Operation Christmas Child–A Gift For Everyone.

It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me, or who has ever read this blog, that I am in love with and so proud of my children. That’s not to say we are always well-behaved or that we don’t test boundaries, ignore rules, or make unwise choices. Of course we do! But I am always proud of their sweetness, their caring hearts, and their desire to do nice things and to love people.

This year at a church event, we learned about Operation Christmas Child, a program in which you obtain an empty shoe box and fill it with gifts to send to a boy or girl somewhere around the world for Christmas. Boxes were provided at the event, so we grabbed two of them. Vincent was responsible for choosing gifts for a boy between the ages of two and four, and Eva became responsible for selecting gifts for a girl between the ages of five and nine.

We went shopping this weekend and each of my children chose gifts they thought a boy and girl would love. They selected hair barrettes, hot wheels, chapstick, toothpaste, toothbrushes, stuffed animals, blankets, colorful socks, and rubber lizards for their boxes. At home, we packed the boxes, printed out labels, and waited for this morning when we took them to church and the kids carried them in to place on a table growing with similar boxes.

I was nearly brought to tears several times this weekend as I watched how excited Eva and Vincent were to choose things for someone across the world, close to their ages, who did not have “as much” in the way of toys and the like as they did. Surprisingly, my children never asked for anything for themselves as we chose gifts for their boxes, and they couldn’t wait to proudly, and with huge smiles, carry their boxes into church.

I tallied up the cost and discovered that each box held $35 worth of product. Of course, that amount could have varied in either direction, depending on where one chose to shop. Now, I’m no math whiz (I was an English major!) but a total of $70 seemed pretty darn reasonable, and worth every penny. When I fill up my vehicle with gas, it costs $70. I took the kids to lunch after we did our box shopping, and that cost $20. We went to the mall, where I dropped way too much money on face and hair products.

Keeping the gift box tally in mind compared to what we spend in an average day was a real eye opener for me.

We aren’t strangers to local and global giving around here, but most of our giving is done anonymously or to places we don’t see the impact first hand or know exactly where the money is going. We sponsor a low-income family in town, contribute to young single mothers, volunteer with a no-kill animal shelter, and George gives to Boy Scouts and the Smile Train. But these are things—except for the animal shelter—for which we simply write checks and never actually see impact.

To see my kids smiling and thoughtfully choosing gifts for other children, to print out labels and watch Eva tape them to the boxes, to look forward to tracking the packages to see where they end up, imagining what joy $35 will bring to each child…incredible.

If you have $15 or $30 lying around, consider grabbing a shoe box and filling it up to send across the world through Operation Christmas Child. Drop off for the boxes runs until November 21!

Eva waiting to pack her box that will be sent to a little girl between the ages of five and nine years old somewhere across the world.

Vincent giving two thumbs up for the box he created that will be delivered to a boy aged 2-4 years in a foreign country.

On the way in to church, a drop-off location for the kids' Operation Christmas Child boxes.

Eva and Vincent were all smiles as they added their boxes to the growing pile on the table. We tracked the gift tags so we'll know to which country their boxes will arrive.

Love Kingergarten, Hate the Kindergarten Rat Race.

This has been the most peaceful day I’ve had since school started…and oddly, it’s been an awesome day in part because there was no school today. I went to bed last night looking so forward to this morning because I knew we wouldn’t have to rush, rush, rush everyone to “get dressed” and “eat breakfast” and “gather backpacks” and “remember lunches” and hustle everyone out the door, down the stairs, and into the car.

Just like the good ole days, the kids and I got up early but we took the morning slow and easy. No rushing, no panic, no last-minute remembering, no racing. We went to Jazzercise all together, saw our friends, went out for breakfast, and then came home. Later this afternoon we made popcorn, put in a movie, and listened to hail pound against the windows and watched the tree limbs going nuts outside during a perfect fall storm.

I tell you, I just can’t stand all-day, every day kindergarten. I really wish that it was a full day but just three days a week,  leaving a mother two week days to spend with her little ones exactly as she (and they) wish. I knew that adjusting to a daily 9-5 school grind was going to be a challenge for this commercial fishing mom and family, and it is.

