Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Three Day

It had been a while since we were able to take a 3 day weekend at the cabin and even longer since we'd had any warm weather up there. Last weekend was the perfect weekend to get away for a little while. The temperature hovered close to 80 almost the entire time we were there. 

We managed to stain the pier, put the pier in the water, and get the boat in all in one morning. After that the kids were in heaven. All four of them stayed on the boat, in the water (yes, they went swimming in that cold water), or on the pier pretty much the entire time. 
The boys loved venturing off on the paddle boat by themselves. Freedom!
And Grace was able to steal a little daddy time with a ride through the woods.
The next day was all about fishing. Joey and Ben took off in the paddle boat with their fishing rods and Tommy kept Grace company on the pier while she perfected her casting.
Ben and Joey even took Gracie out on the paddle boat with them while Tommy and Todd went to collect the trail cameras out of the woods.

And me? Well, I read and finished three books. THREE, people. Three. Three books in one weekend. It. Was. Awesome. (And I highly recommend The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman- so good)

Finally, and regretfully, it was time to say goodbye to the cabin and head back home. The holiday traffic was crazy and it took us hours longer than normal. Of course it didn't help that we stopped so many times but we just had to do this...
We had to pay respect to all those that so bravely fought for our freedoms and paid with their lives. We are forever in their debt. I always link to this post that I did a few years ago. Todd's bff wrote a "Day in the Life" piece on being a soldier and allowed me to post it on my blog. I like to link to it often in case you want to read it again. It is worth a reread.

Anyway, after we made the stop at the tank and the VFW Post we got back onto the road and went from being behind only a few cars to being behind a BILLION (yes, a billion) trucks, trailers, campers, and vans all heading in the same (slow) direction.

We staved off the frustration by stopping again.
Ice cream makes everything better.

Safe to say we eventually made it home where I proceeded to unpack everyone's bags, do three loads of laundry, clean the fish tank, feed the animals (dog, hamster, guinea pig, fish), water all the plants, pull some weeds, and make dinner. And I had a massive headache. Not the greatest way to end a good weekend but oh well.

This week has been a busy one. Baseball has started and with it a ton of practices. School is winding down (thank God) and with that there is always a certain amount of madness. Luckily, I haven't gotten to the point I was at last year yet. Nine more days left of school and I think we're gonna make it.

Life is chugging right along. Just as it should be.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Phenomenal Woman

Maya Angelou passed away this morning. I would be remiss if I didn't take a moment to remember this amazing woman. I feel she has gotten me through some turbulent times in  my life.

The Gamut

Soft you day, be velvet soft,
My true love approaches,
Look you bright, you dusty sun,
Array your golden coaches.

Soft you wind, be soft as silk
My true love is speaking.
Hold you birds, your silver throats,
His golden voice I'm seeking.

Come you death, in haste, do come
My shroud of black be weaving,
Quiet my heart, be deathly quiet,
My true love is leaving.

-Maya Angelou

In my heartbroken youth her words soothed and strengthened me. They empowered me. Made me remember who I was and who I wanted to be.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

-Maya Angelou

So often she wrote the words that were in my heart. I wasn't alone.


Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.
Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

- Maya Angelou

Later in life I was able to meet my hero. I had front row seats to listen to this wise woman speak. She spoke about hope and her words filled me with hope. Suffering from Alzheimer's my father had just been moved into a nursing home a few weeks earlier and to listen to a woman who had been to hell and back talk about hope was just what I needed to hear.  It was uplifting and spiritual. I will never forget it.

Thank you, Ms. Angelou, for your wisdom and your strength and your example. You have left a mark on this world. A legacy. May you rest in God's eternal peace.

Friday, May 23, 2014


The boys have stormed out the door in a fit of energy. Backpacks and lunch bags smacking against the doorway as they go, a pile of boys wrestling with every step even as they clamour into the truck. The boys are soon (finally) on their way to school and I set about trying to recover the house in their wake.

I put away the fixings from making the lunches, I wash up the breakfast dishes, I scrub the roaster that was left soaking overnight, I unload the dishwasher, and I feed the dog. I walk through the house picking up wayward socks, sweatshirts, shoes, papers, books, LEGOs, and bike helmets. I reheat my now cold coffee and finally take a seat to sip my coffee for a few minutes before I move on to the next chore.

