Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School Again

Another school year is upon us. The summer went by so quickly, I almost feel like it was a trick. A summer slight-of-hand. It was here, and now it's gone! 

I'm not a huge fan of the kids going back to school. It's so lonely and I love having them around and not being a slave to a school district. I am, however, a fan of education, so that's the angle I take with the boys. Learning! Growth! Progress! Let's do this! 

Since Aiden is attending a charter school this year, the schedules for the boys are not the same, even for the first day. So we had an extended back-to-school moment, sort of easing into things. 

Conor started 3rd grade this year. I'm not sure how that is even possible. He started kindergarten the same time I started nursing school and now this has happened? 

On the bright side, we're getting a 4th year out of that backpack!

When I asked him what he wanted for his first day of school breakfast, he said strawberry-orange smoothies. I've never made those, so I'm not sure where that came from, and later he said he just made it up. Well, it worked out fine (except that Trop 50 stuff is weird. Not even 100% juice. Lesson learned there.) I used a ton of frozen strawberries, some Greek yogurt, a banana, and some orange juice.

Aiden was sweet enough to want to walk with us to school, the school he also attended beginning in 3rd grade. In fact, Conor has the same teacher that Aiden had in 3rd grade.

I got him to the right place on the playground, where he was first in line for his class. We waited for a few friends, and then I had to leave to take Aiden to work. Conor was fine though, so brave. What a difference from all those tearful partings in kindergarten!

Aiden said he felt like everything was miniature at this school. Strange how perspective changes as we grow up! He was once a little guy standing in this same line!

Aiden started early morning Seminary (a scripture study class held at 6am for high school students in our church) last week because most of the kids started school last week. Since he didn't, our routine was Seminary (which he gets himself up for and rides his bike to and from), Conor to school, and then Aiden out to the ranch where he's been working all summer. Then I would pick him back up around lunch time, he'd come home and rest for a bit, and then it was off to football until late in the evening.

Today, however, he started school. 9th grade. High school. I can't even believe it, except that I've been driving out there every day the whole summer.

He's going to a really great school, the largest charter school in the nation, actually. It's a bit of a drive, which has been hard, but most of his friends are going there since his middle school was out in that area too.

His back to school breakfast was a bit heartier: Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes. And a tall glass of milk and a banana. The boy can eat.

All morning I've been thinking about how strange the passing of time is. I'm sitting in the same house, with the same furniture, arranged in exactly the same way as when we moved in back in 2005. That was just a few weeks before school started that year, and Aiden started kindergarten.

We had five kids going back to school! Same house (with painted walls now), but so much has happened and changed.

Here was my little guy on his first day of kindergarten. And today he started high school!

Here is a picture of the end of that school year. Lyndsay was being homeschooled, but the other four all attended the same school. It's so strange to look at that picture, which I remember taking, and realize that three of those kids are in college now and the other two in high school!

And here I am with my little Aiden, and Conor growing in my tummy. These are the only two I have left in my nest. Life is a trip, man.

So much has changed. We've been through so much. Each of these kids has experienced so many things since these older pictures were taken. I miss those days of innocence and relative ease. Life, ironically, seemed simpler then. We keep plodding along, doing the best that we can. Now I'm a working mother, which adds its own degree of complication to life. The race I run at this stage feels more strenuous then it did back then, but I'm grateful for the learning, the growth, and the progress.

Here's to an excellent school year!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Conor's Plants vs. Zombies Party

It's been zombies in my head for the last several weeks. I decided to let Conor have his first "friends" party for his birthday this year and he asked for a Plants vs. Zombies theme (which, if you don't know, is a wildly popular video game.)

Once I started searching for ideas, I got a little crazy in the details. I wanted everything to be memorable for him and I wanted his friends to have a great time.

I had some zombie images blown up and printed for decoration.

And I found this perfect sign for the front door.

Thanks to Etsy, I was able to get ready-made digital images that I had printed at Kinko's. Then I just had to spend several hours cutting and glueing.

I struggled with the cake. I had a different vision initially, but things just weren't working out, so I had to revamp and go with a simpler idea. I made the figures from gum paste a few days before, did the fondant work the night before the party, and then assembled everything that morning. There was just no way I could make a fondant zombie, so to get around it and yet still have the zombie touch on the cake, I just went for a hand reaching out of the ground. Much easier.

For decorations I bought a set of small traffic cones.

Our first game as guests arrived was Zombie Bingo. The kids loved it.

Then we played Musical Zombie Chairs. We had downloaded the Plants vs. Zombies theme song onto a CD and we played that while the kids had to walk around the chairs zombie-style.

Then we played Zombie Bowling.

Everyone thinks it's going to be so easy, but it's not! We gave each child three tennis balls to try and knock all the cans down. Only one child got them all down with the first ball, and only two were able to get them all down with three balls. They loved this game!

Next up was Pin the Eye on the Zombie.

(I got this guy a little too dizzy!)

I ordered five of these zombie stuffed toys from China (cheap!) to use as first prizes for each of the games. The kids loved that!

Then I had a terra cotta pot filled with smaller action figure type zombies that served as second and third prizes.

The last game was a Zombie Shooting game. I printed out images of zombie heads and laminated them and hung bells from the bottoms. Aiden built the frame for me and spray painted it.

He also built me all the marshmallow shooters. (Love that boy!)

This was an outside game. The kids got ten marshmallows chances to hit the zombies.

Then it was inside for food. I had the party from 2-4pm, so I didn't need to serve lunch. But I had snacks, which the kids actually munched on throughout the whole party. We had a little "brain snack" after a few of the games and the little zombies ate their jello brain.

Plants for the little zombies!

And then it was cake time!

I can't believe this boy is turning 8!

I made one of the traffic cones into a party hat for Conor (and clipped a tie on him like a zombie too, which you can't see here).

And then they demolished my hard work!

Cards and gifts at the end.

And before they went home, they each got a party favor. I wrapped candy bars with these cute wrappers (Etsy again!)

and put them inside flower pots along with a pack of trading cards, bubbles, and a pack of sunflower seeds to grow in their pots. There were supposed to be eyeball gum balls too, but something happened to my order. Oh well, nobody knew. And hopefully parents were happy that the kids didn't come home laden with sugar.

Conor was incredibly thrilled with the way his party turned out. Parents have been telling me how much fun all the kids had. All of the games were a success. The kids would always ask to play them again when we finished. It was a ton of work getting everything ready, but all worth it!