Photos courtesy of Ryan Prouty

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Best Fun

Today was the day we have been waiting for. Just before my birthday, there was a special on an excursion to swim with manatees. We were in the middle of soccer season and  had games each Saturday morning, so we had to wait to go until the season was over. Then we had to work around schedules a bit more and finally got to have our swim today. Paul and the kids were not sure they were very excited about what I signed them up for since they had to get up at 5 AM on a Saturday morning. We had to drive to a river 2 1/2 hours away and they were not very thrilled this morning. There was a bit of grumbling in the van this morning. Paul was even less sure about it after we ended up on a toll road and spent about $10 just for the privilege of driving to the dive center. We got all the kids into wet suits (and were sweating by the time that task was accomplished), watched a video teaching us how to behave around these giant animals since they are an endangered species. We discovered today that the average manatee is 12 feet long and 1,200 pounds.  Its a good thing too because when everyone is gathering around trying to touch one, there is plenty of manatee to go around! Here we are loading up on the pontoon boat:

 We spotted a moma and her baby right away and Riley and Holden were the first ones in the water and got to see and touch them, but they took off quickly. We followed them for a bit, but no one else could even get a glimpse of them because the water was VERY murky. They ran away and we had to head back to the boat to try again.  Here is the second one we saw.
 This time only about half of us ended up in the water before it bolted. Back on the boat and then some trolling around for about 45 minutes. We couldn't seem to find anymore manatee. But our patience paid off and we did find more. So it was back into the water.  Which was frigid by the way. It stole your breath every time we got in. But we adjusted pretty quickly since out only exposed skin was our hands, feet, necks and heads.
 Alayna stayed ready between trips in and out of the water:

Paul had fun with the underwater camera while I took the above water pictures. Riley is a bit difficult to recognize:

 He used a lifjacket because we were snorkeling in only about three feet of water and only a few inches above all the kelp/seaweed/algae/yucky stuff on the river bottom. By providence, we found a mama and baby again and they were closer to the spring part of the river and the water was MUCH clearerer that the first two places we got in.
 They let us swim with them and scratch their backs while the mama fed off the bottom and the baby swam alongside. It was pretty amazing.

 That's Jo and I in case you couldn't tell.
 And that's the baby on the left of the mama:
 The little one went up for air much more often than mama did

By the time it was all over, we probably swam with the manatees for 30 minutes. They would just swim around us, graze along the bottom a while, check us out a while and repeat. It was pretty amazing to have them change directions suddenly and swim directly underneath you brushing all along your underbelly! I think each of us experienced that. I think they would have hung out with us all day, but we were all ready to head back to the boat after that long. We each got our fill of petting, touching and scratching.
 The drive home proved too boring for them:
Each of them decided it was totally worth the loss of sleep and that they would love to do it again. If you get the chance, we highly recommend this trip!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eighth Grade Graduation

 We are so proud of Gabriel! Poor guy has been through the worst of it of all the kids. He finished his third year in the same school for the first time ever... this year...and graduated from 8th grade. So sad, but he has weathered it so very well. He has become a very good student, making the all A honor roll this year. It brought tears to my eyes. Its hard to remember our previous struggles with reading and homework anymore. He is extremely responsible and never needs to be reminded to study or finish homework. All the hard work of the previous years has turned him into a hard worker and he realizes his grades will reflect his effort. Aaaah, I pray all the kids come to that realization! To top it off (if I may brag on him a bit more), he received the Colassians 3:23 award for character and integrity.  He has a great class but only a few of them will be back for nineth grade. They gathered for a class photo shoot before graduation:
 The processional at graduation:

 With some classmates:
 Receiving his diploma:
 The whole crew:

We closed out the celebration at a pizza place as a class and then the class went bowling until midnight. Some parents chaperoned...I was very grateful that Paul agreed to go pick him up since it was a weeknight! It is really unbelievable how quickly time has passed. Just yesterday we were bringing him home from the hospital after a huge snowstorm...and now he towers over me. How did this happen?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Wrapping up another year...where does the time go?

