Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Best Friend

Violet recently ran up to Brian, squeezed his legs in a big hug and told him he was her "new best friend."  Only Daddy can get her to sleep at night.  Only Daddy can read the book in the proper way.  Only Daddy can tickle her just right.  Only Daddy knows the favorite playgrounds in the neighborhood (literally - I have never, ever, been to a playground since we moved here over a year ago).

Basically, Daddy is the best.

About a month ago, we made a family decision that Brian would begin working from home as a full-time dad to the kids.  It was a decision a long time coming, and I think it has already made us a happier and closer family unit.  No more days when Daddy is gone before we wake up and back after little eyelids have closed.  No more Saturdays spent alone with an exhausted Mommy who is just not as cool or fun as Daddy.

Brian has really embraced being the main instructor for the kids, and they have loved having so much of their Daddy's attention.  Case in point: on his very first day with the kids at home they made play doh, studied chemical reactions with flour and vinegar and baking soda, found and went to the free kids movie in town, and watched zero TV.  Yeah.  My best mom day does not even come close.

Some photos he has sent me of their fun:
Nothing is more fun right now than tickle monsters on mom and dad's bed.

watching the rain - I recieved an email outlining a conversation: Brian asked where does rain come from?  Jeremy said the clouds and Violet said "carpet" - and please look at her hair.  This is Brian's one remaining crux - the man cannot make a ponytail to save his life.

So happy to see her daddy...

...probably because they baked a cake and then smeared it all over their faces
in the bed again - seriously, this is their favorite thing

I am no longer allowed to read to Jeremy at night - it HAS to be Daddy

Violet plays "go to leep" all the time - she puts all of her toys and dolls to bed and just randomly curls up in her blanker and pillow all day

trip inside the sunsphere!

World's Fair Park Playground

This girl loves a good playground - I am told
love those monsters

best one - hey, they are both kinda looking the same direction, I consider that a win
Now that Jeremy is in school daily, Brian picks him up and they practice handwriting and tying shoes as his "homework".  He was so excited about the idea of homework that we had to make some up once we realized kindergartners don't actually get homework.  And all you teachers out there, yes, we are teaching him to write his letters the correct way, following the exact specifications given to us by his teacher.

Violet, meanwhile, has been at the park, at the library, and learning letters and numbers each day.  She knows all of her colors, all of her letters, and numbers 1-10.  Some of  that is from the ELC of course, but Brian has done a great job of taking her natural desire to learn and making it fun.

As for me?  Well, what can I say?  Having a great husband at home spending so much quality time with our kids makes me feel better about being gone.  I walk in to a happy home each night, kids excited to tell me about their day, and a husband smiling proudly in the background.  I'd say I am quite happy with the new arrangement as well.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Ah, the obligatory first day of school post.  I was so busy I missed out on the Facebook post that is apparently required now.  But, Jeremy did indeed start school and pictures were in fact taken.

(I just deleted two entire paragraphs I wrote yesterday because they are misplaced here.  Suffice to say, I am already unhappy with certain aspects of the school, but I am trying to be patient and not make snap judgments).

Anyway, Jeremy was SO excited about starting school.  The minute he got his new Mario Cart backpack, school became his favorite thing.  He has now attended 2 half-days, a week apart.  He starts going everyday for a full day on Monday (or Tuesday since this school is incapable of giving us consistent or timely or detailed information...oops, there I go again...breathe).  Jeremy said he likes school and is making friends, but the boy is 5 and getting solid information out of him is like trying to find meaning in a Stephanie Meyer novel.  He has only been attending class with 4 other kids on his two little fake days, so really this is nothing more than a baby toe dipped into the pool - the jury is still out.

BUT, I am not actually concerned.  Not about Jeremy.  He is a bright kid, he knows right and wrong, he admits mistakes, he enjoys learning, and he is eager to make friends and do the right thing.  In my experience, this young man will need a few solid weeks to transition, learn the routine, and make some friends.  Until then, he will have some nervousness and anxiety (which from what I have seen so far is simply manifesting itself as clumsiness and spacing out).  Once he has the hang of it, though, I know he is going to rock this kindergarten mess.

