Matt and I both love tennis. Neither of us has ever played formally, but we have played a lot—though not a lot in recent years—and so we went ahead and signed Gracie and Bridget up for the short six-week long tennis intro at their elementary school, sponsored by the Bossier Tennis Center. We can't really fit in other sports for real because of gymnastics, but we also hate for gymnastics to be the only sport they know; the length and timing of this worked out. Plus, we are of the belief that tennis is just a good thing to know how to do. Like driving a stick shift. You just never know when it'll come in handy.
The big feature event was the jamboree play day, held at the Bossier Tennis Center this weekend. There must be a LOT of tennis going on in this town because I have never seen such a facility anywhere. The other part of the class has been held in the gym after school, and it was way more fun to be on actual courts.
As you might guess, Bee is a very dramatic, gymnastic kind of tennis player.
She also LOVES SERENA WILLIAMS. She watched the U.S. Open with great intensity a few weeks ago, and put her observations to good use:
Gracie is very, very athletic no matter what the sport...
....and to no one's surprise, she managed to operate the big fun tennis ball picker-upper while all the other kids in her group had baskets. Because if there's one thing we know about Gracie: she's always first, and she always holds the treat. It's uncanny.
It was a fun event, and I wish we had more hours and money to sign them up for lessons. We might get them rackets for now and just find some free courts to play on once in a while. No sport has surpassed gymnastics yet for any of them, no matter how fun it might be.
At the conclusion of the jamboree, there was a face painter. We had to wait A Very Long Time for said face painter; Matt and Maddie drove separately, so they missed the wait. But in the end, it was probably worth it:
[Ed. note: Gracie did not get shorted on paint, she actually requested just a small portion because she knows herself well enough to know that a face full of paint on a blistering hot and humid day after playing tennis might cause her to rip her face off within 2.9 seconds. Smart girl.]
I took Gracie, Bridget, Maddie, and Maddie's friend Claudia to the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program for a tour today, where Gracie is a benefactor. She asked her friends not to buy her birthday gifts at her party in December and instead donate a small amount to the RMRP. She faithfully keeps up to date on news from the program via The Owl's Perch, and spends at least 30% of any given day in active thought about owls. I have a lot more to say about this place (and quite frankly, 101 other things that have been going on around here) but for now, this:
Gracie sparkled today. With focus that startled me, with her knowledge of owls that might have startled the wonderful tour guide, with the great horned owl she was lucky to spend a little time with. She was in her element, and it was a glimpse into her future that I've never fully seen before. It's hard to know if the dreams she has now as an 8 year old will weather the test of time some 15 years down the line, but today it didn't matter: today she was an 8 year old with philanthropist credentials, being treated like the legitimate owl scientist she has worked so hard to become.
It was awesome.
Since December 13....
1. Gracie turned 8 and we threw a big party. It was a wonderful party, and should have been a 100% joyous occasion. However, it was hard to pull off a wonderful party that fit the 100% joyous occasion bill on December 14, 2012. We were able to shield Gracie and Bridget from the tragic news though Maddie wasn't so lucky—it's hard to play the shielding game with a ten year old. Jonah and Gracie share a birthday, and it helped tremendously to know that someone else was planning a celebration shielded from the outside world. It's hard to compartmentalize joy and sorrow.
But there were owl cupcakes
and a whole bunch of second graders building gingerbread houses (which kind of put me in a panic leading up to the party, but it went amazingly well—there's a tip on that, just a minute)
and many beautiful handmade owl greetings and donations to the Rocky Mountain Raptor Center in Fort Collins, CO
Two tips for throwing a successful gingerbread house birthday party:
1. Host at a location that isn't your house. Like the Arts & Crafts Center on base or similar. Even better if there are three adults from the Arts & Crafts Center staffed to help with the party.
