Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The girl is running around the house singing, "You look like a lady!" I can't decide if this is a parenting victory or a parenting fail (the lyrics are wrong, after all, and yet the actual lyrics are not appropriate). Still, it is better than singing a Bieber song, I decide.  Parenting victory.

The boys are chasing each other around like maniacs, tackling instead of tagging. I guess everyone is finally feeling healthy again. Joey's appetite is back to normal.  Well, normal for a horse.  The kid is eating everything in sight. I guess he is trying to make up for lost time.

Even though I had cancelled our little New Years Eve party due to the sickies I think I may be able to pull something together last minute.  The kids get wind of this and the energy level in the house kicks up another notch.

Hors d'oeuvres are planned, games are picked out, and movies are rented.  I think we are ready for some fun.

As I begin making my hors d'oeuvres I find When Harry Met Sally on tv, followed by When A Man Loves a Woman.  Score! This just got fun.

My mind wanders as I'm busy in the kitchen. I reflect back on our year and think about the new year that is about to start.

I contemplate possible resolutions but once again find that I don't feel the need for resolutions. There are things to work on. Definitely. I could start running again. I could eat better. I must continue to work on my temper. On patience. On many things. But in the end I just don't believe in resolutions.

Instead I focus on each day.

I think of a word to focus on. One word that I will chant to myself when life gets overwhelming or stressful. A word that I will remind myself of when my temper flairs and my patience fails.

I toss around ideas.  Peace. Joy. Still. Love. See. Calm. Breathe. Peace. Pause. Quiet. Think. Heart. Serene. Silence. Listen.

Breathe.  Yes.  Breathe jumps out at me.

When life gets busy. Breathe. When my temper flares.  Breathe.  When life is full and good.  Breathe it in.  Appreciate each moment.  Breathe.

That's my word. In the new year I will breathe. I will pause. I will take it in.  I'm ready for the new year.

Whether you make resolutions, pick a word, go out and party, or stay at home, I hope you all have a wonderful New Years Eve and an even better New Year. I hope 2014 brings contentment, peace, love, happiness, and joy to you all.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Wrap Up

And just like that Christmas is over.  

All the preparations.  All the planning.  All the plotting and secret keeping. And blink! All done. 

Christmas Eve was spent at my mom's house. Food was eaten, games were played, laughs were had.  It was a lovely night. It was fun just sitting around spending time with family.
When we got home that night the kids quickly changed into their jammies and went off to bed so that Santa could make a swift delivery.  Later that night, as the kids lay sleeping in their beds, Santa did indeed make his visit.
The next day was your typical Christmas morning madness with just a little more craziness thrown in. The snowstorm that brought yet another few inches of snow made our morning more hectic.  And then Joey fainted at church (he hadn't been feeling good for a few days prior- stomach bug). That was a smidge stressful.

After a little rest at home we managed to make it over to Todd's mom's house for more food, more games, and more laughter.
Overall, it was a wonderful Christmas. Nevermind the snowstorm, the fainting Joey (or the puking Joey for that matter- the kid was a trooper).

The next day we all just sat around trying to recoup from all of the holiday craziness. Joey continued to recover from the stomach bug he had all week and the kids played with all their Christmas loot.

We had planned on going up north and going skiing for a few days but I just didn't think I had the energy for it and Joey was still regaining his strength.  Instead Todd went up north to attempt another go at getting a deer (this is the only year I can remember that Todd didn't get a deer) and the kids and I stayed home and relaxed.

As Joey got stronger the kids and I ventured out to the local sledding hill and took advantage of the warm weather.  The kids even got to spend some of their Christmas money at their favorite store and purchased a few more LEGO sets for their collection. We ended up having a really nice time together.

When the kids went to bed that night I really got into relaxation mode. I pulled out my Christmas gift (an extra large bean bag), started a fire, made myself a drink, and kicked my feet up.

It was just what I needed to unwind and reflect on our busy but blessed Christmas.

I hope your Christmas, busy and/or imperfect as it may have been, was filled with warm memories, love, and happiness.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Sending you all a big virtual hug and prayers for a holiday season filled with family, friends, love, and joy! God bless!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Magic

Anyone dreaming of a white Christmas would be happy to celebrate Christmas in my neighborhood this year.  I think we now have more snow at our house than we did up north this past weekend.  Which is just as well because most of our time up north was spent inside since Joey wasn't feeling well.  Not as relaxing a weekend as we had hoped, but ah well.