Look how precious he was on his first day (for the second time in his entire life, he made me comb his hair):

Violet has been insanely jealous of Jeremy's school outings. I don't think it is about him actually going to school, but rather that he has new accessories.  So, she has taken to carrying around her Tinker Bell lunchbox (filled with princess dolls) everywhere she goes.

Jeremy seems to like his teacher, Ms. Justus, and I am still feeling her out.  The grammatical and spelling mistakes on her take home parent sheets so far have given us concerns, but teachers are insanely busy, so I can give her a pass.  I even volunteered to work at the Fall Festival thing and open car doors or other such nonsense in the mornings - look, I am an active and engaged parent!  Who knew?

Ugh, I think Jeremy will be fine.  Brian and I, however, may not adjust so well.  Pray for us!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Working Mom = Working Kids

August is insane when you work on a college campus.  We are literally not allowed to take leave from Independence Day until Labor Day, it is just that busy.  Sometimes, I leave home before the kids wake up and get back after they have gone to bed.  I selfishly wake them up "on accident" when going in their rooms to kiss those precious little cheeks just so I can feel like they will remember who I am.  Luckily, though, the people I work with are wonderful and for after-hours events I am invited to bring the kiddos to enjoy in some of the silly things we do with our students.

Recently, I brought Violet to the annual kickball game where the Hall Directors beat up on their Graduate Assistants.  She fell in love with the shed thing that she called Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse and played with Holly's "kid" Brody.  Later, she joined them all for a BBQ dinner in the Humes basement and averted a tantrum by watching Mulan on my phone with some GAs.

Once the RAs arrived on campus, I brought Jeremy with me to meet my side of campus (80 RAs) to paint the Rock in our annual tradition when we put our mascot (the TN Fainting Goat) all over campus to be annoying.  I took Violet to this event when she was about 10 weeks old, but I realized I had never taken Jeremy to paint the Rock.  Insanity!  He LOVED it.

Then, I invited both kids to the Murder Mystery Luau (sound familiar family and high school friends? Yep, it was that same luau, I am a nerd) we did for the RAs.  It was silly fun, so I figured the kids would enjoy it.  Mostly, they were just loud and interrupted the acting stuff, so they had to leave early with Brian, but they still had fun.

Finally, RA training week culminates with Camp Rocky Top where we take all 160 RAs to a 4-H camp in Greenville for an overnight leadership retreat.  Again, I took Violet back when she was teeny tiny, but Jeremy has never had the full Camp Rocky Top experience, so I took him along for the entire trip.  HE LOVED EVERY SINGLE MOMENT.  He was MVP of camp, if that existed.  He was on the microphone, told everyone about his future as a race car driver, joined right in on staff development games, lit candles at the fireside ceremony, and stayed up WAY too late playing roulette with the RAs (and beating all of them).  He was sad we slept in a cabin on beds (check out the blanket Violet made me take), but overall I think he was still impressed.
These are linen packs that we had to unload for the RAs - Jeremy and Teddi decided to swim in them

Look at that huge smile as he plays with the ARH staff

His cabin mates - the HDs and AHDs in our area

Can you tell that he LOVES Jess??

As soon as I got him changed, it started to thunder so the lifeguard wouldn't let him swim

He told me he wanted to hold Teddi's hand, not mine

My other 80 kids...

Every year, I let myself get all stressed out and crazy during this time of year.  But, I do note each and every year that I also appreciate the little moments with my kiddos even more because they are not as bountiful during these weeks.  Case in point, we took a family walk last night - totally spur of the moment - and we let Violet pick our path.  It lasted almost an hour - we just rambled along at a 2 year-old tiny legged pace - and I gave Jeremy my phone to take photos of whatever he wanted.  The new photo at the top of my blog was taken on this walk at one of the little stores in our tiny neighborhood  - and the photo below was taken by Jeremy.

