Thursday, December 31, 2009


(The sunrise over Lake Michigan-Please click to enlarge)

This is the last day of the year. Of the decade even! I am not sad to see it go. Yes there were some wonderful and good things that happened this year. But there was also much heartbreak and sadness and chaos. That is the thing about life. You take the good with the bad. There will always be both. So while I look forward to another year, hopefully a more peaceful year, I am grateful for the year we've had. And the decade we've had too.

I have a lot of hope for this new year. I hope we can slow down a bit and live a little less chaotically. I hope for peace. Peace of mind. Peace and QUIET. And peace in our world. I hope for contentment. When I don't have that QUIET I'm craving I hope I can appreciate the noise. Because it is beautiful in it's own way too. I hope for good health for all of my family and friends and loved ones. I hope I am strong enough when I need to be. I hope I am kind enough to those that need kindness. I hope I am understanding, and patient, and brave.

I will be a better mother. I will be a better wife. I will be a better, daughter, sister, and friend. And I will not wait until the new year to begin. Each day is a clean slate, and each day I will recommit to doing better.

I wish you all a very healthy, peaceful, and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Playing With My Presents

This is what I got for Christmas:

Not too shabby, right? I just love my presents.
Christmas took a lot out of me this year. I feel like I've been wrung through. I'm exhausted and moody and emotional. And, Todd is hunting up north for a couple of days so I don't have much of a break. It is a good thing that we have had a few nice snow falls for the boys to go outside and play in and get their energy out. Oh how I LOVE my nice, big, fenced-in backyard!
When the boys come in all rosy and cold they gulp down their hot chocolate and we snuggle up on the couch.
And it gets me through.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Blessings

Ten years ago, our first Christmas together, the holiday looked something like this...
...and now it looks more like this...
Not quite as fancy. Not as much quality alone time. Not remotely as romantic. But more smiles. More fun. More happiness. And more love than we ever dreamed we could have.

This year, I have nothing to ask Santa for. God has given me everything I've always wanted.
I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Christmas, and get everything you've always wanted.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our First Christmas Without You

It is the perfect winter day. The kind you see in those warm, fuzzy Christmas movies. Big, fat snowflakes are flitting down outside my window. The logs in the fire are popping and sizzling and the firelight is sending off a beautiful orange glow in the room. I have hot cider in my favorite mug and old fashioned Christmas songs running through my head. And you are here too. In the forefront of my thoughts.

This is our first Christmas without you. I don't quite know what to expect. Without you here there seems to be such a big part of Christmas missing. It just isn't the same. I miss your "oohs" and "aahs" at each and every decoration. I miss hearing you sing along to all of the beautiful songs. I miss the Christmas sweaters you wore. I miss your joy and elation at all things Christmas. I miss your enthusiasm, your elation, your wonder, your joy. Without you here Christmas feels a bit flat. Lifeless.

Mom could not bring herself to put up any decorations this year. I guess when you spend over 50 years celebrating Christmas with someone it seems impossible to enjoy it when they are gone. I imagine each decoration reminds mom of how much you shared together and how much she misses you. And I can certainly understand that, but it makes me even sadder. It makes you feel that much farther away. I need those reminders of you. I need to remember those wonderful Christmas memories and hold on to them when I am missing you most.

I have been wearing a couple of your sweaters lately. They seem to be all I want to wear. They are comforting to me. And since mom isn't using the decorations I asked if I could have Alfie this Christmas. After all, he was your favorite. I thought maybe if I have Alfie in our house it will be like having a piece of you here with me too. I have such fond memories of you bringing Alfie out and setting him on top of the window box every year right before Christmas. I always thought it was so funny that you liked that little elf so much, but I think he always brought out the kid in you just as Christmas seems to do for so many of us.

This Christmas is such a mix for me. I am so excited for the boys. Their energy is palpable this year as they count down the days. And then of course, this is Grace's first Christmas. Last year she was just a dream, and now here she is celebrating with us. I have everything I've always wanted. But, even still, I can feel that hole. That missing. How I wish you were here with us too, daddy.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll feel you with us. I've been waiting so long to see you. Or hear you. Or feel you around. Maybe I'll find comfort in your sweaters. Or joy from your favorite, Alfie. Or maybe I'll feel you with us as we watch our boys enjoying all the magic of Christmas. Perhaps I'll feel you in the music at Christmas mass. Or maybe I'll finally see you in my dreams. I have hope.

