Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kindergarten Graduates & Summer Vacation!

Our summer started out fun. Following, Kai and Sierra's Kindergarten graduation, we headed out West for a family RV vacation. There are lots of details and pics below of our adventures (as well pics from graduation and other miscellaneous events through the summer).

Sadly, shortly after we returned, Aunt Suzie lost her battle with cancer. We were happy we got to spend Memorial Day (before we left) and July 4th with her & family before she entered the Hospice facility and went to be with the Lord on July 17th. Sierra insisted on sending her a note in heaven via balloon (even though Kai insisted that it wouldn't make it through the atmosphere). She let it go in the front of our house at sunset and ran to the back to watch it until it was out of sight. It was very touching and says it all. Aunt Suzie was too young to leave this earth and will be missed! Good bye for now and as Sierra stated best "Have fun with God!"

Aunt Suzie on Memorial Day holding Natalie (her youngest granddaughter)


Aunt Suzie, Sherry and Natalie on July 5th


Sierra's note to Aunt Suzie


"Get ready Aunt Suzie, here it comes!"


"There it goes!"


"Up, up and away! "

"Off to heaven it goes... Love Sierra"


Other news:

  • Not that we'd ever pigeon hole the kids, but by now there are definitely consistencies in things they do and say that gives us insight into their personalities. Below sums it up (at least, at this point and time):
    • Kai's favorite phrase is "Did you know..." He likes reading the Guinness Book of World records and various science books to find obscure things that no one knows (well I guess someone does) and then challenge everyone he comes in contact with. He likes having knowledge that others don't have.
    • Sierra's favorite phrase is "Pretend, I'm a ____." She loves being creative and most often, pretending to be various animals. She'll find clothes, shoes, blankets, hats etc to create her "character." She often pulls out her stuffed animals to go along with whatever theme she's working with.
  • Kai and Sierra have not quite mastered riding bikes on their own but they can pedal unassisted once they get going. We're still working on it but they're making great progress. We've been on the go this summer (plus it's been so hot) and haven't had much time to practice.
  • As with most 6 year olds, the teeth keep loosening or falling out so that's always exciting times in our house. Sierra lost her second tooth and Kai lost his 5th (one of the big front ones). Both of them have additional loose ones (Kai has another "shark tooth" coming in behind his baby tooth).


The photo diary is below:

Kindergarten Graduation
June 2010 Colorado-Utah RV Trip

Kindergarten Graduation (back to top)

They made it! Kai and Sierra have graduated Kindergarten. They both did very well this year. Kai made the All A Honor Roll (and Sierra only missed it by one grade). We're moving schools in the fall so it was a bittersweet goodbye to Starchild, where Kai and Sierra have been since they were 2 1/2. We're very proud of all they've accomplished so far and know we have a lot more fun (and hard work) for many years to come. They're off to a good start with the foundation they have received so far.


Cover of program


Inside of program.


Inside of program.


Kai's Kindergarten Graduation picture.


Sierra's Kindergarten Graduation picture.


Kai's picture on the big screen at graduation.


Sierra's picture on the big screen at graduation.


Sierra had a singing part for the program.


Kai was chosen with 5 other children to participate in the music program. He played the drum.

"Hi mom"


Sierra is waiting for her part.


Kai was one of the children in the class that got "All A Honor Roll" - he got all A's all year.


Sierra, Nia and Mia... we'll miss being together next year.


Kai and Sierra with Miss Lindsay (Math) and Miss Brandi (Science and Social Studies)


Kai with Mr. Mike (Music)


Kai and Sierra with Ms Debbie (Reading and Writing; Lead Kindergarten teacher)


Kai and Sierra with Ms Amal (Arabic)


Yeah! We made it!


Thanks to Dick and Cathy for celebrating with us.


Kai holding his Egypt book. His project on Ancient Egyptian Farming is included inside.


Sierra's project on Papyrus was included in the Egyptian book too.


Kai and Sierra's Kindergarten class.




June 2010 Colorado-Utah RV Trip (back to top)

The day after graduation, we headed West for a two-week vacation to Colorado and Utah. We rented an RV and toured the states. It couldn't have come at a better time for us. It was such an awesome break from work, schoolwork etc and we got there before their summer rush so most places we went, we had no crowds. It was wonderful family time... great memories.

We logged our journey day-by-day at: but most is included below (including journal entries):






Our first wildlife sighting was a Pronghorn crossing the road


We made it! - June 15, 2010

We're here... had a good travel day yesterday and looking forward to a fun day on Pike's Peak.











