Like most years, 2011 was a year filled with highs and lows, changes and routines. We saw our Wonder Boy grow by leaps and bounds. We had fun with friends and quality time with family. We learned a lot - at school, at work, and even at play. It was a very full 12 months.
And here are a few images reflecting our journey through the calendar:
Here's to looking forward to the new year to come!
For us, Christmas is not just a time for presents and food. Most especially, Christmas is a time for family. We treasure the time we have off and the opportunities we have been given to spend time with our families - both those related by blood and those friends who make up the family of our hearts.
Christmas is a time to fully understand the overwhelming blessings in our lives, to know we are loved and to celebrate the many with which we get to share our love.
Today was an early release day from school for the local boys and girls! And what better way to kick off the long winter break than a play date with a favorite fellow elf?!
Wonder Boy and his school bud spend a great couple of hours bouncing around the house, playing video games, and trying their hands at some holiday confection creations.
I think they did a great job considering none of us had ever given it a try before. It is unfortunate that the house didn't stand for very long and Santa's sleigh never really got off the ground either. But the boys had fun and were able to dive head first into the spirit of the holiday.
As the end of November rolls around each year, Wonder Boy's elementary school hosts the preliminary rounds of the 3rd and 4th grade spelling bee. The top two spellers from each classroom are then entered into the school-wide bee.
Last year the Boy worked furiously to shore up his spelling skills, dictionary or word list ever at the ready. And we were all overjoyed when he made it through his classroom competition as one of the top two, followed by a very impressive performance in the combined competition.
With all of the craziness in our little world this fall though, we didn't have the opportunity to cram in spelling sessions like we did the year before. So you can imagine our elation when Wonder Boy came home with the news that he had again made it past the classroom competition!
This year, his confidence was miles ahead of where it had been the year before. And while we still did not manage much 'quality time' with the dictionary leading up to the school-wide competition, we knew that Wonder Boy would shine. We were not disappointed!
To finish any place further out than first is hard on all of these kids, but we parents understand that simply taking the chance, putting yourself out there for all to see, and giving it your absolute best effort means total success!
We're so proud of you Wonder Boy! And don't be surprised when Mom has you proof read her next written assignment!
I've sat down to write about this several times now. But for a change, I am finding the words hard to come by.
Wonder Boy has successfully completed his Judo blue belt exam! And watching the performance is something I am not soon to forget.
He has come so far from the timid little boy who started his lessons so many years ago (nearly 4 years now). And while he is still not the biggest kid in class, he has held the highest rank for a good year now.
He's earned that rank as well as the respect of his instructors and peers. It never fails to strike me just how much effort he puts into his judo class. Sure, he likes to laugh and play with the rest of the kids, but when it counts, he gives his best effort and we have seen that shape him into a very fine student of the game.
Personally, I hope he has many more years of judo to come. The gifts he has received (confidence and discipline, to name a few) are the kind that will serve him well throughout his life to come.
Nothing says 'fall' quite like Halloween. And nothing says 'Halloween' quite like pumpkin carving! Wonder Boy selected a great grinning stencil to be our starting point and we chose a pumpkin with a fairly head-like shape on which to make our master piece this year.
We were really impressed with the Boy's carving skills - they have greatly improved since last fall. He likely won't need our help at all next year (though he doesn't like to be the one to empty out the seeds and such so I guess we still get to participate).
We call our new pumpkin friend "Smiling Jack" and we hope the heat won't have him decomposed before Halloween actually arrives. Now .... to dig out the rest of the decorations and get them up as well!
Lots of athletes, especially the super stars, have little quirks, small rituals or other such routines when they are really in the 'zone' performance-wise. Michael Jordan would stick out his tongue. Karl Malone slowed things down and took his sweet time at the free throw line. Others count to ten or cross them selves before entering the boxing/martial arts ring. The methods may vary, but the effect is the same - it's about focusing on the task at hand and rising to a new level of play/effort.
Wonder Boy is no different. A few years back, he had to learn to snap his fingers for a school performance. He worked really hard at it and even had his moments when he thought he would never get there. But by the time the performance rolled around, he was a snappin' fool!
