Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Thousand Oaks: A New Era

     I have been working on finishing old posts from the past. The OCD part of me wants to get totally caught up before I move on. However, if I'm ever going to start blogging current news, then I just have to jump in somewhere. So here we go, beginning with a new beginning of sorts in our new home. Another "Thousand Oaks" of sorts after a hiatus of palm trees or barely any trees. We have so many big, beautiful trees again - yay!

view from upstairs looking down into our new living room

     I really did not believe we would still be living in Florida - working our way toward 6 years. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is forever. I don't know. Life with older kids, though, is more complicated than ever. Why did I think it would be easier than the days of strollers and diapers? I think there is so much more to think about and consider now - where to live, for example (considering high school and college and forever is on its way). Here we are, though, in our lovely new home with my beautiful shade trees that I am truly grateful for.

     I can't adequately explain how amazingly grateful I am for this sight, as well. I actually get a little teary eyed right now, about 8 months after this photo was taken. If anyone is reading this and doesn't know - we lived in an RV for a fun year. We sold a lot in a garage sale but still had 2 1/2 storage units for the duration of our 6 wheeled living experience. The traumatic part was the roof being ripped off of the building during Hurricane Irma fall of 2017. We got a call from our storage unit while we were evacuated that there was an issue - a "leak" that we needed to check out. There was no emergency noted in her voice. (I was told later that they didn't want to "alarm" us.) Therefore, we stayed evacuated since our RV park didn't have electricity and Ryan was stuck working 24-7 getting phones working again from our remote location. Many days went by - by the time I got to the storage unit, I was heartbroken to discover the inches of water, the nastiness, the mold growing on so many of our beloved items - furniture, photographs, art, childhood stuffed animals...I spent about 9-10 hour days (for a week) cleaning up the mess. It was exhausting, and I cried more than I care to remember. I don't even want to write about it anymore. I don't like that so much distress was caused by losing material objects. Part of the reason we had moved into the RV was an exercise in eliminating material objects from our lives. But there were things we wanted to keep. And just allll the mold and the cleanup and the repacking and the time...I will end by saying I hope I never have to carry a box into a storage unit again.

     My best news to go along with our new home is...our new cats!!! And NO, I never would have imagined in my whole life that "best news" and "home" and "cats" would fit into the same thought. I was NOT a cat person. In the slightest. I'm SO a cat person now. It's ridiculous. (They were born in March, just as we were in the process of house hunting.) I'm going to devote a whole post about my little cat family sometime.

I mean, can you BLAME me for my love and adoration?!

     In March, my favorite hobby of photographing and videoing my new little daughter and granddaughters began. My photo roll is full of baby cats and their attentive mama.


     Moving is hard. HARD. It was really hard moving from Arkansas, and it was hard moving out of our 3400 square foot house into our storage unit and RV. I thought it would be a breeze to go from storage unit to empty house. Well. Our living room continued to look like this for months longer than I care to admit.

And this.

And this.

     It's like I found out the MOST unproductive way to move and unpack, and that's what I did. And then youngest brother (who just said he would like his blogging name to be Ninja) spread everything out even worse. And then I became depressed and shut down and had no idea how to move forward from there.

There were good times, though! 
We have a pool now for the first time ever!

     We pretty much only looked at houses with pools. It's extra work for Ryan, but we feel grateful. We are saving up money to get it resurfaced and to buy porch/pool furniture, etc.

     Before the barrage of boxes and furniture, we had the wonderful surprise of getting a message from my dear college friend who was in town with her husband. Our first house guests! Ninja loved giving them a tour.

     During this time, my photo roll is full of pics of furniture and house ideas, IKEA possibilities, (cats!), and pics of ongoing projects like this one.

     I think this video of Ninja sleeping despite the loud Home Depot noises perfectly describes how all of us were feeling during this time.

Universal Studios
May and June included a lot of visits to Universal, as our annual passes were about to expire.

     It was great news when Vodoo Doughnuts opened at City Walk. We had visited the Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland over 10 years ago.

They have several vegan choices.

     For Tornado's 18th birthday (above, on his actual birthday), we went to Universal almost every day for a week, haha. 

     This was his one day of YES, when he could ask for any park treats he wanted, and I couldn't say no. He actually didn't eat as much as I thought he would. I think he ended up with a pretzel, a slushie, pumpkin juice, veggie burger & fries, and a Starbucks drink.

     We are super thankful for my parents and their gift of these passes that we started last year on Tornado's birthday.

Harry Potter train


spray fountain

     Our first visit or two the previous year we were a little disappointed, like it didn't stack up to Disney. However, as we dove in and explored, we got into it and became pretty attached. (Now I think the kids are torn whether they think Universal or Disney is better.) Bye, Universal, for now! We really enjoyed our year with you.

More 18th Birthday

     We thought this cup (which is his favorite color) would be funny because he drinks so much.

     So just like that, I'm the mom to a...MAN?! Is that right? Kind of. I have a kid who was born 18 years ago? I'm old enough to have an almost 20 year old?! What in the actual heck. He towers over me in height, and I love him so much it hurts. I'm super proud of you, Tornado.

     Thankfully, we planned moving at the end of the school year, after the bulk of our schoolwork was finished. Homeschool Academy had adjourned for the year. We could focus on unpacking and getting ready for the fall. We did continue on with some learning projects, some math, reading, and learning through travel and activities. The kids attended a few sessions of parkour (and here, Sister at aerial class).

They are hoping to make this one of their regular sports.

     The end of May included a trip to visit cousins and grandparents up north.