Kai was happy to be solo on the couch bed.

Sierra wanted to sleep under the kitchen table.



Pike's Peak and Royal Gorge - Colorado Springs - June 16, 2010

We had a great day yesterday!  We went to the top of Pike's Peak on the Cog Railway in the morning and then to Royal Gorge in the afternoon.  The altitude has gotten to us a little bit.  We were all a little dizzy on the top of Pike's Peak.  Sierra has been a bit out-of-it, sleeping a lot.  We switched her from Claritin to Zyrtec the day before we left so we're thinking between that and the altitude change, that might be causing it.  She slept the entire ride up and back on the Cog Railway but perked up by the afternoon.  We cut the medicine back this morning so we'll see if it makes a difference.  We're having a blast.  We move to Rocky Mountain National Park today via Denver (for a few activities).  The internet connection hasn't been great so it's been hard to get pics uploaded.  We're not sure if we'll have coverage in the National Park or not.  If you don't see pics for a couple of days, that's probably why.  

On the wildlife front, we saw a Pronghorn the first day (looks like an antelope) crossing the road in front of our taxi.  Yesterday, we saw a Yellow-Bellied Marmot on the way up Pike's Peak.  And then at Royal Gorge we saw a chipmunk and tree squirrel (in the wild) and a bison, big horned sheep and elk (in captivity).  We're hoping to see more in the National Park (the kids have a checklist with details of the various animals we might see so they're checking them off as we see them).  












































This is what timeout in an RV looks like.


Travel day through Denver to Rocky Mtn National Park (Estes Park, CO) - June 16, 2010

Today was a travel day.  We broke the trip up by stopping in Denver at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  It was AWESOME!  I highly recommend it if anyone is in the area.  We spent about 4 1/2 hours there.  I'm posting this in the car on the drive up to Rocky Mt National.  We are in a primitive camp site inside the park so I have no clue if the cell phones or Internet will work there.  I'm posting what I have from the morning and if we have a connection, I'll add to it tonight.  If not, it may be a couple days until our next destination before I'm able to.  The weather is all over the place.  We've ranged from 40s to 90s (currently in the upper end)... fortunately, we brought a wide array of clothes.  









WOW - Rocky Mountain National Park! - June 18, 2010

Wow, Wow, Wow!!!!  What an amazing park!  We didn't have any cell or internet service but all I can say is wow! The wildlife and landscape was spectacular!  We saw so many animals and every turn looks like another painting you'd want on your living room wall. The weather was beautiful - very clear out (although at times the wind was a bit chilly).  Kai and Sierra participated in the Junior Ranger Program.  They had a little "ceremony" to award them their badges before we left.  Currently, we're on our way to Redstone.  We've had a little difficulty on the trip (i.e., the mirror fell off the driver's side ... not our fault, just wear/tear) and with the altitude etc., the RV had some difficulty getting over the 12,000 ft mountains.  We have made it to the other side of the mountain and topped off the boiling gas.  It's put us a little behind our timetable but better safe than sorry.  Hope you enjoy the pics!


































RV Excitement (no fun)... but we're back on the road again. - June 20, 2010

Since the last post, we've had some major excitement (that wasn't fun). Our RV started to have issues, including losing power on a 12,000 ft mountain pass, in the middle of navigating the switchbacks and then losing the transmission). It was nothing we did, but it wasn't safe to drive anymore. Fortunately the owner drove us his 2nd RV which was great because we could continue our trip but it is very small (a van style). We're used to tent camping so this is a step above that (and actually a little less stressful to maneuver for Jim) and the kids think this one is as great as the last one... so we're going with the flow.

We spent the night in a parking lot last night (had no transmission or power to continue on anywhere else), and the owner brought the RV to swap this morning. We packed and unpacked again and got on our way. Fortunately, the snafu was a travel day for us so we didn't miss out on any activities we planned (other than the time we might have gotten some hikes in). The kids have done awesome... very patient in our crisis moments. Once we got to Glenwood Springs, we decided to go have some fun and went to Glenwood Caverns. It was on the top of one of the mountains (we had to take a gondola to it). We bungee jumped several times (and they even did the "slingshot" on the kids so they got really high). We also rode the alpine slide coaster, went in a big maze (finished in under 5 min so we got a prize), rode a mechanical bull, went up the rock climbing wall, watched a few short 4D movies, and played laser tag.

