Thursday, January 21, 2016

Like A Lion

January came in like a lion, fiercely roaring with wickedly cold weather and hectic schedules and new worries. It took us a little while to adjust and focus and we are finally getting into the swing of things again after the long holiday break. And thankfully the weather is finally giving us a little break and warming up. Things are looking up.

We started out the month with some stressful extended family problems (which aren't even worth getting into but caused me a great deal of angst) but even more worrisome was a sudden medical issue. As most of you probably remember Ben had eye surgery a few years ago to straighten out his eyes. The surgery was fairly successful in straightening out his eyes but the left eye has an almost undetectable tilt to it yet. You wouldn't notice in real life but you can sometimes see it in pictures. His left eye often has red eye while the other eye does not (because it is slightly turned it may catch the light from the flash differently than his right eye). Anyway, recently I noticed that the left eye was showing up white in pictures.
(if you click to enlarge the picture you can see the white eye)

A few weeks ago I read a post on Facebook saying that if you see that in your child you should immediately get him to an eye doctor because it is the number one indicator for cancer of the eye. Eye tilting is another indicator.

Of course I was alarmed. I reasoned that it is most likely just a coincidence from the eye's slight inward tilt and that Ben's eyes have been thoroughly checked and they were healthy. But the cautious side of me decided to set up an appointment with the doctor who did his eye surgery, just in case. When I called for an appointment I was told appointments were booking a month and a half out. When I explained the situation the receptionist called the doctor (she wasn't in that day) and they set up an appointment for me to bring Ben in the very next day. That was a little unnerving. The doc assured me that it was probably nothing but she didn't want me to sit around worrying.

The next day I took Ben in for his appointment (he thought it was just a routine eye check). I am VERY grateful to announce that his eyes are perfectly healthy and his vision is still better than 20/20. I can't tell you the relief. It was a stressful few days but it all turned out well. I am so glad I made the appointment just for our peace of mind. The whole situation helped me to put the rest of my "worries" in perspective.

The rest of the month has been less worrisome. We have been crazy busy but it is all good stuff.

Grace has been pestering me to cut her hair. Her hair is SO long that I thought maybe she could grow it out just a little more and then donate the hair we cut to Children With Hair Loss. She liked that idea but just didn't have the patience to wait for her haircut. So, I finally gave in and cut her hair.
It turns out we probably could have donated her hair if I had just cut a little more off. I ended up cutting about 6 inches off but by the time I evened everything up all the way around it was closer to a total of 8 inches off. And she still has plenty of hair to put in a ponytail or to make a braid. I must admit, I was skeptical of cutting it, but it really is adorable. And so much easier to brush through! No more tears over snarly hair! Grace also decided she wants to try and grow her bangs out so we are training her bangs to part off to the side. We'll see how long this lasts. I have a feeling she is gonna get real sick of the midlength bangs getting in her face as they grow out. For now, however, her hair looks really cute.

Speaking of really cute. Grace is on the junior cheerleading team at school and their uniforms have finally come in. I had to get pics of Grace's first time cheering in her new uniform. Have mercy she looked adorable!!!!
She just loves being a cheerleader and cheering on her brothers at their basketball games. Too cute.

As if we aren't busy enough with basketball and cheerleading and Boy Scouts and school work and Science Fair projects (don't even get me started on this one), Joey and Tommy and I tried out for the school musical again. This year the school will be performing The Lion King Jr.
As I mentioned last year, these are not typical school plays. These are theater company quality shows. We are so lucky to have a director and producer who have majors in theater and amazing theater backgrounds and who are willing to donate their time to our little school. They really know what they are doing. Over the years (I think this is the 6th?? show) the shows have gotten bigger and better every year. This year over 60 kids tried out and I'm sure they would have had more kids willing to try out but it is only open to kids in grades 4-8 (much to my Ben's dismay).

Joe and Tommy did a great job practicing the songs. The Lion King is not one of the movies we are very familiar with. I had to rent it again just to refresh the kids' memory of what it was about. Tommy took auditioning VERY seriously and practiced over and over and over and over. He thought he would be a good fit for the role of Pumba. And I have to admit, he really cracked me up when he read the part. He did a great job. But part of the reason he wanted that part was because Pumba doesn't sing much. Tommy always told me, "singing isn't my thing". Though I tried to tell him that he has a wonderful voice and his nerves just get in the way, he didn't believe me. I think he kinda stayed in his brother Joey's shadow with singing as Joey is always singing in front of church and had a lead in the musical last year.

