Sunday, August 28, 2011

First Day of School

August 8th was a big day for Joshua... his very first day of first grade! I think we were more nervous about it than he was.

We had met his teacher, Mrs. Dobyns, the week before and got to see his super cool classroom, so he was really excited to get started. On the big day we all went together to see him off. It was a bit more of a madhouse than what we were used to since his last school was SO much smaller, but despite the hundreds (and hundreds) of people, everything was very well organized and the chaos was at a minimum. We parked across the street and walked up to his new digs.

We found where he was supposed to line up ad before we knew it, he was off to class. He was so brave. He didn't cling, cry, whine or even hesitate to follow his class inside. He had a great first day, and first week, doing a great job on all of his school work and making a couple new friends. He just loves being a Brisas Gecko. :)

The following week, Benny started Pre-K at North Phoenix Baptist Church. His teacher from last year, who he loved, moved up to Pre-K so Benny was super excited to have another year with Ms. Debbie. I'm sure it will be a great year for both of them!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Escaping the Heat

Seems like just yesterday Joshua graduated from Kindergarten, but before we knew it, he was ready to start 1st Grade. To celebrate the end of summer, we decided to get out of town for a weekend, heading toward cooler temperatures.

We jumped in the car Saturday morning and headed up north to Prescott. Since it was the first Saturday of the month, we thought it would be fun to stop at the Home Depot in Prescott Valley and do the Kids Workshop. The kids love doing them so much.

After our projects were done, we drove the rest of the way into Prescott to Lynx Lake for a nice hike. It is so pretty there!

We had an awesome time hiking around the lake, and the kids were awesome, holding up really well on the 2 mile trek. We brought notebooks for both of them to write down the things they saw that they wanted to remember.

We had a couple minor wildlife sightings, including hundreds of beautiful dragonflies in all sorts of colors, some big lizards and a really pretty crane.

After hour hike we had a picnic lunch, then got back in the car to start making our way toward Flagstaff. It was so nice to be in no hurry to get there, and have no agenda. We took the "long way" to Flagstaff from Prescott, up the 89A. That is probably my single most favorite road to drive in Arizona. You go through forest, canyons, mountains, and the cutest little towns like Jerome, and of course Sedona. By the time we got to Sedona, it was time to get out of the car for a while to stretch our legs, and get a little treat.

We continued up the 89A, through Oak Creek Canyon (Beautiful!)...

... and finally reached or hotel in Flagstaff. After getting checked in we went to dinner at the Mormon Lake Lodge south of Flagstaff. It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere and has all sorts of animal heads on the wall, which the boys thought was super cool.

After dinner, it was pitch black outside, and being in the middle of nowhere, with no street lights, etc. anywhere near, we took the opportunity to show the boys some real stars. The moon was full so the stars weren't as visible as they would be without the moon being so bright, but it was definitely more than we can see in the city.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel, and had a great breakfast at "Mike & Rhonda's The Place". After breakfast we headed back home so we could make sure we had everything ready for the big first day of school the next day. What a fun way to end the summer!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Super Reader

Josh started showing interest and ability in reading rather young. Right after he turned 4 years old we started learning our letters, letter sounds and then sight words. He picked it all up so fast I figured he would be independently reading in no time. But after he started kindergarten and he was learning SO much, his reading definitely slowed, if not stalled, for quite some time. It was like it just wasn't clicking with him, and that with all the other school work he was doing there just wasn't room in that 5 year old brain to fit in excelling reading.

Then we started to notice some things that started to concern us a little bit. He would be able to read certain words with no problem, but then simple words, like "we" he would stumble on and just couldn't figure them out. That with a few other red flags had me researching symptoms of dyslexia or other learning disabilities. Not that I was convinced he had any of them, but figured a little due diligence wouldn't hurt anything. My main concern was that he wouldn't be up to par with the rest of the kids in the reading department when he started 1st grade at his new school in August. I talked to his doctor about it at his well check after his 6th birthday, and she gave me some suggestions and some other things to look out for, but didn't seem too concerned about it, so that encouraged me.