2. Prepackage all the supplies. This step may do you in at the time, but it is worth it.
2. We had lots of Christmas programs to attend. Gracie was the star of the second grade portion of the show (as Frosty the Snowman) while Bridget generally sang as if she were on Broadway and not in the school gym, Maddie sang and played in the bell choir at her school, and the annual Christmas carol piano party at their piano teacher's house was great fun. Both girls played duets with their teacher, with each other, and the three of us played a "Tree-O." Ha ha. There was a terrible, horrible, no-good, no explanation gate-closure that nearly caused both Matt and I to miss Maddie's program—we slipped in separately after it started and it's a Christmas miracle that I didn't get a speeding ticket once the gate finally opened after 43 minutes of waiting (I was supposed to pick Matt up after dropping Gracie off after her 8 year checkup, but that didn't happen). Anyway:
3. There were parties to attend. Gracie was sick on the last day before break and missed her very fun party (the horror!), but Maddie's class had a little celebration, Bridget's class got to wear jammies and bring a stuffed animal (she brought her pygmy puff) and drink hot chocolate and watch The Polar Express. We skipped the Wing Christmas Party so I could go to The Nutcracker with the girls and their friends and their friends' mamas (one of my favorite things to do during December). Matt's squadron party was at The Plains and we spent an evening with our CFD family celebrating, well, life in general.
4. We hung out with school friends over break. Bridget and her preschool friend Cora got together twice, Gracie had a friend over from her class, and Maddie and her musketeers had a sleepover and an ice-skating date. We had lunch with Ms. Deb. We had a great post-holiday brunch with Abby and Wes, in which wonderful gifts were exchanged, including this one:
5. We made stuff. 8 billion chocolate covered cherries, multiple batches of pine bark, birthday treats and banana bread. A whole bunch of Christmas cards. Banners, mixtapes, framed gifts and needlepoint ornaments. Drawings and paintings, beaded jewelry and the beginnings of braided bracelets. Reindeer food and lots and lots of meals at home.
6. Someone got the biggest gift of her life and played with it nonstop. It might be plastic and ginormous, but there was never a child who wanted the Disney Dream Castle more than Bridget. She's been wishing for it for over two years now, and has organized art shows and rock shops to try and save up money to buy it herself. She told everyone for the last six months that Santa was going to bring it to her because she wanted it so much, and in the end, that's exactly what happened.
7. It snowed! It snowed! It snowed! The snow totally messed up the ONE DAY Melissa and I were able to meet in Denver for our annual Christmas shopping trip, but I still love snow. We're planning a New Year trip to IKEA in January as consolation. : )
8. We watched a lot of movies. The girls watched all four (FOUR! I know, ridiculous) Home Alone movies. The first one is practically a classic, the second one is OK... and I cautioned that the third and fourth were probably totally stupid... they were all in until the fourth one, when they agreed with me: totally stupid. We also watched Red Dog, E.T., Singin' in the Rain, and Hotel Transylvania together. Matt and I watched Lawless and Knuckleball and planned the next few months of nerdy documentary watching on Apple TV. I could easily be convinced to watch a movie every day.
9. I worked some with my camera. I took 100+ Santa photos for Operation Provide Joy and did a last minute photoshoot just before Christmas. It was terrific because a.) I have known a branch of the family since the first few months we moved back to Cheyenne, b.) I have photographed a branch of this family before and c.) they were really just happy to be together, and chose to have it in the grandparents' backyard. Everyone happily cooperated even though it was freezing, including four dogs. A sample:
I have three photo shoots that must be wrapped up before I can devote my full attention to yesterday's Fifth Annual Worldwide Photo Walk photos, but I just had to share this one of Gracie, who went inside a barn yesterday at the Wyoming Hereford Ranch and met me at the door wielding a pitchfork. I have a Gracie, and she knows how to wield a pitchfork. I hope the world feels a little safer for you this Monday morning.
So last night at dinner, Gracie said "Oh!!! I forgot to tell you something about school today!" I thought I'd already heard most of the day's highlights after school, so wasn't really expecting it when she next said she met the captain of the first Jamaican bobsledding team.
Bridget was wide-eyed, nodding and grinning because clearly she forgot to tell me this gem of a highlight, too. Seriously. How does this story get left out of the day's retelling? We had library, nobody flipped their cards today, Mrs. P. came in to do a writing workshop, I played with such and such at recess, yep, that's about it. Oh yeah! We met a three-time Olympian bobsledder from a Caribbean country that inspired movies and books and a worldwide sensation!
Apparently Devon Harris, three-time Olympian for the Jamaican national bobsledding team, came to talk to Gracie's and Bridget's school for an assembly. He's a motivational speaker now, and Gracie very excitedly recounted his entire life story (plus all about his 2008 children's book, Yes I Can: The Story of the Jamaican Bobsled Team, interestingly illustrated by Ricardo Cortés, who illustrated something else inappropriate for this blog though the sentiment once or twice did maybe cross our minds, I'M SORRY BUT IT'S TRUE. /Tangent)
Gracie even asked him a question (about Olympic medals) and gave him a high-five on the way out. You know, because she's Gracie, and you never know when it will come in handy to have made a bobsledding contact. From Jamaica. There was a time we might have rolled our eyes about this kind of thing, but these days I'm pretty sure it will actually come in handy someday, in some inexplicable way, for this child to have made a bobsledding contact. in Jamaica.
