Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Validation

Work hard.
Do your best.

Work hard. 
Do your best.

Work hard.
Do your best.

I bet we sound like a broken record to our kids. Work hard. Do your best. This has been our mantra to our kids over the years. They've heard us say it thousands of times. We repeat it over and over again in our motivational speeches regarding homework, sports, plays, and even chores. 

For Joey, this year has been all about working hard and doing his best. Sixth grade has been extremely demanding for Joey. The academics have been very challenging and he has met the challenge with hard work and has succeeded. Add to that his extra curricular activities and basketball and having a lead in the musical and the kid has really had to be on his game. 

Last year, Joey's first year playing on a basketball team, was a real year of growth. He went from being very timid on the floor and not really wanting the ball, to being a good defensive player and knowing the plays. Last year the coach named Joey the Most Improved Player. 

Still, basketball does not come naturally for Joey. He works hard at it. There are some kids who are just naturally coordinated, athletic, and fluid in all their movements but Joey has to put in extra effort to make it all work together. When he began this season we could see just how much he had grown from the year before. Joey was the team's best defensive player this year. Whoever was the best shooter, or the biggest guy, on the opposing team that was who Joey was defending. Joey led his team in steals. 
He became much more confident dribbling and put up much needed points at critical moments. He had some great shots out by the three point line that surprised even him. Joey had become a confident starter for his team.
Joey was also a leader on the team. He knew where every player should be at what point and was often shouting out directions to his teammates. At times I was worried that he was too bossy but it turns out his teammates appreciated his help.
Joey's team had a couple of naturally gifted athletes, and really good players, and though Joey was not the most skilled player on the team he made his presence known and was imperative in helping his team win. They even took 2nd place in the last tournament they were in.
Last night was the athletic banquet at Joey's school. Joey's basketball coach handed out three awards that the team had voted on: Most Improved player, the MVP, and the Best Overall player. The kids voted appropriately and the awards went to the right players and Joey was happy for his friends when they received their trophies. 

But the coach wasn't done. He said that he and the Assistant Coach thought that there was one more player that needed to be recognized. He went on to say that this player showed up for practice ready to go, always worked hard, had a great attitude, and was helpful to all his teammates. This player was a leader on the court, both in his solid performances, great defense, putting up needed points, and in his relationship with his teammates. The coach reiterated that it was a real pleasure watching this player and it was great to have him on the team. Then the coach called Joey's name and handed him his trophy for the Coach's Award. 
It was all this mama could do to keep from crying. I knew just how much that trophy meant to my boy and I knew he wasn't expecting it. I was so happy for Joey to see that his hard work and dedication was recognized.  It was validation.
Immediately after the coach's speech Joey came running over to me, his face flushed with pride, hugged me and buried his face in my shoulder. "My very first trophy that I earned all on my own." Joey whispered to me.

Joey carried that trophy around for the rest of the night. I swear he would have slept with it if he wasn't so concerned about it breaking. This morning at the breakfast table the trophy sat next to him as he ate. When I walked into the room and saw him beaming at his trophy he looked up at me and said, "I'm just so happy. So proud of myself."

Validation.

You don't always have to be the best, but if you work hard and you do your best you will be a success.

Well done, Joey.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Kicking It Old School


Hey, look at me! I'm doing it! I'm kicking it old school bloggy style, y'all! It has been a while since I've done this and I've been meaning to join in, so here I go!


If you could be on a reality tv show which one would you choose?
I am a reality show buff. None of the Housewives shows or any other crazy show where people just fight and act like idiots, but shows like Survivor, American Idol, The Bachelor (yes, I am embarrassed by this one), Dancing with the Stars (when there are actually people I like to watch- not this season), House Hunters, Top Chef, Project Runway, and the Amazing Race. I love that stuff. My friends used to try to get me to audition for American Idol but that never appealed to me and now I'm too old. HA! I would LOVE to be on Dancing with the Stars but alas I am not a star. I am super competitive so I think it would be a toss up between Survivor and The Amazing Race. My husband and I often said how much we would love to go on The Amazing Race together. So good. But ultimately I would love to be on Survivor. I would love to push myself and test my limits and play a game that I have been watching for close to two decades. It would be AWESOME.