Then over the summer, something has happened. It's like the little reading switch has all of a sudden been turned on. The man is a reading machine! He is reading everything in sight. He still needs help with some of the larger words, but he is now to the point where he reads by himself. It's too cute, because he doesn't yet read silently, so whenever he's reading a book, even if he's all alone, he reads it out loud to himself. I love it! I feel like any concerns I did have are totally gone and I'm confident he'll definitely be able to hold his own in 1st grade!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Joshua's First Retina Rodeo

Joshua started wearing glasses when he was just 3 1/2 years old. We've known all along that neither of our kids would probably have a prayer of not needing any kind of vision correction. So I have been taking him for annual visits to the ophthalmologist ever since. This year, I took Benny as well. We weren't surprised to find that he also needed glasses. I was a little sad to put glasses on his little face, but I think they suit him well.

Joshua also got some new glasses that he thinks are super cool. He is super sensitive to sunlight and must always wear sunglasses when outside or else the poor guy can't function. So his new glasses have the Transitions lenses, which change from regular glasses to sunglasses when exposed to UV rays. They're pretty awesome and he absolutely loves them!

While we were at the ophthalmologist's office, the doctor said that Joshua's optic nerves looked large, which would mean there was a pressure issue, or it could mean nothing, so we were sent to a retina specialist to have a little more extensive check. At the retina specialists' office, they took an OCT scan of Joshua's eyes which showed some abnormalities. The doctor said these kinds of abnormalities were something normally found in a 50 year old, not a 6 year old. Joshua's sensitivity to light kind of hindered the physical eye exam. The poor guy was trying so hard to keep his eyes open, but he just couldn't. In light of the abnormalities shown in the OCT scan, the retina specialist wanted to take a good look at his eyes, and thought that putting Joshua under general anesthesia was the way to go. We scheduled the procedure at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Joshua was so super brave! We showed up at the hospital and were taken into preop, where Joshua was given a total of 12 eye drops in each eye. But he took them like a champ!

The hospital was so great. They had a child life specialist who came in and talked to him about what the operating room would look like, the mask they would use to help him go to sleep, and also offered him some movies to watch while we waited for the doctor and anesthesiologist to be ready for us.

Finally it was time to roll. Joshua got to take a ride on his bed back to the OR, which he thought was pretty cool, and he wasn't scared at all! After about an hour the anesthesiologist came out and told us Joshua was in recovery and resting comfortably. We found out that his retinas had some weak spots that the doctor had to use the laser on to strengthen them. All part of being part of the Duncan family! When Josh finally woke up, he was in a bit of pain, saying his eyes felt like fire and his brain hurt, and did throw up a couple times, but after some pain meds was a bit more comfortable. We came home and he pretty much drifted in and out of consciousness the rest of the day, but didn't complain too much more of pain or nausea. This was yesterday. He slept well all night and this morning woke up just about good as new. His eyes are still a little red and he says they still hurt a little, but otherwise he was perfectly normal!

The doctor sounded a little concerned that he had to take any kind of action at Joshua's young age, but early intervention is definitely the key to keeping Joshua's eyes healthy, and we will do whatever it takes to keep his eyes in tip top shape!

Happy 6th Birthday, Joshua!

Joshua had the best birthday party this year! We celebrated the big 6 with a bowling party! It was so much fun! Lots of friends, and even his kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Harren, came to celebrate with him and enjoy some bowling, pizza and of course cake.

Benny was probably the cutest bowler I've ever seen. He would push the ball down the alley and wait in a squat to see how many pins he knocked over. It was so super cute!

When I asked Joshua what he wanted for a birthday cake, his one requirement was that I also made "cake pops", so I decided to combine the two and set up a cake pop bowling alley on his cake. It turned out so cute, and suited the party perfectly!

The day ended with a few games in the arcade!

What a perfect way to celebrate a truly amazing little boy! Happy birthday, Joshua!

Joshua's Kindergarten Graduation

It is unbelievable how quickly Joshua's kindergarten year passed us by. It seems like just yesterday we were watching him take his first steps into the kindergarten room and learning how to say the pledge of allegiance. Before we knew it, the school year was over and it was time for his graduation into 1st grade!

The graduation ceremony was incredible, and really showcased all the wonderful things they learned throughout the year. They showed us all the Italian they learned, like colors, counting, days of the week, months of the year, and even the "30 Days Has September" poem. They all did awesome! They also sang the "Can't Spell Hippopotamus" song and all read a story aloud to the crowd to show us the awesome reading skills they had developed throughout the year.

Then it was time for the big moment, the handing of the diploma!

Joshua had the greatest teacher for Kindergarten, and we thank her so much for a wonderful year. Joshua made Mrs. Harren a special book telling her all the things he loved about Kindergarten. It was so sweet!

