Monday, August 31, 2015

One week down..... 2456 to go. Or something like that.

We made it!!! We survived the first week of school and after lazy summer days of sleeping in and staying up late, I don't know who had a rougher time. Me or the kids. Actually, I do know that. It was me. But both kids are now in elementary school and are ready to go. I know Will went to Kindergarten last year, but it was at our church and the hours were shorter. This feels different.

I was pretty nervous for Will the night before school, but he woke up ready to go. In fact, he ran to school way ahead of us and wanted to be there 20 minutes early. He loved the first day and couldn't wait to go back. He was most excited about doing science experiments.

I think Bennett is having a tougher time. In general I think girls have a rougher time in school. Relationships are hard and things just affect Bennett more deeply, but we are going to pray her through it and I know that I cannot always protect her. The world is tough and friendships are tough and watching her struggle is probably the hardest thing I have ever done. But I know it is also necessary in order to refine her and let her grow into the awesome and Godly woman that she was created to be.

 First day of school donuts. A Webster tradition. There are a few strawberries thrown on the plate though. Uneaten, of course.

Look how shiny and new. These will be dirt covered and filled with holes come May.

Little first day treats for their teachers.

Three excited kids. The youngest has no idea what is happening, but she is excited too.

Can we quit taking pictures and go already? Not even close, kids.

Best friends for life.

My incredible 2nd grader on her way to show that world what she's got. Praying for you every step of the way, B.

Even though he will be the youngest, he's about to take 1st grade by storm. We are SO proud of you, Will.

And even though she won't start preschool for another 2 weeks, she had to grab her lunch box and back pack too. 

I was already yelling at Will to slow down and wait for us at this point. I doubt he will be doing this much longer, so we'll let him think school is fun while we can.

 I had to post this picture because that's Will way up in the left hand corner yelling at us to hurry up.
 This relieved so many of my worries and fears.

Look at these three kiddos walking across the elementary schoolyard. Where does the time go?

Bennett giving her teacher the popcorn. 

Never my favorite part of the day. 

 Will and his first grade teacher.

 I have so much confidence in this kid. I was sad to leave him, but so assured in my decision to send him to first grade.

 Maybe the last year he will let me do this in public. I'll take what I can get.

And after we got home, Lainey realized something. She thought, "Wait a minute, you mean those two are gone and I get to party with Mommy by myself all day?"

YES! See ya, suckahs.

I decided to have a lot of one on one time with Lainey and so as soon as we got home, I got out the playdough so I could play with her.
Ten minutes later I wanted to call the school and beg them to take her too. She's really advanced! I promise!
 Annnnddddd........ 7 hours later.... it went GREAT!
Will: I had the best day, Mom!! But it was sort of easy. I really think I should go on to 2nd grade.
Me: It won't be like this every day. It's just a review of Kindergarten at first. It will get harder.
Will: Oh, never mind.
Just stay in first grade, sweet buddy. My heart can't handle more than that right now.

 I finally remembered to take the camera so the kids would know one day that their father was there as well. He loves you guys too!!  And Bennett had a wonderful day. She was so excited that her class gets to sit on exercise balls and she earned dollars for a prize from her teacher and talked non stop about how fun her day was. Whew!

Will's closest friends. All four of them are in 1st grade and live 3 houses down from each other. They all had great days and went home immediately and played together until dinner time.

And the next day I had even more at my house playing until dinner time. I am so thankful to live on a street filled with kids so close in age.

So, that's it. I feel like past 12 months have been filled with so many HUGE decisions. Should we move to Texas? Where should we live? What school district should we be in? Which house should we buy? Where should Will go to school? And now do we send him on or give him another year? We have had so many life changing decisions this past year that my head is still spinning. but I feel now like those are behind us and our path is set. I don't know what God has in store for us in the future, but for right now, I am very content just to sit back and rest in the decisions that have been made.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

An open letter to my son before first grade.

Hi Will,

It's me, Mom. I wrote your sister a letter the night before she started kindergarten. You can read it here if you would like to. I was going to write you one last year, but I didn't. As you well know, you have a summer birthday and we moved to a new state just a few weeks before you were to start Kindergarten. I couldn't throw a barely five year old into a new school with a large class, so we enrolled you in a private Kindergarten with a much smaller class size. It was the perfect fit for you.

