Wednesday, March 4, 2015

WW- What Do You See?

Can you see them?
 How about now?
 Maybe this will help. About 30 Cedar Waxwings took perch on our front tree.
 We've never seen a Cedar Waxwing this close up and certainly not this many.
 Joey was obsessed with birds for a long time and Cedar Waxwings were his favorite.
 I thought he was having an attack when I heard him screaming for me, "MOM! Come here, QUICK!!!"
 It was pretty exciting.
Joey informed me that the Cedar Waxwing eats berries. The birds flitted from this large tree to our smaller Crabapple tree and then back again. Luckily, they stayed long enough for me to capture a few fuzzy shots through our windows.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Dozen

Twelve. A dozen years. The last year before the teens. 

Today Joey turned twelve years old. 

My first born. The one who made me a mama. 

I watch his baby videos and I'm in awe at how much of Joey was there right from day one. Same huge eyes, round face, sweet cheeks. Same silly sense of humor. Same analytical mind, always watching, observing, figuring out. Same hambone who knows how to capture attention. Same clown. Same snuggler. My same affectionate Joey. 

He is twelve. But he still wants to sit with me. He still wants to ask my advice. He still tells me personal info and lets me in to his deepest secrets. He still trusts me. He still plays with his siblings. He still loves being a kid. He still asks for my help. He still has no problem being exactly who he is. 

I hope that never changes. 

Since Joey's birthday fell on a Tuesday and he also had his last basketball game of the season the same night, I knew we wouldn't have much time to celebrate. Instead we took the past weekend to allow Joey to pick his birthday activity. 

The kids had off of school on Friday, and Todd was gone for the weekend, so I took them to a nearby indoor bounce house. It was more to get them out of the house and let them get their energy out than to celebrate Joey's birthday. The kids had a blast bouncing and jumping and sliding and playing for four hours and by the time we got home they were worn out. Job done.
Joey's real birthday treat came on Saturday. I took the kids to the EAA Museum in Oshkosh. We haven't been there for a while and the kids had a blast. All afternoon they conducted experiments and flew plane simulations and sat in cockpits and looked at war planes. Joey was in heaven. It was a good birthday treat.
Today was Joey's actual birthday and of course there were presents (mostly LEGOS), dinner at the restaurant of his choice after his basketball game, and brownies and ice cream for dessert. It was a good birthday.
Now everyone is off to bed and I sit and watch more baby videos of Joey, completely confused as to how we went from 0 to 12 so quickly. 
Happy Birthday my dear Joseph. Thank you for making me a mama. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for your snuggles and affection. Thank you for being you and sharing yourself with me. I am so proud to be your mom. I love you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Focus

Last night, after we got home from Joey's fantastically exciting basketball game victory, we discovered that our furnace had taken a dump. The house was a cool 62 degrees and it wasn't going to be getting any warmer outside. It was close to the kids' bedtime so I went about piling their beds with extra blankets and making sure they all had on their warmest jammies and socks while Todd futzed with the furnace and contacted a repairman. The temperature outside was suppose to drop dramatically and I knew we'd have to do everything we could to stay warm.

It was a chilly night's sleep and Todd and I awoke earlier than normal this morning to discover that it was 54 degrees in the house. Brr. Getting out of bed in the morning is hard enough for me, the frigid house did not help.  Luckily, Todd was able to get a hold of our furnace repairman the prior night and he was sending someone over first thing in the morning. By 7 o'clock the repairman was inspecting the furnace. By 8 the problem was discovered (broken motor).

I got the kids off to school and then met up with them again a few minutes later at Ash Wednesday mass. I love how excited my kids are to come and sit with me during mass. It is a special treat. Joey couldn't sit with me this time because he had his 4K partner with him (the older kids mentor the little kids and are responsible for them during masses). When mass was over I went over to say "hi" to Joe and noticed his face was very pale and he wasn't smiling. Joey's teacher told me he has been feeling really sick all morning. I asked Joe if he wanted to come home with me and he nodded his head. We went back to school, picked up his homework, and went back to our chilly house.

The furnace repairmen had found a temporary motor replacement for our furnace (it is too small but will work okay until they find the right size) and was busy installing it while I started a fire in the fireplace. Just when I got a nice roaring fire in the fireplace the furnace kicked it. Hallelujah!

Joey got on his warmest comfy clothes and writhed in crampy stomach pain in front of the fire for the remainder of the morning. By the time I had to run and pick up Grace from school Joey was feeling slightly better. He was even able to eat a little lunch with his sister, who was so excited to have him all to herself.

