Mar 12

Life goes by so very fast and leaves no time to blog.  However, I wanted to share these pictures that the boys created for the Original Works program that their school is offering again this year.

Owen made a family portrait for his original work. Even the cats are included.

Declan's outer space scene. He's very proud of the alien turtle on the red planet.

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Oct 24

The date was June 6, 2011.  We went to the Lincoln Middle School Honors Assembly to watch as Kieran received recognition!  Way to go, Kieran!

Kieran's 6th Grade Honor Assembly

Kieran with his academic honors.

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Sep 25
Kieran First Day Of Middle School

Kieran about to walk out the door to catch the bus.

The Summer has come to an end.  How can that be?!  I’ve got pictures from our Labor Day vacation in Ludington to post, but I thought I’d get the boys first day of school pictures up first.  It’s only two weeks since they started.  That’s not so bad for me.

I can hardly believe that Kieran is now a Middle Schooler! He has been really happy with the change of schools.  He’s meeting new people that came from the other elementary schools, he’s got a good groups of teachers, and he’s got many more options in the cafeteria for lunch!  He’s already been placed into the advanced Language Arts and Math classes.

It has been a little weird around the house in the morning.  Up until this year nobody else has been awake when I’m leaving for work.  Because the Middle School bus is much earlier than the ones for elementary school, Kieran and Linda are now up with me.  It’s nice to have the company, even if it’s only for a few minutes before I go out the door.

Declan and Owen First Day of Kindergarten Outfits

Declan and Owen got all buttoned down for their first day of Kindergarten





At the same time that Kieran is starting a new school, Declan and Owen are starting school for the first time!  They are now in Kindergarten.  Even after a couple of weeks, I still can’t believe that.

The first day of Kindergarten was only an hour long.  Linda and I took them to school to meet their teacher and get to know their classroom.  They went from station to station on a scavenger hunt.  It was fun, and I enjoyed getting to see things too.

The second day was the first time that they rode the bus.  Their bus comes about an hour and a half after Kieran’s.  I went in to work late so I could go with them to the bus for the first time.  They were very excited!  It was a nice day outside too.  After we got them on the bus and it pulled away, Linda and I were both amazed that this day had come.  They aren’t old enough for this already are they?!

Declan and Owen First Day of Kindergarten Backpacks

The boys and their new backpacks are ready to go

It was a little hard for the two of them to adjust to their new schedule.  They are full day kindergarteners.  So they are getting up earlier than they used to, and spending quite a lot of time away from home five days a week.  There have been a few emotional moments as they get used to things, but I think they’re doing fine.  During the first week both of them said they wished school wasn’t full day, but I haven’t heard that much lately.

Declan and Owen With Their Lockers

Those last two stars say Declan and Owen

So new schools all around this year.  So far so good.  Happy learning guys!

Jun 15

Kieran has graduated from 5th Grade. How can he possibly be going to middle school next year? Time goes so fast!

They do a nice little graduation ceremony at Childs Elementary. The Principal Mr. Petzak spoke to the graduates about what it will be like and what they need to do to succeed next year. Jeremy Keeney, a 2006 graduate of Lincoln High School who is currently the Vice-President of the Lincoln Board of Education spoke next. His talk was appropriate for the audience. It was short, but full of inspiration. Then it was time for Mrs. Hill and Mr. Hotchkiss to call up the graduates one at a time to receive their certificates and a slew of handshakes and hugs from those on stage. Finally there was a great slide show of pictures from the school year.

It was a very nice ceremony. I still cannot believe he’s out of elementary school. He’s done so well that Linda and I are very proud of him.

Hey Kieran! Turn Around!

Kieran sitting in the seats with his classmates

Kieran & Mrs. Hill

Kieran and his 5th Grade Teacher Mrs. Hill

Kieran the Graduate and Family

Kieran struck a pose with the family

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May 26

Each year the fifth grade teachers at Kieran’s school organize a trip to camp at the Howell Conference and Nature Center. It’s a three day, two night experience. For some of the students it was the first time at any sort of camp. Of course, Kieran has been to a number of camps with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. I went along as a chaperon, and I think I had as much fun as the kids.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Group Before Departure

Here's everybody at school before boarding the bus

The kids rode from school to camp on a school bus. The chaperons carpooled there and carried some of the kids baggage with them. We left at 9:45 am on Wednesday, March 19.

