Read Instead...

Without books I honestly believe that life would be boring. I say this because as a young child reading was my escape. Escape from the real world, and any dramatic thing that was going on in my life. Reading fuels up the imagination, and when you're reading a great book whether happy or sad it's even better. I remember the times when ever I read a "happy" book I'd sometimes picture myself as the protagonist. The main character who is usually the good guy. The one who is usually happy, young, sweet, carefree, always having a good attitude. I love books like that. I also love books that are tear jerkers and give us pure joy. I love books that may have heartache in it too, with happy endings. Intense books are a must too, because sometimes we need that little pick me up. Reading the Watcher in the Woods at the age of ten was pretty intense for me because of the storyline. It's about a family with two girls who move away from their comfort zone into unfamiliar territory to a house near the woods where they both feel that someone or something is watching them. I pictured myself in that dark place trying to figure out who or what was watching, and how to resolve that. I need to read that book again because I forgot how the ending went. I love books that teach us the meaning of life, true stories of then and now, and books that help us grow spiritually. I love all kinds of books, and I am extremely grateful to have a house full of kids who actually enjoy reading them. 

You can imagine my giddiness when Noah came up to me the other day requesting he'd get a library card. I know he got that idea from his sister. Summer reading is upon us, and there are a ton of books to catch up on. One thing I love about the summer reading program are the incentives they offer for reading all summer long. I know that some kind of 'treat' is given, but not sure what kind. I had to give Chelsea one of my 'mom pushes' to read this year, but in all honesty she kind of struggles. Although she's an excellent reader, and pronounces her words correctly she would rather play outside, watch Disney movies, or play games on the computer (which I don't allow too much of lately.) Yay me! However, ever since school ended she has shown a vast interest in reading. Probably because of the 'mom push' I've been giving her, or the fact that I bought this print which gives her the motivation to read instead of playing games, and/or watching television. I also think the fact that Lexie won a scholarship, and money for being the winner of two award winning essays gave her more encouragement. I mentioned to her how reading books make you smarter, which in a lot of cases helps your vocabulary become more extensive, hence writing good stories. She really looks up to her sisters, and wants to read like lightening, and be smart like them. As Lexie and I were discussing Chelsea's struggles in reading, Lexie mentioned to me how she remembered the time we lived in North Carolina and how her second grade teacher awarded every month throughout the school year with coupons for a personal pan pizza from Pizza hut every time she read book that was at least 500 pages long. Because of that incentive she wanted to read more and more...and boy did she read a ton (still does!) Same with Sierra. 

Too bad the school here doesn't offer coupons for free pizza, but they do award certificates, and...a pencil. A pencil?? Really?? I guess I should be grateful huh? Well...I decided to do my own rewarding just like I did last year when she read. Last week we went to the library and checked out a couple of books, and made it a point to take a trip to the library at least once a week this summer. One thing that made my heart melt is seeing how excited Noah was when he got his very first library card. 
He demanded a picture, and so I snapped a few as he was wondering around  trying to figure out which books piqued his interest.  
^^^ He wanted this dictionary, but I told him we already had one at home! ^^^
Even though Chelsea is not a voracious reader (yet) like her sisters I am happy that she at least knows the importance of reading. She is entering the fourth grade this fall, and I think reality is beginning to hit her as she gets older. Knowing that there is going to be more homework, and less recess. As long as I continue to give her that 'mom push' she'll eventually have the desire to read on her own, and it's already beginning.  

Philadelphia International Music Festival.

It only took two days since school ended for Lexie to go away and spend two weeks at Bryn Mawr college where the Philadelphia International Music Festival is being held.  

The PIMF is a summer music program where she will be residing for 14 days. I was so excited when I got the phone call informing me that she won the Alice Downs Scholarship for young violinists! Lexie's violin teacher encouraged her to apply for the scholarship where she had to compose a 300 word essay on the importance of classical music studies for youth.

And she nailed it!

She received the scholarship, and for the next two weeks Bryn Mawr will be her home.