And I didn't write you a letter then because I really thought you might do Kindergarten again. I didn't know. I wanted to give you the year to see. Every child is different. I wanted to wait and see who you were and whether or not that would be a good thing for you.

And I agonized. And I sought advice. A lot of advice. And I prayed. I prayed and asked for wisdom and guidance more than you will ever know. But you know what, Will? Your father and I decided that you were more than ready. We know how smart you are and we want you to always believe in yourself and your abilities as well.

But as you start on this new chapter in your life, I want you to know that your time at home with me during your formative years have been the best of my life. I have treasured every time we had "Buddy buddy time" and every time you wanted to sit and read or build train tracks with me. I can't even count how many episodes of Thomas I have watched or how many time I took you out just to ride around and look for horses or trains.

I have loved playing monster with you and taking you out in the backyard to play catch. I will miss afternoons spent
with you painting on our back porch and mornings where we walked your older sister to school. I loved every time you wanted to play checkers (one more time!) and also when you wanted to play chess and I realized that I couldn't keep up with you. I loved sitting on our porch in the mornings while Lainey crawled around and you rode your bike to your boundaries. I have cherished mornings snuggles while watching cartoons and evenings poring over train books and reading, "Go Dog Go." There is a part of me that wants to keep you a baby forever, but that wouldn't be fair to you. You are one of the smartest and most capable kids I have ever seen and now it is time to give you wings to fly.

So, off you go tomorrow. It will be your first time being in school and not being with your me or your Dad. You have been to a church pre-school/Kindergarten since you were 2. We have always been able to sneak down the hall and see you. If you got sick in school, one of us was a few doors down. We have seen you trick or treat down the hallways and been there for every Thanksgiving Feast and Muffins with Mom.  So now as you head off to elementary school, I have a few things I want you to always remember.

1. Always stay kind and thoughtful.
One of your strongest attributes is that you are kind. You are such a sweet kid, Will and you have such a heart for other people. You genuinely care about other people and that's why at 6 years old you are already such a good friend. People are drawn to you and our doorbell rings constantly with friends wanting to play with you. Always see your kindness as a strength and not as a weakness. I love that you are the only one to stop and wait for your Grandmother as she is walking slowly behind the group and you are the first one to suggest that we make someone a card or get them flowers for their birthday. Your kindness is one of the best things about you and I pray it always remains at the center of who you are.

2. Just because you are young does not mean you won't be a leader.
You are a natural born leader, Will, and your father and I have seen this in you from a young age.  Leadership is an extension of character, and age isn't a factor. Your dad and I were both even younger than you in school and yet we always gravitated towards leadership roles. We still do in fact. But how you lead is important. In the Bible, Paul told Timothy, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." This is how a Godly young man leads.
3. Never be afraid to ask for help.
I love this about you. You've always been very matter of fact, and if you don't know how to do something, you always just say so, without trying to pretend like you know something. This is a sign of strength. You'll need help. It's why you go to school! Your teacher wants to help. Your friends can help. And your parents want to help. It's great to know what you're good at. It's even better to know where you need help.

4. You never know what kind of day someone is having.
What does this mean? It means two things. First, if someone is mean to you, it's a good practice to always assume the
best in someone. So instead of labeling them a bad person, you just say, "They're probably just having a bad day." The other thing to remember is, everybody likes encouragement! A kind word or a compliment can really lift someone's spirits. Be generous with compliments.

5. Don't be afraid.
Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do  not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” And God will always be with you, Will. He loves you far more than even your dad and I do. It's okay to be nervous at school. You have never been in a large elementary school and you have never been in a class this size. But know that God is always with you and you are never alone. Talk to him throughout the day. He is listening and is always there to guide you. Even when your parents are not.

6. Hang on to your innocence.
Is this possible? I pray it is. Will, you have a pure heart. Did you know that? You are trusting. You look at life in such a pure, unadulterated way. I know you'll get hurt. And for parents, that's hard to think about. We want to protect you at all times. But sometimes, getting hurt is what's best for you. It teaches you skills you'll need later in life, because sometimes, life just hurts. But deep down, you have an innocence that's really beautiful to see. Hang on to it. See the world simply first.

7. Know how incredibly loved you are.
Your dad and I love you more than you realize. It's hard for a kid to even understand that, so just take my word for it. You. Are. Loved. Every part of you. So if (or when) you fail, when you mess up, when you succeed, when you embarrass yourself, when you score a goal, when you get a bad grade, when you let someone down, when you win a prize... No matter what, you are loved. Always and forever.