Yesterday we came home to 8 inches of fresh snow and the snow continued throughout the night and into today.  When all is said and done I think we will have over a foot of snow.  

With Joey feeling much better today (although my glands are extremely swollen now) we decided to tie up some last minute Christmas loose ends.  

Today we finally got to see Santa.  It was actually quite emotional because it was the last time anyone will be able to see Santa at this location.  A spot where kids have been going to see Santa for almost 100 years. A spot that always made waiting in line a joy. The very spot where I went to see Santa when I was a kid. Mechanical animals and elves danced and played and Bruce the Spruce would tell jokes to the kids. 

In a few weeks this Santa's enchanted forest will no longer be there as the store is closing down.  Sad, indeed.  
The good news is that the enchanted forest will be moved to our city's museum and will be on display every Christmas.  Still, I'm glad that we were able to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus in the enchanted forest one last time.

After our visit to Santa the kids and I decided to take advantage of the snow and we went sledding.
Up and down the kids went, again and again.  It was probably the most relaxing sledding trip I've ever had with the kids as they each were able to make their way up and down the hill by themselves.  
And it was pretty heartwarming to watch Grace's brothers help her out when she got tired climbing the hill.  Does a mama's heart good.
We stayed on the hill for a couple of hours before we'd finally tuckered ourselves out.
 After that we went home to pick up Todd and then more fun was to be had.  We drove through an awesome Christmas light display at a local park and then went to another light display after that.  Both shows were set to festive Christmas music.  It was so much fun.  After all of that the kids begged us to take them to the dollar store so that they could buy Todd and I a few Christmas presents that they had their eye.

Now we are sitting around watching a movie and eating Christmas cookies. It's been a great preChristmas day.

We are now ready to let the real celebration begin.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Cut

Each and every time I plan to write a blog post I have the best of intentions.  In my head my post is filled with Christmas warmth and loving stories.  

However, by the time I actually sit down to write the post all I can think about is how frazzled I am and how I just got done yelling at the kids again.  Merry Christmas, everybody! Ho, ho, ho! And all that crap.  Whatever.



I will attempt to make this post about Christmas goodies, mmm-kay?

I won't even tell you what a completely crazy mess yesterday was, and how I honestly did not sit down all day (or eat) until 9 o'clock last night when we got home from Joey's very late basketball game.  I won't even mention the massive migraine I got last night after all the craziness.  And I won't tell you how today was the last day of school (complete with class parties and a talent show), I bought and wrapped 40 small gifts for our family Christmas/Eve dice game, and I went grocery shopping and packed everyone's stuff for a trip up north this weekend.  All before noon when I had to pick up the boys from school.  And I still have a migraine hangover.  

But, alas, I will not talk about that! Nope.  It will not make the Christmas cut. This is my Christmas fun post! Or something.

I will instead tell you about Grace's lovely haircut.  Grace has been begging to cut her hair for a while now (probably since I cut mine- even though it made her bawl).  She was just so tired of all the snarls and she wanted a change.  I finally gave in.  And I cut it myself.  

I was extremely nervous about cutting her hair.  Sure, I cut the boys' hair all the time, but that is different.  This is a real cut.  And straight hair is difficult to cut too.  

This is Grace the morning before her haircut at her Christmas party.

This is Grace shortly (puns!) after her haircut.  Super cute!
When she got up from her nap she was SO EXCITED at how easy it was to brush her hair.  I even curled the ends for her and she loved it.  I may have started something I shouldn't have.
Either way, the darling girl looked adorable.  She loves her hair and so do I. So sweet.

Also sweet?  This recipe I found for Cinnamon Pecans.  My favorites!  We always get them when we go to Cabelas and now I can make them myself.  They are even better homemade.  I am in trouble!

And I'm sharing the trouble with you!

Crock Pot Cinnamon Pecans (you could also use almonds or cashews)

Great holiday gift idea! (if you don't eat them all yourself)


1 C. Sugar
2 C. Brown Sugar
4 Tbsp. Cinnamon
1/8 tsp. Salt
2 Egg White
3 tsp. vanilla
6 Cups Pecans
1/4 C. Water

In a medium sized bowl, mix together sugars, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In another medium sized bowl, whisk the egg white and vanilla until it’s a little frothy. Add pecans. Make sure the pecans are thoroughly coated in the egg white mixture. Add cinnamon mixture to the pecans and toss until coated.

