Sunday, January 8, 2017

Happy To Serve

It seems like just yesterday when Joe and Tommy would insist on escorting Father Ed out of church after mass every Sunday. It started when Joe was only two years old. Father Ed was a good friend of ours and when he walked down the aisle past us on the way out of church Joe reached his arms out. Father grabbed him and carried him out. And a tradition was born. Every Sunday Joe would stretch his arms out and Father would carry Joe out of church. The congregation really got a kick out of it. The minute Tommy was old enough to reach out to Father he did. He saw big brother and Father and wanted to join in. Father would walk out carrying Tommy and holding Joey's hand. 

When we heard that Father was retiring we were very sad. He was a wonderful priest and a great friend. This picture is from his last mass at our church. Father had just baptized a baby and was holding the baby on the way out but that didn't deter my boys. Of course, Joe and Tommy had to escort him out of church one last time. 

Today Joe and Tommy served at mass for the very first time. As I glanced up at them I couldn't help but think of those two little boys who would escort our priest out of church. My how time flies.
The boys were happy to have their friend, and Joey's classmate, serve with them. Aiden is an old pro and was very helpful. Every time the boys did something right Aiden would give them a supportive head nod. Made me smile.

It was also a very memorable first time serving as a bat came out of hiding and flew freely about church. It caused quite a commotion but the boys did a good job staying focused.

Ben had a little bit of a hard time watching his brothers serve. He was super disappointed to learn he had to wait until 5th grade, not 4th grade as he thought, to be a server. One more year to go. Before you know it all three of my boys will be serving at mass together.  

I was very proud of these boys today. God bless you, Joe and Tommy!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Another year gone. Another year beginning. It is difficult to grasp. I feel like I was finally getting used to writing 2016 and now it is 2017.

I know that 2016 was a pretty crazy year for our world and our country but it was a pretty great year for our family. For me personally, I think it was one of my best years ever. I was able to do more traveling this year than I have done collectively over the last 5-10 years. As a family we took an RV 4000 miles through Vail, to The Grand Canyon, over to Las Vegas, and back home again. It was a trip of a lifetime. I was also able to go with my lady in laws to Mexico and we had a blast! Then I had yet another fabulous trip to Las Vegas for a few days with my bff. I was so lucky with all the traveling I was able to do this year.

I turned 40 this past year, which I didn't think would end up being on my "good" list but I'm loving 40. I feel like I am at a point where I am more accepting of myself and less concerned with what other people think of me. I finally got my nose pierced like I've always wanted because I stopped being worried about what people would think. I am also more able to accept others' differing opinions and let go of things I can't change. I just feel more peaceful, really.

This past year I had the pleasure of being in a musical with Joey and Tommy again. I went skiing and swimming and biking with the kids. We took multiple trips up north. We have had a very fun and active year. The kids played a ton of sports (baseball, basketball, dance, football) and it was fun watching them too.

This past year I finally updated my wedding ring. Todd has been wanting me to do this for 10 years but I am so sentimental I just couldn't bring myself to it. It wasn't a big change. We just changed the band from gold to white gold (I had been wanting to do that for a long time but I just didn't like the thought of changing my wedding ring) and added very thin anniversary bands. It looks amazing. I was VERY nervous about the whole thing but it really turned out lovely.

I know this seems silly but I started getting my nails done this past year. It may not sound like a big deal but it has been for me. For the past two years my nails had been awful. I don't know what happened but they were always cracked and peeling. Not only does it look awful but it was painful as well. I finally decided to have fiberglass put over my nail bed and have them done every month. I can't tell you what a difference that has made. I had tried everything to get my nails healthy (vitamins, oils, lotions, nail strengtheners, etc) but they never got any better. Getting my nails done has taken so much time away from me trying to fix them myself. And it has been fun too! I am never one to indulge myself in unnecessary expenses (the woman I go to is crazy inexpensive and she is fantastic!) but this one has been well worth it. 

Again, I know this sounds like a silly thing but I have struggled with bad skin all my life. Since I was a teenager I have had acne. I always thought it would clear up as an adult. It actually got worse. I have literally tried everything. Diet, dermatologists, Proactive, old wives tails, coconut oils, facial scrubs, etc. Seriously. Everything. This past year I finally have found something that has worked for my skin. I'll probably do another post on it some other time in case anyone else is looking for help with their skin. But let's just say that it has been a dramatic change for me. Unless you've struggled with skin problems you really can't know how it can affect you. My skin isn't perfect but it has been so much better that I would almost call it life changing. It has only been about 4 months so far but it has been fantastic!