I know heaven must be the ultimate place to celebrate Christmas, but I hope you'll visit us too. I hope when I look at the twinkling lights on the tree you'll be looking at them with me. This, our first Christmas in our new home. Our first Christmas as a family of six. And our first Christmas without you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

PSF- Baby, It's Cold Outside

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Honey Mommy
I was in Tarjay the other day when a woman came up to me and asked how I do it. How do I keep my little baby warm in this cold. The woman just moved here from California and she said she couldn't imagine having a little one to carry around during these freezing Wisconsin winters (I didn't have the heart to tell her that it hasn't even been that cold yet). So, how do I keep my babies warm?

It is called layers. Lots and lots of layers.

Luckily, I found some really cute layers.
And if that isn't warm enough we bundle. First, layers of clothes, then blankets, then hats and mittens, and then a cover up. See? All cozy and warm and snug as a bug in a rug.

I kind of wish someone would bundle me up and carry me around like this when it is cold outside.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You Did It!

I think I was more nervous this morning than I used to be when I would get up on stage and sing in front of a couple thousand people. But you? You were cool as a cucumber.

We practiced for weeks. You told me how you didn't want to look at all the people sitting in the pews because it would make you nervous. You asked me if I would be watching. Would dad be there too? Every day you asked me if today was the day you had to do your reading in church, and breathed a sigh of relief when I said, "No." Secretly I was just as nervous as you were. After all, you had just started to learn how to read and now you were going to be reading in front of the whole school. And with such big, grown up words! It was a big step.

You read, read, and reread your part, making sure you got it absolutely perfectly. Every time you read it your confidence grew. And yesterday when I asked you to read it for me just one more time you said, "Mom, I have it memorized. I don't even need my paper anymore." And then you showed me just how well you knew it. Still, I was a little nervous for you.

This morning we put on your dress shirt and pants and you begged me to wear your tie. After I convinced you that the tie was a little too short, and also could get lost at school, you finally agreed to leave it at home. We fixed your hair and gussied you up. And you were ready.

When I walked into church and sat down you saw me right away. You smiled your angelic smile and waved. My heart melted a bit. And then my stomach did a flip flop. I knew you were prepared but I was still nervous.

You see, I know how hard you are on yourself. You always want to be perfect. Even when I told you earlier that if you make a mistake it is no big deal you said, "Oh, I won't make a mistake!" You put a lot of pressure on yourself for such a little guy.

My butterflies reached a peak when you walked up to the podium with your paper and stepped up to the microphone. You spoke clearly and slowly and looked up at the congregation when you were done. You did just as well as you knew you would.

You walked back to your pew and took your seat. And when you turned around to catch my eye I saw how proud you were. I gave you a little wink and a thumbs up and you beamed. And I was so happy for you.

Joey, you are growing up right before my eyes. Today it is the reading for the 1st graders' mass and tomorrow it will be your graduation. It is all going too fast. Please try and slow it down. Just a little?

I am so proud of you, my brave, confident, smart, funny, and kind little man. Congratulations!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Angels Among Us

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Rachael
It is easy to look at a brand new baby and see a little bit of heaven. You look into their eyes and you just know that they are straight from God. Little angels right here on earth. I've often wondered how much a baby remembers. Do they remember being with God? With the angels?
There were times when Joey was a baby that I swore he was watching his angels. More than a few times when I would breastfeed him in the middle of the night he would stop abruptly, look up at the ceiling, smile the biggest smile, and watch something go back and forth across the ceiling. Each time it would continue for a few minutes before he would go back to eating. It was somehow comforting to me. As I watched him smile I would whisper, "Are you watching your angels, honey?"

Even more comforting was a story I heard many years ago:
A mother and father became increasingly worried after they brought their brand new baby girl home from the hospital to meet her big 3 year old brother and the brother kept asking to be alone with the baby. The parents feared big brother may be having some difficulties managing his jealousy and they were careful to keep a close eye on him and never leave him alone with his new sister.
Still, big brother persisted. He wanted some time alone with the new baby. One day, as the little sister slept in her room big brother crept down the hallway and peaked in on her. He checked to make sure no one was watching and then snuck into her room. The mother noticed he was missing and quickly ran down the hallway to baby's room just as big brother was climbing up the side of baby's crib. The mother stood in the doorway and watched as big brother leaned in close to his new baby sister and whispered, "Baby, can you tell me what Jesus looks like? 'Cuz I'm starting to forget."
That story has really stuck with me over the years. I think of it often. How these children are straight from God.
And sometimes I wonder what they remember.
And sometimes I wonder what they are thinking.
And sometimes I wonder what they might be "talking" about.