The sun bursts through the patio doors and splashes onto the carpet. In the middle of the sunlight puddle is Gracie, sprawled out with her dollhouse. The Fisher Price dollhouse that used to be my dollhouse that is now her dollhouse. She rings the doorbell on the dollhouse and immediately I am transported back to my childhood dining room where the sunlight spotlights down on me and the very same toy.

I shuffle down to the sunspot and sidle up next to Grace to show her how I used to place the stairs in the middle of the dollhouse so the dollies could get up to both rooms. I show her how my dollies used to play hide and seek and one would always hide under the stairs. I show her how my dolls used to back the car into the garage.

Soon she has taken over the dolls and the cars and added in some princess dolls and LEGO cars as well. I watch as she lets her imagination take over making up stories and songs.

She spots Are You My Mother and picks it up to read it to her dolls. She does an impressive job remembering the lines on each page and adding inflection to her voice at the exciting parts. I offer to read it for her and she sprints to my lap so fast it makes me think that perhaps I should read to her far more often.

I pull out all the stops, adding in a different voice for each character. Grace laughs at my baby bird voice and when I finish the book she begs me to read it again and I do.

These phases, I've just realized (for the millionth time), do not last long. I must take advantage of them while they are here.

My oldest just had the health (sex) talk at school. You remember the one. The boys and girls are separated and both groups are privately informed of all the mysteries of the body including puberty and sex. I am so thankful I decided to have this chat with Joey already. And I'm even more thankful when he comes home that day and quizzes me on just how much I know. I'm shocked at how frank and open he is with me, both with his questions, his comments, and how comfortable he is discussing the topics. NEVER in a million years would I have discussed this with either of my parents when I was younger. I try to feign indifference and act as nonchalant as possible.

I realize this phase, too, will most likely pass but I would like to prolong the comfort and honesty and openness of this relationship indefinitely.

Tommy, who is his father's shadow, has recently taken to sticking by my side. He helps me plant the flowers, offers to help me cook, and stays behind with me when everyone else rushes out with Todd to run errands. It is not often I get one on one time with Tommy and I let him know how much I enjoy it. We take a break and go outside to shoot some hoops together. We play horse and the game goes on forever. We are both on a hot streak. No one misses. He chats about how he is like me, but he is also like his dad. I nod and agree and think back to how I could never call myself my daddy's girl or my mommy's girl because I was both. Tommy is the same way and I hope it isn't a phase.

Ben has his first book report due. He sits at the computer typing at a snail's pace. Hunt, hunt, hunt... peck. Hunt, hunt... peck.  I ask him if he wants me to help him type it but he refuses. He will do it by himself. I read over his shoulder and I'm immediately impressed with his wording and his paragraph. First grade and he is doing his book report all by himself. I can't help but be amazed and proud. What kind of boy is this that I don't even have to cajole, coax, and assist in a homework project?

Just the other day Ben came home with his spelling test. I had forgotten he had a test that day and felt guilty that I hadn't help him properly prepare for it. "Don't worry, mom. I got a hundred plus the bonus words. I studied by myself. No big deal." he tells me and then hands me a little note. I read the note from his teacher saying that Ben got a special prize for good behavior and helping another student. My responsible, smart, sweet and considerate Ben.  Tell me this isn't a phase.

Grace is going through the chatty phase. Four year olds and their chatter. Infamous. Luckily for me her chatter is far outweighed by observations and not so many questions (unlike her inquisitive brothers who never stopped with the questions). Driving along in the car I get to listen to her thoughts and ideas on everything she sees.

"You know, mom, there are pink cows." Grace tells me.

"Pink cows?" I asked surprised at this announcement.

"Yes. There are! PINK cows!" she says again.

"When did you see a pink cow?" I ask obligingly.

"Well, I didn't see the pink cow but I saw pink miwk in the growcewy stowa! I saw it! It was pink miwk!" she says excitedly.

I can't help but laugh. Pink milk from pink cows. Wouldn't that be lovely? So sweet. So innocent. I look back in the mirror and see her smiling face and I am filled with such love I want to pull the car over right there and squeeze my girl.

