Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Weary

I am exhausted. Weary and worn. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I am tired.

Weeks of being sick, having Todd gone, and then this horrendous turmoil our country is in and all the constant bickering has left me drained. I just want it all to stop.

This past weekend the kids had off of school on Friday and we decided to join Todd up north at the cabin. It was a good recharge. I needed it. We all did.

We arrived around noon on Friday and Todd was still out in the woods hunting. The kids and I set about making a fire in the fireplace and then settled in to relax. The kids spent their time outside and I read by the fire. It was just what I needed.

It's funny. Todd used to tell me how much he would love to live up at the cabin someday. The idea terrified me. I thought that perhaps Todd married the wrong girl. The cabin is just so isolated. I guess I always thought of myself as needing to at least be near a larger city. However, the older I get the more appealing the idea of living at the cabin becomes. There is something to be said for solitude.

Just as the sun began to set the kids came running in to tell me that there were a couple pairs of swans on the lake. I grabbed my camera and headed out to take a look.
The swans were a bit too far out to get a decent picture of them but I did manage to catch this beauty of my kids. I love it. I'm thinking this one may get blown up and put on my wall at some point.

As the sun set lower and lower the sky just kept getting more and more beautiful. And once the kids ventured over to the other side of the cabin the swans gathered a little closer so that my zoom lens could capture them.

In a matter of minutes the sky turned from a hazy pinkish peach to a brazen orange. It was an absolutely gorgeous sunset.


And I was reminded of God's glory. And I was comforted. And once again I called to mind my very favorite Psalm, "Be still, and know that I am God."  I will not put my faith in man. I will trust in God. And I will not fear tomorrow because I know that God is already there.

These are troubling times. And the only way we can turn it around is to do good, to love one another, be kind, and have courage. It's going to be okay.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Today Was A Good Day

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. It was the kind of day that we don't see that often in November in Wisconsin. The temperature hovered around 70 degrees and the sky was a brilliant blue. Even though I still wasn't feeling 100% (I was VERY sick the last few days with hot/cold sweats and extreme achiness but now I just have chest congestion and a nasty cough) I knew the day couldn't be wasted inside. 

My plan was to take the kids to Parnell Tower in the Kettle Moraine. I hadn't been there in over twenty years but I always enjoyed it as a kid. Todd and I always planned on taking the kids and I wasn't sure I should do it without him (Todd needed a break from his work and has cleared his schedule for most of November and is spending much of it up north) since I know it is something he would enjoy doing with us. But, with a day like this I had to pull the trigger and do it.

After a crazy long car ride that took an hour instead of the 25 minutes it should have taken (I had gotten the wrong directions) we finally arrived and the kids and I were miraculously still in good spirits. The hike through the woods to the tower cheered us up even more. It was such a gorgeous day to be in the woods.  

When we got to the tower we were all a little out of breath. I forgot how steep that hill was! I suppose being sick (and 20 years older) didn't help much either. The tower looked smaller than I remembered it but it must have looked gigantic to my kids because they were all pretty nervous. I wasn't sure I would be able to get Joey up the tower at all. He has quite the fear of heights but if he could force himself up there I knew he would enjoy the view.

We began climbing and Molly even came up to the first level with us. Then she stopped. She decided that was as high as she wanted to go and then wouldn't go anymore. Smart dog. I took her back down and tied her at the bottom of the tower and began to climb back up. By the time I caught up to Joey and Tommy on the third level they were already saying they wanted to go back down. It is a little spooky because it is a wooden tower and the stairs are the type you can see through. Something about that just makes it creepier. 

Ben and Grace, who were already at the top (brave little turkeys) were encouraging Joey and Tommy to come up. Tommy and I headed up to the top and Joey slowly made it another level up. I stopped to wait for Joey one floor below the top deck. Tommy had made it to the top and was telling Joey that it was definitely worth it. I went up above to the top deck and told Joey that he could stay in the center of the deck and there was even a look-out scope for him to try out. That seemed to do the trick. 

And there we all were at the top. I had already explained to the kids earlier that they needed to be very good to their mama when we were on that top deck. No running or jumping around and no leaning over the railings. If they did any of those things I would most certainly have a heart attack and die and then they wouldn't have a ride home. Luckily for me, and for them, they all behaved and we had a nice time taking in the gorgeous view. 

After we'd had our fill of the view we went back down and walked Molly on the hiking trail for a while. Then we turned around to go back to the car. When we passed the tower again Joey actually wanted to go back up to the top. I was very surprised. I'm so glad he was able to push himself out of his comfort zone and enjoy the experience.

It really was a wonderful time and I'm so glad we went. 

