Saturday, August 31, 2013

First Day of Daycare

You'll have to read the post title...just in case these pictures of our moving cheeseball aren't clear enough!

I confess...I worked it so Daddy dropped her off. I saved so many tissues and mascara applications that way.

She actually had a wonderful day. Her tears stopped before Daddy had even reached the edge of town. Now...she's an old pro and knows exactly what she wants to do when she gets there! We're so glad to have found such a sweet person to care for Annie on the days I'm working.

The Pride of All Nebraska

For many people, today marks the beginning of college football season (and I'm a bit sad that the Oregon State Beavers didn't start as strongly as they should have...) But really, I like to mark the beginning of Marching Band season.

Every year, we try to go to the University of Nebraska's Marching Band Exhibition...a free demonstration in Memorial Stadium of the skills that the band members have learned all week at Band Camp.

This year, we were able to go with my parents. It was hot. It was extremely crowded. They only had one bathroom open for thousands of people. But we still enjoyed ourselves.

I do have more pictures, but for now, this is what I was able to find. I'll update when I get them! (Again, photos courtesy of my mom.)

Aunt Karey's Zoo Day

Before Aunt Karey had to fly home, some of the girls were able to spend some time at the Henry Doorly Zoo before her flight (Dayna was at school, and Papa was puttering around back at our house.) It's always fun to show off "our" zoo to people who have never been here. We're incredibly proud of what a wonderful resource we have right here in Omaha.

All of the pictures are courtesy of my mom...who remembered to actually use her camera that day!

Wood Family Visit

What an incredible treat! For the third time in the last 12 months, we were able to spend time in Nebraska with my parents. An added bonus was that my firstborn sister (I won't call her the oldest...) was able to join them for part of their trip. I don't often get to see Karey, and we had so much fun spending time with her. I know both girls loved her visit immensely. (Now we just need to get Aunt Donna to come visit as well!)

They were able to be here for Dayna's first day of school and Annie's birthday party. We threw in some other events as well, and visited some favorite restaurants while they were here.

Third Grade

Another year has started. It's hard to believe we have a third grader now! Dayna is over halfway through with elementary school at this point. We continue to be blessed by the wonderful school system here in town, and are thrilled to know that Dayna will have Mrs. Hall as her teacher this year.

Mrs. Hall has spent a lot of time through the years making investments into the "Bank of Dayna" by encouraging her love of reading and writing. We can't wait to see how their relationship develops now that Mrs. Hall is her teacher.


Dayna is proud to welcome Humphrey the Hamster to the Wilson family. He's a lot different from Hammy. As a Chinese Dwarf hamster, he's considerably smaller. He also isn't quite as playful (but we're hoping that changes as he gets to know us better.)

He loves hanging out in the hamster tunnels and running around in the hamster ball. Can't wait to see how Humphrey fits in to our clan.

Annie's Turning Two!

It may have been Annie's second birthday, but it was her first with a family. We had an exciting day celebrating her "Under the Sea" birthday party with both sets of grandparents, Aunt Karey, and some of the girls "honorary" cousins here in Nebraska (along with their families). Enjoy the pictures!
Birthday Girl

"Cousins" dogpile

Shark Teeth

Ocean Streamers and Jellyfish

Going fishing!

With Papa

Telling secrets to Joel

Sandcastle Cake

Annie's Afghan

Make a wish

Take-home snacks: oyster food, rainbow fish, slimy squid, fish bait and "Sweet-ish" fish

Big sister


Octopus dip

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hammy, Part Two

The next day, I was so incredibly proud of Dayna. She and I went for a run together where we could talk and she could think her thoughts out loud. Toward the end of her run, she decided that she wanted to go to the fair anyway and talk about Hammy.

So we printed a picture of her sweet pet and headed to Wahoo. Once we got there, we had a quick conversation with the Superintendent of Clover Kids who pulled Dayna aside with one of the judges. They were able to talk briefly, and even changed the order of presentations so Dayna could go early and not have to wait and anticipate her turn.

Dayna's bravery speaks so loudly to me. I don't know that I could have done what she did. Without so much as faltering, she shared with a few hundred people what she loved about her hamster and why he was so special.

Later that night, Dayna wanted to have a slumber party with me. We snuggled and talked late into the evening about all sorts of things. While her prayers were that God would bring Hammy back to life, my prayers were that she could learn to surrender.