Thoroughly spray the stoneware of your crock pot with non-stick cooking spray and add the mixture of pecans and sugars.

Cook on low ( with the lid on) 3-4 hours stirring every 20 minutes. In the last hour, add the 1/4 C. of water and stir well. This ensures a crunchy yummy coating. (*make sure after you’ve added the water that you continue to cook the nuts for another 45 minutes to an hour.)
You have to stir really well, especially as it gets later in the cooking process.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread the pecans flat to cool. The pecans will be sticky at this point, so make sure you separate them a little and have no large mounds.

There you have it!  A fabulous holiday treat!  

I hope you find some time to relax this weekend and try to enjoy the holiday madness.  I haven't perfected it yet, but I am still trying.  In the meantime I plan on sitting in front of the fire all weekend up north with a good book. Let's see how that pans out.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Almost There

I was feeling so good.  I was feeling so jolly.  I was feeling peaceful.

This past weekend Todd decided to take the kids and head up north since I was stuck in rehearsals and concerts and wouldn't be home much of the time. It was the perfect opportunity for me to try and tackle some of the items on my mounting To-Do list I had been fretting about all month.

Despite the nasty snowstorm that hit our area I managed to plow myself out of the driveway and get most of my Christmas shopping done. It was quite the feat, running from store to store to store in the icy snow with only a few hours to spare before my concert but I succeeded!  And I managed to score some HUGE deals.  When you have a child who asks for things like "a tornado stuffed animal" and "a tornado pillow" shopping can be difficult.  But between some specialty toy stores and some very cool finds online I think all of my kiddos will be surprised and delighted with their loot this Christmas.

The concert went beautifully on Saturday night.  It was powerful and for me it was emotional too.

You may not believe me, but I'll tell you anyway. At one point during the concert my dad made an appearance and sat with me.  It happened when I was onstage and I asked my dad to help one of the soloists with her solo (she had been struggling awfully at rehearsals all week and I was so nervous for her).  I always said my dad had the voice of an angel and I knew he would love to help another singer. The minute I asked my dad for help I saw his smiling face and heard him say, "Oh honey. That's so nice of you to ask me!" He was so honored and proud that I would think to ask him to help someone. I told him that I didn't know who the patron saint of singing was but for me he could do the job.

I felt my dad all around me. Behind me. Beside me. As the soloist sang her solo (beautifully) I saw my dad singing the words with her. It was all so overwhelming that I had all I could do to keep myself from breaking down and sobbing on stage. I thanked God for allowing my dad to be with me and giving souls the opportunity to continue to love and help each other.

I was very emotional after that and when we got to the Hallelujah Chorus and the entire audience stood throughout the whole song I was so choked up I could barely sing. As I said, it was a very powerful and emotional concert.

I left that concert feeling such a high.  Not only was the concert fabulous, I cherished the visit with my dad.  I was so happy and full of the Christmas spirit.

The whole weekend was a success.  I was so happy and excited to see my family when they came home on Sunday afternoon. I was rejuvenated.  Heck, the Packers even pulled off a monster of all come from behind wins!

And then school began again on Monday.  It has been madness every single day.  All that shopping I thought I had gotten done was just a mirage. More and more items got added to my shopping lists.  I'd forgotten this and that and the errands seem never ending.

I remembered the teacher's gift cards, but I'd forgotten their little treats.  I remembered my Christmas cards, but I hadn't ordered enough.  I addressed all the cards, but I forgot to buy stamps.  I ran out to get juice for Grace's class party only to find out the next day that I had to go back to the store and get a snack for Joey's class party.  Joey let me know last night that he had a reading for mass this morning and I definitely couldn't miss that.  And I had just enough time to go to mass and then run to the store once again for a last minute necessity for Ben's class party before I had to get to Grace's gingerbread house making party. I wrapped all the kids' presents (the earliest I had EVER done it- usually it is done on Christmas Eve eve) and then realized that the shoes I had bought Tommy and Ben when they were on sale a few months ago were already a size too small.  Back to the store I ran.

Then Ben came home from school missing a mitten and his lunch box.  Add that to the pair of gloves he lost up north this past weekend.  Today I brought Grace home from school and unloaded her backpack to see that she was also missing her mittens.  Add that to her missing snowpants I looked for for 20 minutes at school earlier in the day.