I got a new cell phone (finally a smartphone instead of my dumbphone) for my birthday, which was really more exciting for my family than it was for me. I must admit, I have enjoyed having it much more than I thought I would. Very convenient. Now I'm finally not living in the dark ages.  😉
Again, silly little thing to even mention but little things sometimes feel like big things to me. 

It really seemed to be a year of trying new things. 

That's not to say that this past year wasn't without problems. It certainly was. My mom, once again, had some very serious health problems and I wasn't certain she would be able to pull through this time. Another very scary trip to the ER and an ambulance ride to a bigger hospital an hour away. Another surgery and another stay in the hospital an hour away from us. It was very worrisome, to say the least. Her health continues to be a worry for me. 

There were other troubles and trials too (many heartbreaking family problems and struggles) but in looking back they are not what I remember most. Mostly, I remember that it was a good year.

This morning in church our priest was saying that whatever this new year holds we have to embrace it all with open arms. The good and the bad. We have to accept it all and put our faith in God. It really spoke to me because I am a well known clinger. I do not like change. Looking back on the past wonderful year it makes me sad to leave it in the past. Could this next year possibly compete? Maybe not. But whatever it has in store for us I will try to embrace it all.


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


Friday, December 30, 2016

That's A Wrap

Christmas was a whirlwind. Just when you think you've got everything done and it is time to relax a wrench is thrown into the plans. 

On the last day of school before Christmas break Grace was in a nativity play. Every year the second grade class presents the play to the school and this was the last time our kids would get to be a part of it. Grace was an angel. She read her lines very well and she definitely looked like an angel.
She had fun directing her choir of angles too. The angels were adorable and the nativity play was precious.

This year I busted my butt so that by the time the kids were out of school I was done with all the Christmas prep.  All the presents had been wrapped, all the treats had been made, all the last minute errands had been run. It was great! I actually felt fairly calm.

Enter the wrench. On Christmas Eve we went over to Todd's mom's house and Ben's godmother got him the exact present that he asked for from Santa (a big Nerf gun).  Panic!!!!  It just would not do to have Ben get such an anticlimactic gift from Santa. This is the last year Ben will have the fun of Santa (I'm sure he is already privy to Santa but didn't want to give up the act before the big day). I had to figure out something, and quick.

Cute part of the story is how my two older boys, Joe and Tommy, (who have been helping me figure out what Santa should get for Grace and Ben) reacted when they saw the Nerf gun Ben had gotten from his godmother. They tried to hide it but they were so upset. They both pulled me aside and told me how upset they were. There were actually worried for me. Tommy told me that he was just sick about it. It was actually kind of sweet, them being so worried about me having to figure something out. I kept telling them it was not a big deal but they were stressed. Made me giggle and definitely helped me to keep my calm over the silly little situation.

I ended up running out to the store on Christmas Eve and getting Ben something that he had asked for last minute (a camera). When we got home I unwrapped the original present and wrapped the replacement present. It was all a little crazy but it did work out in the end.

The stage was set and now we were truly ready for Christmas.
(I swear I did not make the dog sit there. The minute she saw my camera and me focused on the tree she went and sat down in front of it. This crazy dog LOVES the camera!)

Christmas morning was a lot of fun. There were fun surprises all around. I love surprising the kids with things they think they could never have. It worked last year with the Kindles and I actually managed to find some stuff for this year too. Not as exciting as Kindles, but the kids loved it. I even managed a surprise for Todd. He is usually the worst to shop for because all he really wants is hunting stuff or tractor stuff. Nothing I can pick out or get for him. This year I blew up a gorgeous pic (my current header pic) of the kids up north in front of the lake and put it on a canvas for him to hang in his office. Honestly, I think I was more excited to give this gift than anything else. It was a lot of fun. He loved it.
Christmas morning we went to mass, came home to relax a little bit, and then went over to my mom's house for another lovely get together. Overall, Christmas was pretty darn nice.

The day after Christmas we packed everything up and went up north to the cabin. I haven't been there in a couple months and I was really looking forward to getting away. I took 4 books up with me and finished them all. Okay, I was mostly done with the first one and when I began reading the next I figured out that I had already read it. But still. Lots of good reading.