Anyway, the auditions went really well. I thought it would be hilarious if Joey and Tommy got Timon and Pumba because they have a natural rapport and were really funny reading the lines together. They ended up getting call backs for not only Timon and Pumba but for Young Simba and Adult Simba. The night of the callbacks I was shocked to see about 15 boys reading and singing for the same parts. There were a lot of good boys! But I will admit that every time my boys read or sang I was completely blown away. My boys are naturals. It was so fun to watch. I was so happy for my boys and after the call backs I told them how well they did. Tommy, for some reason thought he really messed up his singing audition. I tried to reassure him but he would not be comforted.

The audition list came out after school this past Tuesday and it turns out that Tommy will be playing Young Simba and Joey will be playing Adult Simba. They were both SO happy. Especially Tommy. He just couldn't believe it. He said, "Maybe I can sing, mom!" It is so awesome watching your kids try something they never thought they could do and then succeed! What a rush!

When I went into the school office yesterday the receptionist had to stop and tell me what wonderful kids I have. She is always telling me sweet little stories about my kids but this one really took my breath away. She said that Joey was in the office and one of the moms was congratulating him on his role in the musical.

The woman said, "You must be so excited!"
Joey said, "Yeah! I am. But honestly I'm much more excited for my brother Tommy. I'm just so happy for him."

Hearing that brought tears to my eyes. Joey and Tommy are so competitive and for Joey to be so happy for Tommy just melted my heart. Joey normally likes to be the head of everything, the boss, the leader, and the fact that he is so happy for Tommy just fills me up. No jealousy at all. Not even when Tommy said to me, "Mom! I have a bigger part than Joey cause I am in more scenes than he is!" Right away I tried to smooth things over and I said, "Well, I think it is pretty even. You are the first half of the show and Joey is the second half." Joey pipped up and said, "No! Tommy's right. He does have more lines and songs than me." And there wasn't a hint of jealousy or malice from Joey. He sounded proud. I tell ya, it makes this mama want to cry just thinking about it.

So, we have some very excited kids here. And I'm just happy to be able to be on stage with them again. Parents and teachers were again encouraged to try out for the musical. We are really just the backdrop characters because there were plenty of talented kids to fill all of the roles but I am happy to be part of it. I will be a song leader in the lioness pack. Tommy thought it was cool that all three of us were going to be lions on stage.  I agree.

January came in like a lion and now we are leaving January AS lions.  How do you like that?

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Brand New Year

Last night as we prepared to say goodbye to 2015 the kids and I reflected on all that happened to us during this past year and we couldn't help but notice the overwhelming good year we'd had. It really was one of our best as a family. After reminiscing about all of the trips and fun times and adventures we'd had in one short year the kids were reluctant to say goodbye. And, I admit, I was as well.  

In 2015 we:

-Took a road trip to Florida and visited Disney, Legoland, Universal, and Cocoa Beach where the      kids swam in the ocean for the first time.
-Took a trip to Oklahoma to visit dear friends and swim and play and do some sight seeing.
-We took many trips up north for hunting, fishing, swimming, skiing, hiking, playing, and relaxing.
-Grace transferred back to her beloved school to finish out the school year and then started full time  for 1st grade  this school year.
-Ben had his First Reconciliation and First Communion.
-Tommy had his 10th birthday at a water park.
-Grace learned to ride her bike.
-Joey won the Coach's Award for basketball and got on the honor roll for the first time.
-Ben went to Boy Scout camp for the first time.
-Joey, Tommy, and I were in a musical together for the first time and Joey had a lead.
-Grace had her first ballet recital.
-Todd took an amazing fishing trip in Canada.
-Tommy went to deer camp for the first time and Joey got his first buck.
-Ben excelled in baseball and hit his first grand slam.
-I beat my personal best in a 10K and ran a 5K color run as I'd always wanted.
-Todd and I went to a Packer game with our best friends.

That is quite a list. And that isn't even mentioning the small adventures we had along the way like Bay Beach, or the zoo, or all the times we went swimming or biking. There was an amazing blood moon eclipse! There were football games and baseball games and basketball games. There were fun birthdays, and Easter, the 4th of July, and Halloween. There were bonfires and movies and water fights and hot air balloon shows and bike rides and day trips. And Christmas! Oh what a Christmas! We didn't have any major illnesses (or even minor, now that I'm thinking about it) this past year. We cried far less than we laughed. Of course there were some tough times but somehow we can't recall those quite as easily as the good times. And man. It was just an amazing year. 