It was early afternoon and we were all getting hungry for lunch so we stopped at a new soup/sandwich shop on the way home. It was delicious. I know we will be back. And the chicken dumpling soup was just what I needed for my raw throat.  But the best part was the love in that little restaurant. The owner and her husband and daughter run it and they are just lovely people. Right next to the cash register is a sandwich board that says "Pay it forward" with little notes attached all over it offering various menu options.  "Large soup", "Sandwich and soup", "Small soup", "Specialty sandwich" and so on and so forth. I asked the owner if that was for homeless people who couldn't afford a meal and she confirmed my hunch. Customers add something extra to their order and leave a note of what they paid for on the board. When someone comes in and can't afford a meal they can pick a note off the board and choose a meal. I LOVE THAT SO MUCH. It almost made me cry. I asked the owner what the most popular menu option was and we added that to our order. I was told to fill out the note with the menu option and any other message we would like to leave the person. I asked my kids what we should write and they thought about it and said, "How about, 'God Bless You!' and a heart and a smiley face?" Loved it. I wrote it down and posted the note on the board. Just knowing someone would be able to enjoy a hot, hearty meal seemed to make our food taste even better. It was a great lunch. I know we'll be back.  

After our lunch we got ice cream cones and walked down to the river. It isn't too often you can walk around outside in November eating ice cream so we thought we'd take advantage.   
You'll be happy to know that Grace was very full and couldn't finish her ice cream cone so Molly even got a bit of ice cream.  Everyone wins!
The leaves on the trees were so beautiful. And a few flowers were still blooming as well. It was a heavenly day all around. We watched a young man fly fishing in the river and then walked to a nearby toy store. I think we were all starting to feel a little tired, and I was starting to get a little achy again (maybe I overdid it a smidge), so our browsing was cut shorter than normal. Now we are back home, relaxing, reading, and sitting by a roaring fire.
Today was a good day.



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Morning After

 The morning after Halloween is always an interesting experience. Any holiday, actually. It usually involves crankiness, tiredness, whining, and maybe even some tears. Me. Not the kids.  (I jest- kind of) But it certainly doesn't help that I still haven't kicked this cold (or whatever it is) and now I have a horrible cough. I have also had an awful stiff neck for 5 days in a row now. Each night I go to bed thinking that I will wake up and it will be better but it just keeps getting worse. I may have been tempted to cry a little bit this morning at one point.

Yesterday started out a bit rough too but luckily it ended well. I received a phone call from school yesterday afternoon saying that Grace wasn't feeling good and wanted to come home. I was out running errands when I got the call (trying to find last minute costume pieces) and ran over to school to get Grace. She came home, had some medicine, took a long nap, and then woke up feeling great. I was relieved. I didn't want her to miss out on the Halloween fun.
The boys came home from school and quickly changed into their costumes. It was cold and windy so I had the kids dress in three layers. They looked pretty cute. Even with all the layers. 
This was one of the first years that Todd couldn't get out of work and come trick or treating with us. By the time he got out of work I knew Grace would be getting tired soon so I just told him to stay put.

The kids and I hit up our neighborhood first and then drove back to our old neighborhood (and my mom's house) where the houses are closer together.  It is always a bit melancholy taking my kids trick or treating to the same houses I used to trick or treat at. Wow. Time flies.
Grace hung in there for a while and then decided she'd had enough. I know the boys try to hide it but they really look forward to trick or treating by themselves. Every once in a while they will say, "Grace, are you tired yet? Do you want mom to take you home?" It cracks me up. Grace and I don't take it personally. I'm surprised they are still willing to let me come along at all. I'm just glad that I could convince Joey to come trick or treating with us again. He has been wary ever since a lady made a comment about him being too old (he was 11 at the time) for trick or treating. I'm glad he could shake that off and have some good old fashioned innocent fun. I want my kids to have that feeling as long as possible. And I'm glad that all of the grown ups were accepting and fun this year and Joey had a good time.

Grace and I went home halfway through trick or treating and the boys went off on their own. When Grace and I got home Todd had a fire going in the fireplace and a pizza in the oven. A little over an hour later and the boys were home too. It was a nice night. We didn't get to bed too late and we didn't have TOO much candy.

Yet this morning was still rough. Happens every time. And this morning was a busy one. I was running around trying to get everybody motivated and moving, getting school projects into the car, and getting ready for mass. It is a holy day today and Joey had a very large reading. Somehow we managed to get everyone to school on time and when I finally sat down in the pew at church I felt like I could finally take a breath. 