I took some time off work the last week of school to go to a couple of the year end parties. Riley's class went to the beach for a few hours and had a picnic with a cute cake to say farewell to elementary school. Hard to believe he will be in 6th grade next year.

Riley with his buddies Seth and Bradley
They did a relay race and had to put on the beach gear and run around an obstacle. The girls beat the usual I understand. Riley insists they cheat for the record.
Proof I was there. With straight hair for some odd reason.

Unfortunately, Holden's class did an all day field trip to end their stint in 3rd grade and I just couldn't take the whole day off, so I missed that. Gabe's class got together at the beach after they graduated and he got very sunburned because he didn't have a parent there to remind him to put on sunscreen. I guess he is growing up! Ugh, I guess they all are!

Alayna's class went on a guided boat tour of a nearby bay. I was the most beautiful day for a boat ride. There was a gentle breeze and great sunshine. The water looked amazing! The kids were all so good and we learned a lot about the landmarks in the area. The ship's captain gave the tour with his handheld microphone and was very knowledgeable.

See what I mean about the water! That beach was gorgeous!

Alayna and her friend Destiny:
Proof again that I was there!
After the boat ride, they went to one of her classmates' home to swim and eat lunch. It was a lot of kids in a little pool, but they had so much fun. They turned a raft into a slide:

I have already promised Holden I will go with him on his next field trip. I hope the guilt doesn't kill me until then.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Alayna and Paul

This time of year gets so busy with school winding down, birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and our Anniversary that we just try to keep everyone fed and dressed and in their proper places at the proper times and if we can breathe in between, life is good! I am trying to update over the past few months. I am purposely omitting anything about the birthday I certainly did not have this year. I have decided that if I completely ignore it, it didn't happen!

However, Alayna did just recently turn SEVEN! My baby is seven whole years old. Unbelievable! We have enjoyed the addition she makes to our family and the differences she has made apparent that we had not experienced before with all the boys. She is so much fun and in so many ways such a girly girl and in so many ways very much a Tom Boy. This past year she has really grown as a student and has done very well with her studies and declares each day of school as "Awesome!" when asked about her day. She loved gymnastics this year, and fell in love with volleyball recently too. She has only one volume apparently. At school she must have to shout all the time to be heard because when she's home we are constantly getting blown out by a shouted request, reply, or announcement! She cracks us up! Her teacher told us she is a good friend to everyone in the class. High praise in my opinion. She is growing like a weed and still eats constantly and chatters nonstop...loudly. She has gotten into drawing and "arts". She won a coloring contest at a local nursery right before Easter and won a very big Easter basket with coloring books and candy. She was so pleased with herself. And she should have been because she worked on that coloring page for almost an hour being so careful to stay in the lines and to color in each figure.

For her birthday, she got to invite two of her friends to spend the day with her. They went to the pool and swam for several hours then came home and made cake balls and decorated them themselves with sprinkles and then devoured them. They also wore them, but I guess I shouldn't have been surprised about that! They had fun. Here are Zoe and Mary Katelyn decorating their first ones:

Before they ate their cake balls actually we took them out to eat at the restaurant of Alayna's choice. She chose Chili's. Here are the girls trying to get warm in the sunlight while they waited for their food. The air conditioning is always too cold for me too!

We decorated the new street in front of our driveway for Paul's birthday with the glow in the dark sidewalk chalk Alayna got for her birthday. The new layer of blacktop made a great canvas.

Paul got a little cop humor going on the street as well...I was glad none of our neighbors seemed least they didn't say anything to us about it!

I know I am not including a lot of life that happened between the last post and this one, but I have let time slip by and its all forgotten now! We are looking forward to summer for the break in the school routine, and the heat is kicking up reminding us why so many people go back up north for a few months. Traffic is so much better and we can now park close to the door at the grocery store. Gotta take the good with the bad!