So, that's it. Go get 'em, son... Make new friends. Stay close to the ones you know. Laugh at new jokes. Help your teacher when she asks. Play silly games in gym. Learn a new instrument. Try out for the team. Even if you don't make it, you'll be glad that you tried. Always be the amazing kid that God created you to be. We are so proud of you but we are also counting the seconds until that school bell rings and we get you home. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Goodbye, Summer! I miss you already.

Whew! That was a fast one. I think this summer flew by faster than any other in recent memory. And we didn't even move! Or have a baby. But it still went by crazy fast. I think it was mainly because this was my first time working since Bennett was an infant. But our church has an awesome staff daycare program so while I was working my kids were having the time of their lives. But it did make the long lazy days fly by in a hurry.

But we managed to have all kinds of fun and I am not ready to send my kids back to school. They are old enough now to where being home with them all day isn't nearly as hard as when they were toddlers and homeschooling has even crept into my mind a few times this summer. But then one fight over the ipad makes me ready to throw them out the door.

But here a quick recap of our wonderful summer.

The summer started off when my sister and two of my nieces came to Dallas for a week to visit. Hooray! I had to work for part of the week but they had fun exploring the area on their own while I worked and we still had plenty of time to hang out in the big D.

 Simple things like getting Sonic milkshakes are more fun with cousins.

 And there is no shortage of fun things to do in Dallas. We checked out the new Frisco Athletic Center and let's just say that we made several more trips back throughout the summer. It was kind of amazing.

These girls were my first babies and I can't believe how big they are now. I will always wish that I lived closer to them, but I am actually amazed at how much we still get to see each other.

We took Lainey to her very first movie, Inside Out. She did fairly well, but I am not ashamed to say that I had to bust out my iphone about halfway through and she sat in the theatre and watched PBS kids on my phone while wearing a set of headphones. 3rd child. You do what you have to do.

 Here are Emmie and Sutton. We missed their older sister, but she spent two weeks this summer in Uganda. She was right where God wanted her to be and we are all so proud of her. Even if we did miss her a lot.

My sister left and took my youngest niece with her, but Emmie got to stay with us for a whole extra week! It was VBS week at our church though so I definitely put her to work.

And she got to help me with the opening skits where I was not afraid one bit to make a complete fool out of myself.

We headed to Virginia next and I blogged all about that on the post below, but first we had to swing through Alabama to take Emmie home. Here we are all loaded up and ready for a 22 hour (!!) road trip.

I did a separate blog post about the Virginia trip because it was that awesome.You can check it out on the next page.
On our way back we stopped off again in Alabama for a few days and got to see my parents and my cousin, Erin. I didn't get any pictures of us together, but here his Will with his 2nd cousins, Elijah and Ellison.

When we got back to Texas, I ran a Broadway camp at our church. I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love despite all of our moves and new locations. I am thankful to God for these opportunities that He provides.

 Bennett and Will were naturals. Of course they didn't have a choice whether or not they got to do it, but I am glad that they do enjoy participating.

Rob took a shot of me cracking up at the kids and I love it. This is pretty much how I looked all week. It is so wonderful when you get to do what you are meant to do.

The fierce and frightening dragon!

After Drama Camp, I immediately headed to Camp Bridgeport which is a Methodist summer camp our conference takes children to every summer. We took a group of 3rd-5th graders from our church for a week out in the hot Texas summer sun. I didn't really know what to expect because I hadn't been to a week long summer camp since I was a kid, but I had a blast. I was an exhausted hot mess by the end, but I would do it again in a heart beat. I think.

This is me and Heather (our children's ministry director) with our cabin, the precious girls of Lakeside 1B

If I had to eat camp food all week, I'm glad I got to share it with these girls. The ministry and bonding that was done this week was worth every single time I craved fresh fruit or vegetables.

And guess who got to do large group games? It must be a trend with me.

 Evening worship on the hill. I'm in there somewhere. It was really fun to go back into camp mode with silly chants and cheers and cabin points and all of those fun things I had forgotten. But these evenings singing praise to God were my favorite parts of the day.

 We had a lip sync battle one night and Lakeside 1B dominated with the best rendition of "Hard Knock Life."

