Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mother's Day Out

Kaitlynn started Mother's Day Out this week and couldn't have been more excited. I think she felt like a big kid because she got to wear her backpack and go to school like her big brother, Nonno. When I suggested we take her picture outside, she was VERY excited because I had done the same thing with Connor last week on his first day.

It's been a long time since she's been so willing to take pictures. Love that smile!

Her backpack is just about as big as she is!

Last week we attended the Open House at Kaitlynn's school. She felt right at home and enjoyed playing with the other kids. This year Kaitlynn will be attending 3 days a week so that I can have some time to volunteer at Connor's elementary school.

I warned the teachers and parents about Kaitlynn in advance. You know, how she tends to be a little, ahem, bossy sometimes. Here she was reading "MoMo" (Elmo) a book.

When I dropped Kaitlynn off at school on her first morning, she just marched right on in. She put her nap mat in the bucket, her lunchbox in the cubby, and her backpack on the hook. Never once looked back. She's going to have an awesome year!

The teachers sent these pictures from snack time on their first day. I LOVE that Kaitlynn's teachers know how much we Mommies cherish photos of our little ones in school. They just made my day!

Kaitlynn was so busy having fun at MDO that she managed to miss her nap. So later in the day, she passed out in the car. School is so exhausting!

As a side note, I have to admit that I had some unexpected emotions on Kaitlynn's first day of MDO. I saw all the parents with their toddlers and preschoolers walking in together, and I just felt so SAD that Connor wasn't with us. I stopped by his preschool class from last year to say Hi to his former teachers, and the kids in their 4-year-old class looked so tiny to me. Was Connor really that small this time last year? It just made me so emotional to realize (yet again) how quickly the years fly by and the kids grow up. I've been loving on Kaitlynn SO much lately because I want to soak in her toddler-ness before it, too, passes me by.

Kaitlynn's first day of Mother's Day Out last year, Oct. 2010

Connor's first day of preschool, Sept. 2009

Monday, August 29, 2011

Conversations with Kaitlynn

Ever since she turned 2, Kaitlynn has been adding more words and phrases to her vocabulary. I thought I'd write down some of the more common ones so that when I look back, I'll be able to remember how her conversations began.

Kaitlynn refers to all 3 of her brothers as "Buddy". It's actually kind of surprising, because we don't really call them that at all other than the occasional "Hey buddy" when talking to Connor. I'll say "Give your brothers a kiss" or "Say hi to your brothers" and she'll immediately call for them, "Buddy? Buddy!" to get their attention. Just in the past couple of weeks, she began saying "Nonno" for Connor, but she still refuses to say Collin or Kevin.

Connor can often be found playing cheetah on all fours, and during those times Kaitlynn refers to him as "Puppy." I guess that makes sense?

Kaitlynn's favorite number has always been 2. She only seems to know that number and no other. When she counts to 5, it goes like this: "2, 2, 2, 2, 2!" And then she'll look up at you with a proud expression, waiting for you to congratulate her on her excellent counting ability.

When she is having trouble doing something, she'll look up and say "Tight!" She first started using the word tight to describe something that wouldn't fit, like a shoe or seatbelt. But now she says it anytime she's having trouble with anything. She also says "How" for Help sometimes.

She describes most objects as "Dis" for the word This. As in, "All done dis" or "MY dis!"

When she successfully completes a task or fixes a problem, she'll exclaim, "Dare!" for There!

Long ago she started referring to a movie as "Uh Uh." I have no idea where this came from or why she continues saying it even when we correct her that it's a movie, not an Uh Uh.

She says Thank You often and it comes out as "Dee Dee!" I have to tell strangers after she thanks them because they don't understand what she is trying to say, and she'll keep saying it over and over, louder and louder until they say "You're Welcome."

Kaitlynn refers to a phone as a "Yo." Yo is short for Hello, which is what you say when you answer the phone. It's a catchy word. These days when any of us are looking for our phones, we'll ask "Have you seen my yo?"

Another catchy word of Kaitlynn's is "Moosh." As in, get out of my way (Move!) I often find myself telling others to "moosh" before I correct myself.