Once everybody arrived we got our room assignments. The girls were in one building and the boys in another. Most of the rooms were setup with a number of bunks in them. The chaperons in the boys building got rooms for two people and shared with their son. Because of that I had no problem sleeping after quiet time each night! This certainly is less rustic than Cub Scout Resident Camp.

After a lunch of Subway party subs (not provided by the camp) we broke up into our travel groups. There were three of them A, B, and C. We all lined up in front of the dining hall near a rock with our letter on it. This is where we started out on our adventures after each meal.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Group C

Group C - Jake, Cody, Chandler, Malik, Jurnee, Kayla, Hannah, Arndrayla, Maiya, Alec, Kieran, Marcus, Arryn

Our first activity was the low ropes course. We hiked out into the woods with our guide Becky. The course consisted of a number of ropes strung between trees. Everybody got a chance to try all of the different challenges.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 1

Lean back and keep the rope taught on this one

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 2

Lean or pull on that top rope

There were supposed to be two kids on each side of the rope making sure to catch the person on the rope if they fell. They were the “spotters”.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 3

Move from one hanging support rope to the next

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 4

Hold the supports on either side and step from rope to rope - skip some if you can

In the “Hot Lava” game everybody had to swing on a rope over the lava area into a large rubber hoop. If anybody touched the lava, then everybody had to start over again. It took them a few tries to figure out who should go when.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 5

Swinging over the lava

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Low Ropes 6

Success - The last person makes it over the lava

After low ropes it was time for Fire Starting and Shelter Building. First everybody got instructions on how to prepare kindling and tinder for a fire from our guide Heather. In smaller groups they tried several different arrangements such as teepee or log cabin. In order to avoid wiping out the forest, none of the fires burned for long before Heather put them out.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Fire Starting

Kieran trying to light one of the fires

Everyone seemed to like Shelter Building more than Fire Starting. There were three building areas. Each of them had a large number of sticks and branches of various sizes and some mature live trees that could be used to construct a shelter of some sort. Kieran worked with three other kids on a shelter. At first the girls and the boys couldn’t agree on what they were going to do. That was eventually resolved and they came up with something that passed the shake test. So they climbed inside.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Shelter Building 1

All the builders in their completed shelter

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Shelter Building 2

Kieran and the completed shelter

Dinner was our first meal provided by the camp. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, rolls, and brownies. It was good food and nobody went hungry after they called for seconds.

Dinner was followed by an actual hike. I’m not sure how long it was, but we went out on some trails and sought out our guide’s favorite tree. This old tree has a hollow trunk at its base, but it is still alive. We went off trail to get over to it and everybody got a chance to climb into it. The guide realized a little too late that there was poison ivy rather near this tree. Thankfully nobody came in contact with any of it.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Hiking Tree

During the hike everybody got a chance to stand inside a live tree

Our final guided activity of the day was a camp fire with s’mores! Who doesn’t like s’mores? I prefer my marshmallows golden brown, but most of the kids wanted to burn them all the way to charred. It didn’t seem to matter once they were put with the graham crackers and chocolate.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Camp Fire

I love how happy Kieran looks in this picture

Lights out the first night was at 10 o’clock. The boys played dodge ball and other things behind our lodge right up until the end. I could still hear boys talking through our open windows until about midnight, but they weren’t being disruptive so it was fine.

During each meal one of the three travel groups got to be the “hoppers”. They had to arrive early to help setup for the meal, they had to run to the kitchen to get things that their table needed during the meal, and they had to help cleanup afterward. For all their hard word they got to be first in line for food. Group C was assigned hopper duty for breakfast both days. Thursday’s breakfast was pancakes, sausage, fruit, and individual cereal bowls for those who wanted them.

