Friday, June 24, 2016

A Little Break

Last week I was in Mexico. Beautiful, gorgeous, sunny, hot Mexico. It was fabulous. A great little break. 

The trip was a Christmas present to LaVerne (my mother in law) from her children. Vernie loves hot weather and had never been to Mexico. Her kids thought it would be fun to give her this trip with her daughters as her travel mates. I am so fortunate that I have always been fully included in this family and treated as family from the moment I met these wonderful people. So many people dread being with their in laws but I just love mine. I am so lucky. The four of us had such a blast on this trip. Four women traveling together for 6 days and there were zero issues. So good.

We drove down to Chicago on Saturday and stayed overnight so that we didn't have to wake up so early on Sunday morning to make our 10 o'clock flight. It also gave us the opportunity to meet up with my nephew (my sister in law Kris' son) Nick and his girlfriend and have dinner with them. It was great to be able to catch up with Nick before he moved to Boston for an internship. Such a good, smart "kid".  It was a great way to being our trip.


The next day we caught our shuttle to the airport and hopped on our flight to Mexico. It was an uneventful flight (thank goodness) and we arrived at our resort just before 3 in the afternoon. We had two ladies to a room and the rooms were right next to each other. This was the view from the balcony.

We quickly dumped our luggage off and hightailed it down to the beach to check out a bit of the resort. This was our first stop. The first drink was a nutty monkey.  Yum!

We were VERY excited to be among the hot weather, palm trees, beach, and ocean. He had arrived!

A short time later we were sitting by the pool with more fruity drinks in our hands. We were at the pool again bright and early the next morning as well. This was our happy place.  

Michele and I had fun making friends with all the lizards and birds. They weren't quite as fond of us but they let me snap a few pics anyway.
We even got our pics with them. The sassy little bird next to me kept trying to take a bite out of me but I'm sure they were just love bites.  :) 

 We actually did make friends with quite a few other guests. Everyone was so friendly. Here were are having a little fun with our new friends (although they aren't in this pic with us) at one of the resort's nightclubs. Fun!

More swimming the next day. I think at this point I was sticking mostly to water.  :)

The infinity pool! It was gorgeous!

Playing around in the ocean. These ladies crack me up.

One of my favorite pictures from the whole vacation.

On our last night at the resort we went out to dinner and when the waiter found out that this trip was a Christmas present to Vernie he brought her a special dessert that said, "Merry Christmas!".  It was very thoughtful and the dessert was delicious.

It was a great way to end our wonderful vacation.
It was an amazing getaway. The resort was fantastic. Todd and I had stayed at this resort a couple of years ago and I knew we would all enjoy it. It is a great place. However, staying at the resort did make me miss Todd. It was odd being there without him. This was the first time I had been on a vacation without him and at a place we had enjoyed together previously. It felt very strange. And it felt like a LONG time being away from my family. I missed them terribly. WAY more than I thought I would. I knew I would miss them but it was much more than that.

Todd sent me pictures and updates of what he and the kids were up to.

Todd took the kids to the free zoo close to our house.

They had a Top Chef cooking competition at home. Points were given for nutrition, presentation, sportsmanship, and cleanup. A genius way to get the kids to make their own lunches and then clean up the kitchen.

They even went to Green Bay and toured Lambeau Field. I have to admit, I was jealous. I never had a tour of Lambeau!

I know it sounds ridiculous but I was a little sad. I hate missing out on family fun. I really, really missed my family.
And I think that is a good thing. My little break was a good way for all of us to remember how lucky we are. I came home so thankful to be with my family again. And they had missed me too. The kids said it just wasn't the same without me and Todd was very grateful to have me home again.

It was a fantastic little break and I'm happy to be back.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Let's Hear It For The Dads

A good father is immeasurable. I had a great father. He was a constant strong, loving force in my life. He was the person who gave me confidence and taught me to trust myself. He made me feel valuable. Priceless. He showed me that I deserved love. There is nothing like the unconditional love of a father. It is something I will carry with me throughout my whole life even though my father is no longer with me. I can still feel his love. I always will.
It is no wonder that I married an incredible man, eerily similar to my father, who is an amazing father to our children. I am so blessed to have these men in my life. My children are blessed. They too know the strong, unconditional love of a great father (Todd learned from an amazing father as well). I am so so grateful for the loving fathers in my life.
It was a great day to celebrate fathers. A little melancholy, as always, but wonderful nonetheless. 