     I was even able to sneak in a quick trip to Chicago by myself while these monkeys played here.

Monday, January 21, 2019

3rd and 5th Grade: Post #3

 I have waited so long to finish updating my blog that I'm missing so many details. I'm going to go ahead and post what I have, hating that I'm leaving so much out of their fun 3rd/5th grade year! Hopefully (will I?! one day?!), I will get back to doing a better job recording our family history. And this has been all about Sis and Dash, since they were the ones who homeschooled. Baby Bro and Tornado have great years at their schools, too, and I will update their happenings, too, eventually - especially since at the time of this posting, we are all back to homeschooling together.

Citrus Picking
 We love visiting Dooley Groves, picking citrus fruit, and sampling the super juicy oranges and amazing fresh juice.

 One of the kids' Christmas gifts: Disney annual passes!!! We had been saving up for 3 years for this moment!

It was definitely a fun year full of fun - and learning. We tried to explore all that Epcot had to offer, as far as technology and countries/cultural, but we couldn't even get to all of it in a year. (Hopefully, there will be more Disney in the future!)

One of my favorite places in Tampa is the pedestrian walkway on the Courtney Campbell Causeway. I brought my homeschooled kids one day for a little exercise.

They were exploring the crystals/rocks along the edge of the water. Also, I think they got captivated by a very mysterious, unknown dead animal carcass.

Special Moments
Brother celebrated his 4th birthday on a pirate cruise in Clearwater.
Sister invited a couple of friends to join her family for a Rainbow-Unicorn themed bash.

Sis joined me in my excitement to attend the Loretta Lynn concert in St. Petersburg. This was a beautiful theater, and we had a fun night. 

 Another day we ventured to the Chocolate
Festival (!) and found a few vegan treats.

Tornado chose to celebrate his birthday going to LEGOLAND and staying a night at the resort. It was a great family weekend. We haven't stayed at a resort many times, and I'm reminded when we do about how nice it is. We were able to get into LEGOLAND with our homeschool discount, which is a great deal.
Field Trip
This was an educational field trip at the Science Center of Pinellas. The subject was rock and minerals. I dropped them off for the afternoon while they enjoyed this hands-on class. They also watched a show in the planetarium.

We spent time at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium when our friends from Missouri were visiting. We also made a visit to Dino World for the first time.

During one of our trips to Missouri, we got passes to the Discovery Center in Springfield.

We were able to go back a few times over the year.

Sis took gymnastics her kindergarten year in Arkansas. She started taking classes in Florida. Soon she was asked to join the Future Stars class, which is the pre-competitive class. Then she was asked to try out for the competitive team, and she did great. Her competitive season would begin January 2017, but they were already hard at work getting ready for that. Side note: Sis loves leading stretches. I always tell her she should channel her love and skill toward coaching gymnastics one day. I think she would be great!

A couple of other special moments for Sis in gymnastics included being the week she was named Premier Princess - and the classes in which she has been able to ring the bell. The girls get to do this when they have learned a new skill. Everyone in the gym stops to watch her perform her new accomplishment and cheer her on.

They started a new class/sport they love this year: parkour. It's such a fun, challenging thing for them to do. They also have a super cool instructor who has competed on parkour/ninja television shows!

This was an open gym/parent's night out they attended one Friday night. It included a nerf war.

 Easter baskets in age order
 together again!
(Sis with her BFF since preschool)
 We met my sister Tracy for lunch at The Root CafĂ©, which has solid vegan choices. There is this little play area for the kids while they are waiting for their food.

We took trips to Arkansas and Missouri in February, March, and May. It's been so special seeing my nieces and nephews regularly. Moving to Florida, despite the wonderful aspects of such a fun state, has created sorrow in my heart (and many tears have been shed) for missing out on seeing them grow up. I made it my vow when I turned 40 that I just wasn't going to miss out on it anymore. I would just make trips more frequently.

 Homeschool Co-op
Second semester, the kids both took the Chronicles of Narnia class. I happened to be assigned the assistant teacher job for the class. It's one of those books I wouldn't necessarily want to read with them because I'm not a fan of fantasy, so I was glad they took this class. They both like the books. They were assigned to read a chapter on their own during the week, and they discussed it during class. They completed vocabulary worksheets together and other activities. The teacher usually had a book related experiment, craft, or food activity for the end of class.

They made tea during this class, and I can't remember the significance of the cookies. But they also all got to try Turkish Delight in another class.

I've talked a lot about our activities but not a lot about their curriculum this year. The homeschooling requirements in Florida include registering your intent to homeschool with your local school district office the year you begin homeschooling and choosing to take the standard test or keep a portfolio that must be evaluated by a certified teacher. We always do the portfolio, which needs to show an overall record of their year and also indicate improvement. They have been using Abeka history, Time4Learning, Horizons Math (Sis), and Saxon Math (Dash), among other things, including their great classes at co-op.

 Summer Has Arrived
 Sis was happy to have her little brother join her at gymnastics camp at the beginning of the summer. And no one was happier than he was to experience "camp" for the first time.

This summer cousin C and Sis were really into cooking projects together.

Another Birthday
I don't know if it's because we now have a Mac, and I'm not used to it - or blogger has changed. But I can't seem to move this pic and the following up to where it belongs! (I'll edit when I figure this out.) This year Dash invited his neighborhood pals (who once again, we are so very grateful to have on our street) for a day of paintball. Even ol Mom joined in on the (painful and intense) fun.

More Fun (and learning) At Home
The kids experimented with the volcano Dash had made at one of his classes.