After meeting at the Group C rock we hiked off to the archery range. It was the first time with a bow and arrow for most of the kids. Kieran and I had plenty of experience from Resident Camp. I tried to help the guide show some of the people how to do it. By the end everybody was able to hit the target or come very close. The adults got to try it too after the kids were done. I got two out of three on the target. The other was too low and bounced off the frame.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Archery Aim

Ready, Aim, Fire

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Archery Target

Kieran after a successful round of archery

Canoeing was next. It’s been a very long time since I was in a canoe, and I’d forgotten how fun it is. The camp is on Pleasant Lake so that’s where we canoed. Our guide Tiffany wanted to pair those who had been in a canoe before with those who hadn’t. So I rode with Alec and Kieran rode with Jake. Tiffany was very impressed with our group’s ability to control the canoes given our overall lack of experience.

I didn’t want to take the camera in the boat just in case we tipped. So I don’t have any pictures of the turtles, muskrat, and fish that Alex and I saw along the shore. I think this was the first muskrat I’d ever seen. They are excellent swimmers.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Canoes

Kieran and Jake navigated the water quite well

Everyone in group C kept their boats upright and stayed dry. Groups A and B both had boats that tipped and dumped their occupants into the lake. Nobody was hurt and everybody was either pulled into another canoe or swam to the shore.

What came next was just about everybody’s favorite activity during the entire camp. It was the zip line! It’s a 500 foot steel cable stretched across a pond in the woods. You can see it in this picture. You might want to click through to the full size image to see it better.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - The Zip Line

Here you can see the zip line stretched across the pond while the kids get their instructions

The zip line equipment consisted of a seat harness, a helmet, and the straps that attach the harness to the line. Everybody who wanted to ride the line put on a harness. There were only four helmets and strap sets so the first four people put them on and walked around the pond with Becky. One at a time she’d attach everything, make sure the brackets were tight and then yell across the pond to make sure everything was ready. Once Chris yelled “Zip Away” the person was ready to go.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Starting Down the Zip Line

Kieran at the far end of the zip line

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - End of the Zip Line

Look mom, no hands!

What’s it like? I have to admit I was just a little hesitant when I heard “Zip Away”. To start you just walk down the slope. You’re not supposed to pick up your feet early. You just let the line lift you off the ground. There is a handle strap that you can hold on to, but you don’t need to. The harness will keep you upright if you want to put your hands down or out like Kieran did. The ride lasts about 15 seconds. It goes by much quicker when you’re the one doing it instead of just watching. As I approached the end of the line I started to think I was going to hit the tree that anchors it, but that doesn’t happen. The stop caught the pulley over the platform and Chris guided me to the ladder so he could unhook me. It was a lot of fun and I would have liked to do it again, but we only got one turn each.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Dad on the Zip Line

That's me

After all that excitement it was time for lunch. We had Bosco Sticks (bread sticks filled with pizza sauce, cheese, and pepperoni – or just cheese), vegetables and dip, and cookies. Simple but good.

Skit practice was next. Tiffany was in charge of the skits. She had a large selection of skits and selected people to perform in them. Our group combined with group A for skit practice. After going over each skit with the cast they each broke off to their own area to practice. Kieran was cast in a skit called J.C. Penny.

After all the skits were committed to memory we headed back into the woods. A wilderness scavenger hunt was next on our schedule. I was given a laminated sheet with a bingo grid of items we were supposed to locate in the woods. We got points for each item we found and bonus points for any bingos we managed to finish on our sheet. We did get one bingo and our final score of 42 points tied for first place.

Our final program before dinner was Birds of Prey. We were shown four different birds that are permanent residents of the Wild Wonders Wildlife Park that is part of the Nature Center. We met an owl, a falcon, a turkey vulture, and one other bird that I cannot remember. The presenter was very knowledgeable, and patient with the many questions the kids had.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Birds Of Prey

This fine looking Great Horned Owl was the first bird we met

There was some scheduled free time after the Birds of Prey. Since the program was shorter than the allotted time there was lots of free time.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Free Time

Free time at the volleyball net

Dinner was mostaccioli with some very good meat sauce. They also had vegetarian sauce and plain noodles for those who wanted them. There was a side dish of some sort as well. Cherry chip cake finished off the meal.

After the meal was done and cleaned up the same space was used for the skit performances. Everybody did a really good job with their skits. There were also performances by several of the adults that featured mysteries that the kids had to try to figure out. There was plenty of comedy to keep everybody interested.