Todd came home from up north this morning and the kids were super excited to give Todd his Father's Day gifts that they had thoughtfully and carefully picked out and paid for. Todd received peanuts, a beer bottle cozy, a non-leaky travel mug, his favorite lemon cookies, and many packs of gum. I gave him a watch with the kids' picture as the background on the face. It's pretty cool. The kids were pleased to see how much Todd liked his gifts and they insisted that he begin using them immediately. So, it was peanuts and beer for Todd at 9 o'clock this morning.  


Yay for Father's Day!

I hope all of the wonderful fathers in your life had a special Father's Day too!


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Growth Spurts

Todd and the kids are currently up north. I am alone in the house. Even Molly has gone up north. The house is silent.

I am packing my bags for Mexico. In a little over an hour I will pick up Todd's mom and his two sisters and the four of us will drive down to Chicago and stay overnight so we can catch our early flight the next morning.  I am really looking forward to this trip.

And yet, I miss them already. Actually, the minute they pulled out of the driveway I missed them. Well, if I'm honest, I missed them even before they left.

Looking at the photos from the first and last day of school has really hit me. These kids are growing up. It is all going so fast. Seeing the physical evidence of their growth makes me want to enjoy every single second I have with them. I know that sounds a bit ridiculous. Yes, my kids make me crazy more often than I care to admit. The fighting and complaining and not listening, it is enough to make me lose my marbles. But when all is said and done I can't get enough of them.

A couple of weeks ago Joey and I were standing back to back to see how close he is to catching me in height. He was at least an inch or so away. Standing next to him yesterday we discovered he is no my same height. A couple of weeks, people! That's all it took.

Joe is going into eighth grade now. Eighth grade. I just don't see how that is possible.  He came home from the last day of school excited about summer and about his new crush (who not only went to school with him-she was a graduating 8th grader- but is also our neighbor). Feelings were confessed to each other and Joey's heart was bursting. Of course, he understands he is too young for dating but just knowing that his feelings are reciprocated put him on cloud nine. I suggested he ask her if she wanted to ask her to go for a bike ride and his nerves as he awaited her answer are something I will never forget. It was a precious moment. And that 20 minute bike ride was a moment I'm sure he will never forget.

Even as I write this I wonder if it is really mine to tell. He is growing old enough that his stories are his own and I'm just fortunate enough that he still confides in me. I don't want to break his trust and at the same time I don't want to forget these precious moments with him.

Tommy is moving on to middle school. Of course he will be at the same school he is now but it is still a big deal for him. A big change. He is nervous about the multiple teachers and the added responsibilities and homework that comes with middle school but I have absolutely no doubt he will handle it all beautifully. This year in 5th grade has really been a year of growth for Tommy too, and he has become such a diligent student, working hard and earning good grades.

Ben's class is so large that it is broken into two different classes (unusual for a parochial school but our school is growing quickly under our new fabulous principal). The teacher Ben had this year will be moving with the third graders to fourth grade. Ben was desperate to have his same teacher next year instead of being switched to the other teacher (who is also fabulous). I told him I would put in a request with the principal and when I did she told me that his teacher actually requested that Ben be in her class again as well. The love is mutual. This is the first year Ben has ever enjoyed school and the teacher has made all the difference. She acknowledges all his efforts and good behavior (almost every day he was "off the chart" on the good behavior chart) and Ben could not be more thrilled to see her again in 4th grade.

I can't even sum up how well Grace did her first year in full time school. All of the kids in her class went to kindergarten all day but Grace was only in half a day. I was slightly concerned she would be at the same academic level as all the other kids but my concerns were immediately wiped away when she started 1st grade. Grace's reading just took off and halfway through the year she began reading chapter books. She is a girl after my own heart and is always walking around with a book in her hand. Just precious. And math! The girl is a super genius! Amazing.

Grace is a mama's girl. She was not happy about leaving me behind nor was she happy that I will be gone when they get back. Tears were shed. Hers. I kept mine in. Barely.

So here I sit. Simultaneously excited and melancholy. I am ridiculous.

I really am looking forward to this trip. I have never taken a vacation without Todd or my kids. It is a new adventure for me. And I am excited.

I just pray that God keeps my precious kids safe and happy until I return. And hopefully they won't grow too much while I'm gone.



Friday, June 10, 2016

The First and The Last

This year has been quite a year of growth for my kiddos. And nothing drives that point home more than seeing the physical evidence. 

The kiddos on the first and last day of this school year.

It has been a wonderful year, with amazing teachers, first time experiences, great memories, sports and plays and musicals, hard work yielding good grades, and yes, much growth.  