"I hear ya, big brother. I hear ya!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WW- Christmas At Our House

The countdown begins,
and you are greeted with a tree,
garland on the window and out the window,
special drinking cups,
snowmen in front of the tables,
and on the tables,
and on the shelves,
a second tree in the family room,
and the most important part:

Monday, December 7, 2009

My List Of Excuses

Yes, I am still alive! Sorry I have been gone for so long. I've been an awful bloggy friend. But I have excuses, see?

1- The hubby was gone hunting for a week and two of the four kiddos were sick.

2- We hosted two Thanksgiving dinners at our house in three days.

3- I took down all of the fall decorations and cleaned the entire house.

4- I decorated the inside and outside of the house with as many Christmas decorations as I could get my hands on. That means FOUR trees (two of them small ones for the boys' rooms) that I put together and decorated BY MY SELF, plus a million and a half snowmen and angels carefully placed around the house, and a bunch of garland and big red bows around our light posts and railings outside. It took me two days, but it looks great!

5- Another of the kiddos got sick.

6- The dog ate my computer. Okay, maybe not. But may as well have since this stinking computer is SO SLOW!

7- I sent out all of my Christmas cards.

8- St. Nick's day forced me to find some time to run to the store without the kiddos and grab a few goodies for the good little boys and girls.

9- I needed to see New Moon again so I dragged the hubby to the theater with me. Me thinks it was even better the second time around.

10- Ben had been having nightmares at naptime and bedtime so I hadn't been getting much sleep.

11- I switched Ben and Joey around in the bedrooms so that Joey now has his own room and Ben shares with Tommy. This seems to have fixed the nightmare problem with Ben, Tommy loves having the top bunk, and Joey feels like a big man in his own room. However, it was a bit of work transferring all their clothes and toys. Well worth it, though.

12- We are finally having our first snow of the season today and my mud-filled backyard is now blanketed in pure white. I would rather snuggle on the couch with kiddos sipping hot chocolate than sitting at the computer.

13- As of Saturday all of the Christmas shopping for the kiddos is DONE. DONE, I tell you. Woohoo!

So, yep. I think that just about covers it. I will be around to visit you all soon. Hope you are enjoying this festive season!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

There He Goes Again

Yep. It is deer hunting time again. Todd is packing up the truck and heading up north until Tuesday. And this year I will have FOUR little monkeys (two of whom have colds right now, Ben and Grace) here with me. I'm a little stressed about the possible lack of sleep on my end since my babies are sick but we'll be alright.

I have plenty of fun things planned for this weekend. My boys' favorite Festival of the Trees is this weekend so Saturday will be filled with hot chocolate, cookies, and beautifully decorated trees. And plenty of me saying, "Don't touch that! That is breakable!" But fun, nonetheless. And if the weather is nice we can walk down the street to the woods where we found a HUGE pile of leaves (the neighbors must use the woods as their leaf dumping zone- SCORE for us!) and do some hardcore pile jumping. Yes. We'll find plenty to do.

I'll make sure that this week does not end up like last year. Me being overwhelmed and yelling too much. And the boys sick of me and misbehaving too much. This year I will do better!

And I won't even let myself THINK about next week when we are having my family over for Thanksgiving on Thursday, and Todd's family over for Thanksgiving on Saturday. Cuz, um, then it might all just be too much. ;)

And if I get a bit overwhelmed I have an escape plan. It is called Operation Edward And Jacob. The NEW MOON is rising and I'm gonna see it. Oh yeah, baby! The wait is almost over. I've got a ticket in my sweaty little palms, and I'm not afraid to use it! The first show on Friday is MINE baby! I am THERE!!!!! Ahhh, sweet escape.

So you see? The next five days will just fly by. Piece of cake. Uh-huh. Nooooo problem. Easy-peasy. No. Big. Deal.

Is it Tuesday yet?

Friday, November 13, 2009

PSF- So, You Want To Date My Sister, Huh?

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and She's a moron and can't remember...

I know that Todd looks at this picture and sees his future hunting buddies,but all I can think of is these three boys answering the door when Gracie's dates comes a calling.

"So, you want to take Grace on a date, do ya?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WW-Baby In A Bumbo

Think she likes it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Surf's Up

By now it is no secret that I am obsessed with Lake Michigan. I love it. It is beautiful, and unpredictable, and powerful, and majestic. Everyone who sees it for the first time is amazed at its size and how much it resembles an ocean. Still, many people are surprised to hear that we have so many surfers that take on the waves of Lake Michigan.