Lights out on the second night wasn’t until 12, but the guys had to be in their rooms at 10. Those kids like Kieran that weren’t in a room with any of the other boys could visit another room until it was time for lights out. It was a long day for everyone. Kieran came back to our room early and I didn’t hear much noise from any of the other rooms after he returned.

Waffles with strawberries and whip cream along with sausage made for a tasty start to our Friday. After our hopper crew had the place cleaned up we met at the rock and headed out with Becky for Native American Games.

We had the first rain of the trip this final morning. We were all in our rain gear for the games. There were four different games that we rotated through. They were pretty simplistic and didn’t hold the attention of these modern electronic game loving kids.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Native American Games

Try to get you opponent to smile, bend their arms, or move their feet

Our schedule called for Orienteering to come next, but that activity was dropped due to the rain. Instead we headed up to Wild Wonders Wildlife Park and got a tour of the various animals in their outdoor enclosures. They have quite a collection of animals. It’s not a zoo. All of these animals have been rehabilitated after suffering injuries. Most of them are permanent residents now because they cannot fend for themselves or they’re too imprinted on their human caretakers.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Red Foxes

Did you know that red foxes can climb trees?

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Coyote

The coyote that howled for us

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Kieran 5th Grade Trip - Screech Owl

This screech owl flew into the picnic shelter after Wild Wilderness - he was actually wild

I think my favorite parts of our animal tour were the coyote that howled along with us when we made howling noises, and the wild screech owl that flew into the picnic shelter and looked at us all with its squinty eyes.

We left our owl friend and trekked over to the pond. The Pond Exploration activity didn’t seem very interesting before we got there. In fact a number of the kids thought it would be boring. Once we got there and they all discovered they would be digging through pond muck and looking for bugs everybody got into it.

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Pond 1

This frog got scooped up in the pond net - He was too big to hold on to

Kieran's 5th Grade Trip - Pond 2

Kieran and Alec exploring more muck

The kids worked in groups of two or three. They’d use a scoop net to pull a bunch of muck up from the bottom of the pond. Then they’d pick through it with spoons looking for bugs. They’d put what they found in a cup of water. By the end Kieran and Alec had a huge variety of things swimming around their cup at varying speeds. Every single scoop produced something for the cup.

Did you notice that the rain gear came off? It stopped raining and turned sunny for the rest of the day.

Pond was our very last nature activity. We had one more lunch in the dining hall – macaroni and cheese – and then we had to pack up our stuff for the trip home. That didn’t take too long and we didn’t have to add our bags to the huge pile waiting for the bus since I had my car. The bus didn’t arrive for a little while so there was some more free time to be had.

As usual the end of camp was bittersweet. Part of me was ready to go home and rest for a while. The rest wanted a longer dose of nature and togetherness with Kieran

I would recommend the Howell Nature Center to anybody looking for a camp experience or even just a one day visit. The staff is very friendly and helpful. The food was always good and plentiful. The activities were age appropriate and usually kept the kids interested. They have a rock climbing wall and tower that we didn’t get to try out, but they looked like fun.

Thanks to the fifth grade teachers Mrs. Hill and Mr. Hotchkiss for all the time and effort they put into organizing the trip. It was a lot of fun. The twins are already looking forward to going when they’re in the fifth grade!

May 16

Back in January, after the holiday school break, a note came home from school saying that it was time for the annual musical production.  This year it would be Willy Wonka Kids.  These productions are not actually done by the school, they are managed by the PTO.  However, the administration and teachers are very supportive.

Kieran wasn’t too interested in it initially.  Eventually he decided he’d try out for the role of Mike Teevee, the kid whose life revolves around television.  He went to the initial tryout after school and waited to see if he got a callback.  He did.  The part they wanted him to do during his callback was Willy Wonka!  Of course, he was one of several called back for the part, but we were really excited nonetheless.  After several days of call backs we waited to hear who got what part.

In the middle of a math lesson, someone from the PTO walked into Mrs. Hill’s class to hand out the envelopes to those who tried out.  Of course, nobody could wait until they got home to see what they got.  Kieran got the part of Willy Wonka!

