Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

While Daddy Is Away

This past weekend Todd and his buddy got together for a Harley road trip down to Nashville. Todd felt horribly that it was Grace's birthday weekend but it was literally the ONLY weekend he and his buddy could get together for the trip. And, truth be told, Grace was happy to celebrate her birthday early while her daddy was still here. Plus, she ended up having two birthday celebrations instead of just one. It was a win/win, really.

So while Todd was busy doing this-
I had to come up with a way to keep the kids entertained and get in a bit of summertime fun too, if possible.

I already wrote about the all day fun the kids and I had on Grace's birthday on Friday. It was a great time and we stayed up far too late but slept in a bit the next day to try and make up for it. But we didn't sit around for very long.

The weather was hovering close to 80 and it was sunny. A perfect day to go to the Farmers' Market. We had not been there the entire summer and on Saturday it was going to be double the fun because Earth Fest was also being celebrated at the same park.

The park was jammed full of people. The kids ate egg rolls (their favorite) and chicken teriyaki kabobs, fruit pies, donuts, peas, and raspberries. It was quite the lunch. We had a great time trying new foods, looking at all the display tables, and having a bouquet of flowers made up for me. We had so much fun. It may have been the best time I've ever had at the farmers' market.

The weather was finally hot enough to take the kids swimming but, unfortunately, a thunderstorm was rolling in. I was pretty disappointed as I watched the radar and the storm front moved closer and closer. I guess this just isn't the summer of swimming we had hoped for. We've only managed to get to our favorite inland lake two times this year and both times the weather was just barely warm enough to allow us to swim without shivering.

I decided that despite the less than optimal weather we WERE going to go swimming after all. The kids had been so well behaved at the farmers' market that I decided to take them to our city's indoor water park. Needless to say the kids were thrilled with the decision.
For 8 hours straight the kids swam and played, went down slides, played basketball in the water, floated on the lazy river, and sat in the hot tub. By the time we left for home it was well past dinner time and the kids were exhausted. They could barely keep their heads up at the dinner table and there may have been a few tired tears. 

Of course, food can work miracles and by the time they were done eating they were feeling more normal. 

And I don't know what happened but I suspect it had something to do with the girl turning FIVE this weekend. I was feeling very wistful and all kinds of melancholy. It probably wasn't the smartest idea to keep the kids up late (way too late) watching old family videos but I did it anyway. We laughed at the way they talked and played and fought and whined. Amazing what a difference 5 years can make, and yet much remains the same. Finally, I sent them off to bed, overtired and all wound up. It was not smart on my part. Meltdowns happened. I scolded. Bedtime routines were cut short and I was cranky. I went downstairs and thought about the videos. About the babies in the videos. My babies. How they were really the same exact people I just rushed into bed. I climbed back up the stairs, snuck into their rooms one by one, gave them proper goodnight kisses and hugs, and reminded them that they are still my babies. No matter how old they get. Always my babies.

It was a good weekend despite Todd being gone. It was a great weekend despite exhausted kids that turned moody and whiny at the drop of a hat. It was a fantastic weekend despite my mood swings, temper tantrums, and frantic need to fit in more fun before summer comes to an abrupt halt.

It really was a memorable weekend. The kind of weekend that makes you forget about all the bad little things that may have happened and only remember the warm, fuzzy moments. And that is the best kind of weekend. What more can you ask for?

Friday, August 15, 2014

FIVE

I'm not sure how this happened. I thought I had been so careful. I thought I had been soaking in every day, every second. I thought I treasured each moment. Some days went by more quickly than I would have liked but others seemed to drag on. Still, the entire year flew by and now here we are in the middle of August. And Gracie is five. FIVE.

I don't know how this happened. 

We celebrated Gracie's birthday early this year (the 13th) since Todd would be out of town on her actual birthday (the 15th). You'd think that would have given me enough time to prepare myself for her turning five yet somehow it still caught me off guard. 

On Wednesday we did the usual presents and cake. Grace got a beloved baby carriage, a fishing rod (to replace the one she accidentally cast overboard as we were fishing a few months back), and a few toys. As you can see she was pretty excited. She was equally excited when she woke up from her nap to find I had decorated her cake. Her pink on the outside, and pink on the inside, cake. It was a very exciting day. 
As the tradition goes, the grandmas joined us for dinner at the restaurant of Gracie's choice. The entire restaurant sang "Happy Birthday" to her and she was properly embarrassed. However, the free t-shirt and treat made it worth it. Afterwards it was back to our house for a couple of presents yet to be given (from the grandmas) and then some pink cake. 
Overall, it was a very happy birthday for Grace. 

That night as I was getting ready for bed I smugly patted myself on the back for being such a brave mama. All day long we had watched Grace's baby videos and I only got mildly sentimental. My baby girl turned FIVE and I didn't even cry. Wow. I must be getting stronger.