Seems like all that work sure did bring out some really great family memories.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Last Days

We are officially marking the end of a phase in the Hopper family existence.  Many of you may remember our insanity 3 and a half years ago when we first realized Jeremy had some developmental problems and needed to get help.  We were able to find many wonderful resources and he has since beaten his Apraxia and become a fine young man.  One of the best resources we found during that horrid time of worry, anxiety, guilt, and doubt was the UT Early Learning Center.

I have written about their program many times in the past, and so it will not be a surprise that it is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to the program.  Jeremy has aged out since he will be starting kindergarten later this month.  His last day was June 30th since we knew he would be out a week at July 4th and a week for his tonsils, so July seemed like a lost cause for school.  He has LOVED his time at the ELC and here are some photos of his time at the ELC:

His first cubby at the old Golf Range location

One of the classroom presentations

showing off the loft

fashion show!

when i took them on a field trip to the residence halls

speech therapy in the ELC office with Jennifer

Birthday story time

classroom fun

valentine's day

at the pumpkin patch

pajama day!

zoo field trip

Dr. Seuss Day!  (check out the awesome teacher costumes!)
The ELC staff have helped him so much over the years and he is such a bright kid due in huge part to their work with him.  They have also been a great resource for me.  I met with teachers to talk about his speech, his slow-to-develop social skills, his biting, his transition phobia, his anxiety, and his general craziness.  The staff always had research, charts, literature, action plans, and tons of support to offer.  Jill Putnam, his first teacher, literally changed his life and Tiffani, one of his current teachers, was one of the first people to teach him to communicate effectively through sign language.  What would we have done without those two??

Jeremy made great friends and had some really amazing adventures with his toddler and preschool classmates.  Here is his photo with his AMAZING teacher, Tracy, on his last day:

Miss Violet has not been there quite as long, but was there much younger.  Her first ELC days were at only 8 weeks old!  I truly am worried that Violet may suffer from losing her "other mama Lizzie".  We made the hard decision to pull Violet out when we decided Brian would stay home and quit his job at AutoZone.  Brian is a great dad (more on that in a later post), so I am not worried that he will not do an incredible job with our little lady. But, it is still sad to say goodbye to the people who cared for her so well and so long.  her last day was July 31st and it was so sad to say goodbye - which means I totally avoided it to keep from crying.

Vi is truly a different person than when we started at the ELC.  They helped her sit, roll, stand, walk, talk, eat with utensils, make friends - you name it.  They endured her baby pilates, her massive spit ups, her runny poops, her massive tantrums, and her ear-piercing screeches.  They also got to be a part of her dance parties, dress up games, first laughs, first steps, and ah-ha moments.  Here are some photos of Viley from school:

look at that tiny baby!

fashion star

play dough

grandparents day lunch

blowing kisses to teachers

pumpkin patch



pine cones!

Some of my most poignant moments with Violet came from my interactions with the great ELC staff.  I remember shortly after she was born, I took Jeremy to school and literally broke down.  I started sobbing in the classroom with my newborn for literally no reason.  I was just exhausted and crazy with some serious baby blues.  Erin, a WONDERFUL teacher to both my kids over the years, came up and gave me a hug and got me calmed down.  I doubt she remembers this at all, but she gave me such kind words about how hard it is to be a new mom and not to feel bad about, well, not feeling great.   It was such a small thing that made such a big difference to me and shows the type of people they have working at this school.  Both Erin and Lizzie have given me hand-me-down clothes for Vi over the years and are just the sweetest people you will ever meet.

Here is Princess Vi on her last day with her teacher, Lizzie.  Lizzie and Erin made her last day a "fancy dress up day" to celebrate her royal highness.  All the kids in the class dressed up and the teachers all wore gowns, too!  it was just the sweetest thing and Violet LOVED it.

So, to all our ELC teachers past and present: thank you so much for all you do.  Thank you for putting up with my kids when they were intolerable.  Thanks for teaching them when they needed direction and learning moments.  Thanks for playing and laughing with them.  Thanks for making their lives so rich and happy and healthy.  You are all truly special people and we will miss you!!!