Name one thing you have saved from your childhood. 
I have kept many things from my childhood. I have old journals, books, stuffed animals, a rosary, a statue of Mary, toys, all kinds of stuff. A little while ago my kids went over to my mom's house and came home with a ton of my old toys. Now I have an old school play telephone, Lincoln Logs, MORE legos, an old Fisher Price dollhouse, and more stuffed animals sitting around my house. Oh dear. I think the one thing that was always with me even before I had kids was my penguin stuffed animal that I got for Christmas when I was little. I love that little guy. It is currently sitting in Joey's room. The kids love him too.

If your life had a theme song which one would it be?
Ha! It would probably change all the time. I have a few songs that I have sung to the kids since they were tiny (Baby Mine) and they consider that their song. Right now Count on Me (Bruno Mars) always makes me teary when I hear it on the radio and the kids know that is kind of our family song. However, lately our lives have been crazy busy and the kids are driving me a little cuckoo so I think my current song is Lose My Mind (DMX).

(caution-language)
 


Where is your happy place?
Somewhere realistic? My bed. Seriously.  I love my bed. Even when I'm not sleeping I just love sitting in my bed and reading. I just love my bed and my bedroom. It is so peaceful. It makes me happy.

Somewhere unrealistic? A beach. A nice, hot, tropical beach where I don't have to do much of anything but lie there and relax, preferably with a drink in my hand. And then when I get too warm I can just go jump in the ocean and then go back to the beach and lie there some more. Ahhhh. The beach.
(Mexico, baby!)

What is the one thing about your home that you and your spouse disagree on?
Probably just stuff. I am always wanting to declutter and get rid of stuff and Todd likes toys. He is constantly looking at the next "thing". I find it all very annoying but it is a very man thing. Boys and their toys, and all that. It doesn't help that we have four kids who all have too much stuff too. It just seems like I am always surrounded by stuff and I am a minimalist so it annoys.
Other than that, Todd and I agree on most things "house" related. We have similar tastes in furniture (although he insists on having two recliners in front of the tv instead of a nice couch we could all snuggle on) and styles and such.

What is your favorite fruit?
I love fruit. I mean LOVE. But, my favorite fruit, by far, is Bing Cherries. LOVE. I can't get enough. When summer rolls around that is basically all I'm eating. But, I do love all summer fruit. Watermelon, nectarines, honeydew, pineapple, peaches. Love them all, but cherries win.

Bowtie or regular tie?
This question made me go:

I guess I agree with Elaine. Little boys look cute in bow ties but mostly I prefer ties on men. Unless it is wedding day and then a bow tie looks nice. But I really think a white dress shirt, with no tie or bow tie, just a couple buttons open, is the sexiest. Yowsa.

Mexican or Italian food?
Umm... both? Seriously. Both. I love Italian and Mexican food. I crave both on a regular basis. And our city has three outstanding (one of them an award winner) Italian restaurants and an amazing Mexican restaurant too. That means trouble for me. Mmm. Now I'm hungry.

Where do you want to go on summer vacation?
Seriously? Did you not hear me before? The BEACH! It is my happy place. Luckily, we have lots of nice beaches around here. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Last year it barely got hot enough to enjoy the beach at all. I hope we have a scorcher this year.
Ok. That isn't really a vacation. Umm... we had a blast when we went to Chicago with the kids. I think we'd like to do that again. It is close and easy.
Spring break is quickly approaching and we are taking our very first BIG spring break with the kids. Todd's mom has rented a condo down in Florida for the winter and we are driving (heaven help us) down there to visit her. Of course we are making all the required stops (Disney, Legoland, Universal) and since we get to stay with grandma it is going to be super special (not to mention economical). We are all very excited about it. So, since we are doing it big on spring break I think any summer vacation would be something small.

What are your go-to shoes in your closet?
I wear my white Keds often. They are comfy and go with everything. I wear running shoes when I am playing with the kids or working outside. In summer I pretty much live in sandals (or bare feet) and ballet flats. When I go out with Todd (when was the last time that happened?) I like to rock some fun heels. These are one of my favs:
They look super cute with a pair of skinny jeans.

Yeah! That was fun! Anyone else want to join in? Hurry up! You only have a few more days!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Big One

Today was a much anticipated big day.

Today was Tommy's birthday.

Normally, birthdays are pretty fun around here, but this one was extra special. Not only was it Tommy's birthday, but it was Tommy's 10th birthday and he was having a party. And not just any party, but a birthday party at the local indoor waterpark.

As I said, today was a big day.