Getting up early is not a problem, but I find hustling and strict schedules really annoying. Be at school by 8:20 each and every morning of the week…or else. Be at the bus stop by this time in the afternoon…or else. Yesterday, I saw that we were going to be late to school and instead of rushing and ordering my kids around, I chose instead to call Eva’s school.

“Eva will be at school at 9 this morning,” I announced. I know that being late is not a good precedent to set for your children, but I weighed the odds and decided to make the call. Hey, these are my kids, not the school’s. They are still little, I’m seven months pregnant, and darn it, I just did not feel like hurrying everyone.

I cannot wait for the holiday season to get into full swing. I am looking forward to a few days off at Thanksgiving and a couple weeks at Christmas with the children so we can have more time to play and relax and not make every day about being on time, dropping off, picking up, eating dinner, and going to bed. They are only four and five years old! And soon, we will have an infant in tow. How did we become part of the workday grind along with working adults?

The school district and most parents absolutely love all-day, every day kindergarten and I’m well aware that my view on the matter is in the minority. I understand the reasoning for the school district implementing all-day, every day kindergarten and I’ve listened to and read all of the arguments on both sides. But this is my blog and I can spout my opinion here…so here it is. I am one mom who does not like it. At all.

I’m glad that today, for one day during the week, we got a break from the elementary school rat race and I had both of my children home to spend time with and enjoy.

Speaking of the holiday season (and moving on from the topic of school—it is Friday, after all!)…it’s not only the holiday season, but it’s pre-Dungeness crab season, too! G and the crew are on the boat working hard each day getting it all ready to go. George has been working on the boat by himself for the last two months, so I love it when the crew rolls into town with their help.

Here are a few pictures of the last couple weeks…

First things first, get the boat back in the water.

Quick time out to celebrate Halloween and go trick or treating…


Back on the boat to keep getting ready for the crab season…

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Foster a precious pitbull named Ryder….

Dream of next spring’s Florida or Hawaiian beach vacation, as Eva and her iPhone sketches seem to be doing as well.

Jen’s Friday Favorites

I haven’t done a Jen’s Friday Favorites list in a while. It’s been another long and exhausting week (TGIF!) so I thought I’d head into the weekend leaving the annoying parts of the week behind and focusing on the good. So, in random order…

Jen’s Friday Favorites

1.  Dropping Eva off at kindergarten earlier this week. We were a few minutes late (again)and missed the bell to line up, so I walked Eva upstairs to her classroom. My heart melted when, as I watched Eva get settled, her classmates began smiling and waving at me, calling “Hi, Eva’s mom! Hi, Eva’s mom!”

2. Laughing with my friend Stacie as we watch our children at gymnastics every Thursday night. Stacie and I are former competitive gymnasts ourselves (we were also wrestling cheerleaders together in high school…and come to think of it, we both currently teach aerobics…weird!). Anyway, we love to watch the advanced gymnasts and say things like, “Wow, if only we’d had fancy equipment and training like they do now, we could have gone so much further…”

We also crack up over any and everything from our week as we sit on the bleachers. No matter how tough my day or week might be, I continue to chuckle all the way home after gymnastics night and feel so much better. (Holla!)

Double ring leap on floor exercise at VHSL sta...

3. Seeing my friend Kim and Vincent’s teachers when I drop Vincent off at preschool. I love hearing reports from the teachers about Vincent’s progress and I always share a laugh or two with Kim about the kids, our husbands, my poor baby girl on the way who still has no name, and otherwise.

Kim is currently writing  some articles for her line of work (education) and I can’t resist calling out annoying things to her when I arrive at preschool and see her sitting in her SUV doing some quick editing on her work.

“Change word,” I say as she rolls down her window. “Add apostrophe. Spell out word contraction. New line. Add paragraph. Check thesaurus.” Of course, I only tease because I spend most of my time in between pick ups and drop offs doing the exact same thing!

3. My new pitbull foster dog, Ryder. When the call came out describing Ryder’s need for care and shelter, something about him caught my attention. It’s not the most ideal time to foster a new dog, with me being seven months pregnant and George totally consumed with pre-season crab gear work and the boat, but I volunteered anyway.

Ryder reminds me a bit of our beloved Toby, who passed away last spring, and the kids adore him. Although I don’t especially need one more thing to take care of, Ryder is a good boy and it’s sort of nice having a sweet pitbull in the house again.        

