Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Dad's Birthday

Today is my Dad's Birthday.  He would have turned 74 years old.  I wish he was here *in real life* {as Ella and Zoe call it} so I could give him a great big hug, kiss his cheek, talk with him, listen to him, watch him with the girls and Tom, watch him with my Mom.

I really wish he was going to blow out 74 candles on his birthday cake.

I know I have so many wonderful memories that make me smile.  I know he had an amazing life that he lived very well.  I know how important it is to celebrate a life lived so well.  I know that death is part of life.

I still miss my him in a way I can't put into words.

But I also know it was his time and that he was given the gift of a great life.  Those thoughts make me smile, and those thoughts are what I'm trying to focus on for myself, for my Mom, for Ella, for Zoe.  Death is part of life, and when you love big you miss big too (though I have to keep reminding myself of that).

Looking at these pictures, many that I've posted over the years, make me smile too.
(click to enlarge)
Photos from when I was younger:

One of my favorites from the summer after the girls were born, I LOVE his smile:

Dad holding Ella:

Getting cuddles and kisses from Grampa:

Getting ready for Men's Night at preschool:

The best Grampa EVER!!

Zoe playing with Grampa:

Me with my Dad and my girls:

I'm not sure exactly how we'll celebrate Dad's Birthday today, but I am pretty sure it will include a Dairy Queen treat of some sort .....  Ella and Zoe are also making pictures to put on Grampa's spot at the cemetery, and once my mom and sister get home from England (they've been over there for 10 days visiting my niece who is finishing up a 6-week internship) we're going to get together as a family.

So for now, Happy 74th Dad!
I miss you lots, but I love you more.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

~ Last Day of Kindergarten

Zoe and Ella's last day of Kindergarten --- what a whirlwind of activities.  What a FUN day.

Last picture of me with my favorite Kindergarteners, before I headed to my class of Kindergarteners and the girls went to their Kindergarten class -- 

(It was a perfect day -- I taught in the morning, took the afternoon off and then attended the girls' end-of-the-year celebration.)  

Ella and Zoe walking in at the start of their Kindergarten BIG SHEBANG  (as Mrs. Olson called it, which always made the girls smile when they would talk about it).  It lived up to the hype ....

My almost First Graders -- Love these two so much.

This photo makes me smile.  The girls have both grown in confidence and assertiveness this year and are both comfortable doing their own things/being apart from each other -- but they are also still very close.  They like being by each other, they look to each other for comfort or reassurance, or just to have fun and share something together.  I like that so much -- they're sisters, they're twins, they're two different people, but they are also truly best friends and have a connection that makes my heart so happy.  The way Zoe was looking at Ella in this photo, both smiling, happens a lot in different ways.

The songs the kids sang were really fun -- and they all did such a great job.  It was a super performance and I enjoyed every minute of it (as a mom and as a teacher) .....

After singing with their music teacher, good pal Charlie held the flag and the kids all said the 'Pledge of Allegience'.

During this part of the show the girls were on opposite sides from each other, which made taking pictures and watching both of them a little tricky ---

They also played a song using hand bells (wow, I mean really, wow -- as a Kindergarten teacher myself I have been constantly blown away by the stuff Mrs. Olson has done with their class) .....

They also had the cutest chick masks for a little skit they put on ....

Ella's line was 'that's my FAVORITE lunch!' .....

.... and Zoe's line was 'Best Friends FOREVER!'.

Mrs. Olson not only put together a program that was amazing, special, fun, cute and sweet, she also looked great (loved her dress) -- and talked about each child individually.

For Zoe she talked about how much she has grown as a reader and writer throughout the year -- and shared when she asked the kids to write about the best thing that ever happened to them, Zoe's response was about 'starting Kindergarten with Mrs. Olson .....'.  How sweet is that?!  Mrs. Olson also told Zoe she has a feeling she's going to be an author and an illustrator when she grows up -- which made her just beam.  Zoe also won the award for 'Queen of the Monkey Bars' -- which is SO fitting.  At the start of Kindergarten her arms were too short to do the bars by herself, but she persevered and practiced, practiced, practiced (and grew in length), and now she goes back and forth on those bars like a real monkey -- forward, backward, adding twists, flying across with her eyes closed, skipping bars -- she even does the monkey bars with blisters on her hands, she loves them that much.  Needless to say, she was thrilled with the award : )

Love, love, love this photo -- this is so Zoe.  Tom, my mom and I all had the same thoughts during this part of the program and didn't realize it until later when we were talking about it -- when Zoe focuses she FOCUSES.  She did that as a 5-day old preemie too, a little thing that weighed just a little more than 2 pounds at that point -- but when she was awake she was awake and her big brown eyes would lock into yours.  Same look as a strong, smart Kindergartener too .... locking eyes and focusing.  So amazing, so cool, so neat to see how that hasn't changed from when she was first born.

And then there's Ella.  Free-spirited, think outside the box, super smart, super creative, super kind, 'I'll wait until I absolutely have to go to the bathroom' girl (who true to form waited until right before her name was called, had to go, we went, she made a comment about hoping her name wasn't called when she was in the bathroom, her name was called, Zoe went instead, then Ella took her turn with a smile on her face -- ready to share her moment with Mrs. Olson.  Love this girl so much.  Her award was super fitting too -- Kindest Kid.  And yes, that is Ella -- very kind, very caring, very sweet (but spunky, too).

Mrs. Olson also talked about Ella's incredible reading and writing skills, how she's going to always keep paper mills in business (if it was free-time in Mrs. Olson's class the art and writing center was the place Ella would be), and how some day when Ella is a famous artist Mrs. Olson will be in a good place herself with all of the 'Ella Originals' Ella gave her during Kindergarten : )

I also love, love, love this photo -- it pretty much sums up so much to me -- a genuinely happy teacher who truly listens and visits with her students; and a student who knows she is listened to, is worth being listened to and adores her teacher .....

After the performance the girls gave Mrs. Olson the garden pig with wings, and a note that said 'Question:  When will Ella and Zoe have another Kindergarten Teacher as amazing as Mrs. Olson?'.  Answer:  When Pigs Fly!'.  They had SO MUCH fun giving her the gift and she laughed just like they said she would.  Perfect ending to a perfectly fun afternoon and a perfectly wonderful year in Kindergarten.

We are so grateful Ella and Zoe had this kind of start for their school careers -- what a gift Mrs. Olson gave these girls (and all of the students in her class).  I could go on and on about the type of person she is (caring, energetic, crazy smart, super helpful), which are also words to describe the kind of teacher she is -- a teacher who constantly went above and beyond her job description, a teacher who had high standards for all of the kids (and for herself), a teacher who did amazing things with a class that had some challenges -- but never let those challenges take away from the learning and experiences of the students who were on task, a teacher who balanced it all, a teacher who made it look easy, too.  Simply put, an exemplary teacher -- lucky us. 

After the performance Tom had to head to work so the girls and I went home with Grama for a bit before we went out for dinner to celebrate some more ....

Our waitress at Red Lobster (super big treat for E and Z) continued the theme of celebrating and brought the girls special drinks with four cherries skewered on a stick to fancy them up.  How's that for perfect?!

It was one of those days where at the end of it I realized my face hurt from smiling so much.

Ella Marie and Zoe Dianne -- you two are so awesome in so many ways.  Your Dad and I love you both very, very much and are super proud of each of you.