A lucky year. 
One that will be difficult to duplicate or compete with.
And it is difficult to say goodbye. 

We may be reluctant to let go of 2015 but we are hopeful for 2016.

Wishing you and your loved ones a 2016 that you will always treasure. The kind of year you don't want to end. Wishing you a happy, healthy, peaceful, joy-filled 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Week of Magic

It was one of the best Christmases I can remember. It truly was magical. Despite it being a bit of a minimal Christmas the gifts were a complete and total surprise to our kids and pulling it all off (somewhat last minute) was so much fun.
I was so excited for Christmas that I actually woke up early Christmas morning. I was up early enough that Todd and I were able to have a cup of coffee and relax for a few minutes before we woke the kids up. Of course, when we opened their doors (around 7) they were already awake but patiently waiting for us to come and get them as instructed. When they came downstairs Gracie's eyes bugged out of her head as she saw her Barbie dream house that she had been hoping for. I had told her that that was a pretty big request for Santa so she wasn't getting her hopes up (thank heavens for craigslist) and was shocked at her amazing gift. We were off to a good start.

My kids have been begging for video games since the beginning of time. They have asked Santa for video games for the last, I don't know, 5 years? I am very much opposed to video games and kids having their own phones. All three of my boys are literally the only kids in their classes that don't have a phone or video gaming system of their own but I really don't care. The closest my kids get is having a few minutes on Todd's phone a few times a week.

So, when I approached Todd about us, possibly, getting the kids an iPad to share and play video games on he was in total shock. I explained that we would still have control of it, but instead of the kids going on his phone they would go on the shared iPad. Todd said he had actually seen a huge sale on Kindle Fires ($40!!!) and it would probably amount to the same amount of money to get each kid their own and that way they wouldn't "wreck" each others' worlds that they set up on their games. I thought about it and agreed. I would still keep the Fires in my possession and the kids would have limited time on them maybe just a few times a week.

The past few weeks the kids have been gently asking for video games and promising that they wouldn't play them often and would still be outdoorsy kids. I told them to forget it. When we went to see Santa the kids all asked Santa for video games. I told Santa I wasn't a fan. Each time the subject came up I told the kids that I hoped they wouldn't be too disappointed on Christmas morning when they didn't get them because it wasn't happening.

When all the presents were opened on Christmas morning and my kids were happy and thankful for the LEGOS and toys they received I let them know that there was one more little thing we forgot to give them.

I went to the closet and hauled out the wrapped Kindles and handed them out to the kids. To say they were shocked would be an understatement. They were stunned. They didn't even know what to do. They were flabbergasted. The surprised looks didn't come off of their faces for hours. When Joey got up from his seat to give me a hug I could feel him shaking. They just couldn't believe their good fortune. I have photo after photo of their mouths hanging open. For the rest of the day their mouths hung open. I can't tell you how many times they thanked us for the Kindles. It was hilarious. All week long they have been thanking us for the Kindles. They said that we had better get used to all the "thank you"s because they will never stop thanking us. They just were besides themselves with glee.
It was "the best Christmas EVER" according to the kids. And I really couldn't argue. We had a wonderful time at my mom's on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning was SO much fun, Christmas mass was beautiful, and Christmas at Todd's mom's house was fantastic. It was fabulous all around.

The next day was spent relaxing and doing very little. Just as it should be. 

Sunday after church we packed up (no video games allowed along up north) and headed up north to the cabin. It felt like a long time since I'd been there. And since there was still no snow at our house it was fun to see a bit of snow up north. Monday the kids played around in the snow all day. And on Tuesday we headed out to Ski Brule for a fun family ski outing. 
The weather was absolutely perfect for a day of skiing. It was 28 degrees, no wind, fresh snow, and overcast (no squinting!). Just a few trips down the bunny hill and the boys were ready to tackle bigger hills. Joey and Tommy took off together, Ben and Todd went their own way, and Grace and I practiced her turns and stops on the bunny hill. When Grace felt confident we went up the ski lift and down the backside of the hill to our favorite little rest stop halfway down the hill.
We all warmed up and refueled with burgers and hot dogs, hot cider and hot chocolate, and brownies and rice krispies. 
Then it was back out on the hill for another few hours before we called it quits for the day. We had a few more treats back at the main lodge and the kids posed for a picture by the same bear they posed with over 5 years ago. My how they've grown!
It was a fantastic day. And it was the first time I've taken my kids skiing without getting a migraine at the end of the day. Success!