The highlight of the week was our ski trip to Ski Brule. It was so much fun. It was the most relaxed I've ever been skiing since we've had kids. It is really all falling into place now. Grace and I spent the morning on the bunny hill, working on turning and stopping, and Todd and the boys hit the hill. We met for lunch and then all went on the big hill together. Grace was having a little bit of trouble on the bigger hills so after we had some hot chocolate she and Todd went back to the bunny hill and the boys and I skied together. Joe actually asked to ride up the lift with me. Yay! My teenager wants to hang with me! 💗
With some prodding I convinced the boys to run some tougher trails with me. This is the first time in a long time that I've been able to ski something other than a green. I forgot how much fun skiing (actual skiing, not just the bunny hill) can be. Especially with my boys! They did really well. I was so proud of all my kids and how brave they were and how much they pushed themselves. It was a great day.

A couple more days to relax, a little party with our up north neighbors, and before we knew it it was time to come home. When I told Grace it was time to go home she yelled, "WHAT? I thought you said we were gonna stay up here all week?"  I explained that Monday through Friday was a full week. Time flies when you're having fun!

When we got home it was a flurry of unpacking and putting everything in its place, laundry, grocery shopping, and a million errands (library, bank, 4 different stores to return things that weren't working). I was glad that we had decided to just hang at the house for a very laid back New Year's Eve.

Unfortunately for Todd he came down with a peach of a cold. Luckily, we had enough food to temporarily distract him.  Yum!

We all made it to midnight (except for Todd- poor guy) and welcomed the New Year in properly. I am so happy to be able to start another year with these amazing people in my life. I am so grateful.  
It was the perfect way to wrap up a beautiful holiday and a wonderful year.

Hope you all have a blessed, healthy, and happy 2017!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Peace



Here we are. The golden "hour". The craziness of the holidays has subsided. The presents are wrapped and treats have been made. Snow is falling, fire in the fireplace, and a cocktail in hand. Now we sit back and soak in all the Christmas goodness. 🎄

Hoping you can find a little quiet time to bask in the goodness of the season amid all the hustle and bustle.

From our family to all of you, we wish you a blessed, peaceful, and Merry Christmas, a very Happy Hanukkah, and a lovely and Happy Holidays!


**Photobomber, Molly, would also like to wish you Seasons Greetings! **

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Catch Up

Once again it has been a long time since I've posted on my blog. It is not for lack of desire but rather a lack of time. Right around Thanksgiving time life got crazy busy and it hasn't slowed down yet. I'll just give a quick summary of our regular week schedule, if you'll humor me.

Mondays- Joey band at 3:30-4:30 then basketball practice from 4:30-6:30, Tommy basketball practice from 6:30-8, Ben basketball practice 6:30-8 (different location than Tommy), Me- Symphony Choir rehearsal 7-9:30

Tuesday- Two basketball games (Joey and Tommy) between 5:00 and 8:00

Wednesday- Ben band at 3:30-4:30, Tommy basketball from 5-6:30, Ben basketball from 6:30-8

Thursday- Two basketball games (Joey and Tommy) between 5 and 8

Friday- Joe basketball 4:30-6:30

Saturday- Ben basketball games between 8 and 11 in the morning.  

Two weekends ago we also had FOUR basketball games for a tournament that Joey was in, Grace's 1st Reconciliation, Ben's basketball game, church, and then a meeting with a couple Todd and I are preparing for marriage in the church.

Last week also had a band concert during the week, I had two extra Symphony rehearsals (on Tuesday and Friday) and then my concert on Saturday night. 

There have been plenty of meetings and ortho appointments, and sicknesses, and volunteering, and snow storms thrown in there too.  

Don't even get me started on all the Christmas prep. But I am close to getting a handle on all of that now so I finally have a moment to sit and write it all down. 

I can't possible recap the last month so I won't even try. As a matter of fact, I don't think I ever even posted pics about the boys' football season. So, excuse me while I sneak a bit in here now.
 All of the boys really enjoyed football this year. Joey had some nice plays and was able to play both offense and defense. The highlight of his season was getting an interception on the 2 yard line and saving the day. Very exciting. Tommy's team was unstoppable. The defense (coached by Todd) allowed only one touchdown all season. Very impressive. Ben had his first season on tackle football. It was a big adjustment but by the end of the season he was really getting the hang of it. He is already looking forward to next year.
Okay. That's all I have to say about that.  :)

This year Joe was the only one to go up to deer camp with Todd. Tommy had gone up for the youth hunt but decided to stay home for the regular deer camp because he was concerned about keeping up with his homework from the days he would have to miss school. It was a very wise decision on his part, I thought.