4. The new Toby Keith CD, Clancy’s Tavern. I absolutely love Toby Keith; his creative writing, lyrics, humor, melody, musical talent and ability to put out one amazing CD after the next without a dud in between keep me first in line whenever he releases something new. I’ve been to three of his concerts and although I’ve missed a few lately, I am going to the next one when he comes back by my neck of the woods.

Toby Keith performs for soldiers and families ... 5. Last but never least, my precious pumpkin of a niece, Autumn, who turns one on Saturday and who came by our house on Halloween for some trick or treating. She is the cutest thing ever and a true original.


Blog Tips from Bloggy Boot Camp 2011

Last June, I attended Bloggy Boot Camp in Seattle. I meant to recap my experience at the one-day event shortly after I returned, but I was newly pregnant and not feeling well, and then the months slipped by. I’m almost seven months pregnant now and still not feeling well, but I need to clean off my desk, so I’m finally sharing some of my notes.

One of the many things I loved about Bloggy Boot Camp was the assigned seating. Every couple of hours or so we’d get up and move to a new table, which allowed participants to exchange business cards and meet new people. Of course, I failed to bring even one of my several hundred business cards to hand out, but I collected some great ones.

Among the standouts were cards from moms who host live chats, family historians, PartyLite reps, a gal whose business is to give you her two cents “when an honest opinion matters,” a celebration planner, a Stampin’ Up rep, an electronics blogger, beauty consultant, herbal philosophy expert, ceramics maker, social media consultant, retail therapy coach, and a handful of good old-fashioned “mommy blogs.”

One card that made everyone laugh was from “The Worst Mother in the World” with a tag that read “Breaking Promises, Shattering Dreams…It’s What I Do.”

There were some cool prizes given away at the event, including miniature video recorders by Sony (Sony also sponsored the lunch we had in the hotel ballroom). Mirassou Winery sponsored the wine tasting party that evening (which, to my regret, I had to miss due to my surprising developing fetus!).

Each participant also received a generous bag filled with items to take home like ice cream scoops, measuring cups, bags of chips, and several other products which now I can’t remember!

Bloggy Boot Camp presented workshops on various aspects of blogging, including:

  • Growing a Lifestyle Blog by Jenny Ingram
  • Six Essential Things Every Blogger Must Know About Monetizing a Blog, Or How to Write Pitches That Work by Carol Schiller
  • The Writer’s Voice by DeNae Handy
  • Business of Blogging
  • Writer’s Workshop by DeNae Handy and Kathy Bouska
  • Taming Time: Creating Calm from Chaos by Marilynn Schotland

Learning about a variety of topics related to the exciting subject of blogging was interesting, even the topics that didn’t apply to me, like finding sponsors and monetizing your blog. There was such a wide array of bloggers at the event that getting a feel for everyone’s process and goals was intriguing.

The following is a recap from some of the seminars I attended (copied directly from my handwritten notes). As always, if something isn’t clear, leave me a comment and I’ll find the answer.

 

Growing a Lifestyle Blog by “Jenny on the Spot” Jenny Ingram

Don’t clutter your blog with badge after badge, flashing this and that.

Keep an eye on your blog statistics: What posts get the most traffic? Which get the most comments? Evaluate feed back. What are the search words people use to find you?

Use Google analytics.

Don’t obsess over your stats.

You have thirty seconds to grab someone.

No fuzzy iPhone pictures.

Create a “Like” page for your blog on Facebook.

Use Linked In.

Interact with and engage people on Twitter and Facebook.

Look at your badges and socials every three to six months.

Refresh your bio.

Remember your first love. Your creativity and your voice are most important.

Remember why you started your blog in the first place…sharing, passion.

Jenny’s Blog Peeves:

Auto play music.

Centered text.

Large paragraphs.

Busy sidebars.

Over-posting pictures of your own children.

Text everywhere.

Hard to find social media buttons and info.

Video Blogging (Vlogging) Tips:

Lighting.

Sound (are there kids, birds, dump trucks making noise?).

Background (no portable potties behind you!).

Short clips.

Be you.

Tips from Tiffany Romero

Don’t change your voice monthly.

Be who you are, be it every day.

Be kind.

Put your best foot forward.

Fake it ’til you make it.

Don’t make Twitter all about your own self promotion and your own blog posts.