It was a great time relaxing up at the cabin. It was a great week.

Tomorrow we will prep for a little New Year's Eve fun. The kids are already lamenting the fact that 2015 is over. It was a pretty good year for our family. And this was the perfect week to send it out in style.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Leaving you all with some of my favorite images from Christmases past.

Wishing a very blessed and Merry Christmas and a holy and Happy Holiday season! Peace, love, and joy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Sweet Spot

After a long, crazy few weeks we are finally here. I've dreamed about this moment. 

This past weekend was the perfect lead in to this week. Friday night Todd and I went out to dinner with friends we hadn't seen in a long time. It was a great night at a wonderful restaurant with fantastic food and fabulous people. It was a long overdue reunion.

On Saturday Todd, the kids, and I all watched the Star Wars trilogy (the original) in preparation for The Force Awakens on Sunday. It was so fun watching those movies from my childhood with my own children. They loved it just as much as I did. They had seen all 6 of the Star Wars movies before but it had been a very long time. It was a fun family movie day and a great way to gear up for the new movie the next day. 

I had not read anything about the new movie. I didn't even know the plotline. But after watching the trilogy the day before we were all VERY excited to see The Force Awakens.
I must admit we were all a geeking out a little bit. When the music begins at the start of the film it just transports me back to when I was a kid. What a nostalgic sound! And seeing it and hearing it in the theater is just so overwhelming. It helps that our theater in town is completely amazing. It has cushy recliner seats and huge massive screens. It was quite the experience. 
I won't give anything away about the movie other than to say that it did not disappoint. I was extremely pleased. It fit right in with the feel of the original movies and the characters were fantastic. I LOVED it. And so did the kiddos. If you enjoyed the original Star Wars movies then you MUST see The Force Awakens.  

Yes, we had a fantastic weekend but Monday came in like a hurricane. Complete with grocery shopping, a chiro appointment, a run, the dog vomiting seven times on my carpet (our 1st floor is 90% tile but the dog apparently prefers to vomit on the carpeting instead), Christmas parties at school, including the delivery of the teachers' gifts, the secret santa gifts, and the treats for the parties. Then there was the Nativity play and the talent show at school. And then Joey broke a bracket off of his braces so we had to squeeze in a run to the ortho before we then dropped him off at basketball. Yes, Monday was crazy. But we made it through.

We made it to the sweet spot of the holiday. At times I thought we'd never make it.

Today was heaven. I've never really experienced this before because I am normally still running around like a chicken with my head cut off. But not this year. Even though I started way later than normal I am completely done with my Christmas to-do list. All of the presents have been purchased and wrapped. All school functions and concerts are done. Now I can just sit back and soak in the goodness of the season. 

Tomorrow treats will be made. Fudge and peppermint bark and little candies. The kids will play outside. I will most likely read a book or two. Later in the evening we will make a fire, watch A Christmas Story, eat a few of our treats, and soak in all the sweetness of the season. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Almost There

One week until Christmas and we are making our final push. It has been another hectic week but we have almost made it to the sweet spot. Soon everything on our "To Do" lists will be done. School will be out, class parties will be done, Secret Santas presents and teachers' gifts will have been handed out, Christmas plays and talent shows will have been viewed, the mailman and newspaper man and trash collector will have received their holiday gifts, presents will all be wrapped and in their hiding places, and special Christmas cookies and treats will have been baked and decorated and eaten.

Soon there will be nothing left to do but sit back and enjoy a few peaceful days leading up to Christmas.

But not this week.

This week we are still in the midst of madness.

The week we had four basketball games (and cheering) to play in and to watch, two Boy Scout meetings for Ben, ALL of the Christmas shopping to do (and on this one when I saw "we" I mean "me"), and one school Christmas concert to attend.

The kids Christmas concert was on Wednesday night. They each got spiffed up in festive clothes and sang their little hearts out in front of a packed church.
I tell ya, there is something about a schoolful of children singing about God that makes me bawl my brains out. It was a lovely and touching and special concert.

This time last year Grace was at a different school so she had to sit in the pews and watch her brothers and her friends sing in the concert. It was hard on her. I can't tell you how excited she was to be in the concert this year.
All of the kids did a great job, from the singing, to the bells and chimes, to sitting quietly in the pews while they waited their turns to sing, to Joey and his friend on the sound equipment. The concert was definitely a success and put me in an even more festive mood than I already was.

