Craig’s Birthday 2014

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imageBirthday season has arrived starting with mine back in May and now to our second of the summer, Craig.  Around here birthdays are celebrated whether you like it or not.  Craig is usually in the “not” category but if anything, it’s always an excuse to get together with family which usually includes food.  This year we decided not to go out to eat but had a family cookout at my mom’s house for burgers.

Craig turned 45 this year.  Where have the years gone?  But then again, I’m not getting any younger myself.  In reflection of another year added onto the count and Craig’s unliking of birthdays anyways, I realized that once you hit a certain age birthdays are not for the person celebrating.  They are for everyone else in their lives.  It’s those who love the birthday person who wish to honor and celebrate another year of life.

So to you Craig, husband, father, brother, son, we celebrate you.  Another year of memories, moments, happiness, and love to be thankful we get to celebrate.  It’s not about the presents or even the food.  It’s about the beginning of another year or chapter in what we call life.

Cheers to year 45!

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What's a birthday without Mario cupcakes

What’s a birthday without Mario cupcakes

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Claire’s 5th Grade Graduation from Oriole Beach Elementary

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For months now I have had mixed emotions about this day.  I have experienced it once with my oldest daughter Carly and did not handle it well.  Then, my first born was moving on to the next chapter in her schooling. But I really wasn’t sure how I would handle my baby, Claire, going through the same process. Would it be easier or harder?

Claire’s 5th grade year was not quite what I had thought it would be years ago.  We decided to move the summer before.  Up until then, I kind of knew what it would be like at her previous school Pine Forest Elementary.  I knew the teachers.  I knew there would be 5th grade play in the winter.  Space Camp in May.  And all the other events to spend with the friends you had been classmates since Kindergarten with.  But with the move all of that changed.  And I wasn’t sure what to expect.

There were opportunities for her to find her way.  She joined 5th grade Chorus and Optimist Club.  She began making new friends.  It was a slow process but she was adjusting and finding her way.  Maybe better than me.  Before we knew it, the school year was coming to a close.  Yearbooks were passed out.  For the first time I could care less to look at it.  Except for her 5th grade ad we put in for her.  I knew none of the kids and it felt like looking at a strangers school memories.  Luckily, she enjoyed seeing people she had gotten to know and even found herself in a few pages within.

With the passing out of yearbooks came the upcoming graduation.  At this point it was just formality to be at school.  Very little education was happening within the 5th grade.  They were ready to move on.  The week of graduation approached and it was full of activities.  A skating field trip, 5th grade talent show, graduation rehearsal and finally, the big day.  Claire was excited.  She had been looking forward to this day for weeks now.  I was still unsure about myself.

We found her perfect dress and shoes.  She picked out her hairstyle.  She was ready.  Today was the day.  She woke in the morning.  We all began getting ready, even Carly.  Luck have it, Carly did not have any finals to take this day so she had the day off of school.  Due to rushing around, doing hair, getting ready,  I honestly didn’t think much about what the day was.  I can do this.

We dropped Claire off at school at her normal time.  We went to the local grocery store to get her some flowers to celebrate.  Then we headed to the church next to the school.  The students will be bused over to the church before graduation.  All the other parents and family members were arriving to get their seats.  We were lucky to have Grandma, Grandpa and Aunt Suzanne to join us for the big day.

As we were waiting, the administrators and speakers started to arrive.  They were showing a slideshow of pictures from this year for each class.  Because I didn’t know any of the kids I handled the memories just fine.  Then the moment came.  The principal made an announcement that at the very moment as we sit there our students are walking down all the hallways of Oriole Beach Elementary so that each class and teacher can see them and say their goodbyes.  Even though Claire had not had any other teacher in that school nor did she know any other students younger than her, I began to get teary eyed.  It brought back the day 4 years early watching Carly parade down the hall of Pine Forest Elementary for her final goodbye.  I could only imagine how much of a mess I would of been if we were still in Arkansas.  It was getting close and knowing they were walking their final walk in the building on the way to board the buses was hard.  Times like these I wish I was a guy.