Yeah...I had a not-so-shining Mommy moment when I suggested she read John 11. You know...the part where Jesus wept after the death of his friend? It didn't dawn on me right away that the friend was Lazarus, who came back to life. Dayna asked if we could wait 4 days to bury her hamster, "just in case." She then realized that "he might start to smell, though." We compromised with the fact that Hammy and Jesus both died on a Friday. Jesus came back on Sunday morning. Thus, after church on Sunday, we had a small hamster funeral in our back yard.

But back to the dark of our slumber party, while I was holding her close, I shared with Dayna a song that has meant so much to me through the years. We talked through the lyrics. I sang it to her. She got my iPod and listened to the song over and over. It's a song of God what you think you want so He can give you what you need. And until you're ready to surrender, to just cry out, "hold me, Jesus!"

"Hold Me, Jesus"

While the days are getting easier (and we have introduced a new friend to the family...not as a replacement, because no critter can replace Hammy...simply a new friend), we all still have days where we miss our "little hamster dude." And I continue to pray that Dayna can use this very hard lesson to prepare her for more of the "yucky stuff" that life will bring her someday. Because I know that God is using this to build her faith and her heart.

Hammy, Part One

Our August started on a pretty sad note. Dayna was getting ready for the County Fair and was SO incredibly excited to get to show her hamster as part of 4-H Clover Kids. The show was on Saturday. Friday started pretty normal. Hammy was out and playing, sniffing around and being his adorably cute hamster self. I asked Dayna to put him away when she was done playing, and I'm not quite sure what happened after that.

Sometime in the afternoon, we noticed Hammy wasn't really moving. I reached in the cage and pet him. He startled a little bit and laid back down. I figured he was nocturnal and we just needed to let him sleep. But a few hours later, he wasn't waking up and playing. I picked him up, and he was limp and wheezing. Poor thing.

Dayna and I rushed him into Omaha to the pet store to see a veterinarian. (Yes...I actually took the wee rodent to a vet.) Hammy had some masses in his abdomen. They could have been tumors, or they could have been some sort of injury. My gut tells me it was the latter, because he went downhill so fast. But...we'll never really know. After some warm fluids, a painkiller and antibiotic were given, we were sent home. The vet wanted to see Hammy in 3 days for a checkup. In the meantime, we were just supposed to let Hammy rest.

So we brought him home...warm, comfy and breathing normally. He was even lifting his head and looking around.

And two hours later, he simply stopped breathing.

It was a miserable night. Went ahead and woke Dayna up to tell her the bad news. We figured if she woke up on her own in the middle of the night and discovered him, it would be even worse.

Oh, the tears. The hugs. The loss of words for the sweet hamster that she loved so much. It had been 3 months and 1 day since he joined our family. Way too short of a time.

We knew when we got a hamster he wouldn't last for years and years...but this was just so much more than the tender heart of Dayna could process on her own. And with much prayer for wisdom, we did our best to help her through it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Great Park Adventure

Summer is winding down, and we were looking for an end-of-the-summer adventure that wouldn't break the bank. So this morning, the girls and I began the Great Park Adventure. We scoped out 5 somewhat local playgrounds (within a 45 minute drive) and decided to test them all. Dayna and I came up with 7 factors that would be important in choosing a playground.
  1. Number of things to do (Is it a large enough park to hold your interest?)
  2. Fun factor (Are those activities engaging and entertaining - or in Mom's eyes...How hard was it to get the kids to leave?)
  3. Toddler factor (Are there enough activities for a toddler to be able to play independently?)
  4. Big kid factor (Are there enough activities to keep a big kid occupied?)
  5. Parent factor (This category was Dayna's idea, but I'm glad she came up with it. I looked at things like whether or not there were restrooms, how safe the equipment appeared, if there were comfortable places to sit, was there shade, and how well I could see the entire playground and supervise my kids.)
  6. Imagination factor (Could the play structure be a castle with a trapped princess? A ship in shark-infested waters? How well could the kids use their imaginations while they were playing?)
  7. Overall Score (We talked about how to average the first 6 scores to come up with the final mark. Yes...we're talking math during the summer!)
We then rated each factor on a 5-star scale.

* = Hated it
** = Didn't like it
*** = Liked it
**** = Really liked it
***** = Loved it

We had such a good time today, that we're pretty sure we'll be adding more playgrounds to our list. The best part: the only cost was gas money.

Park #1 - Chestnut Ridge Neighborhood Park at 217th St and Highview in Gretna

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Ready for some fun
Off they go!
Loved the fish bridge
Inside the fish bridge - bones to climb
The rock wall was a giant dinosaur tail
Hard to see, but on the rock wall, there were "fossils" embedded in the rocks.
Second play structure with wiggly monkey bars and a really tall fireman pole. The bridge across the top was super narrow, like a balance beam, with high angled rails.