Some phases we want to pass quickly. The testing phase. The waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares phase. The backtalk phase. The whining phase. The grumpy phase (this one would be me). The lazy phase. The destructive phase. Those we'd like to fade away quickly though some do tend to linger past their welcome. But these phases, where we are right now, I really wish they'd stay.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Getting Closer

Slowly, slowly the weather is warming up around here. The leaves are just starting to appear on the trees and the flowers are thinking about making an appearance. This is the latest spring I can remember. Usually by this time my tulips and daffodils are in full bloom and all of the trees are showing their greenery. Not so this year.

I had assumed that by this time the weather would be around the norm of 65 so when Todd asked me if I would join him on a fundraiser Harley ride for this weekend I accepted. I haven't been on a proper bike ride in about 13 years. Riding was a big part of our story and how Todd wooed me back in the day but then he sold his Harley before we got married and I haven't had the chance (or the nerve) to get back on his bike since he bought his new one 3 years ago. Since having kids I'm afraid I've become far too nervous and a one time fun and freeing activity for Todd and I died away for me. 
However, Todd knew he had me suckered in when our friends were having a benefit Harley ride to raise money for their beautiful baby girl's surgeries for her cleft palate and cleft lip. I'm not going to say no to that. And even though the temperatures were far below my normal comfort level I still had a wonderful time.
We rode with a bunch of very fine folks for a very fine cause. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed riding with Todd and was surprised by how safe I felt. It was a great day.

On Sunday the weather was considerably warmer and when I checked the forecast I discovered that this entire week was going to be filled with warm spring weather. And just like that the spring bug bit me.

Immediately after church Todd and the kids and I went and bought a crazy amount of flowers for our yard. Then Grace, my mom and I went to another greenhouse, picked up more flowers, and planted flowers at my dad's and sister's graves.

Meanwhile back at the house...
big things were happening. Joey graduated to the riding mower. He was thrilled and he did a great job. It is a bittersweet moment for Todd, who enjoys cutting the grass and is rather picky about his grass, to hand the reins over to Joe. I'm sure Joey will still be using the push mower the majority of the time but the first time on the rider is still a big deal. Way to go, Joe!

When I got back home Todd and the kids went to his mom's house to cut the grass there. Tommy decided to stay behind and help me with the planting. And thank heavens he did! He was such a huge help carrying the pots and flowers to me, watering all the flowers, getting me more soil, and finding the perfect spot for the flowers. I really don't think that I could have gotten all the planting done without him. He was a fantastic helper.
With Tommy's help I even managed to get our fairy house started. It looks a little bare right now but once the plants grow in a little bit and we add a few more decorations it will be a fairy heaven. 
Yes, the spring bug has finally bitten me. And slowly but surely we are inching our way to summer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Pray

Each day I pray to be a better mother
more patient
more loving
more kind
Each day I pray that I am an example to my children
I pray that I can show them compassion
Each day I start out with the best of intentions
only to end up with disappointments and regrets

Each day I tell myself to remain calm in the face of hysteria
Each day I know I must be setting the example
holding my temper
controlling my tongue

Each day I let myself down.

Each day I get sick of apologizes
Theirs and mine
I get sick of guilt
sick of worry
sick of anger

Each day I pray again

I pray to be a better mother
more patient
more loving
more kind

Each day I pray for forgiveness

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Grateful Day

I am grateful. 

I am grateful that my husband kept the kiddos quiet enough to let me sleep in.

I am grateful that the first voices I heard today were my children's anxious declarations of love and best wishes for Mother's Day.

I am grateful for the lovely and thoughtful handmade gifts each of my sweet kiddos so proudly gave me.

I am grateful for the mass we went to and the beautiful sermon our priest gave about mothers. It brought tears to my eyes (and many of those around me) and made me so grateful that I still have my mother with me to celebrate today.
I am grateful that Todd, the kids, and I were all able to take my mom out to lunch and that we all had such a fabulous time. So much laughter and talking and sharing and smiles that as we were leaving the table of patrons next to us had to tell us we looked like a Norman Rockwell painting .
I am grateful that when I had discovered that we had not taken any pictures at lunch we decided to swing by my mother's house.
I am grateful that mom was outside and ready and excited to take pictures with us in front of her beautiful flowers.
I am grateful that we forgot to take pictures at the restaurant because we took far more pictures at mom's house than we would have in a restaurant. Some pictures were sweet and serious...
and some pictures were sassy and silly.
I am so grateful for the amazing woman in the center of this picture. A woman who models love and patience and faith and sacrifice and strength and courage and wisdom. I am so grateful that she is my mom. I hope that one day my children can look at me and feel even half of what I feel for her. 