The Writer’s Voice by DeNae Handy

What is voice?

A family blog is the most enduring (Jen’s note: the word was either enduring or endearing, I wasn’t sure which one.)

Your story is worth telling and worth being heard.

Writer’s voice is evident in the choices of language, tone, mood, cadence, rhythm, range, and structure. It’s what makes your writing uniquely “you.”

Big difference between critique and criticism.

Make sure there are no stumbling blocks between you and your reader.

If it sounds like “writing” then rewrite it.

Make sure your writer’s bio matches your content.

Everyone has a voice.

Everyone has something to say.

Everyone deserves the chance to say it.

No one can do it alone.

Find your voice and let your writing sing.

There are tens of millions of blogs, but only thousands are well written.

You have seven seconds to grab someone’s attention and keep it.

What story are you really telling?

What am I really trying to talk about?

What’s my end game?

No pressure.

Don’t compare yourself.

Be mindful of what people are searching for and what hot topics are.

If you can’t tell your story in 750 words, break it up into multiple posts.

Readers will give eight minutes of their attention to your blog posts. You only have seven seconds to capture their attention to begin with.

Give them a reason to go deeper into the site.

Don’t let your blog become obligatory or arduous.

Poor Me, Poor Me, Pour Me a Drink…

Friday iPhone Fun almost didn’t happen at the Schile house. Yesterday morning as I was leaving to take Eva to kindergarten, Vincent to preschool, and myself to teach Jazzercise, G announced that he wasn’t going to be able to meet me at the AT&T store that afternoon.

“Wait,” I said. “WHAT?!”

“I can’t get away,” he said. “We’ll have to go tomorrow.”

“No!” I said. “We have to go today! They’ll be gone tomorrow! It’s important!”

“It’s not important,” he said, looking straight at me.

“I’ve been waiting for two years and I’ve done all the research,” I said. “It’s important to me!”

As I left the kitchen, I added one more comment. “You’re mean!”

The conversation, not off to an admirable start (I think I’ve been hanging around too many kindergartners), only went south from there. Now, I normally pride myself on not whining, not begging, and not making people feeling guilty for things they have to do.

Not this time.

I pulled out all the stops. I mentioned the way my back feels like it’s broken every day. That I’m six months pregnant and still throwing up. I’m not sleeping well. I don’t ask for anything. I’ve been miserable for six months. I haven’t had any down time lately…

I know: Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink….(if only!!)

Anyway, as shameless as it all was, I guess G decided that losing two hours of work was not worth sending his pregnant wife over the edge for. In the end, he met me at the phone store and we each came away with the new iPhone 4S. I then spent the rest of the day and night as planned, loading my apps, learning the new features, playing around with the camera, and getting my old iPhone all set up for the kids with more games and learning activities.

Not my proudest day, to be sure. But sometimes a pregnant wife has to do what a pregnant wife has to do, and it isn’t always pretty. 😉

"Okay, you got your new phone, I'm posing for a picture...now will you please go away?"

Vincent couldn't understand why we wouldn't let him climb onto the boat this time.

There's G climbing up the ladder, back to work on refrigeration as soon as his annoying wife leaves the shipyard. :)

I’m Pretty Sure the Crew Doesn’t Cry Over Broccoli.

I don’t think anyone is more excited than me for the iPhone 4S to make its début on Friday. I’ve been eligible for an upgrade for at least two years, but I’ve put it off because I kept waiting for iPhone 5 to come out. Well, the heck with more waiting; the 4S is going to be amazing and I’m clearing my schedule for Friday so I can go get the phone and then play with it all day and night.

George has continued work on the boat every day to get a jump on it before the Dungeness crab crew shows up. In fact, he just warned me today that he’s working this weekend as well.  I’ve tried to get him to stick around the house and hang out with me a bit now and again when it’s nice and quiet and the kids are at school, but no dice.  The boat’s still hauled out, paint has arrived, the welder is coming….