I composed myself and luckily there was a long enough break before their arrival to freshen up.  Then I heard them.  In the back of the sanctuary they were lined up by classes.  In just a few minutes they would be walking in as 5th graders but soon will be leaving as middle schoolers.  Yes, this is not high school.  She is not moving out in two months starting her life.  But she is moving on.  She is my baby and this moment will not happen again.  I’m so happy for her.  She is ready.  I am not.

The principal begins her speech talking about how she has watched these kids grow from their first days of kindergarten to today.  And how she has enjoyed getting to know the students that made OBE 5th grade their first year there.  I sat there thinking about Claire’s first day of Kindergarten.  She was ready.  I was not.  Sound familiar.  Then another speaker stood and talked about character.  Who they should be once entering middle school.  Find that person that doesn’t have a friend.  Leave no one out.  I was inspired and I’m an adult.  A video was shown of a track and field race.  An inspirational visual about when you fall down get back up and don’t stop until you finish.  It’s not about winning.  It’s about not giving up.  I kindof felt like I was at a high school graduation.

Awards were then started.  Claire was called up to receive the President’s Award for Education Excellence and all A/B Honor Roll for all of 5th grade.  To my surprise I handled both of those with grace.  The tears had slowed and even stopped.  I guess the speakers leading up to that point put me in another place.  After all awards were given it was time. Each class was called up together.  The teacher read each students name and they walked across receiving a Certificate of Promotion from the Principal and a hand shake from the Vice-Principal and the Superintendent of the District.  Clair’s class was third.  There she was.  Lined up and ready.  Probably because I was trying to video and take photos as the same time or who knows why, but I didn’t cry.  The baby I started off being at the beginning of the day was now all grown up and handling the moment with grace.

She walked up and received her promotion.  She gracefully walked her path that she practiced the day before.  To our luck it was right in front of where we were sitting.  With her head held high she was no longer an elementary school student.  She has officially moved on.  And I think I’m ok with all of it now.

Of course we had to stay around for pictures with family, friends, teacher and administrators.  This moment was only happening once.  I had to document it to remember.  Which is why I write this blog.  To remember these moments that will pass and fade with time.

To all her elementary teachers Ms. Fowlkes, Ms. Davis/Meachum, Ms. Hunt, Ms. Rochelle, Ms. McPeak & Ms. Godfrey – THANK YOU!  From here on out her relationships with her teachers will not be the same.  She will be one of a hundred or so students.  She will not remember all their names nor have that bond she made with each and every one of you.  Thank you for being her teacher and helping her be who she is today.

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Memorial Weekend 2014

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(Compilation video at the end)

This was our second Memorial Day weekend since moving to Florida. Last year we were still unpacking in a rental house and had no clue what to do in our new found city.  This year we were happily settled into our new home but still were unsure how we would spend our days off.  The thought crossed our mind to have a cookout with a few of our closest friends but the motivation to prepare for such an event was lacking.  I had taught 4 days prior to the weekend.  I’m not looking for sympathy as most people work full time jobs and get things accomplished.  I guess I’m just not good at it.  My house was a wreck and I was just plain tired.

So we decided to take it one day at a time.  Starting with Friday.  Claire had plans to spend the night at a friends house and practice for the talent show (not a huge production like our previous elementary school – it was grade level only).  Carly came home saying she too had plans to hang out with friends.  No complaints from Craig and I.  Both kids found their way to other peoples houses.  Date night for Craig and I.  Dinner and shopping is what we did.  Carly did not spend the night so we picked her up later on in the night.

Saturday came and it was a beautiful hot day.  I had already made the decision I was going to stay in a swimsuit all weekend long.  Isn’t that one of the traditional things you do for such a weekend?  Ok, so the Memorial weekend is not supposed to be about cookouts and swimming.  I get it.  I did put a flag out by the mailbox and I had many moments thinking about my own family members who have served in our military. Since there was to be no cookout, the swimming part was all I had left of tradition.  Carly and I decided to do a little shopping taking advantage of the holiday sales.  We found her another swimsuit in the process.  For the record, I did go shopping in my swimsuit.  I told you I was on a mission. We ended the day with frosty’s from Wendy’s on the Oriole Beach boat dock.