While in laser tag, Kai lost his tooth... literally lost his tooth. It was dark and he came out saying (my mouth is bleeding). Once I got a closer look, I could see he had lost one that had been wiggly. The laser tag people stopped the game and turned on all the lights. About 20 kids tried to help find his tooth (and Jim promised a $1 reward)... they all ran around like mad to find the tooth and get the dollar. Unfortunately, we didn't find it. So tonight, Kai wrote a note to the tooth fairy and we left an envelope. He's hoping she still comes even though we couldn't produce the tooth. He's also watching the potty closely in case he had accidentally swallowed it :).

Our last ride of the day was the sky coaster. It was a hug mechanical swing thing that swung you perpendicular to a ravine where the Colorado River flowed through. Kai just made the height restriction and really wanted to go. Jim couldn't manage after all our stress of the last two days, so mom went. Geez.... Kai was the brave one. After looking straight down from at least a mile up into the ravine, I closed my eyes for the remainder of the ride. Kai loved it. He's very proud of himself. It was intense. We move on to Utah next. More to come....


Our "campsite" outside the food mart.

New, tiny RV Van.



















Tooth Fairy note... this one was to point towards where the "real note" was and the tooth. Kai wanted to make sure she found it.





From snowcapped mountains to desert, red rock! - June 21, 2010

We had a great Father's day yesterday.  We traveled from Colorado to Moab, UT.  It's amazing how much the terrain changed. We went from chillier weather with snowcapped mountains to a 98 degrees desert (60s at night).  We rolled into town and went straight to Archs National Park (where you see all the famous red rock arches).  We went hiking there for a few hours (and of course took a ton of pictures) before heading back to our campsite.  In the evening, we had a cowboy dinner and then a night time boat ride where they lit up the rock walls along the river.  Sierra crashed as soon as we got in the boat but Kai stayed awake for it.  It was a fun evening.  I swear the moon is closer to us here... it was so bright and clear and seems much closer than it is in FL.  It was warm out (and there are man-eating mosquitoes at night), but doesn't feel as hot during the day without the humidity. We did get clarification on why you need to drink so much water... it's so hot, but you don't seem to sweat.  You are sweating and it's evaporating.  So if you feel thirsty, you're already dehydrated.  Oh, by the way, the tooth fairy did find us last night and left Kai a little something.  






















Kai is actually standing in a real dinosaur track that has been found in Moab (so he's roaring like a dinosaur).










We made it to Mesa Verde... but in a hotel! - June 22, 2010

Yesterday started out as a good day.  We caught up on a little laundry in the morning, and then were off to a really fun excursion.  We took a hummer tour in the red rocks.  It was awesome.   It was a two hour tour, climbing tall stones, "hot dogging" in the sandy areas, and going fast down some downhills.  We stopped a couple times along the way to take some pictures.  One area we stopped was where several dinosaur footprints have been found.  That was cool to see.  After we were finished, we grabbed some lunch and hit the road.  We did stop on the way out of town to see some Indian petroglyphs on the canyon wall (near the Colorado River).
We then traveled a few hours to Mesa Verde where we checked in to our next campsite.  The travel gods were against us yet again.  Despite the fact that Jim booked the reservations about 6 months ago, they told us they'd been cancelled (this is within Mesa Verde).  Of course, we asked how that was possible and they said they were overbooked and called on the 16th to let us know (we were gone by then).  So the best they had to offer was a good rate on their mountain lodge (motel type building). We took it so we had a place to stay.  We'll be here two nights.  The room is fine and a change.  The downside is that we were relying on the hookup to recharge things (i.e., so the frig doesn't conk out).  Hopefully, the propane holds out so all the food doesn't spoil.  

We intended on taking a hike when we got here at 5pm but after fiddling around for hours trying to get a place to stay, we weren't even sitting down to dinner until 8pm.  The kids finally got to bed.   We're looking forward to a good day of hiking at Mesa Verde today.  

Long hike and cliff dwellings = beautiful day - June 23, 2010

We had a really good day. The weather was great, again. We went to the Mesa Verde museum so the kids would get a better idea of what we would see today. We then took an organized tour of one of the most famous of the cliff dwellings (Cliff Palace). Afterwards, we went on a self guided tour/hike of the Spruce Tree House (another cliff dwelling) and then on to some petroglyphs on a canyon wall. It was a 2.5 mile hike over pretty rough terrain. The kids did great. Jim and I took turns "manning" Sierra to make sure she didn't end up over a cliff. Kai did great on his own but Sierra needed a hand (and close eye). They both had a ball. It was a long hike for them (and Mom and Dad were pretty tired by the end too). 2.5 miles doesn't sound like much but with all the climbing, crawling, and some downhill, we were pooped.