It wasn't long after that performance when we noticed that, in the moments when he was really on his game on the soccer field, he was constantly snapping his fingers. When the action is tense, when he is focused on his goal (yes, pun intended) you will always find his fingers a-snappin'!
Snap away, big guy! Your game is ever evolving and so are you! Just keep at it!
Here is a quick video with a few of Wonder Boy's most recent soccer high lights:
Ten years. A decade. It's kind of hard to wrap your brain around - how 10 years can fly by so fast and drag all at once.
For some, ten years can seem like a life time. For others a mere blink of an eye. How is that possible? I can't explain it, but I am certainly feeling it right now as we celebrate Wonder Boy's 10th birthday!
When Wonder Boy was a baby, a more experienced mom told me (after a long and sleepless night) "the hours are long, but the days fly right by." I took her at her word that day because all I could feel at that moment was the exhaustion and the weariness of life with an infant. But today, her words speak right to my heart.
Life does fly right on by when you are busy living it. And while it seems to me that our Boy was an infant just a few days ago, my memories of what life was like before he came into our world feels like ancient history.
I suppose that is how things work in this world. The Earth keeps spinning and we keep living. And from time to time we stop and ponder where time has gone as well as look ahead to all there is yet to come. Birthdays are a good time for that.
Happy Birthday to our big kid! These first 10 years have been amazing and the next 10 promise to be an even greater adventure for us all! Thank goodness we get to do it together.
Fall is in the air today. To many that means cool, crisp days and falling leaves. Around here it means time to kick off (yes, pun intended) another soccer season. Cool weather is hard to come by and the leaves fell a month ago due to the ridiculous heat of this never ending summer. But soccer comes like clock work regardless of the temperatures.
The start of soccer season is always an exciting time in our home. There are practices to fit into our schedules, new gear that always needs to be procured, and of course, fast-paced, adrenaline-filled games to cap off all of the hubbub.
Wonder Boy is starting his 6th year of league play now. And watching him evolve as a player has been a true joy for us. He is not the biggest or even the fastest player on the pitch. But he is one of the most knowledgeable out there! And he uses his grasp of the game to make the right moves at just the right time. And when he does, we can hardly contain our exuberance on the sidelines!
For us, perhaps the biggest joy comes in being able to share our passion for the game with him. He knows, when he hears our shouts of encouragement and praise that we have been in his shoes and can appreciate all he puts into his efforts. Hopefully that is something he can carry with him on every team he plays.
"Some may boast of prowess bold,of the school they think so grand. But there's a spirit can ne'er be told; that's the Spirit of Aggieland!"
Can I get a 'WHOOP!'?
When asked what he wanted most for his upcoming birthday, our dear friend's nearly 12 year old replied that an Aggie game day experience was at the top of his list. And who could blame him? There are few things as contagiously exciting as an Aggie football game experience ... regardless of whether or not you are an actual Aggie fan.
We started the fun off with a trip to Midnight Yell Practice. We were a bit humbled to realize it had been several decades since our last Midnight Yell experience, but the excitement hadn't changed (& neither had our dates). Our stamina HAD changed though and rather than using Midnight Yell as the start of our evening of fun, this time it was the night cap. We gladly ushered the kids back home and into bed as soon as Practice broke up. And even though they were hyped by the experience, their bodies were as tired as ours. Besides, they still had the game the next day to dream about.
The next day dawned earlier than we had hoped (don't these kids need rest??), but brought bright, sunny skies and anticipation in what the day would hold. After breakfast, we hit town seeing old home sights and hang outs while on a search for the ultimate game wear. By the time lunch rolled around, we had revisited several old haunts as well as procured the necessary maroon attire. We were all game-ready now! Whoop!
And then, of course, we hit the highlight of the weekend as we watch the Ags battle the Idaho Vandals before a crowd of over 86,000+ fans. Yells freshly reviewed, fight song at the ready, and seats high up in the upper deck of the Zone (it's a great vantage point, let me tell ya), we made our way to Kyle field to cheer on our team until we nearly lost our voices. We yelled, we jumped, we shared pop corn and water, and we watched our team roll to a 37 to 7 win over the Vandals. It was another late night by the time we made our way back to the car and finally home, but one I think we will all remember for quite some time to come!