I have already consulted with my parents, though, and they are going to have the kids over one weekend before crab season starts and the baby arrives. In fact, my mom put it on my kitchen calendar herself.  I’ll be sure and give G plenty of advance warning. If he still can’t make it, I’ll just pack my little bag and head to the nearest fancy hotel for a spa day and a night of fine dining and rest.  :)

It occurred to me the other day that having your firstborn in kindergarten is a lot like when your firstborn was a newborn. Like a brand new mom in awe over her baby, I’m so proud of everything Eva is doing.  Look, Eva is the line leader for the field trip! Awe; look how cute she is in her jeans and cowgirl boots!  Look how she gets off the bus! Oh, that’s cute! She’s checking out library books! She’s leaving little notes with practice writing all over the house! What a sweet, smart girl!

Remember how the hospital photographer comes around before you leave with your newborn and you study the portrait packages, agonizing over which one to choose? That’s how it went yesterday with Eva’s first official school pictures. As I did when she was born, I went a bit overboard on the package and the extras. If you are on my Christmas card list, be prepared to receive a wallet-sized picture of Eva. Or a mini-wallet-sized picture of Eva. In fact, I have so many pictures of Eva coming I could send one to all my Facebook friends.

Or…I can provide you with a refrigerator magnet of Eva. How about a bookmark of Eva?  Door hanger? Sticker? Better yet, if you receive Christmas gifts from me, you may well have an Eva gift tag attached to your present this year.

Not to be left out, of course, is my sweet buddy, Vincent. I’m constantly amazed at the growth he’s shown in his first month of preschool. For the first time, he’s showing interest in art and receiving compliments on his work. He’s recognizing his name and attempting to write it. He’s memorizing and singing all the songs he learns. And just yesterday, while bike riding with Grandpa, he mastered pedaling and balance without training wheels or assists.

He even accompanied Eva’s kindergarten class on their field trip to the fire station and I was so proud of the way he listened so well to the firemen, raised his hand to ask questions, and walked with the group in an orderly fashion.

Vincent is determined to work on the boat and be “as big and strong as Daddy” when he grows up. We used this to our advantage at the dinner table this week when Vincent refused to eat a nice dinner (prepared by G, of course).

“I don’t like potatoes,” he announced. “I don’t eat steak. Don’t want broccoli. I want bread.”

“Wow,” I said. “You know that you won’t grow up to be big and strong enough to work on the boat with Bryan and Brett if you don’t eat your healthy food, right?

“Do you think Bryan sits at the galley table and says ‘I don’t like potatoes!’ And I’m pretty sure Brett doesn’t sit next to him and cry over broccoli. If you want to be strong like they are, you’d better have another bite of steak.”

George chimed in with a couple of words about sending people who complain about dinner into the hatch to finish it up, but that only made us laugh. Eventually, Vincent did eat his entire dinner.

Will be back tomorrow with a report on the new iPhone 4S! Can’t wait!

 

Do Girls Like Commercial Fishermen?

I’ve written before that one of the most fun parts of writing this blog is keeping an eye on the search terms people use when they are directed here by various search engines. Many people who land here are looking for information on the Dungeness crab season and rigging crab pots, searching for longline vessels or other boats I’ve mentioned by name, or looking for quotes about commercial fishing and commercial fishing photographs.

Every once in a while, a search term comes through that really makes me smile. Yesterday, I received two such searches! Here they are:

1. Pics of a chick with the Walther PPS

2. Do girls like commercial fishermen?

Now, I think the person looking for pictures of a girl with the awesome Walther PPS (a 9mm semi-automatic pistol made in Germany by Walther Sportwaffen) made it to my blog because I’ve written before that I have my very own Walther PPS that I absolutely love.

Although I do have some video and pictures of me popping off a few rounds from the PPS at the range, I don’t think I’ve ever published them here because I know that guns are frightening to many people, and I don’t want to make my mom nervous.

As for the question of whether girls like commercial fishermen, the answer is YES!

Here are some reasons why. The following list is off the top of my head and in random order.