This was a really fun little neighborhood park. The surfaces were either sand or pea gravel. No restrooms were available. There was a shady spot for a picnic table and one bench.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: ***
  2. Fun factor: ***
  3. Toddler factor: ***
  4. Big kid factor: ****
  5. Parent factor: ***
  6. Imagination: **** (a paleontologist's dream!)
  7. Overall score:  3.3
Park #2 - Peterson Memorial Park at Angus and Cherokee Streets in Gretna

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Buffalo benches
Sister love
See-saws are always a hit in Dayna's book
Off to the stars!
The spinning globe was kind of cool
Pretty small and contained play structure

This was a okay city park. Probably our least favorite of the day. It was quite shady. There were no restroom facilities. There are some picnic shelters nearby, as well as basketball courts. The city pool is next door. The playground surface was barkdust. The equipment was older, but not unsafe.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: ***
  2. Fun factor: ***
  3. Toddler factor: ***
  4. Big kid factor: ***
  5. Parent factor: ***
  6. Imagination: **
  7. Overall score:  2.8
Park #3 - Zorinski Lake - South Playground at 156th and F Streets in Millard

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Let me show you how to climb
Preschool area
A little ark (where Annie and an adorable little blond boy snuck a quick hug and kiss when they didn't know their moms were watching.)
Treehouse with sand buckets on pulleys

There were so many things to do here! The swing structures included traditional swings, toddler swings, chair swings and a tire swing. There was a complete wonderland for smaller children. Lots of shade and benches. There was a full rest area-style bathroom one parking lot away. The play structures were a bit faded with time, but didn't seem to diminish any of the fun. Some of the toddler pieces were made from wood that might have a possibility of splintering, and part of the big-kid structure was made of metal with a possibility of getting really hot. The surfaces were barkdust or sand. The sand in the preschool area was incorporated into play through the treehouse bucket and pulley and some sand tables. There are also plenty of nature trails and paths to explore. This would be an easy park to spend the better part of a day.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: *****
  2. Fun factor: *****
  3. Toddler factor: *****
  4. Big kid factor: *****
  5. Parent factor: **** (so close to 5, but the hot metal and splinters were a bit of a concern)
  6. Imagination: *****
  7. Overall score:  4.8 
Park #4 - Elk Creek Crossing Park at 163rd and Ames in Omaha

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Compact structure with a lot to do
Gorgeous girls!
  This was another fun neighborhood park. It is next door to a fabulous spray park, but for the purpose of our research, we didn't factor in the water play. There were no restrooms. Because it's a new neighborhood, there aren't many established trees for producing shade yet. None of the slides were exceptionally tall, and the entire structure was of moderate size. There were three different kinds of monkey bars. For a smaller structure, there seemed to be a lot of things to do. The entire playground is set up in a circle, and I could see both girls wherever they went. The kids seemed pretty self-sufficient and not needing assistance with any part of the play structure. There is also a large field nearby to get out some extra wiggles. The surface was a sand/pea gravel mix.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: ***
  2. Fun factor: ***
  3. Toddler factor: ****
  4. Big kid factor: ****
  5. Parent factor: ***
  6. Imagination: ****
  7. Overall score:  3.5  
Park #5 - Lawrence Youngman Lake at 192nd and West Dodge Road in Elkhorn

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Time for a picnic
One way to see-saw
And another
Extremely interactive
How Spiderman trains
Drums and patterns
The red balls were chimes that you struck with the eighth notes.
Toddler area - more drums and chimes
That's Dayna near the top of the web

Making some music!
This was an innovative playground, where your body determines the action of the play structure. It involved a lot of climbing and bouncing. Other than the toddler area, there were no slides. There was a port-a-potty on site, and several benches around the playground. Shade is limited. The surfaces were ground rubber or sand. I particularly loved the interactive music and art/patterns areas.

Our scoring system:
  1. Number of things to do: *****
  2. Fun factor: *****
  3. Toddler factor: *****
  4. Big kid factor: *****
  5. Parent factor: ****
  6. Imagination: ****
  7. Overall score:  4.7
 We'll definitely be doing this again. We will probably be adding Mahoney State Park at some point, but because it's so familiar to us, we may not be as objective. I'd love it if you'd leave some comments on this post to include playgrounds we can explore in the future!