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.  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

That Old Melancholy

Here we are at the first day of school again and I am feeling that old familiar melancholy. 
(I am loving the reflection of the American flag)

I was doing well this morning. We had our ducks all in a row and everything ran very smoothly. We even arrived at school early and had plenty of time for extra photos. The kids were thrilled with the extra photos part. I jest.

But they did oblige me with more than a fair share of pictures. I just had this urge to take as many pictures as I could. After all, this is the last first day of school with ALL of my kids at the same school. It was kind of a big deal. 
The last year all of my kids will ever go to the same school together. Wow. That really hit home. My kids really do enjoy each other so much. They hang with each other at lunch. They play together at recess. They are always searching each other out. I used to worry about it. I wondered if they would ever form strong enough bonds with friends their own age if they constantly stayed within their sibling group. I don't really think about that anymore. They have friends, but honestly? I think they still prefer each other's company.  I wonder if they will ever know how lucky they are to have that. And I hope and pray it stays that way.

One by one I followed the kids to their classrooms. I watched Joey and Tommy set their backpacks in their lockers and head into their classrooms. Moments later a nervous Tommy came out and asked me what I thought he should do. I told him that maybe he could organize his books into the order of his classes. Or maybe ask the teacher. Tommy marched up to his new middle school teacher and said, "Excuse me, what would you suggest I be doing right now?" I had to turn away quickly to stifle my giggle. It was adorable. 

As Tommy and Joe organized their books I walked Ben and Grace downstairs to their classrooms. More pictures were taken and good-bye hugs and kisses were given. Though the kids seemed fine I had a hard time pulling myself away from their classrooms. 

I hung around in the hallways at school far longer than I needed to. I kept peeking into classrooms. Checking in. Tommy caught my eye and came out to show me how he had arranged his notebook for optimum organization. The kid was nervous for his first day of middle school. So many changes. "It's a little overwhelming, actually." he told me in the hallway before heading back into the class room. 

For me too, Tommy. Me too. It is all just overwhelming. Watching these little people grow by leaps and bounds every day. It is overwhelming how my love for them just continues to multiply. It is overwhelming trying to learn to let go little by little. Wanting to hold on tight but knowing this is what is right. What is meant to be. It is overwhelming watching them be brave and independent and strong and kind. It is all just overwhelming.
Dear God in heaven,
please be with my children as they start a new year.
Help them to work hard and do their best.
Keep them safe, happy, and healthy.

Give them a love for learning.
Help them to grow in confidence and independence. 
Show them how to be compassionate.
Let them be a friend to all, kind, and loving.
Let their failures motivate them to try harder.
Let their successes humble them.
Help me, Lord, to be patient, understanding, loving, and wise
in guiding them through this school year.
Be with my children, Lord.
Let your light shine in them and through them
and keep them close to You.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Full Circle

Summer has, once again, flown by way too quickly.  And this time it comes as somewhat of a surprise. The last few summers we traveled and jammed our summer full so it made sense that the time sped by. However, this summer has been fairly relaxing with no major travels or trips. And yet still, here we are, the last day of summer already.

It truly has been a summer of growth. The kids have not only grown physically but mentally and emotionally as well.  This summer the kids learned and honed a few new skills. Not only have they been helping me cut my mom's grass every week but they have also been a big help in maintaining our yard and garden. I am very comfortable asking the boys to cut the grass and know that it will be done well.

The kids have also expressed an interest in cooking this past summer. Ben has been especially obsessed with making his own food. Omelets have become his specialty. It has been fun watching the kids become more comfortable in the kitchen and more self sufficient. Now if I could only get them to clean everything up when they are done.

This summer the boys enjoyed a bit more freedom from me as well. The three boys hop on their bikes and take off for a couple of hours on their own adventures. It does make me a bit nervous but knowing the three boys are together makes me feel better.  

Recently, we were on our way home from running some errands when the boys begged me to stop at the lake by our house so that they could show me what they have been up to on their biking adventures all summer. I parked the car, walked across the field, and followed the kids down the path to the lake. It was a spot I was very familiar with. Not only had I been taking the kids here since they were tiny but I also came to this spot when I was a kid.
The kids led me to the fort that they had built in the trees. Little rocks were gathered around a "fireplace". They even had a spot to put their bikes.
It was a pretty amazing thing to see my boys had discovered the very same spot that I used to play in as a child. The same gathering of trees, though much better built up than when I was a kid, was now their shelter.
We walked on, winding through a path in the woods to another outcropping of rocks.  The kids were kind enough to oblige me with a few pictures. On our way back to the fort Joey found a little buddy.
Back on the beach side of the lake we decided to search for rocks like we used to do when they were little. Grace and I were very successful and soon our pockets were full of smooth colorful rocks.
The boys found smooth, flat rocks and skipped them into the water.
Clearly they spent a lot of time doing this during their biking adventures. They had gotten good! I couldn't help but join in. It had been a while since I'd last skipped stones but it didn't take long to remember the skill.
We stayed far longer than I'd planned but it was hard to leave.  It was so nice to be back at this beautiful spot. It was the perfect way to round out our summer.
Yes, this summer has flown by quickly.  Again. But we will have plenty of warm memories to carry with us as we start another school year.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Celebrating 40

For the last two years my best friend has been talking about doing something special to celebrate her 40th birthday. She REALLY wanted to do something big. Las Vegas was mentioned. Neither one of us had ever been to Vegas and it seemed like a great place to blast in her 40s.  

This past spring Todd and I stopped in Vegas with the kids for a couple of days when we were visiting The Grand Canyon. The entire time we were there we did not have one drink or place one bet. It was a strange way to visit Vegas for the first time, but we didn't even notice that phenomenon until we were leaving.  