Some expressions Kaitlynn uses these days: "Oh gosh!" if she accidentally trips, "WOW!" or "Cool!" when she sees something neat, and my personal favorite, "Yeah, baby, yeah!" when she's cheering on the Texans.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Week of Kindergarten

Well, we made it through Connor's first week of Kindergarten. And boy, what a week. The hectic schedule and confusion of the drop-off/pick-up process has really worn us out. Here's a typical morning from our "new" schedule:

6:15 - I wake up, get dressed and ready
6:45 - Make Connor's breakfast and pack his lunch
7:00 - Connor is up and eats his breakfast while watching a TV show
7:15 - Connor gets dressed and ready
7:30 - I get Kaitlynn up and get her dressed
7:40 - We load into the car along with the neighbor kids (we are carpooling to/from school)
7:45 - Wait in the carpool line to drop kids off
8:10 - Back home, fix Kaitlynn's breakfast and finish getting ready for the day

I can see now that my mornings will be much more chaotic from here on out. The afternoons aren't much better. I've been waking Kaitlynn up from her afternoon nap to go pick up Connor on time at 3:00. This week we've been walking in the 100+ degree heat, but soon we'll be going through the car rider line. I'm not sure if that'll be better or worse (considering I have a restless toddler in the back). We have several neighbor kids that all go together, and we've been taking turns driving. It makes the school experience so much more exciting for Connor. Especially when they all play together after school.

Connor came home each day this week with HUGE smiles and excitedly talking about his day. So far he's only learned a few of the other kids' names, and one in particular he's talked about is a little girl, Andrea. Hmmm. He also mentioned that there is a "little kid" that has been picking on him, messing with his nametag and bothering him in Music class. Should be interesting to see how that plays out!

Connor's teacher, Mrs. Hunter, sends home a monthly chart with notes each day marking any areas for improvement for the kids. So far, she has put asterisks for Connor next to "Follow directions the first time given" and "Talk at appropriate times." No surprises there!

While Connor has been at school this week, Kaitlynn has been really out of sorts. After we dropped Connor off each morning, she would start to whine and cry, saying "Nonno!" I think she just wanted to go with him! Then throughout the day she would ask for "Nonno" multiple times. When we would get in the car to go run errands, she would get excited because she assumed we were going to pick him up already. I've had to wake her up early from her afternoon nap all week, but she was never in a bad mood about it because she was ready to go get her brother. I never realized what a twosome they had become until this week when they've been apart. Breaks my heart! But I know from now on, I'll be enjoying some quality time with my girl.

Friday we sent breakfast to the school as a "Thank You" for the staff and teachers. If I'm feeling this exhausted after the first week, I can't imagine how they are all feeling. Thank heavens for all you sweet teachers out there!! And, thank goodness for the weekends!

To sum up the week, I think Connor said it best: "Phew! Kindergarten weared me out!" That goes for the rest of us, too!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Last weekend was our first Texans home game of the season (preseason). Jeff and I took Connor and Kaitlynn and you have never seen 2 more excited kids! We thought Connor was a huge Texans fan...well, Kaitlynn may top him and then some. She had SO much fun at the game. She sat in awe watching all the football players and activities. She spotted the team mascot, Toro, right away and wouldn't take her eyes off of him the rest of the game. When the Texans made a great play, first down, or scored, Kaitlynn was right beside Jeff giving all the fans in our section high-fives. At one point, we were watching the game and suddenly realized Kaitlynn had walked all the way up our section giving everyone high-fives all by herself. She was cracking us all up! Ever since the game, everytime we get in the car Kaitlynn asks if we're going to see the Texans. And she's even started pointing out signs and billboards when she sees the Texans logo. Brainwashed much??

Here are some pictures from tailgating in the parking lot. Kaitlynn LOVED the horsies.

We didn't tailgate long because it was SO hot. Thank goodness for a retractable-roof stadium with air conditioning.

Here's a video showing Kaitlynn giving all the fans high-fives. Everyone just cracks up because she's just like her Daddy!

At the end of the evening, it was WAY past their bedtimes and they passed out in the car. Here's to another fun football season!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Connor the Kindergartner

Well, it's official. My baby boy is now a kindergartner!! Check out this smile, he is SO proud and excited!

I always assumed I'd be more than ready to see Connor start school when it was time, but I admit I've been feeling way more emotional about it than I expected. Last week after we met Connor's teacher, I was an emotional wreck! I was wondering what was wrong with me, and then my mom told me that she would be worried about me if I didn't feel this way. I guess the emotions just caught me off guard because I've never been the sentimental type. I had a few crying fits but I kept it together in front of Connor. He couldn't have been more excited about his first day!

Our first morning before school went great. When Connor woke up, I greeted him with hugs and smiles, telling him how proud of him I am. Of course, I had to choke back the tears a bit. He had breakfast while I finished packing his lunch and backpack. Then we all got ready and took some pictures to commemorate his big day.

