Sunday, September 16, 2018

The End of Summer Adventures

StoneBridge School had a huge building project this summer, which Dan was partially responsible for as the new Director of Operations. He worked hard every day in the worst heat and humidity of the year, clearing out rooms and storage spaces, and overseeing contractors as they tore apart and rebuilt several areas of the school. He got more exercise over the past three months than he's had in several years!  He also learned new things about maintaining and repairing things like air conditioners and the school roof.  Despite his very busy schedule, he's really enjoyed his new job so far.

The school looked like this for most of the summer

Dan moved boxes like these over and over again as the contractors moved from one space to another.

And yet, he managed to save some energy to play at the end of his long days.

Because of the demolition and construction at school, they didn't host a summer camp this year. Instead, Emma had a babysitter two days a week named Judi who normally watches three sisters who attend Emma's school. Their family allows Judi to take on additional children to supplement her income. My parents were generous enough to watch Emma every Thursday, so we managed to scrape through without camp this summer.

Emma with Ms. Judi

Emma with the sisters she joined for the summer - from left to right, Sarah, Lily, Emma, and Mia, ready to work on an art project with Ms. Judi

Dan worked a lot of overtime this summer, and one Saturday in August, he helped manage a volunteer work day where StoneBridge parents, students, and other friends came to help prepare the building for the first day of school.

There were tons of volunteers and they accomplished a lot in one day!

While Dan was working hard, the girls and I joined Dan's brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Dawn, and their boys at the Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center for a family hike/fundraiser event.
Some of us eating lunch together

 Emma, Hallie, and their younger cousins, Aaron, Josiah, and Micah, hiked with the adults to the Learning Tree, a tree house that the kids loved climbing on. The older cousins, Benjamin and Nathan, took a longer hike with their friends.

 After our hike, it felt nice to swim in the retreat center's pool. Before we left, Emma got to sign Josiah's new cast.

We got an exciting new addition to our neighborhood this summer - Nothing Bundt Cakes opened a store near us!  They had a grand opening event where the first 50 customers got free cake every month for a year!

Mom and I sat outside the store for 2 hours that morning to win our free cakes. Time well spent, in my opinion!

We were #11 and #12 in line, and there were more than 50 people there by the time the store opened!

Speaking of Nothing Bundt Cakes, we got to enjoy one at our Jester summer birthday celebration. We celebrated Tim, Dawn, Rob, Benjamin, Nathan, my mom, Dawn's mom, and Hallie's birthday all at once. It was a little crazy, but fun.

Hallie got a kick out of us all singing "Happy Birthday to You" eight times in a row, once for each person! Ha!

She got some fun gifts that day, including an adorable Noah's Ark toy that Emma picked out for her.

Somehow Hallie's new toy was taken over by all the other cousins.

But she was busy playing harmonica with Grandma Jester

And swinging with Grandpa Jester

Our last trip of the summer was to my mom's family reunion at the Ranch House in Texas over Labor Day weekend. We haven't been able to go since Hallie was born, so this was her first visit to the Ranch House. We squeezed a lot of activity and fun, but not a lot of sleep (thanks to Hallie) into our 3 days there. It was wonderful to see all the family members who were able to come, too!

The Ranch House is on some of the prettiest land I've seen in Texas. They have so many fun things to do there. Emma and cousin Meera had fun driving the Jeep.

Hallie hitched a ride with cousin Sadie

We went fishing at the pond

The kids got their very own pool to enjoy during the heat of the day (the adults were a little bit jealous!)

Uncle Steve pushing Hallie on the baby swing. She spent half her weekend in that swing.

 They have an awesome horse-shaped tire swing for the older kids. Dan gave all the kids a turn.

Emma and Hallie were in heaven with unlimited outdoor time and so many cousins to play with! The girls gathered some large rocks and built a pretend campfire. They fished the toy fish out of the kiddie pool to cook for supper. So cute!

 This girl turned two years old the day after we arrived home from Texas. We barely made the cutoff to get one last free flight for her!

Now that school is back in session, Dan's schedule has calmed down a bit. No more overtime for him, since the contractors can't tear down any walls while the teachers and kids are in school. Hallie and I get to drop Emma off at school in the mornings. She isn't showing it here, but it's the highlight of Hallie's day to be a big girl and help Emma carry her lunchbox or water bottle into school. 

 Dan often picks the girls up after school and he took them to play at our neighborhood lake one hot evening. 
Obviously, their outing ended with the girls jumping into the lake fully-clothed. Haha! I was a little confused when they came into the house dripping wet. 

