Monday, May 30, 2016

a day at the zoo

After Cruz's last week of preschool, topped with his graduation ceremony Thursday night, we decided to celebrate with a day off on Friday to officially kick off our summer.  Beau just so happened to be heading east on a little a fly fishing excursion with Aram, creating the perfect space for my mom to come for a little sleepover party.  She arrived early Friday morning and we headed to Des Moines for our annual trip to Blank Park Zoo, in May this time instead of August...

I've said it before, but we are going to have so much fun this summer.  The kids are at a sweet spot this year, still little enough to want to be with us (unless our neighbor, Rush, is outside), but big enough to be able to move around independently and make their own fun out of these experiences.  They're also a kill together, and it's pretty wonderful to see them enjoy being with one another.  I swear they chased each other and giggled in the prairie dog tunnel for 45 minutes while Mom and I talked.  It was marvelous!  The weather was glorious, we had no timeline of when we needed to return, and we let the kids take the reigns as we explored this wonderful little place.

Highlights from our zoo day...

-Anytime an animal would approach where Mila was standing, she'd put her hands over her mouth and scream this high-pitched, girly little scream.

-Watching the mama monkey attempt to tame her baby.  This baby wanted to be free to move around its quarters, and the mama wanted to obtain a tight leash.  It all looked oddly familiar as I watched my own little monkeys watch with wide eyes and utmost curiosity.
-Cruz's giggles when we made jokes about the rhino's backside.  The only side of the rhino we saw, after all. :)

-When the field trips all left early afternoon and it felt as though we had the place to ourselves.

-Feeding the goats.  Cruz was a natural, but Mila, not so much.  She got a little nervous and instead of feeding them out of her hand, she just chucked the food at their heads.  At least it was food this time and not a handful of rocks. :)

-Watching the kids watch the little sea otters and their synchronized swimming moves right before our eyes.  We watched them for a long time.

-A picnic lunch, our first one of the season

-The twinkle in Mila's eye as she held on tight on the carousel.  She wanted to ride it again as soon as the music stopped.

-Cruz's request to ride the train and his comment to the conductor afterwards. ("Thanks for the ride, but it could have been a little longer!")

-Watching Cruz take Mila's hand and take her up to the lookout deck to watch the giraffes.  And lead her through the playground.  And put his arms around her waist and help her down the slide.  He's the best big brother, I tell ya.

-Our fantastic look at the Mufasa lion from our train car
-Watching the big tortoises eat their dinner salads  

-Two sacked out, sleepy kids all the way home!  It was a great day. :)  


Friday, May 27, 2016

2016 Summer Bucket List

And just like that, it feels like summer.  As tradition would have it, we've been plotting and dreaming the last few weeks of all the big and little things we can't wait to do together over the next few months of sunshine.  We've been brainstorming summer bucket lists for six years now and it's always a fun practice to ensure we are being creative and making the most of our days.  Afternoons at the pool, dinners on the deck, and neighborhood walks before bed make up our days, but this list provides a spark of novelty and excitement when we're looking for something fun to do.  I love how every year Cruz is able to contribute more, and that although there are always new idea, certain favorites have reappeared every single year.  Our afternoon bike ride excursion with pit stops at the playground for the kids and Mulligans' patio for the adults, annual strawberry picking day, and Main Street's Movies Under the Moon are among our favorites, but with each year brings kids a little bigger and experiences a little richer.  

Looking forward to the old and new this summer.  The kids are at such fun ages this year and I can't wait for some big adventures and all the easy going days in between.   

1.  Pitch a tent in the backyard (or go on a real camping trip)
2.  Go fishing (pack a picnic lunch)
3.  Movies Under the Moon
4.  Ride bikes and take pit stops at the playground and Mulligan's patio
5.  Host an outdoor If:Table
6.  Breakfast at Cup of Joe and a morning at the library
7.  Build a fire pit on our patio
8.  Devour a lobster roll at a roadside lobster shack
9.  Ride a ferris wheel at Old Orchard Beach
10. See a lighthouse
11. Pull in some lobster nets 
12. Explore Kennebunkport
13. Go to a baseball game
14. Clean all of our closets
15. Take the kids mini-golfing
16. Paint story stones
17. Make a blueberry pie
18. Lay in the grass and tell stories about the clouds
19. Eat Menchies outside
20. Sing to the guitar by a campfire
21. Get Mila a big girl bed
22. Journal on the beach with my toes in the sand
23. Go pick berries - make strawberry milkshakes
24. Go for a walk in our pajamas - explore outside with flashlights
25. Go see Finding Dory
26. Spend a day at the zoo
27. Dunkin' Donuts and a morning at the park
28. A Barnes and Noble morning (with new chapter books to read)
29. Catch lightning bugs
30. Moscow Mules and a fire on the patio
31. Go on a nature scavenger hunt
32. Watch a sunset
33. Pack a picnic and hike to the top of the hill by Prairie Lakes
34. Make dirt cups - talk about bugs
35. Make a deck fort
36. Breakfast burritos at the Farmer's Market
37. Make homemade ice cream
38. Plant the garden
39. Eat Scratch cupcakes outside
40. Surprise Uncle Taylor with lunch
41. Fresh flowers for the house
42. Eat a picnic at the top of our swing set
43. Take Cruz school supply shopping
44. Get burgers at La Calle and take a walk through campus
45. Splash in puddles in our rain boots
46. Newbo City Market on a Saturday morning
47. Grilled pizza night with friends
48. Hang some pictures up in our house
49. Share a bottle of vino with Beau on the patio at Luna
50. Run through all the sprinklers in the yard