Love that congratulatory handshake! Jeff joined us to see Connor off on his first day. I was a little unsure of what to expect because the transportation to/from school can be challenging. We don't have buses in our neighborhood because the school is so close. I had initially signed Connor up to be a car-rider, but then after hearing some nightmare stories from fellow Moms I decided we would just walk him to/from school for these first few days/weeks. It was a bit chaotic and crowded when we arrived at the school -- you could feel the excitement in the air!

Connor led the way through the school to his classroom. He was SO excited!! When we got to his classroom, his teacher Mrs. Hunter asked him to pick a table and sit where he wanted. He tried to sit at HER desk but eventually chose a spot next to 2 other boys.

Connor's very first kindergarten assignment was to use playdoh and make the first letter of his name. How cool!

One last picture of the morning before I officially became a helicopter Mom. Here's Connor with his sweet teacher, Mrs. Hunter.

It was SO strange coming back home without Connor. Kaitlynn was confused, too. She kept asking where "Nonno" was and she seemed sad without him. I managed to keep my emotions in check and only teared up a time or two.

While Connor was in school, Kaitlynn and I ran some errands, did some chores, and Kaitlynn got a nap. When it was time to pick Connor up, I drove a little closer to the school and walked the rest of the way with Kaitlynn in the stroller. It was SO hot. We got there too early and waited outside the back entrance for the kids to come out.

Finally, the kids started pouring out and I had my camera ready. After 15 minutes, Connor still wasn't there. I waited longer and longer, all the while dripping with sweat in 100+ degree heat. Kaitlynn was getting quite restless at this point, too. The teachers at the entrance said all the kids were out, so if we wanted to check on our missing children (there were a few Moms wondering where their kids were) we'd have to walk around the school to the front entrance to find them. I was getting a huge lump in my throat, not because I was worried about Connor's safety, but at this point I was just ready to see him. I began walking towards the front entrance when I saw Connor making his way out the back door. I BURST into tears, I was so happy to see him! The emotions and confusion of the day had caught up with me, and I just lost it right there! I hugged him so hard and tried not to let him know I was bawling behind my sunglasses. He had the hugest smile and said, "Kindergarten is SO tiring!"

What a day!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kindergarten Checklist

Completed reading class. Check.

Teeth-cleaning from the dentist. Check.

New clothes. Check.

School backpack. Check.

Meet the teacher. Check.

Panic attack from Mom. CHECK!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Our Summer Vacation

This summer marked our 5th year of vacationing in The Villages, Florida. We love coming out here to visit Grandpa Jerry (Jeff's Dad), Grandma Cheryl, and Jeff's brothers Chris and Justin. The Villages is a golf-cart community for retired folks just north of Orlando, and we love visiting to experience the laid-back lifestyle of retirement. So relaxing!

I always have a hard time describing to others how much fun we have on our vacation during our week in The Villages. So this year, I decided to document our entire week and all the activities we cram into it. I also wanted to remember (and our kids to remember) how much fun we had here each summer. So here goes. (Extremely long post ahead. Consider yourself warned.)

Vacation Day 1

By the time we arrived in The Villages, it was dinnertime and Grandma Cheryl had made her yummy homemade spaghetti. We all enjoyed a family dinner and then decided to take the dogs out for a run. We hopped on the golf carts and headed out. There is just something about taking a golf cart ride that immediately relaxes you and slows your pace.

Grandpa Jerry and Grandma Cheryl have 1 dog, Gucci. Kaitlynn calls her "Ooo-chi". Justin's dog is named Shots and she is affectionately referred to as "Shotsy". They are sweet puppies and Kaitlynn is in LOVE with them!

Back at the house, Jeff and I devised and schemed for the perfect sleeping solution for our monster toddler. We rented a pack-n-play and wedged it into Grandma's closet, and then Jeff hung a sheet to buffer her bed from ours. It was perfect and we knew she'd sleep like a baby!

We put her to bed, and meanwhile we noticed a strange odor building throughout the house. It smelled like gas so we started to get a little nervous. After an hour of still smelling the gas, Justin called his firemen buddies to come check it out. Oh man, Connor was the most excited I've ever seen! To have a firetruck, lights signaling, right in front of the house...priceless!!

The gas smell was investigated and deemed to be harmless, thank goodness. Finally, time for bed. The kids were sleeping like a dream, and I even managed to snap these photos of them in their beds. When kids are asleep, they look SO sweet and innocent. (Did you catch that foreshadowing?)

(Kaitlynn's reading selection for the evening was Better Homes & Gardens, just in case you were wondering what that is in the picture.)

After Jeff and I went to bed, Kaitlynn decided she didn't want her own bed. She cried off and on all night, and I slept very little. Finally around 3 a.m. I got her up and put her in bed with us. I have no idea what I was thinking. We have NEVER had our kids sleep in bed with us. Kaitlynn decided it was playtime and was having great fun jumping around while we were trying to sleep. She finally fell asleep in between us, and thus began our revised sleeping arrangements for the week. Sigh.

One more thing about vacation day 1... I love to look at all the old family photos that Grandma Cheryl has on her wall. This one is my favorite of Jeff and his brother Chris when they were toddlers. How sweet are they?! P.S. Jeff is the older sibling, but only by 10 months.

Vacation Day 2

Early on Vacation Day 2, we loaded up in the SUV and headed for Orlando to visit Wet 'n Wild. We've been loving waterparks this summer so we thought it would be fun to try it out. It was a blast! Justin joined the 6 of us for a great day of sun and water rides.

One of our favorite activities at Wet 'n Wild was the lazy river. The whole family loved floating and splashing around in the river, and Kaitlynn was pooped and actually fell asleep for a quick nap.

The kids loved the play area. Well, until an unfortunate poop accident (not from our least this time) shut it down for the afternoon.

Here's Connor on the awesome rope swing.

Time for an ice cream break.

Unfortunately our kids are not classically trained in ice cream enjoyment, as evidenced by these photos of ice cream destruction.

By 4 p.m., the gang was ready to head home. We made the drive back to The Villages and my crazy kids never once fell asleep in the car. Where did I go wrong??

We made a stop for dinner at The Olive Garden and then went back to the house to drop off the SUV. Then, it was back on the golf carts (and scooters for the teenagers) for a drive to the town square for music and dancing.

One last picture from Vacation Day 2. Here's Collin at the waterpark. Notice anything different about him??

Vacation Day 3

Vacation Day 3 started off as a sleepy and lazy morning. The teenagers slept in and Kaitlynn woke up ready for some cuddles.

Then the family loaded up on the golf carts and scooters for a trip to Chick-fil-a for breakfast.

Next up, a trip to one of the community pools. We were all having a great time until yet another unfortunate poop incident. And that's all I want to say about that.

Back at the house, it was supposed to be naptime but the boss of the house decided she wasn't interested in that.

In the afternoon, I headed out with Grandma Cheryl for one of my favorite activities: lunch, massages, and pedicures! We always have such a nice visit away on our own.

The older boys went to see a movie and Jeff stayed back with the little ones while I was having my girls' afternoon. Kaitlynn has figured out that her Daddy is a pushover and will do whatever she wants when Mom isn't around. By the time I returned to the house all refreshed and relaxed, the guys had dinner almost ready (burgers and hotdogs on the grill).

Vacation Day 4

Vacation Day 4 started out with a round of golf for Grandpa Jerry and his 3 sons, Jeff, Chris, and Justin. I threatened Jeff within an inch of his life if he didn't get a photo of them together and he (luckily) obliged.

While the men were golfing, the rest of us hung back at the house and tried to keep ourselves occupied with DVDs and markers. Oh, and puppies.

Grandma Cheryl and some friends began some serious food preparation (which actually began the day before) for a gathering to celebrate Grandpa Jerry's birthday later in the evening. Cheryl and Justin spent ALL DAY smoking up about 33 pounds of meat for the occasion. Wow.

The guys returned from golfing and Jeff was proud to report he played the best 9 holes of his life (he shot a 37, just for the record). The 2nd 9 holes weren't as successful I guess.

Preparations for Grandpa Jerry's birthday celebration were in full swing and we needed to head out to pick up some last minute additions. Thank goodness, because I really needed to get out of the house!

Once we were back at the house, I was bound and determined to get the non-sleeping toddler of mine down for a nap. It's not an easy task because A. She's crazy and won't sleep this week, and B. There is a house full of people consuming an inordinate amount of alcohol in celebration of Grandpa's birthday. I was hoping a sign might help.

It didn't help. Kaitlynn stayed in her crib alternating between talking to herself and then screaming for about 2 hours. Good times.

I finally gave in and went to get her out of her crib. I couldn't believe my eyes when I looked in and she was OUT. Score 1 for Mom. Oh wait, it's almost 5:00 p.m. and I don't want her to be asleep this late because then she won't sleep tonight. Ugh. I go back in there and wake her up. Score 1 for Kaitlynn. Guess we're even.

About that time the whole gang comes over to enjoy a feast for Grandpa's birthday. Justin's efforts with the smoker really paid off because the food was YUMMY!

Connor and Kaitlynn loved the Cars 2 birthday cupcakes.