She is done with her first week, and guess how many times I've talked with her on the phone? Twice. Texted? Three times in the morning to wish her a good day. It looks like the experience with Sierra being gone since January has helped me to deal with the fact that Lexie is gone too. Luckily it's only for two weeks and not five months! She said that it is a very intensive program. She absolutely loves it, and has already made new friends. I wasn't nervous or afraid to send her off into unfamiliar territory. Then again it's not like she's across the country or anything, plus she's a very mature 14 year old with a very good head on her shoulders.

I was very impressed with the staff at orientation, and all that this program is offering Lexie. She is one lucky girl being that this festival offers private lessons, and master classes with a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, daily music education courses, chamber music rehearsals, and competition opportunities. When I was talking to Lexie she said that her arm was so sore from constant practicing, and playing, but is now is getting used to it. Apparently they're working the heck out of her, and I think that's a great thing! She is really focusing on learning so much from the staff, and their teachings. So far she is loving it, and we are looking forward to the grand finale concert on the fourth of July.

Bryn Mawr is a beautiful area in Pennsylvania, and the campus is nice. It kind of reminded me of Princeton. Lexie's dorm is nostalgic, and the doors have stained glass windows. Apparently they were decorated, and I had a chance to snap a few photos of two that caught my eye. I didn't want to be a creeper, and take pictures of every single dorm door, but these two caught my attention. 

Harry Potter, and Peter Pan anyone??

As we were walking around campus we spotted some hammocks where Noah and Chelsea relaxed for a few. They have them them all hanging against a line of trees. I think it's pretty cool for the school to have them there for students to just kick back and relax. 
It has felt a little "off" having my two oldest daughters away from me, but luckily it's only temporary and that I'll have them both home soon. It has been nice giving my full attention to these two. There are times when Noah will tell me that he misses his sister, and how he can't wait for her to leave the castle! He said that Lexie's a princess living in a castle. I have to agree with him!
We are so proud of her for yet another amazing accomplishment and hope that she will come home mastering the violin better than when she left. Even if it doesn't affect her long term in becoming a musician (she'd like to be a doctor) knowing that she has a skill in playing beautiful music on her violin is good enough for me. She can always take that with her no matter where life will take her. And no matter what she decides to do with her life...she'll never stop playing her violin. 

Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn.

^^^ Kudos to my husband in taking this shot of the Manhattan Bridge with the Empire State Building in the center! ^^^
Summer is becoming my favorite time of the year, and so is Brooklyn. Brooklyn rules this time of year with so many places to go and see. Every time we come to the city we usually go to Manhattan but on this day we decided to walk the sidewalks of Brooklyn. I truly love it here, and the kids did not want to leave. I think it's the fact that they would prefer riding a scooter over driving in a car, parks that have fountains where you can wear your bathing suit and get wet, eat good pizza, Coney Island, and having a nicely, beautifully renovated carousel for all to ride in Brooklyn Bridge Park.  
An interesting fact about this carousel is that it was created by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1922, and in the '80's an awesome couple bought the entire carousel at an auction rather than it being sold piece by piece, and refurbished it. You can imagine how this carousel looked like when they bought it, and having it renovated must have taken a lot of work. Apparently they scraped off 62 years of "park paint" with an X acto knife so that you can see its original 1922 carvings in the horses...WoW! The couple then donated it to the city of New York and now has its permanent home in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. It is such a beautiful carousel and the kids loved it. The best thing about the ride is the scenery. You literally are in between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge and that is an added bonus. The price isn't too bad either. It only costs 2 bucks to ride, and as long as Noah stays under a certain height he gets in free! We could have ridden this over and over again. Why not when there are three rows of 48 horses to choose from! It was so awesome and I guarantee we will be coming back again. 
^^^ Mandatory pics with our main man... ^^^
Walking the streets of Brooklyn can be tiring especially when you're used to driving more than walking and we had us some hungry kiddies...including us! We have always eaten pizza at Grimaldi's whenever we go to Hoboken, but just found out about another pizza place that's right next door to Grimaldi's called Juliana's. And let me tell you...I personally prefer Juliana's over Grimaldi's. Sorry Grims...but it's a fact. Everything about Juliana's pizza was perfect. The taste, and how they take their time in making it. I can tell that the owners priority about this pizza is the quality...not the quantity. It was absolutely delicious, and I'll tell you something...we will be back for more! 