It started out bright and early, of course. Tommy was never known for being a good sleeper and on such an exciting day the kid just couldn't stay in bed. Since we were all up early we thought we'd get a jump on the festivities and open a few presents.
Tommy was pleased. It was a lovely way to start the day.

Before we knew it a few hours had passed and it was time to go to the party. This was Tommy's first big birthday party (other than his 1st birthday, I suppose) and he decided that instead of inviting his whole class he just wanted to invite a few of his closest friends. It was such a great group of kids. They are all so sweet and got along so well. It was so much fun.
The kids swam and played, slid down the slides, body surfed, played basketball, and wore each other out. We took a little break for lunch, cake, and presents, and then it was right back out into the water for more fun.
It was four hours of swimming, partying fun. By the time it was over I think we were all pretty exhausted. 

Still, the birthday fun was not done. Seeing as how this mama was worn out and didn't want to cook, and Tommy wanted to get a birthday t-shirt from his favorite restaurant like all his siblings did on their birthdays, we decided to go out to eat. Let's hear it for buffet restaurants and no dishes!

Yes, it was a very exciting day. A big day. It's not every day you turn 10, you know. 

My dear Tommy. I am so proud to be your mama. You are such a good and kind boy. You always want to make people happy, and are always concerned about other people's feelings. You are a hard worker and I have no doubt that whatever you want to do in life you will be successful. Once you put your mind to it there is no stopping you. You are a natural charmer. Charismatic. You are dramatic, stubborn, and silly. You have a heart of gold. My darling, goldensbear. A boy so sweet and sentimental that just before bed he lamented that he felt a little sad. "I just realized, I'll never be able to have this birthday again." my melancholy Tommy had said. Just another reminder to treasure each moment I have with you.

Happy 10th birthday, Tommy. I love you!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Springy

Just a few days ago our yard was covered in at least a foot and a half of snow. Large piles lined the street where the plows had gone through and deposited more snow. The playground at school had a massive pile of snow that the kids rolled down, dug through, and played "king of the hill" on.

As I look outside this morning there are almost no traces of snow left. A small pile hangs on in the shady spot beneath our trees. A little more at the edge of our fence. A tiny little pile rests at the end of the driveway where the plows had gone through.

Thanks to the lovely early spring temperatures we've had the snow is all but gone.

This fabulous early spring breathes new life into all of us and gives us the energy we were lacking.

I hitched up Molly and together we took our first run in many, many months. I fear we are both sorely (pun intended) out of shape but we make it through regardless.

I quickly shower and pick Grace up from school. Sadly, I can already feel my muscles tightening up. I may be even more out of shape than I feared.

When Grace is done with her lunch we sit out on the back patio step in the sunshine. The sun is so warm in our protected little nook that it could almost pass for early summer. We lie down on the step and soak in the warmth. It is a good thing that Grace gets antsy because I could have fallen asleep and stayed there all day. Sunshine, blessed sunshine.

Before I know it the boys are done with school for the day. They rush off of the bus and into the house to get through their homework as quickly as possible so they can hurry back outside. Basketball and bicycles are resurrected and the kids stay outside so long that they need to be called in for dinner.

We sit at the dinner table and we don't even need to turn on the lights as sunshine still pours in through our windows. The longer days and warmer weather lifts our moods even though we lost a precious hour of sleep.

Just before seven o'clock Joey, Tommy, and I leave for play rehearsal. It is still  light outside as we enter the school. The rehearsals are long and jammed with notes and music and choreography. We get home around 9:30, way later than the boys' normal bedtime. I get them off to bed as quickly and quietly as I can and try to relax for a little while before I drag my exhausted body off to bed as well.

It is dark when we wake in the morning. My body is protesting the previous day's exercise by making it difficult for me to get out of bed. Or walk down the stairs. Or breathe. I wonder if Molly is equally as sore. The boys crankily drag themselves out of bed, still exhausted from their late night. It is about now that we could really use that extra hour of sleep that we lost earlier in the week.

Still, the temperature already reads 43 degrees and the boys mood is lifted slightly at the thought of wearing spring jackets today. Whatever gets them motivated, right?

Another gorgeous day awaits and we are excited to use it to our advantage. This is Wisconsin, after all. The weather can change on a dime. For all we know we could get another 6 inches of snow next week.

But for now, the sun is shining, the air is warm, and the possibilities are endless.

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.

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