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Our Preschool Graduate

Cruz graduated preschool last Thursday in one of the sweetest children's programs I have ever witnessed.  I mean, they walked down the aisle to the graduation song, for crying out loud.  Every bit of it, from the red and blue caps and gowns, to the rainbow colored tassels with a gold "2016" adorned on them, and their rendition of "Lean on Me" made for one special and memorable night for our big sweetheart.  

Cruz's preschool teachers, Ms. Nicole and Ms. Sara, started midyear after some expected turnover in our learning center's preschool.  Both fresh out of student teaching, these two girls blew us away with their creativity, their constant communication, and their easy going energy and patience.  Cruz loved his preschool days and it was always so fun for me to read Ms. Nicole's weekly updates to see what they were engaged in each week.  From their makeshift mitten and animal puppets to go with the story "The Mitten," to their Wacky Wednesday of Dr. Seuss week, or their study of insects complete with a family of caterpillars and a release ceremony when they turned to butterflies, they kept them busy and engaged in so many fun and creative learning activities.  They fueled such a spark for Cruz, one that I sure hope continues to burn as he marches through kindergarten next year.

It was no surprise Ms. Nicole and Ms. Sara planned an exciting last week for the preschoolers.  Monday afternoon, Cruz's class had a park day at Lookout Park.  Cruz helped me bake chocolate chip cookies the day before, and I, along with several other mamas, joined the class for a few hours that afternoon.  So many of the kids have been together since babies, and them, and even us parents have grown together over the years.  It was fun to see Cruz in his element with so many of his special friends, and nice to catch up with the sweet mamas that raise them.

Wednesday was their last day of preschool and the class voted to celebrate with a pajama party!  Afterwards, Ms. Nicole posted pictures of their party for us to see, complete with graduation napkins and plates, a photo booth with "grad" glasses and hats, and lots of graduation-inspired games, including one adorable "pin the hat on the graduate" game.  Cruz came home with a cumulative portfolio filled with artwork, pictures, and other artifacts from his year, as well as a paper sack filled with sweet gifts from his teachers.  There was a ring pop with a label that read "class ring", a container of bubbles, and some freezy pops to stick in the freezer.  

And as if they didn't work hard enough on their last week of preschool, their graduation ceremony was quite something.  There was a table lined with pictures of each graduate in a personalized frame, programs with their names and soon-to-be elementary schools as a way to keep in touch, and those sweet gowns that strangely gave me glimpses to thirteen years from now and a little brown eyed boy graduating high school.  As I tried to take his picture outside before the program, he was trying his best to be patient, but also easily distracted when he spotted his friends arriving.  Something tells me this will only get worse by his next graduation. :)

My parents and grandparents came as well and we had such a fun night together.  The kids were hilarious and adorable and I loved every minute of it.  They marched down the aisle so proud, sang their four songs, each of their unique personalities shining through, and encouraged and cheered for each other during special parts.  Cruz and his buddy, Eli, got to introduce the third song and when Cruz embraced his five seconds of fame and put their mic a little close to his mouth making for one loud announcement, he was embraced with equally loud cheers from his peers behind him.  When it was time to accept their diplomas, every child got to march up individually, shake Ms. Nicole's hand, then turn to the crowd and present their paper, smiling from ear to ear.  And every single one of them did this confidently, pride beaming from their cheesy grins.  It was precious.


My favorite performance of the night...Lean on Me.

We celebrated afterwards with ice cream cones at Four Queens and a few gifts for the new grad.  A five dollar bill from Great Grandma and Grandpa, a book called Flight School and a lego set from Grandma and Papa, and a new backpack for Kindergarten and Oh, The Places You Will Go, from us.  I asked his teachers to write him a little note on the inside cover and hope to do this each year of school.  

It was a big, exciting, and special week for the Cruz, and for us, too!  This school, and all the teachers he's had, have blessed us continually with the way they love on our kids.  And glad we don't have to say goodbye for a few more years, for this little lady will have her time someday, too.  Thankfully, not too soon. :) 

More pictures of Cruz, the graduate! 



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