The temperature in the house is now up to 64 degrees, well on its way to normal and much more comfortable. Soon I will venture back out into the cold to take Grace to ballet class, but when I return it will be to a nice, warm house.

I am so grateful.

All I could think about all last night and this morning is how lucky we are. How many people have to worry about how they will heat their homes on a regular basis? How many people worry about how to keep their children warm at night? How many people would struggle and fret over how to repair a furnace when they are already financially strapped?

It is so easy to take what we have for granted. We get so used to our lives that we forget just how much we have. Even the most basic things are so often overlooked. Yes, it is difficult to get out of bed in the morning but I can get out without pain. I can run. I can jump. I can play with my kids. And yes, it is so cold outside that the air stings my nose as I breath in, but my lungs are healthy and strong and filled with clean air. Sure, Joey has a sick stomach today but my kids are so healthy that in the last two years, between all four of my kids, there have only been 3 days of missed school.

We are so lucky. There is so much to be thankful for. Grateful for.

Just one night without heat was a reminder to me to live with a grateful heart.

It is kind of funny how this happened at the beginning of Lent. This eye opening. This reminder. This focusing.

It was just what I needed to help me focus these next 40 days on what is really important and how much I have to be grateful for.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Eight

This was a very exciting weekend. This weekend Ben turned 8 years old. 

It is always lucky to have a birthday on the weekend because there is much more time to fit fun into the celebration. I think it is safe to say that Ben had fun this weekend. We all did. 

Ben wanted to go bowling this weekend so yesterday, after we helped out at the school basketball tournament (hence the school t shirts), we went to the bowling alley for a few games. Ben's birthday wish was fulfilled and we all had a good time.

Today was Ben's actual birthday and that meant presents. A guitar, LEGOS, books, and a watch. Ben was a happy camper.
After church we went with the grandmas to Ben's favorite restaurant for lunch. Ben even got a free t-shirt from the restaurant that he can wear when we visit the restaurant again and he can get a free soda. I think he was more pleased about the saying on the back of the t-shirt than he was about the free soda. It said, "Trust in the Lord and Do Good". Perfect for my little man who says he wants to be a priest someday. (last year he wanted to be a tornado chaser and this year a priest. quite a jump)
Funny Ben story: Ben and I were sitting together and he was reading his prayer book. He was telling me how much he loves God and I said, "Do you think you want to be a priest someday?" Ben answered emphatically, "YES! I want to be the Pope someday! But first I have to be a priest. And then I have to be a Bishop. And then I have to be an Archbishop. And then I have to be a robin." HAHA!  I'm sorry to say I couldn't hold back my laughter. (for all of you nonCatholics out there, it is actually a Cardinal, not a robin. So close, Benny!) 

After lunch it was back to our house for some cake and baby Benny videos. It is always such an eye opener watching those old baby videos and seeing how fast it has all gone. Amazing.
I can't believe my baby boy is 8 years old already. And he's still the same sweet, smiley, kindhearted, cuddly, goofball he was as a baby. Still patient and calm and kind and caring. Still my baby boy. My Ben.

Happy Birthday, my sweet little Benny Bear. You are such a dear, sweethearted, considerate, loving, and good little man. I am so proud of who you are. I am honored to be your momma. I hope you have a fantastic 8th year.  I love you!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Few Of My Favorite Things

It's Wednesday but it feel more like Monday. Another hectic day. It's cold. I'm tired. At times like these I think it is important to remember a few of my favorite things.

-One of my favorite things? Witnessing my kids' bravery.

My two oldest boys fought through nerves, drummed up some courage, and auditioned for the school musical. They were extremely nervous. It was a very thorough process as this is not your typical school play. The director, stage director, musical direction, technical director, and choreographer are all very experienced people (and very connected with theater groups in this city and call in favors for props and costumes) who amazingly give their time to our little school and pull off an amazing show year after year. 

Last year Joey had no interest in trying out for "Annie" and Tommy was too young (it is open to 4th grade and up). This year, when the boys found out that the the chosen musical is "The Wizard of Oz" they were both excited to try out. When they asked me to try out with them I was overjoyed. I have long been feeling the pull back to the stage but could not fathom taking so much time away from my family (the theater company I was associated with here practices about 3-4 hrs a night for 6 weeks), but being in a musical WITH my kids would be fantastic!
(This is me back in the day when I was on stage for 3 or 4 shows a year.)