The last straw was when Tommy came bounding in the house after school today with no backpack. Apparently he left it on the bus.  So, that's good. Or, not.  I tried to track the bus down but the only option I have is to pick the backpack up at the bus station between 4:30 and 5.  I guess I can fit that in when I drop Joey off at basketball practice at 4:30 and it should give me enough time to pick up the backpack and get Ben home in time to get ready for Boy Scouts at 5:30.

Help me.

This is such a beautiful time of year.  I know that.  I witnessed it this past weekend and I'm trying to hold on to that feeling.  But sometimes, sometimes I just want to throw my hand up in the air. I surrender!

Luckily, we only have two more days of school and then the majority of the madness will all fall away. Then we will be able to focus on Christmas. The real Christmas. Not the Christmas of plays and concerts and class parties and errands and presents and running and shopping and decorating. Not the Christmas crazy.  The Christmas that is family and togetherness and love.  That Christmas.

That is the Christmas I look forward to.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Spreading The Joy

I think this is the best flash mob I've ever seen. I really can't watch it without bawling. These singers do such a beautiful job of bringing the Christmas message joyfully to the masses and in such a public way. And it seems the public love it as well.

Tonight I will be singing Handel's Messiah with the Symphony Chorus, including the Hallelujah Chorus. You can bet that I will be thinking about these food court singers and how much joy they brought to those who were lucky enough to hear their performance.  I hope we can deliver the Christmas spirit as well as these fine folks did.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thinking Warm Thoughts

I am struggling this morning.  Too many late nights, too many activities, too much junk food, and too much running around.  I'm beginning to wear out.  Wear down. My body does not want to go, go, go anymore.  My body wants to sit, stay, and not move.

We are in full "Christmas rush" mode around here.  This week has been a blur of activity. 

Joey's basketball tournament took up every spare moment this past Friday and Saturday but luckily the kids had some time on Sunday to just enjoy being kids. I used the downtime to be grouchy and crabby and yell at everyone every chance I got.  Yeah me.  Luckily, the kids were able to escape to the great outdoors.

Much to the kids' delight snow finally made a stop at our house on Sunday morning. By the time we got out of church there was enough snow to play in, and play they did.  The snow was falling faster and faster and the kids had a blast outside despite the very chilly temps.  
I couldn't believe how tough my kids were in the 10 degree weather.  They stayed out there for hours upon hours. I'm telling myself that the kids stayed out there because it was fun and not because they were avoiding me. Not sure how accurate that is.

But they were troopers. As if the cold weather wasn't enough to chill them to the bone they laid around in the snow eating icicles.   Ah, to be young again.
That night the kids went to bed easily and slept solidly.  And luckily for everyone in my household I woke up in a much better state of mind on Monday and was able to pull myself out of my foul mood and start the week fresh again.

As for me, I have been trying my best to stay warm. This week has been the coldest we've had in some time. The constant running here and there, in and out of the cold, has left me a frigid mess. It seems that no matter how many layers I dress myself in I still find myself shuddering and shaking, my fingertips nearly numb. Even now as I type I am wearing two layers of everything and a scarf as well and I still can't stop my body from shaking. And I'm INSIDE! It is cold, people.

I wrap my hands around my coffee and try to absorb the heat into my body.  Must think warm thoughts.

My mind wanders back to last night.  The kids had their annual school Christmas concert held at church.  It was so much fun watching my kiddos sing their hearts out.  Joey and Tommy took the job very seriously, Ben wore an impish smile the entire time, and Grace was a little charmer singing her heart out and adding in all the gestures to the music.  It was such a fun night and it put me in the Christmas mood until Todd pointed out that it was the first Christmas concert that we didn't have a little one sitting in the pew with us.
Still, it was a lovely night and I was so proud of my littles.

Now it is back to the grind again.  Tonight Joey has another basketball game.  Tomorrow I have rehearsal and then a concert on Saturday.  Next week is the typical school madness that comes with the last few days before Christmas break.  But then! Then we are home free!

Until then I will be attempting to think warm and lovely thoughts.

What are your warm, lovely thoughts this holiday?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Finding Christmas

Each year it is a struggle to enjoy the season.

Each year I find myself tense and stressed instead of joyful and peaceful.