It puts a pretty big lump in my throat to see my kids growing so quickly but I sure am proud of the people they are becoming.  And I am so grateful I get this summer to spend as much time with them as possible. Let's hope the time doesn't fly quite so quickly.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Two Weekend Review

I think I am finally on the upswing after being sick for the last two weeks. That respiratory flu really took a lot out of me and my lungs are finally getting back closer to 100%. Just in time for a busy Mother's Day weekend.

On Friday I decided to take a little time for myself after a crazy hectic week. Todd had gone up north for a quick little overnight visit to plant some trees and put a fence in across the road on the 40 acres. I decided Friday would be the perfect day to sit outside and read. It was a gorgeous day. I laid on my lounge chair and read and read and read. And lost track of time. Unfortunately for me, I ended up outside for about two hours without realizing it and gave myself one heck of a sunburn all up and down my back and back of my legs. That wasn't great.  

However, I didn't let that stop me. The kids and I went out for a nice dinner and when we got home I loaded up on aloe vera and ibuprofin and went to bed early. 

The next day when Todd got home I took my mom to see The Jungle Book for a little Mother's Day weekend fun. I had already seen the movie twice with my kids (it really is THAT good) but I knew my mom just HAD to see it. Mom was blown away. It is such a majestic movie. If you haven't already gone you have to go. It is not just one for the kids. FAN-tastic! 

Anyway, mom really loved the movie. And the next day after church we all took mom out to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. It was really nice (I didn't take any pics- oops). It was a good weekend spending time with my mom. I am so grateful to have her here with us after all of her recent medical drama. I didn't think I would get another Mother's Day with her and I cherish every moment I get with her.  

After lunch we went over to Todd's mom's house for a cookout. More fun was had. It was lovely hanging out with everyone again. I feel like it has been a while that we have all been together since we missed out on Easter this year. 
LaVerne's Mother's Day was complete with a ride on the Harley and we got a few nice pics to go with it. We were missing one grandchild in the picture but otherwise it was a lovely picture. We also got a picture with the kids too! 
It was a really nice way to celebrate Mother's Day. I am so lucky to have not one, but two, fantastic women to honor on Mother's Day.

I suppose I should have posted the rest of this last post weekend but I just wasn't up to it with everything else going on. As I said, busy week.

Last weekend, even though Todd was still very sick he and the boys went up north with a few of Todd's buddies and dug big holes in the 40 acres across the road. See?
Big holes. They were the trenches where the support beams/foundation for the deer stands they were also building that weekend. Exciting stuff. Grace and I had actually planned on going up north with everyone since the kids had off of school on Friday (nice long weekend!) but it turned out to be a guys' weekend. And honestly, I really wasn't feeling well enough to go anyway.  

However, with the boys gone I felt I had to have something special planned for a ladies' weekend with Grace. On Friday we took it easy since I was still ill. But we did manage to go to a few stores and get ourselves a few treats and goodies. Then we bundled up at home and watched movies.  

The next day was pretty special. Grace and I headed down to Milwaukee for the day. We went shopping, went to a couple of restaurants, and then went to see the musical Ella Enchanted. And though it was cold and rainy, and I was STILL sick, we had a great time.

Gracie was in a super silly mood and wanted us to take picture after picture. 

Some goofy pics too.


The show as at the First Stage theater. I had never been there. It is a cute little theater with a mix of professional and nonprofessional thespians. The young roles were played by varies teenagers from the surrounding counties. They were very good. The storyline was quite different from the movie but we enjoyed it.  
However, after the show Grace said that she liked The Lion King (the one her brothers and I were in two weeks ago) better. Maybe a little biased? Perhaps. But it is difficult to compete with The Lion King.
It was a really fun experience for Grace and I and I am looking forward to taking her to more shows in the future. 

When the show was done Grace declared that she was hungry again. Good grief! Well, as long as we were in Milwaukee I figured we'd better stop at one of my all time favorite restaurants (La Fuente). Grace and I shared a meal but I probably should have gotten us each our own because she ate most of it and I realized I could have eaten more than I thought.  That girl can pack away tostadas! Just like her mama.  
Grace and I returned home that night fat and happy and tired. On Sunday after church we basically laid around the majority of the day. When Todd and the boys got home the kids went to play outside while Todd and I lay around groaning about how awful we were still feeling. It was a long, crazy sickness.

But, as I said, we are finally coming out on the other side of it now. And even though we've been little sickies we have now had two really nice weekends in a row (well, three, now that I think of it).

I hope all you mommies have had a really lovely Mother's Day weekend, full of relaxation, joy, family, and love.

Happy Mother's Day, all!