Anyway, the boys and I tried out. Tommy is going to be a Munchkin (with lines!) and an Oz chorus member. Joey went through a longer audition process and he was called back to read and sing again for multiple roles. He even had to add his own dancing as he sang. It paid off. Joey is the Tinman. I will be playing Glinda, the good witch. Grace is SO excited that I will be wearing a big poofy dress. 

It is going to be a great show. The talent at this school is amazing and all the kids are so stinking brave! I never would have had the nerve to audition at such a young age. And so many boys! It is so awesome to see so many kids stepping out of their comfort zones and trying something new. Theater can really change you. I know it did for me when I was younger. I am so glad I get to be able to be a part of it and watch all of these kids experience it for themselves. I think I am just as excited as the kids are at this point.

-Another favorite? Reading. 

This is not new to me. What is new to me is learning to take a little "me" time. I have been carving out time for me to just relax and do what I want to do. Lately, what I want to do is read. When I finish helping the kids with homework after school, and then hand out snacks, I go up to my room, turn on the heating pad on my bed (it is like a heating blanket concept but it goes over your mattress and under your fitted sheet and you sleep on top of the warmth- soooo good), tuck myself into my blankets and read. I can't tell you how happy it makes me. Sometimes I even abandon my family in the evening for a bit of reading. More often than not a child or two will wander into my room with their books and read with me for a while too. It has been fantastic. 

It helps that I have had some amazing books to read as well. I have been taking suggestions from friends on Facebook and checking best seller lists and then I request them from my library and wait for them to come in. It is a great system and I've gotten some unforgettable reads. 

A couple of weeks ago I read Now I See You. It is a memoir of a young woman who learns that she has a degenerative eye disease that will eventually rob her of her sight. It is a heavy subject but the writer tells her story with such humor that it is not a depressing read. More uplifting, really. A very good read. 


After that book I jumped right into Big Little Lies. Liane Moriarty is fast becoming one of my favorite writers. She always writes such vivid characters and I love her plot twists and turns that you never see coming. Fantastic book. She is most well known for The Husband's Secret but that was not my favorite of hers. If you have never read What Alice Forgot then you are missing out. I think I have recommended that one before so now I am recommending Big Little Lies. Great book.

-A surprise favorite? Snow. Okay, maybe not the snow itself but what it brings. This past weekend we got dumped on. It was drifting snow so in some areas there was only a few inches but in many places the drifts were over two feet. Our backyard seemed to be a dumping zone and we had massive amounts of snow for the kids to play in. Even though the wind was whipping and the temps weren't very high the kids still went outside and played for hours. They built a snow fort and rolled around in the snow for hours. I just loved looking out the window and seeing my kids playing so nicely together. Lately it seems like they can't be in the same room with each other without fighting. Everyone is getting on everyone else's nerves. They are mean to each other and have zero patience. However, on Sunday the kids played nicely. I even saw Ben and Joey lifting Grace into the snow fort so that she wouldn't knock the sides down getting in. Loved it. 
And, of course, snow angels are everyone's favorite. Even if it looks like they are all just lying there playing dead. ;)
A real favorite? Child labor. Oh yeah. You got that right. With all the snow we had to shovel that back patio off 6 times and each time the snow was about 6 inches. I tried to keep the kids on top of it but the snow was falling SO fast. Do you see that bird bath in the background of the picture? Only the very top peeks out of the snow at the moment. We got a ton of snow.


- I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. Todd usually brings me coffee and sets it in the bathroom as incentive for me to get up. Lately, I've been staying in bed until the kids get up and Ben and grace groggily drag themselves over to my room and crawl into bed with me. That morning snuggle is just one of my favorite things. It is a great way to wake up in the morning. Their warm little bodies, mussed hair, and morning breath tucked in close to me. I love it.

Just before I woke up this morning I had a dream that Ben was moving away to go to college but that he looked exactly as he does now. Basically, he was my little Ben going off to college. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Next thing I know I'm waking up to Ben crawling in bed with me. It was just what I needed. I was so relieved. I was happy to wake up this morning.

-Ben's 8th birthday is on Sunday (probably one of the reasons for my dream, no?) and he is just SO excited. In our family we don't have big birthday parties every year for each kid. I know some people do that but we keep it low key. The kids will each get one or two big birthday parties (maybe for the 10th birthday and such). For their birthday my kids get to pick an activity they would like to do as a family (bowling, going to a movie, going swimming, going skiing, etc.) and that is what we do. Then we go out to dinner (birthday child's choice of restaurant), have the grandmas over for cake (many times they go to dinner with us too), and open a few presents. It is nothing extravagant but the get SO excited about it. Ben has been counting down the days to his birthday for weeks now. The fact that my kids get so excited about their little celebrations is definitely on of my favorite things.