"Of course," (a small voice in my head spoke up) "she isn't really five yet. She doesn't turn five until Friday. She isn't really older yet. She is still four."   

I shrugged off the crazy voice in my head. What difference will two days make? She is practically five already!

And then before I knew it today was here. Grace's birthday.

It didn't really feel like her birthday since we had already celebrated it so I had that going for me. I was going to be fine.

Still. Today was her ACTUAL birthday so I felt that we should all do something special.

I packed the kids in the car and we drove up to Green Bay to a wildlife sanctuary. The kids had a blast running around looking at all the different animals. Cougars, wolves, river otters, eagles, owls, hawks, fox, bobcats, skunks, deer, coyotes, turtles, and hundreds of ducks and geese. We even met some crazy tame chipmunks that came up and ate corn out of the kids' hands. But the best and most favorite part of the day was when the kids fed the ducks and geese. Who knew a $1 bag of corn could make my kids so happy? It was exciting stuff, people.
We spent hours at the wildlife sanctuary, too busy for me to even start to get melancholy over my girl's birthday. As a matter of fact I think I only remembered it was her birthday when I reminded her that now that she is 5 years old there is no need to whine since 5 year olds don't whine. Happy Birthday!

Since the kids were so good and we had so much fun I decided to reward them with a trip across the street to Bay Beach. Yes, we were just there last week (in part as an early birthday gift to Grace, as a matter of fact) but who can resist such inexpensive fun? Surely, not I.

We ran from ride to ride enjoying the warm sunshine. Grace got to ride all of her favorites and skipped out on the ones that still freak her out. She is too little for the rollar coaster yet (which is just fine with her) but Ben really wanted to go on it. Joey and Tommy offered to take Grace on all the kiddie rides while I rode the coaster with Ben. I was a little nervous that my two little meatheads wouldn't be responsible enough for the task at hand but they vowed to be extra attentive. 

Luckily, there was absolutely no line at the rollar coaster and Ben and I were able to walk right on. In ten minutes Ben and I were on our way back to look for Joey, Tommy, and Grace. The minute I spotted them my heart nearly burst. Joey was ushering Grace onto one of the safest rides in the park. Not only did he walk her to the little car but he lifted her in and secured her seatbelt too. Yep. He was extra attentive. I asked the boys if they were able to ride anything with Grace and the both just shook their heads. They let Grace pick the rides and both boys were too big to ride with her. Instead they stood vigil. Good boys.

After a full 7 plus hours of walking and running and riding and laughing we were all famished. So, once again, it was off to our favorite restaurant, Kaleidescope. Our meal was delicious and Grace was treated like a little princess and was served her very own extra large slice of chocolate cake. Thankfully, Grace shared it with all of us because it was THE BEST chocolate cake I have ever had in my entire life. Woah. Amazing. 

The car ride home was heavy with rehashed favorites, complaints of full bellies and tired feet, and singing and dancing along to the radio. By the time we got home the kids were actually eager to hop into bed.  

And I did it! Grace turned five and I didn't cry. I wasn't overly emotional. I was barely even sentimental. 

And then I started editing our pictures from today. And I started looking through pictures from past birthdays. 

And then...

I just lost it. 

Because, how?  HOW????

How do I go from this...
my newborn baby girl, Grace.

To this...
my newly walking one year old Grace.

And then this...
 my spunky 2 year old Grace.

 And before I knew it she was...
my three year old Tinkerbell, Grace.

And I blinked and she was...
 my 4 year old fairy princess, Grace.

Just like that. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.

And now she is five. FIVE. My five year old, Grace. Still a pink-loving, princess-loving, spunky, sweet, sassy, independent, smart, funny, tough, shy, cuddly, loving, kind little lady. But now she is five. FIVE. 

And she is this.
Wow.


My girl. My Grace. Happy 5th Birthday.
I love you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fitting It All In

I'm starting to get to that point I get to every year. That panic point. I start thinking of all the things that we wanted to do over the summer but haven't had time (or good weather) to do it. I think about how quickly the summer flew by in a flurry of baseball games and running around and here we are just weeks away from a new school year. I start worrying about all the "must do"s still on our list: football practices and games almost every night, school shopping, school orientations, along with a ton of other meetings and responsibilities that are beginning to pile up. And I wonder how we will fit enough fun summer memories in there to keep us warm over the long school year.

I also feel a new sense of panic when I think about Joey getting older. How many more years will he still want to hang out with his entire family over the summer? How long do we have before he isn't so excited to go on field trips and adventures with our family? Will this be the last year? Panic!

Thankfully, the weather cooperated this past weekend enough that we were able to cross off a few fun trips off of our list.

On Friday the kids and I went to Bookworm Gardens. This is one of our favorites and it is in our very own city. And we finally had a warm sunny day to enjoy it.
On Saturday we all went up to Green Bay to Bay Beach, an amusement park where all the rides are either 25 or 50 cents. The kids LOVE it there. We all do.
The kids were extraordinarily well behaved. It was amazing. And I loved to see all four of them hanging out together, running from ride to ride. The boys were especially attentive to Grace, trying to include her in to the fun as much as possible.  It was very sweet.
We even got a family selfie on the train ride. Score!

After many, many hours at Bay Beach we had dinner at one of our favorite places to eat in Green Bay. Kaleidescope. If you are ever in Green Bay and need a fantastic place to eat I must insist on this place.

We got home very late on Saturday night and had a difficult time getting up for church the next day. We were all tuckered out.

But that didn't stop us from taking a trip down to the Milwaukee Zoo. We hadn't been there for a while and we figured it was about time we got back. The weather was perfect. High 70s and sunny.
We actually only had a few hours to look at all the animals because we were unaware that the zoo closed at 5 on Sundays.  Oops! We still managed to see all of our favorites: bears, monkeys, giraffes, tigers, gorillas, birds. We had a great time.
The kids were extremely good again. This time because I promised they could take their wallets and pick something from the gift shop but only if they were very well behaved. They definitely were well behaved. 
We stopped at another restaurant on the way home and were thoroughly and completely spent by the time we got home.

I can safely say that we took advantage of our weekend and filled it with fun.

Now if only the weather could warm up a little more to get some swimming in before school starts I think we'll be all set.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Time Warp

For the past week or so I feel as though I've been living in a time warp. Both flashing back in time and jumping far into the future. It has been a strange mix.

Just as baseball season started to wrap up Joey began practice for football. Tackle football. Gone are the days of innocent flag football games. Hello to pads and helmets and tackles and push-ups and drills. It all seems too soon to be happening in my head. I watch Joey throw on his helmet, pop his mouth guard in, and run up and down the field with his teammates. They do 25 sit-ups, 25 push-ups, a minute of planks, and more running. Rinse and repeat. I watch Joey not only keep up but hold his own very well. 

After practice I walk over to Joey and say, "Since when can you do 25 good push-ups in a row? How did that happen?" Joey just smiles and shrugs. Clearly he is pleased with himself. 

Soon Tommy's tackle football practices will begin. I'm sure it will be a little less intense for his age group but he will be out there nonetheless. 

Ben begins his very first year of flag football in less than a month. He tells me he has waited his whole life for this. And with the two older brothers in tackle football Ben will get Coach Daddy all to himself. Oh rapture!

Today I registered Grace at her new school. She will be going to a different school than her brothers this year since we wanted a half day kindergarten program and her school wasn't offering it. We met the new principal, a few teachers, and we even got her class pictures taken. I know my shy girl is going to have a lengthy adjustment period, especially without her brothers around, but I think it will all be very good for her. After spending much of the summer complaining about switching schools I was pleasantly surprised by how excited she was about her new school after registration. 

My kids are moving, growing, spreading their wings at warp speed and I'm fighting to keep up.

It doesn't help that this past weekend was my 20 year high school reunion. You'd think an event like that would bring home just how much time had past and just how much older I am but it didn't. Just the opposite, in fact. 

I had my two best friends (one friend has been my bff since the very first day of 1st grade and the other since the beginning of freshman year in high school- the three of us were always inseparable) come and stay at my house and it was like no time at all had passed since high school.  

On Friday night we got together with a large group of girlfriends from high school. I swear the ladies hadn't changed at all. I don't know if they were all drinking from the same fountain of youth or if we had just deluded ourselves into thinking we looked the same. However, we had dozens of people come up to us and remark that they overheard we were celebrating our 20th reunion and they thought it was a joke. There was NO WAY we were 20 years out. They thought we were in our mid to late 20s tops. That did not help with our delusions. And of course we didn't exactly ACT like we had matured at all either. 
We stayed out entirely too late on Friday night and didn't get any time to sleep in on Saturday. Our reunion was kind of thrown together at the last minute. It was planned and then cancelled. And then planned but no one knew about it. So, I offered my services and ended up getting thrown in as one of the hostesses. Luckily I had my two best ladies with me to help set up and decorate and then we spent the rest of the day shopping (although none of us actually ended up wearing what we purchased that day to the reunion) and chatting. The three of us ended up jammed into my bedroom/bathroom all getting ready together and raiding my closet. Just like the good old days.  
You always have a vision as to how you think your 20th reunion will go. You hope it is fun. You hope people will have matured in all the right ways. But there is still a bit of nervousness there. Concern of awkward moments. Luckily, we needn't have worried.

I must say the reunion was far better than I could have ever imagined. It was the most fun I've had in a very long time. I talked to every single person there. We danced, we laughed, we ate, we teased, we looked through pictures, we even cried a little bit thinking of some of our dear friends we've already lost. Everyone was happy to be there. 

There is a point when you come to realize what a role all of these people have had in shaping who you are. Even if you did not know them well. They are part of your history and therefor part of your present and future. It seemed like we all got that and it was pretty neat to see everyone embracing our shared history.

It was a small reunion (about 60 people) for such a large class (340 people) but I am positive the next reunion will be at least double the numbers. Everyone in attendance had so much fun they were all calling for a 21st reunion. Good times with good people. 

It also drove home for me, once again, how lucky I am to have this man in my life.
I am always so proud to have him with me, tell people that he is my husband, and know he is my partner. He is so comfortable in his skin, talking with strangers, making new friends, making people laugh, and putting them at ease. He was so happy for me to have my girlfriends here (on his birthday weekend!!!!!) and he did everything he could to make it a fun weekend for us. Such a good man. I'm not sure how I got to be so lucky.

By the time both of my girlfriends had left on Monday I was completely wiped out and exhausted. So much partying and talking and craziness ensued since Thursday night when they had arrived and not a lot of sleeping. I think I must have had a total of 8 hours of sleep in 4 nights. By the time the ladies were gone I had lost my voice, gotten a sty in my eye, and had severe body aches. Maybe 20 years had passed after all.

Now my girlfriends are back in Oklahoma and Colorado, the reunion fun is over, and I am watching my children grow right before my very eyes. I can't figure out if I am living in the past or glimpsing the future.

For now I'll just try and embrace the present as best as I can.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Birthday Boy

He will spend his birthday at work. He will leave work early and rush home so that I can get a haircut. Then he is off to a two hour informational meeting regarding our boys' upcoming football season. Tonight and this weekend will be spent hosting a few of my friends at our house because of my 20th reunion this weekend. And he is completely fine with all of it. Happy, as a matter of fact. He works hard. He prays hard. He loves hard. He is the rock of our family. Our "go-to" guy. And my absolute favorite. Happy Birthday,



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Guts

My kids have guts. They are brave. They have confidence. They are strong in who they are and what they want to do.

I hope they never lose that. 

Last night as I was driving to yet another baseball game Tommy informed me that coach was going to let him try pitching this game. Immediately I went into panic mode. Tommy is already the youngest on his "advanced" team and the team already has 3 very good pitchers. Tommy has NEVER pitched before nor has he practiced for it very much. What if he fails? Will that hurt his confidence? What if his team isn't supportive of his effort? What if the parents get mad? What if? What if? What if????

Of course I didn't voice my concern that way. Instead I asked him why he wanted to switch from 2nd base. "You're so good on second!" I complimented him. He didn't take the bait. He wanted to try pitching. "But you haven't really practiced pitching, hon." I warned. He told me he had practiced (when?) and coach said he could. That was the end of that conversation.

I dropped Tommy off at his pregame practice and then ran back to another ballpark to watch the remainder of Ben's baseball game. When Ben's game wrapped up we all jumped in the van and headed over to Tommy's game. 

Right as we were walking up to the ballpark Tommy was taking the field. As the pitcher. 

"Umm... Tommy's pitching." Todd said to me. 

"He told me he was going to pitch. Man, that kid has guts." I responded.

Todd walked up to the fence to shout encouragement to Tommy. Joey perched himself on top of the slide to get an optimal view and shouted "atta boy"s at him for every throw. Me? I think I held my breath the entire time Tommy pitched.  
Tommy did well. He walked a few of the batters but he didn't get flustered and proceeded to strike out two batters in a row and then caught a fly ball for the third out.
As Tommy hustled off the field I ran over to the bench.

"Woah. Where did that come from, Tommy? Good job!" I congratulated him.

"See! I told you I wanted to pitch!" Tommy said with pride.

"You were right! You definitely have more guts than I ever did when I was a kid. I'm impressed! Good for you!" I admitted.

Tommy, still small enough to hug me around the waist, squeezed me, smiled, grabbed his bat and took off to practice his swing.

As I walked back to my seat I thought about his courage. All of my kids' courage. How confident they are. How sure they are of themselves. Always willing to try new things. No fear. No worries about all eyes being on them. And I thought about my role in that. In supporting that. How careful I have to be not to put my fears onto them. How I have to applaud fearlessly whenever they want to step up, not come up with reasons they might not want to do it. I always tell my kids not to worry about failure (the biggest failure is not trying at all), but do I really support that as much as I should? Am I backing my words up with actions?

If I'm honest I was a little disappointed in myself last night. I was being a coward. And for no reason. I was so worried about my tender kids when they really are much stronger than I.

Tommy tried pitching.
Joey sings in front of the whole school.
Ben stands up to a bully on the playground.
Grace volunteers to dance in front of her class.

My kids are brave. They are confident. They are strong.

I could learn a thing or two from them.

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