The months of February and March were full of rehearsals after school.  There was a schedule that showed which roles needed to attend on which days.  Kieran only had a couple of days that he didn’t need to be there.  So we rearranged schedules and worked with some of the other parents to make sure somebody would be picking him up each day around 5.

Each of the cast members got a script and a CD with the music on it.  Kieran worked on memorizing his lines.  He also listened to the CD every night.  Hearing him singing along to his parts always made me smile.  I was in choir in middle and high school so vocal music is a great thing in my mind.  Everybody in the house was frequently singing the songs because we heard them all the time.  It’s a good thing it’s good music!

The performances were on Thursday March 25, Friday March 26, and two on Saturday the 27th.  Linda and I weren’t able to make it to the first performance on the 25th because we had Kindergarten orientation for the twins.  However, we made it over to Childs before it was over.  We watched the end of it through the windows in the gym doors.  That little glimpse made us eager for the next day when we could see the whole thing!

Aunt Sharon, Aunt Barbara, and Uncle Doug were able to attend the Thursday performance.  On Friday Linda and I took Declan and Owen to see it.  We also took some sunflowers and candy (Wonka brand of course) to give to Kieran after he came off stage.  For the Saturday afternoon performance Linda and I were joined by Aunt Barbara and Kieran’s Aunt Tanya.  For the final performance I was joined by Aunt Barbara and Kieran’s Aunt Beth and Uncle David.

How would I describe the show?  It was amazing.  The kids all did an excellent job.  The set was beautiful.  The costumes were wonderful.  I am extremely grateful to the PTO members who volunteered countless hours to make it happen.

I am so very proud of Kieran.  He worked really hard to do his best and that’s exactly what he did.  I knew he’d do a good job, but sitting in the audience and looking up at him on the stage I was awe struck.  He was a star.

Willy Wonka Banner

The banner hung outside the gym

Willy's First Appearance

This is where Kieran first appears in the show during the Golden Age of Chocolate song

Golden Age of Chocolate

The Candy Kids and the Oompa Loompas join Willy Wonka for the opening number called The Golden Age of Chocolate

The Bucket Home

Charlie and his family at home - Mr. Bucket is reading about the Golden Tickets

Candy Kids

Outside Charlie's house some of the candy kids wait for the Candy Man

The Candy Man

The Candy Man

Waiting Outside the Gates

The Golden Ticket holders waiting outside the candy factory gates

Pure Imagination

Willy Wonka comes through the factory gates singing Pure Imagination

Almost Ready To Go In

Pure Imagination is almost over - Then they go inside

Augustus Covered In Chocolate

Augustus has fallen into the river and is getting his Oompa Loompa lesson

Four Kids Left in the Factory

Continuing the chocolate factory tour with only four kids left

Veruca The Bad Nut

Veruca is covered in trash after going down the Bad Nut chute

Mike Teevee - The Ken Doll Version

After Mike Teevee is transmogrified by Wonka Vision the role is played by a Ken Doll - Willy Wonka is not pleased with him

Mike Teevee

Mike Teevee and the Oompa Loompas

You've Won Charlie!

Willy Wonka tells Charlie that he is giving him the chocolate factory

The Finale

Willy has given Charlie the factory by this point

The Bow

The entire cast out for the bow to the audience

Kieran as Willy Wonka After a Performance

Got this picture of Kieran as he left the stage after the second performance

Willy Wonka and Mrs. Teevee

Willy Wonka and Mrs. Teevee after a performance

Willy Wonka and his Factory

Kieran posing with the very impressive factory set

Mom and Dad with Kieran in the Factory

Linda and I with Kieran and the factory set

Kieran, Mom, and Dad - Close Up

Kieran and his proud parents - A close up

Kieran and the Director

Kieran and the show's director Mrs. Little

Willy Wonka and Aunt Tanya

Aunt Tanya came out for one of the performances

May 16

Time to start catching up.  Way back in December we went to Kieran’s school for a function and it turned out that Santa was there.  This was probably announced at some point, but before we arrived I was unaware.  Oops.  So after a quick trip back home for the camera, the boys met Santa.  It was a much more laid back setting than the mall!  Owen seems completely unimpressed.

Boys With Santa At Childs

Santa came to school. I wonder if he was checking report cards.

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