It was kind of an emotional moment watching Joey read the first reading at mass. In my mind I was looking at Joey as a two year old and yet he is so tall now and his voice is so low. It was surreal. Another moment that makes me realize how fleeting this time with my kids really is.

They are still so much my babies but they are growing up so quickly. Getting more independent all the time. Stepping out on their own. 
Honestly, I'm just grateful they let me tag along.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Right Now

Last night I had a dream I was holding a tiny baby. I don't believe it was my baby. I think I was just holding the baby for someone else. But I loved that little baby. So small and sweet and precious. I could even smell that new baby smell. My heart was melting.

When I woke up I expected to feel the familiar pangs of longing that usually accompany that dream, but I didn't. It was just a nice dream. It seems, though I still love babies, I am really enjoying my kids and where we are at right now.

The other day as I was dropping the kids off at school Tommy gave me a little wink and said, "Enjoy your surprise!" and then ran off into school.  I wasn't sure what he was talking about but chuckled and went on my way. Later that morning as I was unloading groceries into the fridge I saw a note that Tommy had taped on one of the fridge shelves. It said, "Love you mom. Have a great day - Tommy"
I'll tell you, it made my day. When the kids got home from school I told Tommy how much the note meant to me. Ben must have been listening because the next day I found a similar note from him on my computer. God, I love these kids.

Yesterday, I told Joey that we needed to head out to look for some basketball shoes for him after school. Kohls was having a massive sale and if we could find some shoes on sale that would be great. These stupid basketball shoes average around $100 and I just find that absurd. Anyway, Tommy started to plead his case for a new pair of basketball shoes but I told him it was a no go. Not only do his shoes from last year still fit but we also have another pair (Joey's shoes from last year that are like new) that are the next size up. No new shoes required for Tommy. Tommy lamented that all his friends get new shoes all the time but I reminded him he wasn't born into that kind of family. Tommy acquiesced and went about his homework on the computer. Since Tommy was on the computer Joe asked if he could use my phone to look up basketball shoes. It wasn't until later that evening when I was using my phone that I noticed the search Joey had done for his new basketball shoes, "cool cheap basketball shoes". Aww. Something about that just got me. It seemed so thoughtful. I never told him his shoes had to be under a certain dollar amount. I didn't even really complain about the price of the shoes at all. And yet secretly Joey was trying to do his part. It warmed my heart.

Lately we have taken to playing a little "game" at dinner. We used to do "high/low" where we would tell about our high and low of the day. However, I recently changed it to focus on the positive. Now we pick out our favorite, or high, part of the day, and then we also name something we did that day to show kindness for someone else.  The kids have taken this pretty seriously and really give their answers a lot of thought. I am so delighted to hear how often they stick up for someone who is getting teased and how often they play with the kid who was standing alone. Love my kids.

Grace loves to point out how she and I have so much in common. When I am reading she always grabs her books and comes to snuggle in next to me to read. I even find her off in a corner or alone in her room with her books. She has already read Anne of Green Gables and just finished The Secret Garden. She is a reading machine. She is so smart. When I marvel at her reading she says to me, "I'm definitely your daughter!" It is just so precious. And yet she is completely comfortable being her own person too. If she doesn't like something (regardless of if I like it) she will let me know. I love that. Yesterday Grace mentioned she would love another "ladies weekend" with me. Last time we went shopping (mostly a bookstore), to lunch, and then to a theater performance of Ella Enchanted. It was so much fun. And I am so glad she loved it as much as I did.

This morning the kids and I quoted The Holy Grail all the way to school and when they got out of the car they galloped into school complete with coconut/galloping noises. I must have looked like a lunatic as I laughed like crazy exiting the parking lot and drove home. These kids of mine are seriously hilarious. It made my day. Man, I love those kids.

So, yes, while I still love babies, I am so incredibly happy with my kids and where we are at as a family right now. And though they are more apt to talk back, be cranky, sass talk, and misbehave at this age than they were as babies, I still am loving this. This crazy, fun, exhausting, hysterical, trying, loving time in our lives is pretty great. I love right now.




***Disclaimer-  Sorry if this seems like a braggy post about my kids. I really do need to write down all the times they do something sweet, funny, loving so that when they are acting like turds I can go back and remember how much I really do like them. 


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Falling Short

It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining, the breeze was light, and the temperature was just right. It was the kind of day that promises all kinds of warm, lovely, wonderful things. 

It was also my mom's birthday and I had all sorts of lovely visions of us with my mom at the pumpkin farm. Unfortunately, instead of all those warm, lovely moments we ended up with grumpy, sassy, yuck instead. 