So anyway, thank you, Devon Harris, for coming to Cheyenne, Wyoming to give a motivational presentation to a bunch of elementary school kids. Even though Gracie and Bridget initially forgot to share your visit, your story is not one they'll ever forget : )
Well, it's here: the first day of school. In some form or another, everyone's been counting down to this day for a long, long time. If Bridget could have made a paper chain with 400 rings on it, she would have—that child was ready to go. If only she could spend a day or two a week at her beloved preschool AND go to kindergarten full-time, life would be perfect. All three of them were starting to show their Australian Border Collie tendencies these last ten days... time for school. And of course, there is The Great Big New Chapter of Life I stepped into this morning. Whew. Not to worry, I have an overly optimistic list of 9 billion things to do. I am never bored : ) A little out of sorts today, but not bored.
Maddie is so excited for fifth grade—especially for her teacher. Her class is very small this year—it's a 5/6 split, and there are only 13 kids. She intends to win the spelling bee again, and can't wait for French Horn. And math : ) She is less excited about science, but I'm hoping her very science-focused teacher will change that. Because who doesn't like science? Well, let me amend that: as long as it isn't molecular biology, who doesn't like science? She already misses her 3/4 grade teacher terribly, but is happy that we'll still get to hang out with her at book club every month. I sure do love Maddie's book club.
Gracie ran into my room at 6:10 am like it was Christmas morning, unable to contain her excitement for second grade. Second grade was my absolute favorite year of elementary school (thank you, Mrs. Starner!!) and I'm hoping she will have an equally wonderful year. Poor Maddie had a bum year in second grade : ( Gracie is excited for more reading, more writing, more art, and maintaining her status as Fastest Girl in P.E. She misses her kindergarten and first grade teachers terribly. Poor kid is just like me (minus the being Fastest Girl in P.E. part).
And this one. Oh, this one. She couldn't be more ready for kindergarten, and I can't wait to hear all about it. She is most excited for all of it, she said. She has the same teacher as Gracie had two years ago, and we couldn't be more thrilled. She is reading already, and can't wait to make the jump to chapter books. It was difficult for me to put her on the bus, but she didn't even look back (just like her big sister Maddie). Gracie has been charged with making sure the bus never leaves without Bridget on it, and doesn't take off from the bus stop after school with her on it. Dillow girls have a small but storied history of falling asleep on the bus on the way home : )
I also like to take a "good luck with that, teachers" photo. Except this year, the monkeys broke the camera. As I took this I heard a very strange popping sound from inside my camera. Matt was standing next to me, and while my reaction wasn't as bad as the panic I involuntarily exhibited upon our return from Miller Farms last year, it was still a little on the panicky side. Because the next picture I took looked like this:
Instead of a large-scale freak out, I calmly set my camera inside and calmly walked them to the bus stop, then calmly walked to the parade ground for what was supposed to be my first daytime-in-the-sunshine run in a very, very long time. [Aside: OH MY GOSH, WHEN DID THE SUN GET SO HOT at 8:10 am? I would way rather run at night, but I am working on my new schedule and it involves getting used to running under the flaming, overly bright sun. I walked 2.5 miles instead of running this morning, daydreaming of colder weather.] I calmly walked home, then I picked up my camera from where I calmly set it down and took the lens off to take a peek inside.
And instead of responding to my very calm reaction by fixing itself while I was gone, the mirror proceeded to fall out into my hand.
BIG. GIANT. SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH.
I spent about 35 minutes on the phone with Canon after spending about five minutes whining about it to Marie and Jill; Canon assured me they would have my camera back to me in a little under two weeks and it's probably caused by a newly discovered glue defect in 5D models from 2005 and 2006 and not because of silly monkey faces : ) (Heads up, 5D users) I had to send it in before long anyway because rodeo is very hard on cameras and it needs a good cleaning. But still. Instagram pictures for the foreseeable future! I am @edillow or just click on Instagrid up there on the navigation bar if you're so inclined to keep track of us. I certainly have plenty of Cheyenne Frontier Days photos to work on in the absence of anything new, anyway.
Happy School Year : )