All of Joshua's grandparents came and celebrated his special day with him, too!

Following the ceremony was a cake reception. I was so honored to be able to make the cake for the celebration. Since there were only 7 kids in the class, I decided to put all of their little faces on the cake, and personalize it as best I can. It was a huge hit.

The kids were so cute when they saw it. They were all so excited to see their faces on the cake. They all were saying "I see me!" So cute!

After graduation we let Joshua pick where we got to go have a special dinner, and he picked the "Cafe", known to most as the buffet. :)

It really was an amazing year and we are so happy we kept Joshua at North Phoenix Baptist Church for Kindergarten, because we were completley blessed by it! Now on to 1st grade and a brand new school!

Wilton Method Instructor!

At the end of last year, I took the Wilton Method classes at Michael's, and found I was actually pretty good at it! My teacher and new friend, Hollie, had been asking me to become a teacher ever since I finished the classes. In May I finally accepted and am now teaching classes 1-2 times per week at the Ahwatukee Michael's store!

I am having a total blast teaching other people how to do something I am so passionate about myself. I have already gotten to meet so many great people, and have made some great new friends. Plus, it's a great gig. I get to make some extra money, plus get employee discounts at both Michael's and the Wilton online store, which has really come in handy with all the cakes I have been making for my business! And all for just a couple hours of work per week. Not a bad gig!

Winter/Spring Garden

It's so great to live in a climate where we can grow things all year long. We had a super successful winter garden this past year. Carrots, spinach and some awesomely huge, and tasty, snow peas.

Thanks to the garden, Joshua discovered this love of spinach. Ever since he tasted the spinach from our garden, he can't get enough!

In addition to the garden, we finally planted a couple citrus trees in the backyard. We decided on an orange tree and a pink grapefruit tree. Orange Tree:

Grapefruit Tree:

We planted the trees back in March. The orange tree is doing great. Unfortunately, it looks like the grapefruit tree has succumbed to the heat, so it will probably have to be replaced once the summer is over.

We also have gotten two grape vines. They are still young, but hopefully next year we'll have some yummy homegrown grapes!

Our spring garden just wasn't super successful this year. We planted tomatoes, zucchini, and corn. Everything sprouted and grew tall, but nothing other than the tomatoes...

...was exceptionally fruitful. We got a couple good zucchini (which were delicious cooked on the grill!), but we certainly didn't have an abundance of zucchini (thanks to the bees stealing my pollen!), and our corn cobs just didn't grow kernels, which kind of made them look like "hillbilly teeth". LOL! Oh well, gardening is still fun! :)

Welcome to 2005!

We aren't the "Keeping up with the Jones'" kind of people. Our technology is never the latest and greatest. We typically keep our stuff until it dies and we are forced to upgrade. The TV in our living room was originally purchased in about 1997 (no joke) and probably weighed about 150 lbs. We have be praying for something to go out on the darn thing to force us into the upgrade we so desperately wanted but couldn't justify. At the beginning of this year, we decided to say screw it, and bought a brand new HD TV. Of course with that, brought many other upgrades, HD DVR, Blue Ray, and we can now officially say we have entered 2005!

But we couldn't stop there! We have also finally given in to the world of the "Smart Phone". Our cell contract was up earlier this year, and we decided to bite the bullet and got ourselves iPhones. How we survived without them this long I'll never know! How wonderful it is to be able to find anything we need in unfamiliar areas, have driving directions available wherever we are, and I can't lie, being able to have 8 simultaneous games of Scrabble going at once is pretty cool! :)

We still have a few things around here to upgrade, i.e. the TV in our bedroom that I got as my high school graduation gift! But we're definitely moving up the technology ladder lately, and having a great time doing it!

Home Makeover

When our house was damaged in that huge storm last January, we learned how horrible the windows on the south side of our house were (you know it's bad when you have to make sure your windowsills are stuffed with towels whenever the forecast called for rain!), and the door in our bedroom to the backyard we knew had definitely seen better days. In April we bit the bullet and decided to replace it all! What a difference it makes!







My friend, Ricky (who I have known since 1st grade) has is own window company and did the work for us. He did a fantastic job and cut us a great deal. We are so happy with this home improvement. And it is already saving us money on our energy bill! Home ownership is always a work in progress, especially when you have a 25 year old house. We've got a lot left to do on our house, but we're pleased with the progress we have made so far!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do I Still Have a Blog???