We hit the gift shops again (their spending money is burning a hole in their pocket). They didn't find anything they really wanted and we convinced them not to spend it on just anything. We finished our day by going to the Ranger Station. Kai and Sierra had completed the activities in this National Park to become Junior Rangers here as well. They had to say their oath here and got another Junior Ranger batch.

We're now back in the room, after having dinner, reading Harry Potter. Kai is enthralled. Sierra is on the floor reading the Gideon Bible out of the hotel drawer. Tomorrow we head towards Durango early.



























Horseback riding and shopping! - June 24, 2010

We had a surprise early this morning for the kids. We headed for Durango (actually right outside of it) to a small ranch for a horse ride/pancake breakfast. We didn't say anything to the kids until we arrived. Sierra initially thought we were buying her a horse (asking if she got to take it home - when we explained no, and asked where we'd keep a horse, she thought it would fit by the pool and in the small side yard by the Acevedos). She was still happy to "borrow" it for our adventure.

Since we weren't sure how stable Sierra would be, Jim went in front of her horse and held a lead to help "steer" her horse. She didn't even notice and was thrilled to be riding all by herself on her very own horse (whose name was Bugsby). Kai rode solo as well, on Pickles. He did great and loved being on his own. Jim was on Ute and I was on Rocky. It was another beautiful day and the perfect amount of "action" for our family ride. We stopped after about 45 min of riding and had a pancake/egg/bacon breakfast with real "cowboy coffee" (grounds and all). It was a real treat, except for the coffee grounds. After breakfast, we hopped up on our horses again and headed back to the ranch. The kids had a blast but Sierra was sad to leave Bugsby.

We cheered her up by taking the kids to downtown Durango to spend more of their money. We had mild success there and then continued on to Silverton. Kai was looking for some Indian toys and we hit the jackpot in Silverton. He now is the proud owner of a cap gun and bow/arrow. He has been playing with them all afternoon. Sierra got a popgun (which she won't stop popping), an elk stuffed animal puppet, and a few small things. We had lunch in Silverton and then headed to Ouray.

We had a healthy dinner of ice cream in Ouray before heading to our campsite. We have a great spot tonight.. very woodsy. Jim is currently reading the 2nd chapter of Harry Potter to the kids (at least to Kai - Sierra has already passed out).



















Today was a travel day...only one more day left of vacation. - June 24, 2010

Today was a travel day again (a longer one from Ouray back up North, closer to Colorado Springs).  We drove straight through to Divide, CO and finally stopped for lunch.  The kids have traveled great.  After our lunch, we checked in our campsite and went on a 2.5 mile hike.  It was easier than our last one in Mesa Verde which was a lot of climbing.  We're hanging out at the campsite for a bit (we're staying at Mueller State Park... very nice).  The kids found a friend at a site near by so they're playing cowboys and Indians in the woods.  We're going into town tonight to see Toy Story 3 (at least that's the plan right now).  Only one more day before we fly home.  We've had a blast and will be sad to leave this beautiful part of the country, but it couldn't last forever.   We couldn't have asked for better weather .. it's been a blast.  We're not sure what we'll get into tomorrow but I'm sure it will be fun.




Toy Story 3 wiped them out!


Our last day in Colorado! - June 25, 2010

We had a low key day.  We got up this morning and the kids played with the "neighbor kids" again while we cooked breakfast.  We then headed into town to the Cave of Winds.  It was a cave tour, more commercialized that others we've been to but still fun.  We then headed back to our last campsite to chill out for a little while and get organized.  

We went to a cool restaurant for our last meal in town.  It was in an old Air Force plane (the booths were actually inside the plane).  The kids got to play in the cockpit after we ate.  

We get up early tomorrow morning to pack and clean the RV before heading to the airport. It was an awesome vacation, but time to get back to reality!  













Miscellaneous (back to top)

In addition to all the fun described above, we had lots of other miscellaneous adventures this summer (see below).


Kai earned PAL right before the end of school. This was awarded to a child that behaved well all week. Kai got to bring him home for the weekend (and mom got to wash him and send him back).