The city I live in is known as one of the best spots in the world for freshwater surfing. There is an annual surfing contest held here every year and surfers come from all over to participate. It is pretty fun to watch. Especially when our lady Lake decides to cooperate and give the contestants some decent waves. This year the surfers did not have very good waves the weekend of the contest but this past Saturday the conditions were great.
(click on pics to enlarge)
Still, as we were driving by I was pretty shocked to see so many surfers out that day. There had to be over fifty surfers. We quickly pulled the car over and got out to watch for a while. And of course I had to snap some photos too.
The surfers would ride the waves all the way to the beach, walk across the sand to the jetty, and walk out to the pier.
Once they got to a relatively calm area they would climb down the boulders and jump back into the lake's icy waters.
I'm not a fan of being cold, but it looked like so much fun that I think I may have convinced myself to try it someday. Yes, I may freeze my butt off but at least I wouldn't be crashing into coral reefs or get eaten by sharks. It sounds like a pretty good trade off to me.
I guess these surfers think so too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Finally Fall

Finally! The weather finally feels like fall.

This past weekend we had the nicest weather. On Saturday it was about 67 degrees and sunny all day. We immediately took advantage and used every spare minute of that day for outdoor fun.

After we had stopped off at our favorite bakery/coffee shop we headed down to the beach at the shores of Lake Michigan. The waves were especially large that day and all of the surfers came out in full force. I took a ton of photos, but I'll show you those another time.

After we had our fill of watching the surfers we headed out to one of my favorite spots. It is a huge field and woodsy area with a bunch of different walking paths. A great spot to let the boys run wild.

While I was busy getting Grace into her sling the boys played a game of hide and seek in the tall grass.

"Where are the boys?" "There they are!"
After I got Gracie into her sling we were ready to go!
One of the paths we chose had a pretty little bridge with a tiny creek running under it. The boys had a good time throwing stones into the creek, as you would imagine.
They were so happy to be out racing around that they even stopped to let us snap a pic.
They boys found big sticks shaped like rakes and spent much of the time raking the entire path.
It was very tiring and after a while Ben needed a lift.
All the beautiful, multicolored leaves had already fallen off of the trees, but we still had some color. We found some bright red berries here and there.
The sky was a gorgeous blue.
And we even found a bright orange bush or two. Mostly, the boys just had a good time running around in the woods for a couple of hours.
And I was just thankful that I was able to have a little bit of my fall.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


The sun is shining today, so that automatically puts me in a good mood. I eye the massive bag of apples atop my counter and figure that now is as good a time as any to start in on my applesauce.

I stand at my sink and peel away at apple after apple. Peel, peel, peel, core, cut, put in the kettle. There are so many apples that it takes me close to an hour. Well, that and the fact that I have to stop about a gazillion times to break up fights, hand out snacks, change diapers, wipe noses, and wipe butts.

Still, the sun is shining in through my windows in heated streams, Frank Sinatra is playing in the background, and the sweet, spicy smell of my apples is filling the whole house. Strangely enough, it is times like these that the hole in my heart feels especially sharp.

It has been too long since I've seen you. I mean, I know that when people die you don't see them anymore. I get that. But, well, I really miss seeing you. I've been missing you so much lately. I'm wondering if it is finally hitting me that you are gone. I won't be seeing you again. And now I'm starting to cry again.

This past week we celebrated All Saints Day at church. Just like every year, the names of all the church members who have passed away in past year were read in front of church. There I sat in my pew, sweating and nervous. Dreading when they would get to your name. And when your name was finally read it felt like a punch in the gut. I cried and cried and didn't even care that the girl in the pew in front of me turned around to stare. Stare away, girlie! I miss my dad.

This year we skipped right over fall. It was never golden and pretty. It was not cool and crisp. It didn't even have that wonderful fall smell. It was dark and dreary and bitter cold. It seems appropriate though, because fall was your absolute favorite time, and without you here to enjoy it what is the point?

There are so many things you have missed, daddy. I have a little girl. Did you know that? I like to think that maybe you already met her, but I don't know. I named her Grace. And she is perfect. I wish you could have met her. And her you. I feel she is really missing out without you here. We all are.

The boys still talk about you. Mostly at night when we are saying prayers. They like to think of you as an angel now, and they sometimes ask you for favors. One night Joey even asked you to "help all the girls stop trying to kiss me". I laughed so hard and I pictured you laughing right along with us. You would be so proud of my boys and so happy to see how much they want to protect their sister. It is very sweet.

We moved too. Remember that neighborhood that you and mom used to walk through all the time? The one right on top of the lake by the woods? Mom said you used to walk down the very street I live on and dream about living here. The house has everything you always wanted. A fireplace, a big backyard, a huge garage. It even feels like we live out in the country because the neighborhood is so quite. You can hear the waves crashing and listen to the geese honking as they come in for a landing over the cliff edge onto the lake. And the other night we had four deer in our yard. This house has your name all over it. I wish you could see it. You would be so happy for us. So excited.