There are a lot of fine lessons that come when you study the martial arts, but one theme that seems to repeat itself over and over is about give and take. If you want to learn something, you have to be open to correction. If you want to have a good friend, you have to be a good friend. If you want to get something, you have to be willing to give something. Life is constantly proving and re-proving Newton's third law of motion: for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. What you put into it will equal what you get out of it. And vice versa.
This is beautifully illustrated in judo class. Sometimes you are the tori (person demonstrating a technique). And sometimes you are the uke (person on whom a technique is demonstrated).
Your experience and growth as a judoka will directly relate to how you perform these roles. If you want to master a technique as the tori, you need an uke who will work with you, someone who will take their falls and gradually increase their resistance as you perfect your technique. In return, a good tori will protect his/her uke, making sure that their fall is not too intense so that the performance is repeatable. And then you get the opportunity to switch roles and give and take with your partner as they just gave to/took from you.
It's a fine life lesson as well as a way to succeed in the dojo. When you give of yourself, no matter how scary the fall my look, you open yourself to a plentiful return.
Labor Day brought the first school holiday of the 2011-2012 school year and we could think of no better way to ring in the day than a play date with a best friend. Wonder Boy and his favorite running buddy had a great time playing games, running laps through the house, and picking through some of their favorite books. And all of that activity requires some serious snackage to keep up your energy, so cookies and a 'special treat' were in order.
As you can see, the 'special treat' was a couple of Angry Birds gumballs in a sugar cookie nest. It was a lot of fun to see their faces when they realized their plates contained more than a few sugar cookies. And in the end, I had almost as much fun making these birdie treats as the boys had in eating them. A win-win situation for sure!
The first day of Wonder Boy's last year in elementary school has finally arrived. We have had the good fortune to have been enrolled in the same elementary school since he started kindergarten, so walking back through the halls there is much like coming home. There is always excitement at the start of a new school year - a chance to catch up with old friends after the summer, the opportunity to meet a new teacher or two as well as make new friends, settling into a familiar routine, and gearing up for all the academic year has to offer.
Each year on the first day of school, we pause for a few moments to take pictures in the same spots. Though it shouldn't be surprising, it always strikes a chord with me how much the Boy has grown and changed since the last time he posed for these shots.
Here's to a fantastic year! May it be the most amazing school year yet!
Aside from actors and models, I don't think there are many people who like to have their picture taken often. And despite the fact that my camera is often pointed at my guys, I try to make sure it's not a painful experience for them.
Most of our photos are candids as we go through our day or documenting some special event. To be honest, those are my favorite kinds of photos - the ones that record our REAL life. But despite all of that, we do try a couple of times each year to get a more traditional portrait session under our belts. Something to print and display on the mantle and a record of how we are growing from year to year.
Our hope is that, though the process be more formal, that the photos still convey the fun we have with one another and the love that binds us together.
Despite our best intentions, we've fallen a little behind in the upkeep of this little blog. It's the 2nd thing to go by the way side when life shifts to high gear (the first being housework, of course). But slowly things are returning to some kind of normal, so we thought it was time to get back into the blog groove.
One event that took us away from our computer was the first full-family, out-of-town, longer-than-a-day vacation we've had in many years! And really, is there ever a better reason for neglecting home and computer than FAMILY FUN TIME?! Not likely.
We weighed our options on all the wonderful things to do for our vacation and decided that a trip to San Antonio would be the way to go this summer. We love San Antonio. There are so many things to see and do. The people are friendly. The food is fabulous. And we have a plethora of friends and family to share in the good times with us when we visit there.
SO ... after much juggling of work, camp, and various other schedules, we set out on a Sunday morning for SA. Our first stop on the trip was in New Braunfels at the Exotic Animal World and Snake Farm made famous by its appearance on the hit TV show Dirty Jobs. Wonder Boy has been itching to see the place since he saw the episode taped there. The heat was pretty rough on us, but we did see all manner of odd creatures.
It was a good way to break up the trip (as the drive to SA takes at least 3 hours). And after leaving there, it was only a short jaunt to meet up with our dear friends, the F-family.
They joined us for the next several days on our little adventures and made each of them more special by doing so.