So, there you have it. A few of my favorite things right now. Just writing that down has put me in a good mood. I feel better.

What are your favorites today?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Superbowl Treats

Tomorrow is the Superbowl. Usually, I am fairly excited for the day even if my beloved Packers aren't playing. Football, family, halftime shows, funny/sweet commercials, and lots of tasty food. What's not to like? 

This year? I'm not excited. And that's putting it mildly. The halftime show is Katy Perry. Pass. The commercials have already been showing on the internet so that is a big bust. And I really don't like either team playing. Boo. I kind of feel like this:
I really don't think I'll even watch most of it. But, I will be making some treats. Because, why not, right?

Here are a few of my favorites:

Cheesey Chip Dip

1 pound ground beef
1 box of Velveeta Cheese
1 small jar of Salsa (mild, medium, or spicy to your liking)

While ground beef is being browned on the stove, cut the cheese into chunks and put in a crockpot. Add the salsa to the crockpot and cook both on High, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted. When the meat is done add it to the crockpot and turn the setting to Low or a Keep Warm setting if you have one.  
It is easy peasy and super yummy. Everyone loves this dip.

The next one is the ever popular Rolo pretzel. I'm sure most of you have seen this one already but for those of you that haven't it is a must try. 

Rolo Pretzels

1 bag of Rolos
1 bag of walnuts
1 bag of pretzels
(you will have leftover supplies of walnuts and pretzels so you can buy extra bags of Rolos to make even more if you want)

Preheat oven to 325. Place tinfoil (I actually used wax paper but you have to be really careful with that in the oven- but the treats to stick as much to the wax paper) on a cookie sheet. Line up as many pretzels as you can fit on the sheet. Next place one Rolo directly on top of each pretzel. Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 2 minutes, just long enough to make the Rolo soft. Take the sheet out of the oven and immediately begin placing a walnut on top of each Rolo. Squish the walnut down into the Rolo so that the chocolate spreads and covers almost the whole pretzel. Set the tray aside (I usually set them outside in the cold for a little while to speed the process) to let them firm up. 
You don't have to worry about storing them because they won't last long enough to be stored. These are always gone the very day I make them. So simple and so delicious.

If you are looking to have something a little healthier you might want a fruit plate. If you don't want it  to be too healthy you can add this fruit dip.

Fruit Dip
1 8 ounce pkg of strawberry cream cheese
1 7 ounce jar of marshmallow cream
1 cup of whipped cream

Mix all three ingredients until blended and chill in the fridge for an hour or so before serving. You may want to add a little more whipped cream to get the dip to the consistency you like. 
I think the fruit dip might be my personal favorite. I feel good about myself eating so much fruit and it cuts the grease of all the other garbage I'm stuffing myself with. Stuff like my bacon wrapped water chestnuts, or bacon wrapped mini weenies, or little meatballs. I didn't include those recipes because most people have so many of those recipes already but obviously those are staples.

The last recipe is a little creation of my own. I don't even really have a name for it but it is another of my favs.

1 pkg of mozzarella pearls
1 small pkg of fresh basil leaves
1 small pkg of grape tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar
toothpicks
(optional- prosciutto)

Start by cutting the grape tomatoes in half. Slice the basil leaves into small sections about an inch each. On each toothpick place on mozzarella pearl, a basil leave (I usually fold them in half) and then a tomato. If you are using crumbled prosciutto I place it at the end. I prefer sliced prosciutto but then you have to slice it approximately the same size as the basil leaf, fold it over and place it in between the basil and tomato. Sometimes I make a plate with half with prosciutto and half without.

Once you have all you toothpicks organized on a plate and everyone is ready to eat sprinkle a bit of Balsamic vinegar over the whole plate. Do not to this too early because if it sits around too long it will start to make the basil soggy. Also, you don't want to add too much and overwhelm the plate.

This has become a family favorite. Every time I make this for an event someone asks me for the "recipe" or where I get the mozzarella pearls (most grocery stores have them in the "fancy cheese" section of the deli or produce areas).

There you have it people. Some super duper easy recipes for your Superbowl party.

Whatever you are doing tomorrow I hope it is delicious!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WW- Sweet Reward

After all the trouble with the Science Fair project it all worked out in the end. Joey and his friend ended up taking home 3rd prize. Yahoo! Todd and I joked that it would be pretty freaking funny if I ran up on stage, knocking Joey and his friend out of the way, and claimed the ribbon for myself. HA! I'm just glad the project is done and Joey is pleased with his ribbon. Win/win!

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