Why Girls Like Commercial Fishermen

1. They are adorable in their baseball hats.

2. They look hot in Carhartts.

3. They are strong.

4. They’re tough.

5. They have endurance.

6. Fishermen will work through sickness, injury, and weather to get it done.

7. They enjoy sitting around a galley table, telling stories and laughing.

8. A fisherman is a man’s man.

9. Fishermen are grateful and appreciative of everything their wives and girlfriends do for them.

10. They are tough and brave, but they don’t boast about it. They simply let their work speak volumes.

11. Fishermen are generous with their money and will help out friends and family in need.

12. They generally have good taste in music.

13. They’re usually up to go out and have a good time in town.

14. They are smart.

15. They can read charts and navigate a boat through storms.

16. Fishermen are not afraid to get their hands dirty and their clothes greasy.

17. Fishermen clean up very well.

18. They like to read.

19. They don’t have to be entertained every second of the day. Are fine with solitude.

20. They can kick a** when they have to, but they don’t let anyone know that until it’s already been done.

21. Fishermen are quick to forgive and move on.

22. They are cute.

23. They have a sense of humor.

24. Fishermen can tackle house projects and complete them with ease.

25. They’re able to identify and troubleshoot almost any car or house issue.

26. They look good riding around in their trucks.

27. Fishermen have steady natures for the most part.

28. They’re quick to smile.

29. They’re loyal to their friends and family.

30. Fishermen are easy to please and are not overly demanding at home.

31. Most fishermen can cook.

Okay, there’s my first thirty-one reasons why girls like commercial fishermen. As always, feel free to chime in with your thoughts!

Fishing Mommy Down (But Not Out!)

It’s a day on the couch for me. Here’s a bit of advice; if you have a cough that lingers for a week and is not suppressed or helped in any way by cough medicine or Musinex, you might want to go to the doctor. Especially if you are in the middle of a pregnancy.

Don’t give your strange cough seven days, then ten, and then fourteen, thinking it’s got to get better at some point! By the time you enter your third week of gagging, throwing up, and coughing, you might find out what you really had to begin with was viral bronchitis. And when viral bronchitis doesn’t get treated, it becomes bacterial bronchitis. And when that goes untreated, it becomes walking pneumonia….which is what I have now and why I’m on the couch with doctor’s (and husband’s) orders to REST!

I “should have” gone in to the doctor a long time ago, but I’m not an alarmist and I figured it was a simple back-to-school cough that would go away soon. It will go away soon now that I’m on antibiotics and prescription cough syrup.

When you’re a mom of active children, though, what can you do? You keep going. We had school and preschool to get to, open houses, ballet, gymnastics, Jazzercise, and church. We aren’t super busy but we do enjoy these activities and I certainly can’t sit around when we have things to do.

I’m accustomed to keeping going without a lot of help no matter how I’m feeling because that’s what a fishing mom does. Nobody is going to come over to get Eva dressed for ballet, or convince Vincent to eat his breakfast, and there’s no way I’m missing the open house and potluck at school.

G is a huge help when he’s here, but he’s back to work at the harbor and the boat. He had the boat hauled out for bottom painting and is also working on an overhaul of the refrigeration in preparation for the Dungeness crab season.

I did suddenly start to feel bad for the new baby, though, like I wasn’t taking good care of her. My tummy started to pull and hurt when I coughed, and I worried that if it was bacterial, that would definitely not good for a baby. To help ease my guilt I finally went and bought a pink baby book for her and a frame for one of her ultrasound pictures. Then, when G told me to call the doctor, I agreed it was probably time!

Onward and upward. Let the antibiotics and cough medicine do the trick and Mommy will be up and running again in no time.

"Dad, I think the leak is right here. If we could just tighten up this socket a bit..."

"Aw, let's just forget it and go have a popsicle instead."

Adding the first picture of the third child to the family collection.

First Week of Kindergarten: So Far, So Good.

Well, here Mommy sits. Alone. In a quiet house. About to nod off for the lack of little voices, activity, and general family energy. Thank goodness for my dog, Mandy, and the baby twirling in my tummy, or I’d really feel lonely! If it wasn’t for this harsh fall cough I’ve developed, I’d be at Jazzercise with the rest of the moms!

Dad’s down at the boat, fixing crane leaks and getting ready to haul the boat out before the Dungeness crab season festivities begin. I’m not sure why he’s hauling out the boat this time; it seems like he just did it not too long ago, and our boat isn’t the kind you just haul out of the water at random. I was surprised when G emerged in Carhartts this morning, even though he insisted he told me he was resuming boat work today!

Vincent, of course, ran immediately back to his room to put on his work clothes as well, and I took him to preschool dressed in brand new Carhartt overalls just like Daddy.