Our next such adventure was to Natural Bridge Caverns. We got the opportunity to go on two different tours and spent an enjoyable snack (in the a/c!) in between soaking up the lovely scenery. The sights were amazing and we managed to get in quite a bit of walking (so no need to find a gym).
You would think after all those hours going down to the bottom and back up to the top of those caverns we would have had enough for one day, but that was not the case. We decided to top off the experience with a stop at Guadalupe State Park. We enjoyed a late lunch under some nice shade and then let the kids hit the river.
It was a great day! Capped off by another awesome meal and plenty of quality time with our friends.
But at this point the fun was only just beginning! Our next day was spent in kiddo heaven (aka FIESTA TEXAS)! We rode basically every ride that the kids were tall enough to ride! We got to the park just as it was opening and with only a short break for lunch at a nearby establishment, stayed at the park until just before they shut everything down for the day. I don't know how the kids kept going in this heat, but they did just that - ALL day long!
How do you top a day like that? Well ... unless your next stop is Disney World, I'm not sure you can. But to be honest, after that kind of a day, a bit slower pace was just what the doctor ordered (at least for the adults). So we decided to try out the Ripley's Believe It Or Not attractions just across the street from the Alamo.
We started off with a tour through the Odditorium. Next we found ourselves in the Wax Museum. And finally we capped it off with their 4D movie experience. The Odditorium was just plain ... well ... odd! So many strange things to see. I think the highlight for the adults was standing on the back side of the disguised 2-way mirror watching the kids make faces while trying to roll their tongues. For the kids, I'm certain the highlight was the spinning room. It left us 'big kids' ready to call it a day, but the real kiddos loved every second of it. The Wax Museum was fun. It's always a treat to imagine yourself on the set of your favorite movie or even as President of the United States. But I am confident I can say without exception that we ALL enjoyed the 4D movie experience! There were 2 movies - a skate race and a snow ride. And the snow ride was just plain FUN! They even shot artificial snow all over us. What more could we ask for on a hot summer's day?!
It really was a nice way to spend our final day in San Antonio. We wrapped up our time downtown with a few pictures outside of the Alamo court yard. We'll have to actually do the tour there next time we're in town.
Thank you so much F-family! Our home away from home in SA is everything we could ask for and more. And our vacation was certainly one to remember for a lifetime!
Birthdays are big in this family. Preparations begin weeks, if not months, in advance. No detail is left to chance... except there is always *something* unexpected with each event. But I guess that's just life.
So ... back to THIS birthday! It's Dad's turn this month. We did start plans nearly a month in advance, basically as soon as we were done with Father's Day activities. And the theme chosen this year (to no one's surprise) is 'Angry Birds.' After all ... we all enjoy playing from time to time and those birds got angry about some stolen eggs, so family values are big among birds just like our little clan. What can I say? It just feels right.
Wonder Boy truly ran with the theme, picking out an Angry Birds t-shirt, helping to design and assemble an Angry Birds birthday card, and even putting on his own Angry Birds skit! He spent days working on the skit - he made all of the props himself behind closed doors. He did need a hand in the enactment (you can't do all the parts at one time, I guess), but otherwise the production was entirely his own creation and it was the hit of the evening!
I think Dad enjoyed the evening as much as we did. It was the perfect way to kick off a celebration that would last almost an entire week (more on that later too).
Happy Birthday Daddy Bear! Here's to another great year! We love you!
Wonder boy has several 'loves' and one of those is building things. It doesn't matter if he's building with Legos, wood and nails, or even sugar cubes. He just likes to build things, to create. It's been a lifelong fascination for him. And it's something we both truly admire about him.
Yet another 'love' of his is video games. Typical kid. No big surprise. And right now, one game he particularly enjoys is Angry Birds. You know, the cell phone phenomenon.
The structure featured here is a combination of these two particular loves .... he used Jenga blocks and dominoes to build an Angry Birds scene. The dominoes represent the evil pigs. And he uses a super ball as his Angry Bird of choice. We take turns bouncing our birdie across the hallway toward the evil ones until the structure topples and the pigs are defeated once again. Then it's time to rebuild and start anew.
We also took a little time to make a papier mache Angry Bird to decorate his room.
Not a bad way to 'unplug' and still enjoy your favorite game.