It has been a busy but productive week. Many of you were freaking out on me when I mentioned in my last post that I hadn't even BEGUN to Christmas shop yet and it was pretty crazy. I didn't even have ONE present. But! I managed to get all the shopping done in a matter of days. And I am very excited about the gifts I purchased. There are not a ton of gifts but they are good ones. The kids are going to be shocked. This is going to be fun.

And not only did I get the Christmas shopping done but I have even WRAPPED them all. Yesterday I spent all day long wrapping gifts. I wrapped the kids' gifts, Todd's gifts, the Secret Santa gifts for the kids' parties, and the teachers' gifts. And, oh yeah, 44 small gifts that I always bring for the favorite dice game played each year at both of the grandmas' houses.  I am ON THE BALL, PEOPLE!!!

I still have to purchase a few snacks for each of the kids' Christmas parties they will be having on Monday at school but that is easy enough. Other than that, I am done. DONE!  

Well, maybe not done. All that will be left is making cookies and treats. And I still have to buy the ingredients. But that is fun! And I am waiting until next week to do that because the kids will be out of school on Tuesday and I know they are looking forward to helping me with the baking. That's the good stuff! 

Yes, the hectic holiday rush is winding down. Soon the sweet spot will be here.   

 Wishing you a lovely sweet spot amid the holiday hustle!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


It's that time of year again.

Tis the season to lose my mind.

It hasn't really begun yet. The true Christmas dash. The madness of trying to fit in all the activities and concerts and plays and talent shows and secret santas and last minute gifts has not even started. And yet, I've already lost my mind.

I have a symphony concert this weekend and we are in overtime with our rehearsals. Last night I had to chauffeur my boys to their basketball practices after school (one practice from 4:30 to 6:30 and the other from 6:30-8) and then hustle out to my own rehearsal. I didn't even get a chance to eat before I left and I didn't get home from rehearsal until almost 10:00. Tonight's rehearsal will go even later. I'm sure the dress rehearsal on Friday will be just as late. It is one of those weeks that I will be thankful to be done with.

This morning I received a phone call from my chiropractor letting me know that I missed my appointment. Again. This is the third chiro appointment in a row that I have missed. They must think I am insane. I have rescheduled this same appointment so many times and each time I missed the rescheduled appointment. Each time I reschedule the appointment I just KNOW I won't forget because I have nothing else going on at that time. And then, of course, a million things pop up at one time and I completely forget to go to my appointment anyway.

The Christmas decorations are up. That was enough to drive me bonkers. Half strings of lights not working, broken Christmas trees (yes, our huge hallway Christmas tree BROKE), favorite decorations not working. UGH! It reminded me of one of my favorite holiday songs. The Twelve Pains of Christmas:

I am happy to announce that I sent out my Christmas cards yesterday, however, I am NOT happy to report that it had a typo on it. Normally I am a perfectionist at editing things like this but this year I let a big mistake slip through. I had uploaded all my pics online, arranged them in a card just the way I wanted them and then wrote, "Merry Christmas from the Smiths" (not our real last name btw- for security purposes). Then when I went to order the cards I couldn't pull it up. So I redid the entire card and forgot the message I originally wrote and instead put "Love, The Smiths".  Except I didn't write "Smiths". I wrote "Smith". As in, "Love, The Smith". So, yeah. That's awesome. I noticed the mistake before I mailed the cards out but I am trying not to stress about silly things (and I'm too cheap to reorder all those cards) so the cards went out as is. *sigh*

And I haven't even really starting shopping for Christmas presents yet. Can you believe that crap? Two weeks left and I haven't started shopping yet! I really have no idea where to even begin. I have no clue what to get the kids. And they don't really know what to ask for either. I'm at a loss.

And yet for some reason I am filled with surprisingly good Christmas cheer. I feel peaceful. I feel joyful. I feel grateful. I went to my kids' school mass this morning and was rejuvenated all over again. The priest told a lovely story and wrapped it in so beautifully to this season that it brought tears to my eyes.

This is such a crazy world we are living in. So many awful, horrible things happen every day. It is depressing. And yet there is hope. I believe in good. I trust that there are more good people in this world than bad. We will never have a peaceful world but we will have moments of love and peace and kindness and we can all do our part to create as many of those moments as possible.

This is such a hopeful time of year. A time to focus on what is truly important.

Love. Hope. Peace, Kindness. Compassion.

Whatever is getting you down this busy, hectic season, I hope you are able to see and feel peace and joy and love.

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson