Monday, July 27, 2015

Family Fun

Last week I was so excited at the prospect of finally getting to some hot, sunny weather. I had visions of swimming dancing through my head. The minute the weather got over 80 degrees I packed up the kids to go swimming at our favorite inland lake. 

Unfortunately, when we got there the weather took a bit of a turn. The sun decided to hide behind thick, ominous looking clouds for the rest of the day and the wind picked up to a good 25 mph creating some serious waves on the chilly water. 
Apparently, my kids were not deterred. They jumped in the water and played for hours while I sat wrapped in a blanket on the shore. Crazy kids. I did try to join them in the water for a little while but I couldn't get in over my knees. I needed hotter weather.
This weekend we got the hotter weather. It was 85 and sunny. Perfect! 
 I had so much fun playing tackle football with my boys and swimming around with Grace.
And! Todd was finally able to go with us. It isn't often that it is hot enough to go swimming on a weekend when we don't have any plans.
 The kids were in heaven as Todd tossed them into the air and chucked them around. It's good to have a human jungle gym.  I wonder how many more years Todd will be able to chuck these kids. They are getting bigger by the second.
The week is supposed to be more of the same. Hot, hot, hot! I'll take it! Hopefully we can work another swimming day (or two) in this week.  There is no better way to spend a hot summer day. I'm loving it!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Finally Here

It was a beautiful weekend in the northwoods. The kind of weekend we haven't had for a while. 
The hot weather has finally arrived. After experiencing colder than normal weather this past month I was afraid that this summer was going to be cool and rainy like last summer but it looks like we are getting the heat after all. And that is just how we like it. This is our weekend in pictures.
 Fishing and swimming
Out in the paddle boat for more fishing

 Joey and I had some followers.
 Relaxing on the porch in the late afternoon.
 Molly loves it up north too.
 Boys shooting guns. They set up a field coarse with soda cans.
 Todd finally relaxing after getting lots of work done. 
 Early morning fishing.
My happy fishing family.

Yes, it was a lovely, hot, summery weekend. And, luckily, the hot weather continues all week. Today we are taking advantage of the heat and humidity and we are heading out to our favorite swimming hole. 

This is the kind of summer we hoped for. 

(Linking up with Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious for Mommy and Me Monday)

Monday, July 13, 2015

OoooK-lahoma!

Who takes a vacation to Oklahoma? In July? We have been asked that at least a dozen times in the last week and many of your comments on my last post posed the same questions. They are valid questions. Oklahoma is not known as a vacation destination. Especially in the dead of summer. Alas, that is where we found ourselves last week.

You see, my best friend and her family live in Oklahoma. We have been best friends since we were 5 (I'm sure I have mentioned this a million times before) and she and I were friends with her hubby (Carl) since high school. So, we all go way back. And my family has not had the opportunity to visit her family since they moved down to Oklahoma 5 years ago. I have been there to visit by myself, but it was time we got our families together again. Todd normally takes off the week around the 4th of July and since we already had a week available that was the time that worked for us and Carl was able to get off of work as well. Yay!

So, road trip for my crew!
Since our Florida vacation I have discovered that I may have the world's best travelers in my kids. They are pretty amazing. They either sleep, watch a movie (we really only had one movie on the way down and one on the way back), or sit in their seats taking in the sights. And, I swear, Todd and I had to stop to use the bathroom more frequently than they did.

Of course, they do get into fights and get too loud and silly at times, but if I simply tell them that dad needs to concentrate on driving so that we don't get into a mangled, fiery crash they usually settle down fairly quickly.

On the way down we went through St. Louis so the kids could see the arch. And there was a detour right through the city so they were pretty excited. They made me take a ton of pictures of the arch but I'll spare you.
When we finally got to Oklahoma (it was about 5:00 in the evening- we had left at 4 in the morning) my bff and her family rushed over to our hotel room so that the kids could immediately jump in the pool.
Sarah (my bff) and I had to laugh how we had unknowingly bought our daughters the same swim suit. Every time we get together our girls are wearing the same clothes. I guess their mama's have the same taste.

The kids got along bizarrely well. It was like they were instant bffs. And the noise level went from loud to explosively loud very quickly. There are seven kids between the two families and that was a lot of noise, let me tell you. Good thing we had the pool to ourselves the majority of our stay.

Strangely, it was cool (for Oklahoma) and rainy the entire time we were down there. We had planned on swimming at the neighborhood pool across the street from Sarah's house much of the time, but the weather put the kibosh on that. Instead we stayed indoors. Which was fine because it gave us a chance to visit the Oklahoma Aquarium.
It was fantastic. Complete with a tunnel to walk through and view bull sharks and nurse sharks. Wow! The kids (okay, me too) also got to touch horseshoe crabs, shrimp, sting rays, and a shark. It was super fun.

Of course after we were done at the aquarium it was back to the pool for more swimming. Later that night the kids were invited to sleep over at Sarah's house so that they could optimize their play time together. Gracie wasn't sure at first (the girl does not like to leave her mama and still hasn't wanted to go to a playdate, much less a sleepover) but since her brothers would be there she decided to join in.

The boys played a ton of Minecraft since Carl ran out and got extra controllers for everyone.
And upon my insistence also played non-video games for a while. They did set up a few really cool train tracks.
Very little sleep was had that night. The kids were exhausted (to say the least) that night. Still, we took them to another fun adventure the next day. We went to Incredible Pizza. Basically it is like Chucky Cheese on steroids. It was insane. Really crazy. And super fun. Go-carts, and games, and video games, and rides, and laser tag, and food, and 4D movie rides. I had almost as much fun as the kids did. 
After the kids were properly pooped out we took them back to the hotel to swim some more. We really like to physically exhaust our kids, I guess. The kids were invited to another sleepover at Sarah's that night. I knew it wasn't a great idea, but since they hardly ever get to see each other and we were only there for 4 days I allowed it. Grace opted out this time and chose to sleep back at the hotel with us. Wise decision. Grace still got to hang out with everybody and stay up later than normal. And of course they all had dinner together too.
Speaking of eating. There was a lot of eating going on. Seven kids eat a ton of food. And often. 

When Todd took Grace back to the hotel room Sarah and I decided to go out for the night. However, not many places are open on a Wednesday in Oklahoma so we opted for the Hard Rock Cafe. Sarah deals cards with a company that is hired out for parties and she was going to teach me how to play craps. However, just when we started to play they shut the table down because they were short on dealers, or some garbage like that. 

No matter. Blackjack has always been my game. I have never lost money at a Blackjack table and I managed to make a good amount of money (not that I ever play with much) that night.
Sarah and I got in way too late and I ended getting about 3 hours of sleep. I was surprisingly awake for the majority of the day but we still took it easy. We took the kids to Bass Pro Shop (they had some fun classes and activities going on for the kids) and then spent the rest of the day hanging by the pool (since it was still raining- oddly enough the day we left it was sunny and VERY hot) with the kids. 

It was a sad goodbye. We all had so much fun together. The kids had really taken a liking to each other and they knew it would be a long time before they saw each other again. And I am always sad to say goodbye to Sarah. Life is busy. It can be hard to talk and keep in touch as much as we would like. But it sure is nice knowing that when we do get together it is like no time has passed at all. 

I guess that is how it goes with true friends. 

It was a great trip.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Old Fashioned Summer

Everyone talks about how they want their kids to have an old fashioned summer. I'm all for it. So far this summer my kids have run through the sprinkler, gone swimming at an inland lake, taken long bike rides, played in the woods, went fishing, went hiking, saw fireworks, played basketball, had bonfires, ate ice cream cones and popsicles, went to the farmer's market, and played outside just about every day.

Sunday night the kids were absolutely wild in anticipation for our upcoming road trip to Oklahoma. Fearing another broken lamp I forced them all outside while I finished up the packing.

I watched out the window as the kids raced around getting the sass out. I was pretty amused at how they entertained themselves. 

First it was a rousing game of "go, go, stop" and then they attempted a human pyramid. 




Looks like the kids are enjoying an old fashioned summer. So am I!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fun on the 4th

The 4th of July was everything we hoped it would be. It was hot, busy, fun, carefree, and full of friends and food. 
Our friends, who live on the parade route, had a huge party this year and invited us (along with half the people we know from the kids' school) to come and watch the parade at their house. There were three tables full of food, coffee and juice, and a bloody mary/mimosa bar. Very nice way to start out the day.

The parade was about two hours long (holy moly!) and we made it til the end. Then it was down to the river to watch the cardboard boat regatta. That is always a favorite.
When we'd had enough of that we visited a fantastic old fashioned ice cream parlor on the other side of the river. Yummy!

Believe it or not we headed back home to have more food. It was time for a cookout with the grandmas. Yum-o!

After dinner we cleaned up and finally got to relax for a little while before we packed everyone back in the car and ventured down to the lake to watch the fireworks. Once we got there we still had quite a while to wait. I had bought approximately eighteen thousand glowsticks (necklaces, wands, balls, etc) for the kids but didn't want to use them yet since it was so light. We had forgotten a football or frisbee so the boys just went crazy tackling each other. I think they frightened a few spectators. I asked them to find something else to do (tag, perhaps?) but they could think of nothing fun. I suggested "Go, go, stop" (aka- red light, green light) and was met with blank stares. I know I had taught this to them before but apparently they had forgotten.

So, up I went to play with my kids. After a few minutes I had almost the entire park of kids playing "Go, go, stop".
Every time I thought I could sit down with a nice cold drink in my hand the kids would beg me to play again. "Could you please play, mom? It is so much more organized when you play." the kids begged me. I have to admit, I had a bit of fun too. That is a good game.
Finally it was getting dark. The glowsticks were brought out of the bag and we settled in to watch the fireworks. It always amazes me how excited my kids are (out of their minds, excited) to go and watch the fireworks and yet when the show begins they hardly even watch. Crazies.
Still. It was a good time. We had a primo parking spot and made it out of there before the traffic even began. Yes!

Even though it was late when we got home we still set off a few fireworks of our own. It was a good day.

 4th of July Parade 2015


4th of July parade 4 years ago- 2011
Wow. Time flies.

Hope you all had a lovely, safe, and happy 4th of July!

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Summer of Ben

Being the youngest of three boys can't be easy. Ben has spent his whole life trying to keep up with his brothers. Now, as he is getting a little older, he is finally getting to do some of the things that he has watched his brothers do. 

One of those things is Boy Scout camp. 

Ben was so excited (and nervous) for Boy Scout camp. And I was nervous too. 

Ben was dropped off with the leaders on Wednesday morning and just a few short hours later the rest of my kids were commenting on how they already missed Ben. Grace insisted on making him "I miss you" cards and as the days wore on Tommy complained about how much he missed his roommate. I think the boys were caught off guard with how much they missed their little brother.

By Friday's family night we were all really anxious to see Ben again. We drove out to camp feeling like it had been a week since we'd seen our Benny, not just a couple of days.

Reunited and it felt so good. Ben was equally excited to see us and the hugs that ensued were so sweet. I wish I would have gotten pictures but I was too busy giving hugs myself.  
Ben led the way back to his camp and showed us around his home for the last three days.
As Ben went to change into his uniform I looked through his suitcase and his bunk, shocked at the condition he'd left it in. I thought that perhaps he hadn't changed any of his clothes while he was there but he assured me that he did. The suitcase was so nice and clean and neatly folded it almost looked untouched. But sure enough, Ben had his dirty clothes in the extra bag I gave him and neatly folded the clean clothes. Will wonders never cease? I was amazed. My baby boy was growing up.

The rest of the evening was spent laughing and hugging. Over and over again the kids told Ben how much they missed him. And he missed us too. By the end of the night I was questioning whether Ben even wanted to stay that extra night or not. I asked Ben if he wanted to come home with us and he said he did but that he thought he should see it through until the end. And he did.
It was a great experience for Ben. A growing experience. An experience he was proud of. 

This summer Ben also had a chance to catch up with his brothers in sports.

It's not easy being the youngest brother forever trying to play catch up. Many times Ben has come to me in tears because he is so frustrated always being the one trying to keep up. Time and again I have reminded him that he is much younger than his brothers and all of his efforts to play at the same level they do will pay off. I also remind him that he is a tall boy and one day he will tower over his two older brothers. That usually gets a smile out of him. 

This summer Ben is the one in the lead.

Ben is the only one of my kids playing a sport right now. Joe and Tommy decided to take the summer off but Ben was very excited to take a step up in baseball. It is a new experience for Ben to have his older brothers following him around to his games instead of the other way around. Ben has been used to taking a backseat to all of his brothers adventures and it was a source of frustration for him. Not anymore.
The kid who has struggled to play catch with his brothers, who was always on the bottom of the dog pile, who came in last place in all the big boys' races and games is getting his moment.

Benny was on fire last night at his baseball game. The kid knocked the ball into the outfield every time he stepped up to the plate. He played the pitcher position as well (although they have the coaches do the actual pitching) and caught ball after ball. He stopped the grounders and threw perfectly to first and third to get players out time and again. 

I had to laugh every time Ben made a play because he got so excited that he would hop up and down afterwards. So sweet. 
Yep. It can be hard to be Ben. But always working hard to try and keep up with his brothers has made him stronger. And I think he is finally getting to see that for himself.

I think this summer is a big year of growth for Ben. It is the summer of Ben

Monday, June 29, 2015

Remembering

My dad passed away six years ago today.

Part of me can't believe that it has been 6 years already and another part of me feels like I haven't seen him in decades.

I think back to the day he passed, a Monday just like today. His entire family circled around his bed the whole day and into the night. Praying, sharing stories, telling him how much we love him. After such a long battle with Alzheimer's this was a celebration of his life. We stayed late into the night until I realized that perhaps dad was waiting for us to leave. Sure enough, a few minutes after I got home hospice called to let me know that dad had passed. Even to his death he was protecting us from possible hurt and further sorrow.

Yesterday we were at our church picnic and my mom and I realized that it was the same date, same day (Sunday), same setting (church picnic), same weather as six years ago when we left the church picnic early with our parish priest and headed over to the nursing home to watch my father receive his last rites. A beautiful ceremony. A final symbol of dad's lifelong commitment to God.

I looked back at my blog and read this:

As one life prepares to enter this world another prepares to exit.

This past week my dad has gone down hill very quickly. Hospice has been called into the nursing home to help care for him. He can not eat anymore, and has trouble drinking water. He is not responding, talking, or opening his eyes. He has started running a temperature and has trouble breathing too.


Our parish priest came to the nursing home last night and gave dad the Anointing of the Sick (used to be called The Last Rites). When Father told dad that he was there to give him a blessing dad actually moved his head in the direction of Father and nodded his head. Clearly dad is still in there. And it is also clear that his faith and his God continue to be at the forefront of his life.


Dying will be a happy release for dad. He will no longer be stuck in a body that doesn't work. No longer imprisoned by his mind. It will be joyful for him. The daughter he has waited 40 long years to see again will surely greet him, and I am so happy for him. For both of them. But I'm sad for me. It is so final.


Still, life continues to go on. The boys play in the pudgie pool in the backyard. Picnics are attended. Fourth of July parties are planned. Cabinets and colors are picked out for the new house. And this little lady still kicks in my belly. And though it makes me sad to think she will never meet her adoring grandpa, and he will never get to hold my daughter, I comfort myself thinking that perhaps they will meet. Maybe even before I get to meet her. Maybe they will meet when she is on her way in and he is on his way out. And she will actually get to see the angel who will so carefully and diligently watch over her throughout her life.


It is comforting to read. I still believe all I wrote. I am still happy for him. Still sad for me. And for my mom. And for my kids.

But I know he is still with us. Watching. Guiding. Protecting. Loving.

And someday we'll see each other again.

For now, I'm remembering.

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