^^^ Don't you just love Noah's expression on his face. ^^^
There are days when I just want to pinch myself because of all the things that I am allowing to do with our family. Taking my kids outside of Jersey, and exposing them to a variety of culture, and there is so much of that here in New York. This week has been pretty awesome, and although I miss Lexie, and Sierra coming with us on our trips I still manage to take these two out into the 'real world' to fuel their imaginations while in the city.

And it never gets old.

We just keep coming back for more.

Class of 2014...Lewis Indian for Life.

It's surreal to have had Lexie graduating from the same middle school as her sister did. Reason I say this is because Sierra went to three different middle schools in two different states, and we seriously thought that Lexie would be graduating eighth grade from a totally different school in a different state as well. To tell you the truth it feels good to finally have some stability when it comes to the girls education. So far we have managed to stay put in the same state for six years, and have Lexie be in the same school district since the third grade! Luckily God had different plans for us and obviously the timing to move to the New England area was not meant to be, and after seeing all the experiences Lexie has gone through with all the friends she has I realized that she was totally meant to stay in Jersey to conclude her eighth grade year here at Lewis.
And I'm glad.

Glad because who knows if she would have participated in volunteering to have her head shaven for cancer research, be chosen as a Lewis Legend, be recognized for her award-winning Safety essay, be chosen as Lewis' Shining Star, and receive the Anthony Graves Music Department award, and other amazing accomplishments had she attended another school in a different state. Who knows...who knows. 

All I know is that she was indeed meant to stay here not only for herself, but for others as well. The Lord has blessed her with so many successes, and experiences for her to grow, and learn. As I see those blessings pouring down upon her reassures me that she...we are supposed to continue to reside here in the Garden state.

I will always remember Mr. Nichols, and his witty sense of humor calling Lexie "the girl from Connecticut." He teased her with that saying all year long! One thing for sure is how happy he was to have found her name on his list of students for advisory for this year. Even though she told him she wouldn't be returning next year he never removed her name from the list. It was as if he knew she wasn't really going to move. Imagine his surprise when she actually walked into his class on the first day of school. He was so thrilled. It definitely has been a good three years for them. 

^^^ Photo collage of the band students that was given as a gift from all the band kids. ^^^
I was amazed at how crowded graduation night was. I don't recall Sierra's graduation being this crazy,  and filled to capacity! Oh...and get a load of this throwback photo of Sierra. She hasn't changed a bit on looks where I feel as if Lexie has changed a ton! So proud of our girls for the lovely young women they are growing up to be!
^^^ Sierra, circa 2009 & Lexie Class of 2014 ^^^
The past three years for Lexie at Lewis have been phenomenal. I look back at all her accomplishments and we are extremely proud of her. 
Noah and Chelsea were so excited for her too! They constantly wanted to take pictures with her all evening long.
Just a note to the Lewis Class of 2014:

Congratulations on your advancement on moving on up to high school. Y'all have so much more to look forward too. Always keep focused in all that you do especially when it comes to your academics, and in living a life filled with light, kindness, good friends, and in being yourself. It's your turn to shine, and like the banner reads that the school made in memory of your class "There's A Place For Us" there will definitely be a place for you in this world. 

Keep up the excellent work, and never give up on your dreams! 


Happy Summer To Us & A New Job For The Hubs.

After all those snow days we had that caused our kids to end school one week after their original release date I feel that we deserve many vacations this summer. The fact that all my girls passed with flying colors to their next grade level makes me one proud mama. So glad that school is out, and that we are ready to have our summer "officially" begin. 

But first...

Remember when I wrote this post about my hubby having his birthday wish come true? Well, it finally came true! It only took about five months, and a looooooootttt of praying filled with a looooootttt of gratitude. I'm sure some of you Jersey locals have probably heard the news of Jon's new employment by now, but for my online viewers, and friends from afar... it's official. 

Jon is now an official full time employee with the United Parcel Service which means he'll get full paid benefits, and weekends off, yay!!! (and the pay isn't too bad!) double yay! I know there will be times when he'll miss working in a public forum where he interacts with customers, and talking sales, but I know this for sure...he will not miss the retail hours or working on Sundays! When he worked with UPS during the holidays last year he really enjoyed it. First of all he loves to drive, and the fact that he will be hopping in and out of his truck being on a schedule will help him to get into shape. He would talk to me about some of the areas he'd deliver in and how some of those homes have long driveways in which you can't park your truck that have steep hills where you actually have to get down and walk a good 200 feet just to get to their porch. He got quite a workout for those two months, and I remember how quickly he began to lose a bit of weight. "Who needs a gym when you have UPS as a job right?" Is what I said to him. This was a tender mercy moment that came from The Lord, and Jon is so, so happy! He was estatic when he got the call, and I'm so grateful for this blessing that has been handed to him. So extremely happy for him. So with all the patience, and hardships we endured for the past 10 months of trial after trial praying our hearts out, in figuring out what the next step in our life was going to be I think we deserve a lot of mini-vacations this summer. First of all we never let our spirit go downhill, or lost our faith in ourselves, but most of all God. Time is of the essence and only God knows what he's doing at the time we need it. Everything is on a timetable, and having experienced trials in the past...I know this to be true. Trials will continue to come, and because of the strength and faith that I've had I'm willing to take anything God throws in my direction. Things happen for a reason folks, and I'm a firm believer in that! 

Anyway, the kids can't be more excited for summer plans, and I'm praying and hoping that sweet Sierra will be up our way soon. Not sure how long she'll stay with us as she has a job she wants to keep back in Utah so she can establish residency and go to a university for a lot less, but I'm hoping it's enough time to give her lots of hugs, go to the beach, New York City, and the temple. The way we spontaneously do things in this family when it comes to road trips I'm sure that'll happen. 

Oh, the places we'll go! 

Scenes of a Beach Day.

With Jon having a day off from work this past Monday and with the kids having half days off from school for the rest of the week we decided to spontaneously go to the beach. I have been craving the ocean since the weather got hot, and this time we all dived into the water. Well...most of us did.

I honestly believe that I prefer the beach over mountains, and summer over winter. Living in Texas for the first 20 years of my life has kept me acclimated to the warm weather, and I love it. However there are times when the heat can be a little too much, but not on this day. The weather cooperated, and it was perfect. Not like how it was this past Memorial weekend where the water was freezing cold, and all we did was play in the sand. The water was a perfect temperature which was surprising because northern beaches are usually freezing cold...even during the summer! 

We had so much fun today, and here are some scenes of our wonderful afternoon...

It seems that all Noah wants to do the entire time at the beach is attempt to build a sandcastle, and just play in the sand. He loves the water, but on this day he just wanted to play in the sand.
and like a good mom I set this book that I'm currently reading (which is riveting by the way) aside, and joined in on the fun with him. 
After a while he went into the water with Lexie, but wading in past his belly is as far as he went. Perhaps if we get him a boogie board he'll be more tempted to go in full swing! He said the water was still too cold for him. Playing in the sand, and finding seashells are his favorite things to do when we arrive!
^^^ mandatory pic of my man with muscle! haha ^^^
^^^ here are a few seashells Noah & I found while walking around the beach. ^^^
^^^ this girl is so lucky to have super short hair this summer...and she looks so chic! ^^^
I absolutely love living super close to the beach. I count my blessings for having a running car that takes us there! For the past few weeks we've had car troubles. Nothing major just minor things that needed repairing which were easy fixes, but's so nice to have a vehicle to take you places! That is one thing I never take for granted, and if we have one I'm going to use it to my advantage and go to the beach every chance we get! Especially this summer!
This week has been off to a great start, and we look forward to more days at the beach! We'll be back soon! 

Happy Wednesday!