It started when my mom got lost on the way to the pumpkin farm/orchard. It continued as I attempted to get our name on the waiting list at the cafe and was told the wait would be 2 hours. It went further downhill as my "starving" children complained and whined. Things really went to crap when we attempted a quick photo shoot for our fall family picture and the sun was apparently frying everyone's eyeballs out. It was sunny, I will admit but nothing a little squinting couldn't handle. Even when we moved into a shady spot a couple of us could no longer fake a smile. I was not happy at this point. I was done. And I was disappointed.  I had such high hopes for the day and for my mom's birthday lunch. 

You'd think by now, after so many years of having children, I'd know how to manage my expectations. I am usually so good at keeping them low. But today seemed such a recipe for a lovely time. 

Ah well.

We did manage to turn the day around a bit with some apple cider and cute baby animals. It got a bit better still when we found another restaurant to treat my mother to lunch. And it was a delicious lunch. Overall, we pulled through.

Still, when I look at this photo it just reminds me of the struggles of the day. And now that I look at it closer I also notice it is off center. Ha! Had I not been in such a hurry to get the picture taken I would have moved that hay bale over and centered the bench. Oh well. It's not perfect and neither was the day. But we made it through and eventually turned it around. I bet someday when I look back on this picture it will give me a chuckle.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

There Is Hope

This past week my boys have been all aflutter about trying to get onto the student counsel at their school. Joey (8th grade) is running for vice president of the school and Tommy and Ben are both running for their class's representative (6th grade and 4th grade, respectively). All three boys needed to write speeches. The candidates for representatives would give their speeches to their respective class and the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer candidates would give their speeches in front of the whole school.

For days the boys worked on their speeches. I stayed out of it only stepping in to correct Ben's grammar in a few spots after he asked me to look it over. Other than that I felt it was the boys' responsibility to write their own speeches. I hadn't even read Tommy or Joe's speeches.

Yesterday, the morning of the speeches, Tommy came up to me and asked me if we could bring cupcakes into his class. I asked him why he wanted to bring in cupcakes. He said, "I want to tell my class that if they vote for me I will bring in cupcakes."  Oh boy. Bribery at its finest.  I asked Tommy if he was buying the cupcakes with his money and he assured me that he would. I shrugged my shoulders and told him to do what he wants.

I thought of the boys often throughout the day knowing how nervous they had been to give their speeches. Towards the end of the day the school posted the speeches (for Pres, VP, Treasurer, and Secretary) on Facebook. I watched and listened to the young candidates make their cases and then it was Joey's turn. Joey got up in front of his school and gave his speech and it brought me to tears. He began his speech saying how he wanted to make this year a great one for everyone. He gave his ideas for fun events and field trips. He spoke about working hard for his fellow school mates and being a friend to all. And then towards the end of his speech he praised the other candidates running for vice president. He told all the students that the other candidates were smart and had great ideas too. In fact, he said, they may be better than him but he would work very hard to make his school proud. He went on to say that in the 10 years he has been at that school (since 4K) he has been given so much that he wanted to give back to the school. He ended with thanking everyone and saying, "God bless everyone!"

I am not lying when I say I was not the only one in tears. I am told that the principal was welling up along with a few teachers and parents. To say I am proud would be a severe understatement. If only our current candidates for president could carry themselves with such grace and humility.

I couldn't wait until Joey got home so that I could tell him how much his speech meant to me. I walked down to the bus stop to meet the kids as they were walking down the street. Tommy excitedly ran up to me and announced that he was chosen to be his class's representative by a landslide. I congratulated him and chuckled to myself thinking that the cupcakes probably had a little bit to do with that.

Joey and Ben still weren't sure of their fates, as the votes hadn't been tallied for them yet, but I let them know how proud I was regardless of the outcome.

That evening, our one free evening without football practice, was spent stacking wood and playing basketball. I'd made a fire in our fireplace and we had the kids' favorite taco dinner. I made them a special strawberry shortcake dessert too. It was a special night.

As Tommy and I sat by the fire I asked him when he needed to bring the cupcakes in to his class.

He said, "Oh, I didn't put that part in my speech."

Surprised, I asked, "You didn't? Why not?"

Tommy replied, "Well, there were a couple of kids running for representative who don't have a lot of money so they wouldn't be able to offer something like that. I didn't think it would be fair if I said that."

And with that my heart melted. How on earth had I gotten such amazingly kind and compassionate children?

I gave Tommy a big hug, thanked him, and told him that that was a very loving and wise decision.

This year's political mess has really gotten to me. It is just so sickening. But listening to my kids I know there is hope for this world yet.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Waiting Patiently



Molly really looks forward to 3:15 every day. She loves greeting her kids.  

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