These girls keep our lives interesting and fun!

Saturday, September 8, 2018


Just like that, our sweet Hallie is TWO! 

This little girl is such a joy to us. She loves to talk, sing, make herself and others laugh, and do things independently.  She's a great sleeper and eater, and enjoys cuddling when she's sleepy.  She can be a stinker when she wants something she knows she shouldn't have. Discipline seems to roll right off her back and it sometimes takes getting in trouble two or three times before she decides to stop.  She still takes a solid nap during the day and sleeps through the night almost without fail. Her vocabulary has exploded in the past six months and we love hearing her thoughts.

The weekend before her birthday, we had a big family party to celebrate all the summer birthdays, including Hallie's. On her actual birthday, we went to an indoor bounce house and had a blast. She had the best time trying to keep up with Emma!

 They also had a toddler-specific area where she got to play with a kitchen, cars, and other baby toys.

Grandma and Grandpa Jester made the drive from Williamsburg to spend her birthday with us.

We celebrated with a brownie cake that night. Emma helped Hallie blow out the candles. And tried to "help" open and play with all Hallie's new presents, too. Heh!

In other milestone news, Emma started Kindergarten!
Meeting her awesome new teacher, Mrs. Boyce. 

 Emma was SO excited on her first day back at school! She really missed it over the summer!

It made me sad to realize that she'd be in school five days a week this year, so I took a day off from work and the two of us spent a special day together the day before Kindergarten began. 

We spent a fun morning at the beach

 Then I took her shopping for a "Scruff-a-Luv" toy that she'd been asking for. It was the perfect day.

Another huge milestone we're celebrating is Emma's recent post-operation check up!  A couple of weeks before school started, she had an ultrasound and a visit with her urologist who said that Emma's kidneys, bladder, and ureters look amazing since her emergency surgery last summer! She took Emma off her daily antibiotic and said that she doesn't think she'll need any more surgeries! We will visit the urologist again in two years as long as Emma remains healthy during that time.  We could not be more grateful for Emma's healing and such a wonderful report. It's still sinking in that her long medical journey may be over! Our God is gracious and powerful!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Summertime Fun

Dan had a surprise beginning to his summer.  About a month before the year ended, his headmaster asked him if he would consider changing jobs and becoming the Director of Operations for the school. The former DO had left mid-year, and they were planning a large building project this summer. She needed a strong manager to take over and knew Dan would do a great job. It's been a good fit for him and he's enjoyed all that he's learned about maintaining and repairing the buildings and grounds, overseeing lunch and extended care programs and working with the business office. It's quite a change from being the Upper School Principal, but he was feeling burned out last year and ready for a change. God provided exactly the change he needed at just the right time! The school building is old and has lots of issues to address, and the building project has kept Dan working plenty of overtime this summer. His schedule should calm down once the school year begins, and we're hoping he loves his new job this school year.

After the school year ended, we kicked off our summer with a trip to Massanutten, VA in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.  Dan's parent's rented two timeshare condos and generously shared them with all the Jester family. We were joined by Dan's sister, Robin and her family, and our girls had the best time playing together from morning until night!
Our vacation in Massanutten was during Father's Day weekend, and it was special to have extra time with Dan's dad. I am incredibly thankful for both of these godly men!

It was blazing hot, but the Massanutten resort had a couple of swimming pools for us to enjoy during the heat of the day.

There was a playground next to the main pool, which we took the kids to first thing in the morning before it got too hot. Emma, Naomi, and Miriam pretended to serve ice cream through the window. Customers paid with rock money, and they had every flavor and topping imaginable. 

 Hallie and Miriam could've stayed in the swings all day long.

A week after our vacation, I flew to San Diego on business travel.  It's only the second time I've ever had to travel for work, which I'm grateful for. One of my coworkers in San Diego left on a pre-planned international vacation the same week that a large proposal was due, and my boss needed me to be her backup while she was away. I had a busy four days, working from 7 am until 7 pm, but since my body was on Eastern Time, I woke up by 5:00 am and was able to go running along my favorite beach in the nice, cool weather before work.  (I REALLY miss running in San Diego.) I didn't have much energy after work since it felt three hours later to me. But it was very nice to see my old coworkers and a couple of friends while I was there. 

Visiting our old neighborhood in Pacific Beach

I had dinner with our good friends, Paul and Ann, and their kids, Eli and Eva

 Eva offered to take a picture with me and her parents. Heh!

I also met my former coworker, Kat, and her youngest son for a walk during lunchtime one day.

Before I flew home, I stopped by Cotixan to pick up Dan's beloved California burrito to take home to him. I think he misses these burritos more than San Diego itself. 

We were SO happy when I arrived home! I missed my sweet family!

And yet, three days after I came home, Dan and I left for our anniversary getaway trip to Orlando.  I think Dan needed a getaway after four days on his own with the girls!  Each set of parents offered to watch the girls for two days, and Dan and I had the most wonderful four days of quality time together! 
At the top of my to-do list was visiting Universal Studios and seeing the new Harry Potter section there.

Diagon Alley in Universal Studios park

Universal Studios did an amazing job recreating the streets, shops, characters, and scenes from the Harry Potter movies.  We felt like we were in the film!  We had to buy park hopper passes to see everything, since Diagon Alley was built inside Universal Studios park, and Hogsmeade was built inside Islands of Adventure park. They had an awesome 3-D adventure ride in each Harry Potter section, as well as shows, shops, and restaurants to check out. They built a Hogwarts Express train that you could ride from one park to the other. The windows in the train compartments were TV screens that played a short movie during your ride.

Standing in Hogsmeade with Hogwarts castle in the background in the Islands of Adventure park

We also spent a day at Epcot in Disney World, since it's a park we enjoy but probably won't take our kids to until they're older.  

In the meantime, our girls had a blast with their grandparents! They got to see the Jester cousins on 4th of July at Dan's parents' house

Left to right: Cousins and best friends, Miriam (in front), Naomi, Emma, and Josiah

They also visited a community festival, the library, and other fun places while we were away.

Emma and Josiah with painted faces at the festival

Firefighter Hallie playing at the library 

Once we were back in town for the rest of the summer, we made the most of our opportunities to see friends and enjoy our time off.

Our friends, Mike and Kate, and their kids, Charlotte and Cameron, visited from Colorado in July, and we had a great time catching up with them! We also got to see our mutual friend, Courtney, who lives in Virginia Beach.
(Left to right: Charlotte, Dan, Emma, me, Hallie, Cameron, Mike, Courtney, and Kate)

Emma and Hallie's friend, Kailey (bottom right) invited us to her 7th birthday pool party. 

I went to lunch with some sweet coworkers to catch up with our former coworker, Lori. 
(Left to right: Mona, Lori, me, and Denise)

I brought Hallie to work with me one afternoon to say hi to my coworkers, too. They hadn't seen her since she was a newborn. She got right to business and sat in my chair, took over my computer and phone, and made notes with my pen and paper. They were ready to hire her on the spot.

Our nephew, Josiah, suffered a terrible cut to his index finger when it got pinched in a folding lawn chair. We visited him and his parents in the hospital when he had surgery.

Emma knows all about surgeries, and Hallie is an old pro at hospital visits. Josiah's surgery went well, but he was upset that he couldn't get up and play with the girls as soon as he saw them. He's got to keep activity to a minimum until he gets his cast off, which is tough for an active little boy!

Emma had her first dentist appointment this summer, too. I chose a pediatric dentist office since I knew there was a risk that Emma would panic in the hospital-like setting and I wanted it to be as much fun as possible. She did fantastic, though! I was so proud of her! The hygienist who cleaned her teeth was amazing, and knew exactly how to ease Emma's mind about the experience. They said that Emma was one of the best first-time patients they had seen! 

We intended to go more often, but so far, we've only made it to Virginia Beach once this summer. Mainly because the weather was awful on the weekends we weren't busy. We've had a lot of heavy rainfall, wind, and extremely hot weather in Virginia this summer. We waited for a pleasant summer day before we went, and the girls had a blast! They both loved the ocean, which surprised us a little. They'd shriek with delight every time a wave hit them, even when they got a face full of saltwater. Hopefully we'll make it back soon.

Dan and Hallie buried Emma in the sand and gave her a mermaid tail.

 After an hour of playing, Hallie was done with the sand and water and just wanted a clean place to eat snacks. 

I signed both the girls up for the Summer Reading Program at our local library. They read for at least 20 minutes a day, and we go to the library for them to choose a prize each week. Emma is reading really well now! Once she mastered the basics of sounding out words in her K4 class last year, she took off on her own and continually amazes us with the words she can read!

We've had a very fun summer with these two princesses!