Sunday came and it was Claire’s turn to go shopping.  She was in need of a graduation dress so off we went.  We spent a few hours in Pensacola and succeeded in finding her a dress.   After two days of shopping I was done.  I was ready to make my fingers wrinkled and work on my tan.  The backyard pool was calling and so was my swimsuit.  The rest of Sunday was spent in the pool.  Claire’s friend Alli came over and joined us.  We even decided to blow up the old water slide we have had for years.  Some of us might of exceeded the weight limit but that didn’t stop us from a day of water fun.  Alli ended up spending the night as did Carly’s friend Isabelle (Izzy).

Monday, Memorial Day, arrived and both girls left in the morning.  How could we end a summertime holiday without a trip to the beach.  Isn’t that one reason we moved here?  So swimsuits back on and to the beach it was.  What a beautiful day it was.  We took the GoPro camera with us.  Carly, in true teenage form, stayed on shore most of the day working on her tan.  Craig, Claire and I made our way out in the ocean there we spent the next few hours.

I have made a video for us to remember our weekend in swimsuits with unplanned activities.  We did grill as a family if that counts as a cookout.  These are moments we will always treasure and the video below will only help us remember.

Memorial Day Weekend 2014

In memory of both my grandfathers who are no longer here to tell their stories of what it meant to serve for our country.  I miss them so.  To honor the living family members who also chose to serve/are serving.  I remember and honor you, from my swimsuit.


Field Day at Oriole Beach Elementary 2014

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It had been postponed for weeks due to excessive rains and flooding but the day finally arrived for the 5th grade at Oriole Beach Elementary to head outside and participate in track and field day.  This would be Claire’s first time participating in what we called at Pine Forest as “Field Day”.  Even though OBE called it track and field it will always be field day to me.  All I knew was it was scheduled to be held from 9:30-11:30 so I made sure I would be part of it.  I arrived promptly at 9:30 to find all six 5th grade classes lined up and the beginning of class relays starting.

Each class cheered on their fellow classmates as they took turns going down and back performing a task given.  I watched as Claire took her turn race after race.  As much as she is supposed to like each event, I think her gold medal event was socializing.  Her turn in the relay was just a quick distraction from her true goal of enjoying time with newly made friends.

From tug-of-war to ice cream in the face, it was fun to watch her fit in and enjoy her final year in elementary school.  I can’t believe this is an end of an era.  There will be no more field days in my future (or until I get to go as grandma).  I know she could of cared less if I was there and at times probably wished I wasn’t, but these moments go by so quickly and as I think back on all the field days I have attended I can say, with a tear in my eye, I will miss it.

 


Claire’s Dance Recital 2014

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DSC_0069It had taken nine long months but all her hard work and effort was displayed on May 17, 2014 at A Time to Dance’s annual dance recital.

When we moved to Florida a year ago May 2013, neither girl was sure what activities they would be interested in trying.  Both hesitant since they did not know anyone to do anything with. Both girls had been doing competitive cheer for the past few years.  Both girls tried out the teams here briefly and both girls quickly changed their mind.  Claire already had her mind set on something else though.  Dance.  She loved to watch ballet videos and shows.  Not really sure where the interest sparked from, but either way, it was something she was passionate about.  With school starting and the official “dance season” doing so also, we decided this was her chance to get involved and become one of those dancers she watched videos of over and over.

The time came to sign her up in September 2013. The question was, which class?  Beginning or Intermediate?  The instructor suggested trying both as the beginning is often younger girls but Claire had never danced before (well not counting the one year when she was 4).  So she tried both classes and it was obvious.  Intermediate it would be.  She caught on quickly and fit in better age wise with that class.  So our Wednesday night from 6-7 routine was now set.  Intermediate Ballet would be how she would spend that night from September until May.

Next we had to get her a leotard, tights and ballet shoes.  She was quickly looking the part but it would take a few months to play the part.  Her hair in a ballerina bun, black leotard, pink tights and pink ballet shoes was her Wednesday night uniform.