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Lion King Jr

Last year when Joey and Tommy and I were in The Wizard of Oz together I promised to post video of the performance here on my blog. Unfortunately, I never got the video. I'm told the video was made and given to the directors and stage manager but copies were never made.  I brought it up to the directors and hopefully they will get us that video someday soon.

However, this year I wasn't going to wait for the video. We were given instructions not to take pictures or video of the performances but, as you all know, I am not a rule follower. Obviously, I couldn't sneak into the theater on performance nights but I did on Thursday at our dress rehearsal. I could only get little snippets here and there because many times I had to stop recording to run through the school, through the gym, and down the back staircase to get in place for my next scene. And obviously, I couldn't record any scenes that I am in. No biggie. But I did manage to record a little bit of my boys' solos. Yay!

Keep in mind that the sound isn't fantastic. This was recorded using my cell phone. 

This is Tommy in "I Just Can't Wait To Be King"
video

Tommy was very concerned about this solo because it was very high for him but he nailed it.
video
I wish I could have gotten Joey's solo on this song but I had to get in place to go on stage. This song was very special to me because Tommy sang in the beginning of it and then slyly exited stage as Joey sneakily entered the stage and sang the solo. It was young Simba growing into adult Simba and it was so amazing that my boys were able to share that role. And the switch was so smooth that many people in the audience didn't even know it happened. So many people came up to me after the show and said that they were suddenly wondering why Simba looked so much taller and his voice was lower. Then they checked their programs and saw they were brothers and they were blown away. 


The next four videos are from "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" and Joey's solos. I had to break it down into 4 videos because it was too large a file to upload all as one video.

video

video

video















video

Yep. Those are my boys. Proud mama, here. They worked so hard and it all paid off.

I was a lioness (and vocal leader) in the show and the lioness' had some of the coolest songs and dances. The songs were very difficult (some were acapella chants with harmonies) but the kids that were put in the lioness roles were good, strong singers. It was a lot of fun. I don't have video but I do have a few photos that our school photographer sent me.

Sending Nala out with our prayers.
 The Lioness Hunt
 Attacking the antelope (don't worry she came back to life to sing in a later song)

Young Simba, Timon and Pumba

 Adult Simba, Timon and Pumba

 Adult Simba, Adult Nala, Timon and Pumba

 Making a plan

 Young Simba and Young Nala

 Young Simba, Young Nala, and Zazu

 Posed Pics of Young Simba and Young Nala

 Adult Simba and Adult Nala


By the way, that is their real hair. They were not allowed to get haircuts for the last 2 plus months so that we could do this to their hair. THEY HATED their long hair. They wanted me to cut their hair after the last show on Saturday night but I wasn't having it. We had a cast party to get to and it was getting late. They had to wait until Sunday morning for their haircuts. 

The Simbas

 Tired Simba

Timon and Pumba find sleepy Simba

 The second half of Hakuna Matata when Adult Simba first appears on stage.

 I love this pic.


Adult Simba with Rafiki, being shown his reflection right before "He Lives In You". The girl who played Rafiki has an AMAZING voice. She rocked it. She was the Cowardly Lion last year and was Annie the year before that. Talented young lady.

The bows. The camera couldn't even fit everyone in the pic. Big cast. 

 After the bows singing an encore of "Circle of Life"

The whole cast.

It was an amazing show. I am so proud of all of the kids. They all worked so hard. It was quite a production and so many people chipped in to help out. So many moms making costumes (did you SEE the GIRAFFE costumes???) and sets and dads helping with the construction and the stage crew. It is such a great community at this school. I am so proud to have my kids be a part of it. 




We have been SO busy these last few months. Well, maybe since fall. From football to basketball to the musical. It has been at least one activity every single night. Plus all the crazy homework. Nuts! How my boys managed to get themselves on the honor roll with all this madness going on is beyond me. But I am SO thankful we now have a bit of a reprieve before Ben starts baseball this summer. Unfortunately, our first week of freedom was/is painful. Todd and I both got terribly sick. I mean SICK. It must be respiratory flu. Aches everywhere, lungs hurt, headache, horribly sore throat (feels like I am swallowing knives over a hole in my throat), fever and chills, temperatures, the works. I don't remember the last time I was this sick. I don't usually get sick at all. Todd has been sick since Sunday night and I got it on Tuesday. I'm just glad the sickies held off until the show ended. Todd just started to feel better yesterday and is now up north with the boys planting trees and such during the long weekend. Grace and I have a lovely ladies weekend planned if I can just feel a little better. I am taking Grace to see a theater production of Ella Enchanted in Milwaukee tomorrow. We are both very excited. 

Anyway, if you got through yet another long winded post of mine, I applaud you. Thank you. I promise my next post won't be so epic.  

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