Our last camping excursion of the year was over in the Tampa area. We made the most of it but it wasn't our favorite... got real hot, too swampy and very crowded layout.







On the way in the park, a frog decided to hitch a ride on our windshield (all the way to the campsite).


Movie time in the tent!


The boys are still snoozing (it was so hot, we let Kai sleep in his underwear which he thought was a real treat).


This hawk kept visiting our campsite.


Sierra found lots of furry caterpillars around.


We did get a little fishing in while we were there, although we didn't catch anything.


"Maybe I'll catch an alligator."


Even though we were boiling outside, we made a small fire so we could roast marshmallows.... gluttons for punishment.


This squirrel kept visiting our campsite... finding good crumbs to nibble on.


During the day, we used our passes to go to Busch Gardens.


Sierra loved how they had revamped the kiddy area.


The kiddy area is nice and colorful (and a Sesame Street theme).


We visited the bird aviary. It was really cool. If you bought their overpriced nectar, the birds would come eat off you.


The kids were a little unsure at first about feeding the birds but then decided they liked it.


"Look Mom, he's taking my cup."


How cool is this?


"There is a bird on my head... don't let it poop on me!"


Kai got soaked by the big roller coaster (on purpose).


The rapids ride felt good since it was so hot and humid outside.


"Yeah - I didn't get that wet."


"You're going down!"


Our final skyride on the way out of the park.


"We're getting blown to bits."


Sierra likes dressing up as Russell from the movie UP.


"The tooth fairy came again."


Kai and Sierra on Mother's Day - aren't they adorable?


"I love my babies."


Leroy #2 likes our new column by the pool.. it's turned into his scratch post.


We went to brunch at First Watch for Mother's Day.


The kids (and Dad) got Mother's day "I Love You brownies" for us to pig out on by the pool.


The grand finale... was the bag of twizzlers...mmmmm.


Uncle Bob and Natalie on Memorial Day.



Sierra and Katey (her cousin)... they instantly became good friends.


The kid table.


Sierra pretending to be a frog on the golf course.




"Watch out, here it comes"


Mia's birthday party was at the go-cart place. Sierra wanted to take a few spins with Daddy before trying it on her own.


But once she got to do it on her own... watch out!


Kai was a pro from the start.


This was a busy party day. We went from Mia's party to Nia's party at Kidtropolis.


We love birthday parties!


The last day of school, we took the kids to a rope's course at the zoo. Sierra started off ok.


From this picture, you'd never know how freaked out she became. We finally had to take her off 1/2 way through. All the sensory input threw her for a whirl. She said she'll try again when she's 10.


Kai loved it. He took off and was done before we were half way through.


He was a pro by the end.


Sierra liked the splash area (and the cool Eagle character they had on July 4th weekend).


"It's hot out!"


We watched the fireworks from the across the interstate. Kai and Sierra sat in the back of the Jeep because it was raining outside.


"Singing in the rain!"


"The sky is on fire!"


It was a pretty cool view. We avoided the crowds but still got to see them pretty close.


Sierra and Katey at the beach.


Daddy got his workout.


Michael, Sherry and Natalie.


We lit a few of our own fireworks at the house.


"Watch out, I've got fire!"


"May the force be with you!"


"Oh yeah... Daddy is having some fun too!"


"Watch out everyone, it's going to blow!"


Happy Birthday Uncle Bob! We celebrated on July 5th with a cookout and chocolate cake.

The big one came out.


"Check out my holy smile."


Kai, Katey and Sierra - Cheers!


"How do you like our balloon hats (and sword)? "


Memaw and Aunt Sherry in a water gun fight.


"Watch out Kai, Memaw is going to dump you."


"Sierra, duck!"


"Aunt Sherry, you're shooting me in the bottom."


"Kai, let's get her"


Jetski time!

Hunter came for a visit, which Kai and Sierra loved.


Sierra, Hunter and Kai before one of the Starchild field trips at summer camp.



"It's movie time! "


We had a good day at Aquatica.


1-2-3 GO!


"Say cheese! "


The wave pool is a favorite.


Pawpaw finally made it in a picture... he's usually taking them all.


Kai and Jim waiting for the big waves to start again.


"Can you see me?"


"Woo - here we come!"


"Just the girls!"


Aside from temporarily losing Sierra in the busy park, we had a great day!


"Memaw, hold on!"


Pawpaw took Sierra, Hunter and Kai to the Orlando Science Center.


"We're in the space shuttle!"

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