She loved going to dance every week.  She loved her teach Ms. Griffin.  She actually idolized her as she was a senior in high school but had studied at professional ballet schools and had been dancing since she was three which included dancing in point shoes (Claire’s goal).  Not to mention the sweetest teacher you could imagine. She was so good and patient with them.

January arrived and costumes were measured for and ordered.  Recital routine was started.  Parts were learned.  Fromimage January to May they would continue to learn proper ballet techniques and the recital dance.  May arrived and it was time to take pictures and see the costume.  Claire was so excited to finally see it and try it on.  They would be dancing to “Wind Up Dolls” so they were to look like dolls.  The costume was perfect.

Before we knew it, recital weekend was here and the big performance on stage was about to take place.  Dress rehearsal was the Friday night before.  Claire was scheduled to practice at the end of the night.  7:15 to be exact.  We left with plenty of time to spare so we could watch some of the other acts.  What we didn’t know is it was Gallery Night in downtown Pensacola.  Guess where the theater was. Yep, downtown Pensacola.  On the same street Gallery Night was being held.  That might not sound like a big deal, but when you do not have cash for parking (because you didn’t know you’d need it) it becomes a big deal.  So Claire and I drove around for some time looking for free parking.  I was beginning to think we’d be walking from the next city.  Good thing we had left early because we needed it.  We finally found a parking space but had a few blocks to walk.  Claire was stressed we would be late.  I knew we had plenty of time.  Maybe I should listen to her more often.

We finally made it to the theater back entrance where we were instructed to go.  Found our way inside.  It was 6:55.  20 minutes until scheduled rehearsal.  As we walk into the theater guess who they were calling to the stage.  “Wind Up Dolls”.  What?  Claire didn’t even have her shoes on since we just walked in.  They mentioned they were a little early.  Try 20 minutes early.  I did mention that to them as I didn’t want to look like we weren’t on time.  Unfortunately another girl in her group was not there yet so they ended up having to hold them back and run a few other numbers why they waited for her.  At least it wasn’t us.  Claire quickly got her shoes on and she was set.

Her time finally came and her class ran through their number like pros.  I think it took longer to find a parking spot than to get her on stage and perform.  After she was done she decided to stay and watch the few numbers after her.  Remember we were one of the last numbers of the night so it wasn’t many.  The time came and it was time to go.  Now we had to walk back to the car at night.  During Gallery Night Palafox street is blocked off and there are bands, music and tables outside restaurants selling alcohol.  I could of easily sat down and drank a few glasses of wine at this point.  But, of course, since it was just her and I, we headed back to the car knowing we would be there again the next day.

Recital Day arrived.  Saturday, May 17.  The recital started at 2pm.  Claire had to arrive at 1.  Knowing we would be driving back downtown we made the decision to go early and eat lunch so we could get a parking spot easier.  We invited the grandparents and the aunt and uncle.  Grandparents agreed lunch sounded good.  Unfortunately Aunt Suzanne wasn’t feeling to well so she stayed home knowing it would be a long day.  But we were lucky enough to have Uncle Ray join too.  One of Craig and I’s favorite places to get a burger is called Tin Cow.  It is right next door to Saenger Theater which is where the recital would be held.  Since the rest of the family had never eaten there, we decided to all meet there for lunch.

DSC_0067Lunch was ordered.  Ray brought a pot of hyacinths for her to congratulate her on her performance. They smell amazing.  Grandma gave her a ballet photo album to put pictures in to remember her dance years.  Thank you both on behalf of Claire.  Lunch came and as usual it was delicious.  Once we ate we had about 30 minutes left until Claire was to arrive and check-in.  Not to get any food on her costume, she ate in regular clothes.  But after eating she needed to change.  So she gathered her costume and off the the restroom in the burger joint she went.  Isn’t that where all professional ballerinas get ready?  We had already did her hair and makeup.  All that was left was the outfit.  Out she appeared in a long red dress ready for her part of a toy master to a wind up doll.  You could see in her eyes she felt pretty and special.