There was a shaving cream fight naturally. Not gonna lie. Not my favorite part of the week. But I am sure I am in the minority regarding that.

 After two back to back weeks of drama camp and Bridgeport I loaded up the kids and headed back to Alabama to see my family. I needed some downtime and what better way to get that than drive 10 hours by yourself with three kids? Don't answer that. My sister brought all three of my nieces down (hooray!!) and I seriously did not get one good picture. I was too tired to even pull out of my phone. This was one of the only ones I got, but hey, it shows that we were there. I think they were all calling Lainey to come get in the picture. She wouldn't, of course.

But they did have fun swimming in the pool with Mommy Suttle.

And my parents took theme out to get ice cream, to the mall and also to the movies. Grandparents are the best! And don't ask about Lainey's headband. I have no idea. She's an 80's girl at heart.

And while we were in 'Bama I got to catch up with my dearest friends. No matter the miles or the years, these three will always be some of my best friends.

And I soaked in all of my favorite southern things such as Magnolia trees, smocked clothing on all of the children and boiled peanuts!!

My Dad had an extremely special treat for us. He got us tickets to see "The Little Mermaid" at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. This was the kids first real play. They have been to others, of course, and even been to shows at ASF in the smaller theatre. But this was their first one with an orchestra and an intermission. It definitely felt bigger and the show didn't disappoint. It was such a great production and watching it with my Dad and kids made it even more special.
We love our Daddy Suttle!

And Grandparents also stock the fridge with your favorite snacks and let you eat popsicles in their pool.

When I came back from Alabama it was my birthday! Unfortunately I was really sick on my birthday. I think it was the first year ever where I didn't do anything. I think the summer of going non stop caught up with me. I don't know. I took the kids out to an arcade that morning but had to come home quickly and spent the rest of the day in bed. We did manage to head out later for a piece of pie at Emporium Pies though. And that was all I needed. 

The next week we had another camp at our church. This one was called "Fun in the Son" so I spent another fun filled week with the kids of CRUMC. One of the days we had a shaving cream fight. Not again! But this time I happily documented it from the sidelines instead of participating.

As summer came to an end, I spent a special day with each of my kids. For Bennett's day, I took her to the American Girl restaurant in Dallas. This was probably one of my most favorite days of the summer. The restaurant has all of these little conversation starters on the table and B and I just sat there for an hour and ate delicious food and talked. Really talked. It was the best way to listen to her and get to know her more. I wish I could do this every week with her. I absolutely adore my 7 year old soon to be 2nd grader.

For Will's special day, he chose to go to one of those indoor places that had arcade games, rock climbing walls, laser tag, etc... And I realized that I don't have special days with Will as much. Bennett loves to come with me even if I am going to the store or shopping, but when I have Will, I usually have another child with me. He soaked up every second and wouldn't let go of my hand and kept telling me that "Buddy Buddy time is the best!" I really can't write about this kid or else I will cry, but I will just say that I love this little guy with the biggest heart more than words can say.

Lainey  wanted to go ride a merry go round for her special day, but I knew that was coming later so I took her to a movie instead. Disney was showing classic movies at a local theatre so we went to see Monsters Inc. What can I say about this date? She loved the popcorn more than the movie, but she crawled into my lap and so I spent most of the time just kissing the top of her head and holding her close than watching the movie, so it was a huge win in my book.

To close out the summer the whole family went to Six Flags. I cannot say that I was a huge fan of this, but Bennett won a free ticket from school for reading so much and so I promised we would go. It was expensive, hot, sticky, crowded and did I say expensive? I am a Disney fan for life.

Here is Lainey about to ride her first roller coaster. The look on her face says it all.

My little engineer studying the map. He did this all day long. And that's not sweat. He had just gotten off the log flume ride.

A few more random shots from the summer. Dress like a cow for free Chick-Fil-A? Yes, please.

Dallas has so many little shops that we love to explore. Henry's ice cream lives up to the hype.

Our church had family night at Hawaiian Falls, a local water park, and our kids got to stay at the park until midnight and ride slides over and over again. One of our favorite nights of the summer for sure. Here they are eating shaved ice and 11pm.

That mischievous grin will get her far in life.

Photo shoot one summer evening with our three.

So, good bye Summer of 2015. You were one of the best yet and I miss you already. But I am ready to start baking pumpkin muffins and watching football, so bring on the Fall!