I miss you, dad. I wish you would visit. At least in my dreams every now and then. It has just been too long. Every once in a while I can hear you in my head. The other night when I was irrationally annoyed with mom I heard you say, "Awe, honey. Come on now." Just like you used to do when mom and I would bicker with each other when I was a sassy teenager. It immediately made me smile. And then it widened that hole in my heart and I missed you even more.

Here I thought I was so strong and doing so well. But I guess it is finally hitting me now. Before I was just happy for you. Glad that you were finally released from your body that wasn't working anymore. Grateful that you were not suffering anymore. Now. Now I'm just sad for me.

I found a three page letter that you had written to me when I was in high school. In it you told me how proud of me you were and how much you loved me. It felt so good to read those words from you. Having that letter now means more to me than you could ever have imagined when you wrote it.
You ended the letter with:
"Mom and I both hope and pray for a bright future for you and that you never stray from the right and good path. We have loving concern for you- so very much- our youngest and last of all of our children. You have so much to offer. Please- always- depend on God to help you- to guide you, care for you and to bless you. And give Him your love, praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and support.
God Bless You Honey- I love you very much!! And right now I am choked up. Dad"

Thank you, Daddy. What a gift. I'll end my letter the same way.

God Bless You Daddy- I love you very much!! And right now I am choked up. Kathy

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dare I Say It?

Up until now I've been too nervous to mention it (well, I'm actually still nervous- hear me knocking on wood?), but for the last three weeks there is a certain smiley little girl that has been SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT.

Oh yes. You heard that right. My baby girl started sleeping through the night at two months! TWO. MONTHS. I'm telling you, this kid is an angel! Such a good girl.

"Who's a good girl?" "Gracie is!"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Oh, October

Oh, October, where did you go? You have always been one of my favorite months of the year and this year you were no where to be found.

We waited patiently for you to come. Dreams of sunlight streaming through the trees, pumpkin farms, and Halloween night filled our heads. Instead you brought us temps in the 40s, dark, dreary days, howling winds, and torrential rains. We rarely saw the sun, and trips to the pumpkin farm were cancelled over and over again. Our annual leaf pile photos were impossible with the high winds that shook the leaves off the trees before they could turn their true brilliant colors. Not to mention the fact that any leaf piles we could muster were soaking wet.

But we tried. We tried to resume our normal activities though they were much later than we would have liked.

We did make it to the pumpkin farm. The day before Halloween. And all of the pumpkins they had left were rotten. And the pumpkin patch was muddy. And it was 40 degrees, windy, and dreary. But we got there. And somehow we still managed to have fun.

We took plenty of goofy pictures like this: And this:

We managed to get a decent family picture. Everyone was even looking at the camera!
Gracie got her very first pumpkin.
Ben saw some super cute bunnies.
And the boys got a big kick out of all the baby goats.
It was a short trip to the pumpkin farm, and we couldn't do half of the activities there that we normally enjoy, but we still had fun.
I was hoping that you, October, were saving the most beautiful day of the month for the very last day. Halloween. But, you didn't. We woke up to a rainy, cold morning, with 30 mile/hr wind gusts yet again. The boys were nervous that trick or treating would be cancelled, but I reassured them that we would have fun no matter what.
We got all decked out in our fabulous costumes, with 10 layers of clothes underneath.
Grace was a mouse for her very first Halloween. I think she liked it.
Ben was a dalmatian again this year because the costume still fit. And besides, he makes an adorable puppy.
Joey was a vampire. Secretly I wondered if my Twilight obsession was to blame.
And Tommy was once again saving the world as Spiderman.
They made a handsome crew.
It was very cold outside but running from door to door helped to keep us warm. That and the four layers of clothes we had on underneath our costumes. We meet some of our neighbors for the first time and discovered that this neighborhood is very generous at Halloween, which pleased the boys immensely.
After the first few blocks I decided Grace would be warmer next to me so I put her in the sling and hid her inside my jacket. Much better.
The kids were super troopers walking for two hours in the cold and Grace was very patient. But she was clearly relieved when we finally got back home and she was able to eat. She was a hungry and tired little mouse. Though she hid it well.
Yes, we managed to have some fun, no thanks to you, October. Next year I would greatly appreciate it if you could kindly remember that you are supposed to average 65 degrees with no more than 5 or 6 days of rain. I'm just sayin.
And if you could tell November to take it easy on us, that'd be great. Thanks.

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