Eva started kindergarten last week and so far everything has been fine. I was pretty sad the first morning and just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my first-born baby was sitting in a classroom and would be there all day long. Without me. Eva has been involved in preschool, gymnastics, ballet, and Jazzercise since she was born, but these are things I’ve been involved with right alongside her, and they were controlled environments with parents and children I knew and approved of.

It was strange not recognizing any parent or any child at school. I did see my neighbor, though, which helped. And I am so glad that I know Eva’s kindergarten teacher personally and have full confidence in her professional, family, personal, and educational ethics. Other high points included the fact that the school is tiny and there is just one small kindergarten classroom and one kindergarten/first grade split.

I returned several afternoons last week to have lunch with Eva, I joined the PTA, and filled out classroom volunteer paperwork. You better believe that Momma will be at school with her eagle eye out, sharp and focused, as often as I can. It’s important for me to see who Eva is sitting with at lunch, how the other kids behave, and get a feel for the parents. In fact, I was there so often last week that some of the kids on the playground thought I was on official duty and came over to show me things like the lady bug they’d collected and saved in a jar.

We don’t live far from the school and there’s no real reason for Eva to ride the one bus that services the school and the neighborhood. I was not planning for her to ride it this year at all and was only half-considering it for next year. Eva, though, had other plans.

“Ke’ala rides the bus! Danielle rides the bus! Isaac and Zane ride the bus!” she insisted.

I agreed to “think” about it. Then, I met with the bus driver one day after school. I met with the driver again the next day and accepted the bus paperwork. I asked questions about exactly who rides the bus, what the rules were, and how they ensured safety.

“We haven’t lost a child yet,” she said, smiling.

On the third day, I boarded the bus with Eva and sat her down in the front seat closest to the driver. I explained that this was the only seat I would allow her to sit in and she had to follow Mommy’s rules. I observed every child that boarded the bus before I left Eva.

I stood and waved as the bus pulled out, then drove promptly to the bus stop where I picked Eva up. George and Vincent were there too, along with our dog, Mandy. Vincent wouldn’t look at us, though, because he was mad he couldn’t ride the bus with Eva. When the bus arrived and Eva climbed down the stairs, Vincent ran to to her and wrapped her up in a big bear hug.

It looks like we’ve got a school Open House this week and a school-and-church sponsored Southside Community Meal that we’ve been invited to. I have Eva’s daily class schedule here with me, so I know exactly what she’s learning and what she’s doing every hour of the day.

Quick stop at Lowe's before heading to a princess tea party.

First day of preschool. Dirt rocks!

My little scholar.

First Came the Girl, Second Came the Boy, Third Comes….

I always said that I wouldn’t publish ultrasound pictures here on my blog. But then again, I also always said I wouldn’t have another baby.

So while I’m keeping busy doing things I always said I’d never do, here are a couple of ultrasound pictures of the new baby. At first, I felt bad when I decided to post pictures. The poor thing is deep inside my tummy and has no idea what Mommy is doing. But then I thought; I occasionally post pictures of Eva and Vincent and they do know what I’m up to.

The new baby will just have to get used to it from a very early age :).

See how I’ve created a pink border around the pictures? If you haven’t guessed yet, we did find out today that the baby is a GIRL.

Vincent was crushed. I invited the little ones (and their father, lol) into the ultrasound room so they could see pictures of the baby in Mommy’s tummy. Vincent was sure it was a boy and started to squeal with excitement. It broke my heart to tell him he’d misunderstood and that in fact, it was a girl. My sweet, precious little buddy then buried his head in my side and quietly sobbed.

Eva, of course, was thrilled beyond reason. She immediately began announcing plans to move the baby into her room where “she would take care of it” and how she’d known all along it was a girl.

Vincent’s sorrow finally made me cry and I gently suggested G take the kids out and give them each a lifesaver candy for being so good while Mommy talked to the doctor.

The good news is that the baby seems to have developed normally and all systems seem to be functioning healthily and well, which is something I worried about. Because of the fact that we aren’t 25 anymore and were in no way expecting another baby, I wasn’t sure what kind of a start this little one would have. Thank you, God, that everything appears the way it should.

So, we started our journey, in spite of infertility, with a girl. We were blessed immediately following with a boy in the middle. And we end our journey—and I do mean END—where we started. With a little baby girl.

Presenting…..

I'm absolutely loving this jazz hand. Future Jazzercise instructor right here!