Each year I worry and rush and panic and frantically try to remember every little item on my to-do list and every event on my calendar. And there are too many to-dos and too many events.

Each year I tell myself I will simplify until I realize there is virtually no way to do so.  

Each year gets busier and busier.

The list is ever growing and it is making me a grumpy mess.

-Set up two Christmas trees, a house full of decorations, and all the lights on the outside of the house, while trying to maintain my patience and enthusiasm while the kids "help".

-Don't forget the St. Nick's gifts for the kids stockings. And don't forget to put the gifts IN the stockings for the kids on the correct date!

-Buy little treats for all 4 of my kids' Secret Santa gifts every week.

-Remember dates for the kids' Christmas concert and rehearsals.

-Remember dates for my Christmas concert and rehearsals.

-Remember dates for Ben's Boy Scout meetings.

-Remember dates for Joey's basketball practices.

-Bake treats for Joey's basketball tournament concession stand this weekend.

-Remember times for Joey's games for the tournament this weekend.

-Remember the two five hour shifts I'm signed up to volunteer for at the tournament this weekend.

-Think of gifts for the six teachers I have to buy for.

-Remember to buy the actual Secret Santa gifts, and wrap them, for my kids to give to their assigned classmate on the appropriate day.

-Pick up approximately 40 small gifts and gag gifts for the games we always play at the grandmas' houses on Christmas Eve and Christmas, and then wrap the 40 small gifts and gag gifts.

-Sign up to bring treats to all 4 of the kids' class Christmas parties.

-Attend and help at Grace's class Christmas party.

My head is so clogged up with trying to remember dates and times and practices and rehearsals and gifts and obligated FUN that I suddenly remember that I haven't even really started my Christmas shopping yet. I don't even know what my kids want this year.

Last night I approached the subject with my kiddos.

"So, if we have a free night in the next week or two we need to go and see Santa. What are you all gonna ask Santa for when we finally see him?" I say, attempting to fake my enthusiasm as we are finally getting the ornaments on the tree in the front hallway.

"Meh. I don't really need anything. I'm not gonna ask for anything. There are so many kids that don't have anything and I already have so much stuff." Tommy tells me earnestly.

"Yeah. We are so lucky. Some kids don't even have a house! They live in a BOX!" Ben adds.

"Some kids don't even have a BOX!" Grace informs us.

"That's why we give money in those red buckets at the store. That money goes to help people." Joey says, trying to make his siblings feel better.

"I'm gonna put my allowance in there!" Ben decides.

"Me too! I have lots of monies but only one dollar. But they can have my monies and my dollar." Grace happily tells us.

"That is so nice of you guys. It is important to always remember to help other people. Why don't we take a few stars off of the giving tree at school so we can help some other kids have a nice Christmas too?"

"Yeah!" they all agree.

"You are such thoughtful kiddos.  I bet Santa knows how sweet you are and he probably thinks you deserve a present or two. Can't you think of anything?" I urge them.

Soon, with my prodding, the ideas are starting to come; Packer or Badger helmets, LEGOS and dollies, but they are still hesitant to ask for too much.

And once again the Christmas spirit finds me.

Amazing how my children always know how to restore my Christmas spirit.  Last year their giving hearts rejuvenated me and this year their compassion for others does it again.

I realize there will always be too many events and too many to-dos this time of year but I am reminded once again why the holidays are so beautiful and such a blessing.

I'll take one day at a time, I'll do what I can, and I'll keep my kids close so that I can get my refill of the Christmas spirit any time I need it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

For All The Animal Lovers

My family is filled with animal lovers.  Serious animal lovers. I swear I packed up more leftovers for my family to take back to their animals than I packed for themselves. We love our animals around here.

On Thanksgiving my brother just had to show me a few animal videos on YouTube that he thought were hilarious. Maybe you've seen them already but in case you haven't I'd love to show you a few of them.

This one is BY FAR my favorite:

The guy has done a few more of these videos.  This one is funny too:

This one I didn't think was that funny but apparently my family did.  What do you think?

This was the girl's eHarmony video.  My brother insists it is real, but I think she was acting.  Either that or this girl is in need of medication.

This one set to music was much funnier:

Funny, right?
My kids love the first two videos.  I can't tell you how many times they have watched them.  They go around the house reciting them, actually.  Kinda silly.

Hope it at least gave you a little laugh.

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