I am grateful that we not only got to spend some quality time with my mom but another fantastic mom as well. 
I am so grateful for having such a wonderful relationship with my mother in law. I really lucked out when I married into this family and my mother in law is the heart of it.

I am grateful that she is a strong, independent, opinionated, spunky personality so that Todd was not scared off when he met me.

I am grateful that my mother in law finally got to ride on a motorcycle and we were able to capture it on film.

It was a fabulous day. I couldn't have asked for more.

I am so grateful I get to be a mom. I am so grateful I have two wonderful mothers giving me such strong role models and examples to live up to. And I am grateful to be in such company on this day.

I looked long and hard on the internet in search of the poem that our priest had spoken about at mass today. I have not found it, so I will paraphrase:

At 4 years old she thinks her mommy knows EVERYTHING. Mommy is the smartest person in the world!
At 8 years old she thinks her mom is pretty smart but she probably doesn't know everything.
At 14 years old she thinks her mom might know some stuff, but man, she is so old fashioned!
At 18 years old she thinks her mom knows absolutely nothing. Mom has no clue what she is talking about.
At 25 years old she thinks that, gee, mom had been right about so many things. She must know what she is talking about.
At 35 years old she thinks she had better call mom and see what she thinks. Mom always knows what to do.
At 65 years old she thinks "I wish my mom were here. I miss her so."

As soon as our priest got out that last line I could hear sniffs going through the pews all around me. Myself included. 

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Crush

Joey bursts through the door, his face flushed and his eyes wild. He wears excitement like a cape as he flies over to me and throws his long, skinny arms around me. His brothers follow closely behind caught up in their big brother's excitement.

The story of the day is about a boy who likes a girl who likes him back. It is a story as old as time but is brand new again in my boy.

He asked her to the movies and she said happily accepted. "We are going in a big group of our friends. But I'm gonna pay for her. I have to save up my allowance so we can go. I'm gonna pay for her and me. I was thinking maybe we could see Maleficent when it comes out. Or maybe Rio 2 or Heaven is For Real.  I'll see what she wants to see. Can you call her mom and ask if that is okay? Can you call her right now? Or maybe you could email her? Can we go tomorrow? Or, wait, I still have to save up. Could I get my allowance early? I have $9.00 in my wallet but I need more. How much does it cost to get in to the movies?" he spews at me without giving me a chance to answer.

The younger brothers watch closely. They are learning from his experience without even knowing it. They are all watching my reactions and I feel myself panic on the inside. Which is the best way to go? I want to be excited and supportive so he knows he can always come to me and I will share his enthusiasm. At the same time I don't want to encourage this whole "dating" business just yet. I want to tease and have fun with my boy, as I can see that is the mood he is in, but I definitely don't want to turn it into a joke. I know this is serious to my first timer and I want to behave just as he wants me to.

This is all so new. To him and to me. I'm not sure which way to go.

I try to match his enthusiasm. I don't want to be anything less than supportive in this moment.

I try to put myself in his shoes and think back to grade school. As a skinny, awkward, goofy tomboy I really have nothing to compare it to. Boys were never interested in me until I was a junior in high school. I used to loathe being a late bloomer but now I can see it for the blessing it was. There was a freedom in it.

I want my kids to be late bloomers too. Alas, it doesn't seem to be going that way.

Instead of playing outside Joey sits down to write his crush a letter. He uses his neatest handwriting and thinks carefully and thoughtfully. He shows me the letter when he is done. I am honored to be included inside his world once again and I lift a silent prayer that he will always want to share his heart with me. I smile and compliment his letter and he floats out the door to join his brothers outside, relieved to have finally gotten his letter just right.

Each time he comes back in the house he is bursting to tell me something else about the movies or his crush. He tells me how he wrote her a letter a couple of weeks ago and attached Hershey's chocolate to it. Another letter followed a few days later in which he told her that he liked her and that she was really good at staring contests. The boy is good if I do admit so myself. Chocolates, declarations, and compliments. How could a girl refuse?

I listen carefully to his stories and ask all the right questions. He knows I'm interested and gives me all the info I want. I tell him I admire his bravery. He shrugs it off. The kid has confidence in abundance.