With Sarah's 40th birthday quickly approaching we had to get something planned quickly before school started. The chance of me leaving the kids during school is always nil. Too much going on and too much I don't want to miss. It turns out the only time that would work for me was for a couple of days in the middle of the week in August. I would leave on a Tuesday morning and be back on Thursday evening in time to watch football practice. Perfect! Or not.

As it turns out Grace got sick right before I left. No!!!! I can't leave my child when she is sick! I also discovered that the kids' open house for school (bring all your supplies, set up your lockers and desks, meet teachers) was scheduled for the Wednesday I would be gone. UGH! I don't want to miss that!  I am loathe to miss ANYTHING. I was not pleased. But my kids were more than gracious. Joey told me not to worry, he would take care of Grace (Todd would still have to work these three days but stop home often) if she was still sick. All the kids assured me that they would miss me but they'd be just fine at the open house. Hubby said he would handle it all. I have a very sweet family.  

So, despite Grace being sick and me missing out on open house I left very early on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday afternoon Sarah and I were poolside enjoying the heat and the view. 
Right about that time I received a text from Todd telling me that when he came home for lunch he discovered that the boys had cut the grass in the front and back yard (and did the trimming), cleaned up their rooms, vacuumed the living room, and took care of Grace who still wasn't 100% recovered. He said you could have knocked him over with a feather. Amazing. My sweet boys. I was feeling pretty lucky.

That evening Sarah and I got dressed up and hit the buffet at Caesars Palace. It was a wonderful buffet but it may not have been the best decision we've ever made because afterwards we really couldn't move. We went outside and sat by the pool for at least an hour or so until we felt we could function again. 
Finally, we were able to drag ourselves up off the lawn chairs and wander around outside by the Bellagio fountains. Eventually we made our way into the Bellagio and walked through the casino. A gentleman in a suit asked us if we'd like to come to a brand new club. He said he would get us to the front of the line and would give us 4 free drink tickets each. We were wondering what the catch was but there was no catch. We got into the club free, no line, and free drinks. Suckers! We couldn't help but laugh. They had no idea what they had just done, letting two 40 year old HUGE nerds with no shame into their brand new club. It was hilarious. We spent the entire time out on the dance floor laughing our butts off as we danced like morons in front of kids that could have literally been our kids.  HA!!!  It was awesome. 

Much of the time in the club was spent with Sarah and I watching this group of young ladies sit in the corner and take selfies. It was highly amusing. The beautiful young girls never danced or appeared to have any fun, they just sat there making duck lips at their phones all night. Later that evening we discovered that selfies are truly an art and Sarah and I just can not master it. We attempted quite a few selfies during our trip and they were all pretty much hideous. I think we got one good one. This one.

And it's not even that good. Perhaps those girls in the club really were talented and not just self involved. Regardless, Sarah and I had a great time laughing and being goofy and getting a good many blisters on our feet.

The next morning as I logged on to Facebook I found out that the kids' school pictures would be taken at the Open House that day. Ohlordhavemercy!!!!!!  This may not seem like a big deal to anyone else but it is to me. I hate to miss ANYTHING, remember? Plus, one more thing for Todd to take care of. PLUS, Grace is growing her bangs out and they are at a horribly awkward phase and Todd doesn't exactly know how to fix Grace's hair. Drama!!!!  I called Todd asap and they were just walking out the door to the Open House. They had to turn around, change clothes, and fix hair. They all were champions about it (including Todd) and it all turned out to be fine. But it was one more thing to make me feel guilty for being gone. Now we wait and see how the pictures turn out. hehe

After that mini drama Sarah and I wandered over the the attached hotel (the Paris hotel is attached to Bally's so it is kind of a two for one). It was so charming! So many cute shops and cafes and the casino was lovely too. We decided to hang by the Paris pool for the majority of the day. It was perfection. We attempted another selfie. It was so-so. But I did get another text from Todd telling me that the kids had cleaned out the entire garage and vacuumed the whole house while he was at work. The kids were killing it!
With that lovely news I was able to sit and enjoy the gorgeous view at the pool. It was outstanding. Beautiful pool and the Eiffel Tower in the background. Nice. 
That evening was our gambling night. Sarah deals cards in Oklahoma and has never been to Vegas to play her favorite game, Craps. It was a very exciting night for her and it was super fun for me to watch her in action. It was a blasty blast. And by the end of the night I had even won $100 on poker. Score! (ok, it was video poker, but that sounds so much less cool)
The next morning I was up bright and early to catch my 10 o'clock flight. It had been an amazing little vacation but I was very much anxious to get home to my family.  I am not used to being away from them. It rarely happens. As a matter of fact in the 35 years that Sarah and I have been best friends this was our very first vacation together (without kids). What? Long overdue and much enjoyed. But it is good to be back with the family.

And I must have brought a little Vegas craziness back with me because the day after I got home I decided to go out and get my nose pierced. It is something I have wanted to do for a while and I figured that now that I am 40 I can do whatever I want without caring if people think it is crazy or not.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

7th Heaven

Grace turned 7 yesterday and the whole weekend was spent celebrating her birthday. She was in 7th heaven. 
The weekend started out with a trip to the local indoor waterpark. Grace was finally tall enough to play in the big pool with her brothers. She also decided, on her own, to try out the big waterslides by herself. It was a big day for her. 

Then there was cake with the grandmas and presents, too.
Monday, on her actual birthday there were even more presents! Grace was thrilled with her doll twin and her angel necklace.
We even went to Bay Beach for the day. It was a blast. Grace added another first to her list and went on the Zippin' Pippin for the first time.
 It was a great birthday weekend for Grace. And I didn't even have time to get melancholy at how quickly my little lady is growing up.
Happy Birthday, my darling girl. I am so proud to be your mumma. I love you!

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