To make the most of his time at home with us I took all three of my homies (kids at home with me) to The Milwaukee Museum. I forgot how awesome it was.  It has been a while since we've been there and Grace didn't even remember her first visit since she was only about two years old. I was SO excited for her to see the butterfly exhibit. It is my heaven.
I had butterflies landing all over me. I honestly could have stayed there all day long. Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes Tommy started to get a little antsy. I can't say I blame him but Grace and I really didn't want to leave. Maybe I could plan a girls' trip there sometime.

Anyway, there was tons left to see. We love the dinosaur exhibit and of course Old Milwaukee. Tommy was studying ancient Egypt in school so he really enjoyed that portion of the museum. It was a really fun day and we finished up with some yummy food at La Fuente. A family favorite.
Strangely enough, neither Todd nor Joe even saw deer this year (and we are sadly out of venison now). It was a very good decision for Tommy to stay home. He would have been very bored. And I certainly enjoyed having him hang back with us.

Thanksgiving was lovely. We hosted my family on Thanksgiving and then we hosted Todd's family on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We had a lot of food and a lot of fun. Saturday ended up being so unseasonally warm that after dinner we all went outside and played basketball in the dark. We played "lightening" and I'm amazed to say that my boys and I ran the court and won the majority of the games. It was a lot of fun.

As I mentioned the boys (Joey and Ben) have been taking band lessons. This was their first time in band and I was excited that they both wanted to learn an instrument. A little while ago they had their first band concert. I'm sorry to say it will also be their last band concert. I think right now there is just too much going on. Both boys decided not to keep up with their instruments because they just feel overwhelmed. While I completely understand, and think it is wise of them at this point, I'm also a little sad. Joey is quite a natural in music and was able to play the clarinet and make up his own songs and keep up with the kids who have been in band for years. It was pretty amazing. And Ben really struggled with the sax but made huge strides and enjoyed being in the concert. Perhaps when summer rolls around I can convince them to start up again if we are not too busy then. 
The first and last band concert

I also had a concert. The Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performed Handel's Messiah. It was a fantastic concert. A great way to get into the Christmas spirit. 
I got my 5 year service pin! Wow, time flies by.

All three of my boys are now in basketball. Joe and Tommy play for school and Ben plays on a YMCA team. They are all having a great time. Ben is doing amazingly well for his first year of basketball. Watching his first game was so much fun. I was shocked at how well he handled the ball and his shooting. I had no idea he had gotten that good. I usually just see him shooting around in the driveway and he doesn't get much opportunity to dribble with two older brothers. I guess playing with the older boys pays off.  

Tommy continues to do well and his sixth grade team is pretty talented. They struggled together last year through an up and down season but they are tough to beat this year. Tommy has become a great ball handler and his shot has really improved too. He is having a lot of fun on basketball this year.

As for Joe, he has been playing with the kids on his team for four years. They've never had a winning season. They've played against tough teams and were always quite a bit shorter than the other teams. Something happened over the summer. The boys shot up and grew overnight and polished up on their basketball skills. They have become a competitive team for the first time. Their first game they did not play well and they got handily beat by a school rival. The next games were in a tournament of very good basketball teams. Our boys ended up losing the very first game (against the team that made it to the finals) but won the rest of their games and took first place in the Silver bracket. It was a huge lift for our boys who have always played hard but never really had the success they wanted. 
I'm proud of this group of boys who have worked so hard and always had a great attitude whether they won or lost. This is a great bunch of kids.

Last night we had the kids' school Christmas concert. It is the last Christmas concert Joey will ever have at that school and with his siblings. Made me a little emotional, if I'm honest. Joey did a great job on his solo as the singing shepherd and he played one of the wise men too. Tommy, Ben, and Grace did a great job singing with their classes too. It was a beautiful concert.

With most of the concerts out of the way we now just have to get through the next week of preChristmas madness and then we will eventually get a rest. A few more basketball games and practices, wrapping presents, getting the teachers gifts and wrapping them, the kids' secret santas, Christmas treats, and one more Christmas play. Yikes. That sounds like a lot. 

Breathe. Just breathe. 

It's a hectic time of year but a wonderful time of year. 

I hope you are all keeping up with the craziness of the season and finding moments of complete peace and joy as well.

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.



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