In between my support I sprinkle in a bit of seriousness. A bit of lecture here, a bit of warning there.

"Only in groups"
"No dating until high school"

He rolls his eyes at me.

"Mom don't I even get what dating is. It doesn't even make sense." Joey announces.

I explain that dating is two people getting to know each other. It involves going on dates (like to the movies) with just each other. Sometimes the two people might even kiss.

"MOM! What makes you think I would even WANT to do that? That's just crazy!" Joey assures me. "I just like her and she likes me and that's it."

Simplicity, mom. Remember that. I must trust in his pure heart.

Before I can even  start to worry that my boy is growing up too quickly he is back outside playing in the woods, building forts, and riding bikes with his brothers. Once again reminding me that he is still just a boy. Still cloaked in innocence and childhood.

But it is a moment.

A milestone.

A first crush.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Gray Days

For weeks we've had nothing but gray days and cold rainy weather.

In between the rainy days Todd managed to dig a massive hole, fill it with cement, and get a post in the ground for our brand new basketball hoop. The kids have been waiting (and begging) almost an entire year for a basketball hoop.
Once the backboard and hoop were finally up (after waiting three days for the cement to set) hours and hours of basketball were played in our driveway. It has now been about two weeks and the kids are still thrilled with their hoop. As a former basketball player I must admit that I'm pretty happy with it too.
The challenge now is holding the kids in the house until a reasonable time when the sound of basketballs bouncing and kids screaming won't wake our neighbors. From sun up until sundown the kids want to be playing basketball. The minute the boys come home from school they finish their homework as soon as possible, change into play clothes, and head outside for some hoops.
Joey is already talking about how much better he will be when he plays basketball for school again next year. Quite a statement coming from a kid who wasn't sure he wanted to play next year at all. But I can see his confidence growing and Tommy and Ben aren't far behind. Even Grace has learned to dribble fairly well, though getting the ball up to hoop is a different story.

Basketball hoop = good decision

This morning  we awoke to the sun shining. It was a welcome sight. It has been a long time since we've seen the sun and we took full advantage. While Todd took Grace to run some errands Ben and I decided to get some exercise.  My last few runs were rain soaked and cold so I was more than willing to get a run in on a 55 degree sunny (thought very windy) day. Joey and Tommy opted to stay home (this was a test- leaving Joey in charge. thankfully it went well) while Ben and I headed out.

For three miles Ben rode his bike next to me. My little running buddy. It was so much fun! And he was certainly pleased to be singled out as my partner. 
It was a bizarre sensation leaving Tommy and Joey at home by themselves. Of course I was paranoid but I had to remind myself that at Joey's age I had been staying home by myself for quite some time. My kids are growing up and I need to give them enough space every once in a while to help with the process. Luckily, when Ben and I returned home the boys hadn't been stolen, the house wasn't burned down, and nothing was broken (that I know of). Success!

Speaking of kids growing up. Grace had her first playdate this afternoon. One of our neighbors (behind us and to the left) has five girls and two of them are Gracie's age and are in class with her at school. Grace was invited over to their house for a girlie cupcake party. We were thrilled for her and accepted right away. Unfortunately, when we told Grace she started bawling and didn't want to go. The girl is a homebody for sure, always nervous in new situations if her mama is not there with her. She wanted me to go with her and stay there but I refused and told her that she could come home any time she wanted.

Todd walked her over to the neighbor's and I stayed home and spied on the girlie party. I watched as the girls played on the playset, rode bikes, played croquet, and duck, duck, goose.
I couldn't help but laugh as I watched 6 small girls climbing on wood piles, rolling around on the grass and dirt, throwing balls, and riding bikes at a party that was supposed to be a girlie cupcake party.  At one point all of the girls went spy stealth mode, climbed on a large pile of firewood, peaked over the fence, and spied on the boys next door (that would be my three boys, by the way). Who needs all that girlie stuff when you can play outside and be crazy? It was fun to watch. And it was a great experience for Grace. She stepped outside of her comfort zone and had fun.

Yes. My kiddos are growing at warp speed around here and I'm just trying to keep up with the milestones. Less time is being spent on the computer and much more time is spent outside. The weather in the coming days is supposed to be even better and I suspect we'll be outside even more. 

Thank goodness those gray days have given way and we are once again enjoying to sun.

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