I took her outside and took some pictures just to waste time.  About 10 minutes til 1:00 we decided to walk to the check-in door.  I was not prepared for the line that I saw.  It was around the corner.  Parents were not allowed in with their child but did have to sign them in.  So there we stood in line waiting for them to open the doors and start checking dancers in. The rest of the family decided they had taken up the table at the restaurant long enough and decided to move on to another hangout place.  They were not letting anyone with tickets into the theater until 1:30.  So really it was a good 40 minutes before anyone could get inside the theater.  Luck have it, at the corner of the theater entrance is a place imagecalled World of Beer.  Of course that is where my family found themselves with an outside table to waste time.  Craig called it the dance recital pub crawl as they started with beers at Tin Cow and now just ordered another round at World of Beer.

We finally made it up to the door.  I signed her in and joined the clan sitting outside.  We knew it would be a long day as Claire’s teacher said it would be about a 3 hour recital.  Drink up.  The time came and we could officially enter and find our seats.  Tickets were sold ahead of time and they were assigned seats so we knew there was no hurry to get the best seats.  Once in we found our row.  So it seems this year there would be no program as there had been previous years.  That was ok except we really wanted to know where Claire fell in the line up.  We had to be there the whole time but the rest of the family wanted to know how long they would be there as they had other plans.  Luckily a lady behind us told us the lineup was emailed out.  Of course I did not check my email.  I was too busy getting everyone up, ready, dressed and out the door.  So I open my email and see Claire’s dance.  6th from the bottom.  As in number 47.  As in almost last.  Looks like the family will be sticking around for awhile.

The first Act consisted of all the 3-5 year old.  Honestly, this was the best part of the whole recital.  Just don’t tell Claire. They were hilarious.  It definitely helped break the time as it was going to be a long 3 hours.  The theme was Disney.  So as each act performed we were trying to guess what the song was from.  Some we had no clue and some weren’t even Disney.  But it was something to do to pass the time.

imageSo we sat.  Clapping after each performance.  Counting down to Claire’s.  Two up from Claire’s was Steamboat Willie so I knew at that point I needed to get my camera out.  It was a slow go but we suddenly realized we made it to Steamboat Willie.  She was two away.  The time came and there stood five girls in long red dresses playing the parts of dolls and toy masters.  I had seen this routine a  few times (at the studio and in rehearsal) but the rest of the family had not.  It was a small class which I liked as it was easier to see her.  The music started and our she came.  My little ballerina was up on stage, dancing as gracefully as the ones in the videos she had watched a year before.  Now she was one of them.  It took 2 hours and 45 minutes of production to watch a 2 minute and 30 second dance but it was worth it to see my baby on stage.

The grandparents and uncle quickly left between dances.  Even though we were close to the end we didn’t realize how far away from getting our ballerina and leaving we were.  Once all the numbers had preformed they all came out in rows for a final bow.  This itself took longer than I expected but I presume it is tradition.  As they finished their group bows I thought “We’re almost there and able to leave”.  Wrong!  Next thing they tell us is they will be releasing the students by classes off the stage for parents to pick up starting with the youngest.  What?  So we sat some more while they slowly called each class releasing them one at a time.  Of course Claire was with the older kids.  Her time finally came.  4 hours and 20 minutes after I dropped her off I was able to congratulate my ballerina.  She really did a good job and I would do anything for my kids, which includes sitting through a recital for as long as I needed to.

DSC_0092Claire’s current favorite color is blue so Craig had purchased flowers earlier in the day that were white and blue.  Who knew they would have such a thing.  She was presented with a bouquet of flowers from us in congratulations of a performance well done.  Her first year of ballet was now under her belt.  She is wanting to take summer classes but that is up for discussion still.  I assume come September she will once again grace the dance studio in ballet shoes and the whole process will start all over.  It’s a good thing it’s a whole year before the next recital.  I might need it to recover and forget how long the day was.

(Video was from dance rehearsal night. Claire is on the right from the 3 girls who dance in)

Congratulations Claire on your first ballet recital!

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