After we all gorged ourselves on smoked meat, Uncle Chris (Jeff's brother) wanted to take Collin and Kevin out to fish in a nearby lake. We tagged along with the little kids to get some pictures and go for another ride.

Within 60 seconds Uncle Chris had caught a large bass. And less than 2 minutes after that, he caught another one.

Jeff and I took the little ones back to the house and relaxed with a movie before bed.

Vacation Day 5

Vacation Day 5 marked the "peak" of vacation fun for Jeff and the teenagers. For the 5th straight year, they joined Grandpa Jerry, Uncle Chris, and Uncle Justin to embark on the annual Courtright fishing trip with Cap'n Dan in Cedar Cove. They always have SO much fun on this trip! Somehow over the years, the trip has evolved into a "No Filter" expedition. This means that the filters come off and the cuss-words come out. I can only imagine the number of F-bombs dropped during the day. This year we made all the guys t-shirts to commemorate the occasion. Here they are before heading out for the trip.

Jeff and Chris managed to catch the 2 largest fish, both redfish I think.

Here's the entire gang. Look at those smiles!

While the guys were on their fishing trip, Grandma and I tried to keep Connor and Kaitlynn entertained. Kaitlynn chose this day to show her true colors, and by that I mean her stubborn defiant streak. We made a golf cart trip to the grocery store, and then we came home to get ready for the pool. It took a good hour or so to get everyone dressed, lathered with sunscreen, packed, and loaded into the car. We finally made it to the pool and were able to swim. 10 minutes later, we were out of the pool due to thunder. Typical. No problem, because I came prepared with snacks.

After a 10-minute snack break, the clouds seemed to be building so we called it a morning and came back to the house for lunch and rest time.

Apparently 10 minutes of swimming did Connor in. He caught a rare nap.

While Connor snoozed, Kaitlynn enjoyed some quality time with Shots the pitbull. This dog is amazing. I've never been a big fan of dogs, and admittedly pitbulls seem menacing to me. But Shots is quite the protector of kids. A few times during the week, Jeff was playing rough with Connor or raising his voice and Shots would jump up and give a warning bark. She did NOT want us to harm the kids. So sweet.

After the guys returned from their fishing trip, we caught a quick picture of the entire group.

Chris and Justin had to return to the Orlando area for work the following morning, and the rest of us headed back up to the town square for a little music and fun. Then we came back, showered, and watched a little TV before bed.

Vacation Day 6

Vacation Day 6 was a lazy day. We got up and headed out for a quick breakfast in the morning.

Then Jeff had to do some work (boo) while the rest of us relaxed in the house.

Kaitlynn enjoyed a snack with Grandpa and then it was time for rest time.

When the little ones were down, Jeff and I took the teenagers out for lunch and ice cream.

When we got back to the house, Kaitlynn was awake and had a new look. Apparently during her "nap" she got into Grandma's makeup and had a great ol' time. Her sheets and clothes will never again be the same.

We cleaned up Kaitlynn a little bit and then they had a snack followed by more relaxing.

Then we headed out for a golf cart ride to the square to break up the evening. We had BIG plans later that night and needed to be home before dark.

What were the BIG plans, you ask? Watching the preseason Houston Texans game on TV!! There is a certain 5-year-old that hadn't stopped asking when the game would start ever since we arrived in Florida.

And that picture really tells the wrong story. Connor was up and shouting and high-fiving the entire 1st half of the game. There just couldn't be a bigger fan than this guy!

Vacation Day 7

Finally, we made it to Vacation Day 7 - our last day in The Villages. We slept in a little and then headed out. On the agenda for the day was a trip to Rainbow River in Ocala, FL. We rented tubes and floated down the river for about 2 hours. It was so peaceful and relaxing that Kaitlynn even fell asleep while floating with me in my tube! And sorry, no pictures from that adventure because I didn't want to risk getting the camera wet.

After our river float trip, we headed back to the house. We rested and had some down time.

After we were all cleaned up we headed out on the golf cars for a Mexican food dinner. But not before a final Courtright family pic. All 3 boys and even Jeff were ready to kill me and wishing they had thrown my camera into the river by this point.

Kaitlynn REALLY enjoyed her Mexican beans and rice at dinner. This one was a 5-wipe mess.

After dinner we went up to the town square for a final night of music and dancing. But we were all so worn out from our past 7 days of fun that we called it a night early and went home to bed.


So there you go. We had an incredible 7 days of fun during our annual summer vacation in The Villages, FL. We are so grateful to Grandpa Jerry and Grandma Cheryl for graciously opening their home to our big family every summer. It was an awesome vacation, and now that I've written it all down, maybe I'll actually remember it in the future! :-)