and feel my kiss.

So this morning we woke Anna up - she got dressed for school, ate her breakfast, and headed out with her brand new backpack.

And boy, was she cute with her little monogrammed outfit and hair bow. (A big huge THANK YOU to Logan for monogramming all of her uniforms!)

We parked and walked into school - stopping to pose for a picture near the entrance to the school - and then made our way to Ms. Peebles class.

I think we're going to love Ms. Peebles!

And then it was time to leave.

I hugged her tight, whispered in her ear that I loved her and was proud of her - kissed her hand - and walked out the door.

All the while feeling tears prick at the back of my eyes.

And I wasn't alone - I saw lots of red-eyed mommies dropping off their children this morning. Even mommies of older kids in higher grades. Even mommies who are typically stoic and don't often show emotions.

It's hard to leave your child in the hands of someone else - even though I know she's safe and secure and learning with professional teachers - it's still hard to walk away from the child you've nurtured and loved since infancy (and before.) And it's hard to see them growing up.

Bittersweet - I suppose that's the word for how I'm feeling today - yet proud beyond comprehension.