I just realized it's been 2 months... 2 MONTHS!!! since I've blogged. Ugh! I hate falling this far behind, and I have so much to share. But I really don't know where I can find the time to get caught up! We are kid-free this weekend (thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!) so I hope to be able to devote a little time to getting caught up. So for anyone out there still checking in, please check back soon. I promise I will have some new posts soon! :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fitness Quest 2011

No, I haven't totally abandoned our blog. It just seems my time to sit down and write has been very scarce these days. But it's for good reason! For the last few months I have had a nagging thought in my subconsious that 1) I'm not getting any younger; and 2) my weight had become a little more difficult to control. So right after Christmas I decided to get serious about taking care of myself. I had noticed some of the weight that I lost a couple years ago had crept back, and I really wanted to get rid of it and get back down to where I was before. But more than that, I wanted to feel healthy. I didn't want to be sluggish and tired anymore. So I started working out, and adjusted my eating habits, and after a few weeks I had lost about 10 pounds! I'm really proud of myself for keeping it up for nearly 4 months now and have definitely noticed a change in my energy and strength levels. And to top it all off, I just bought 2 pairs of shorts in a size 6!!! I go through highs and lows of my motivation to work out, but so far, even in the totaly unmotivated times, I've been able to get myself back into it. I don't really feel like I need to lose any more weight (although I wouldn't cry if I lost 5 more pounds or so...) so now I'm just trying to focus on being healthy. I hope that now that I have found my groove, I can keep it up and continue challenging myself with more intense workouts to get a stronger, healthier me!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Belated Christmas Recap

I am still so behind on blogging! Before we are officially in February I thought it might be a good idea to finally post about Christmas!

As events go, this Christmas was just about the same as last year, but the excitement level was through the roof this year!

One thing we like to do during the Christmas season is go see the light display at McCormick Ranch Railroad Park. We had talked about having a play date there sometime with Benny's little girlfriend Maddie, so we thought it would be fun to invite their family to come along with us (Maddie's dad couldn't come so her mom brought a friend along to help out). The night we went turned out to be the opening night of the light display, so the lines were unbelievably long. But the kids sufficiently entertained each other so the hour long wait just flew by. Here we are ready to go!

The kids loved the train ride and the lights, and when we got off the train, they loved to dance to the live music and ride the carousel.

When the big day finally rolled around the boys could hardly stand it! We spent Christmas Eve morning visiting my Grandma. We don't get to see her very often, and it is always a treat for her to see the little ones. Although it can sometimes be a challenge to have the boys over there, they did a great job, so afterward we rewarded them with lunch at McDonalds. After a quick nap, we were ready to keep rolling with the Christmas festivities! We went to church, and again the boys were superstars. Joshua was even clapping and singing along with the Christmas carols. After church we headed out to Grandma and Grandpa B's to celebrate with that branch of the family tree. It is always so fun to get all of the cousins together and watch them all enjoy their new toys!

We can usually count on the kids completely wearing themselves out at Grandma and Grandpa's house, but not this year! They were completely wired the whole way home, talking about the fun they had, and that Santa was on his way. But even though they were so awake, they got in bed at lightning speed when we got home. In fact, Joshua even tucked Ben in before he jumped into this bed. It was too funny. They both went to sleep without a peep. Benny woke up at about 7:00 and so we went in to get Joshua up. It was like the kid was on a springboard! He was waiting so patiently for us to come get him, but was definitely ready to go! We spent the morning opening our gifts and stockings, and just having a lot of fun together.

Grandpa and Grandma Maple and Auntie Andrea came over for breakfast. We had a nice time visiting and sharing more gifts. The rest of the day was spent hanging out, playing with new toys.

This Christmas, I decided to go on strike and declared that I would NOT be making Christmas dinner. So we went and had a wonderful family dinner at Bucca di Beppo, and was it ever good! I'm sold on going out for Christmas dinner! :) After dinner we carried on our Christmas night tradition of driving around looking at Christmas lights, and enjoyed some Christmas cookies and cocoa along our way. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

The next day Christmas continued when we all gathered at my parents house for dinner. The kids all love getting together and pretty much entertain themselves, giving the adults some nice chatting time as well. My mom made a delicious prime rib with all the fixings and we all ate and drank and were very merry! :)

It was such a great time, and THIS time, they were sufficiently spent.

It really was the best Christmas ever!