Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Week of Magic

It was one of the best Christmases I can remember. It truly was magical. Despite it being a bit of a minimal Christmas the gifts were a complete and total surprise to our kids and pulling it all off (somewhat last minute) was so much fun.
I was so excited for Christmas that I actually woke up early Christmas morning. I was up early enough that Todd and I were able to have a cup of coffee and relax for a few minutes before we woke the kids up. Of course, when we opened their doors (around 7) they were already awake but patiently waiting for us to come and get them as instructed. When they came downstairs Gracie's eyes bugged out of her head as she saw her Barbie dream house that she had been hoping for. I had told her that that was a pretty big request for Santa so she wasn't getting her hopes up (thank heavens for craigslist) and was shocked at her amazing gift. We were off to a good start.

My kids have been begging for video games since the beginning of time. They have asked Santa for video games for the last, I don't know, 5 years? I am very much opposed to video games and kids having their own phones. All three of my boys are literally the only kids in their classes that don't have a phone or video gaming system of their own but I really don't care. The closest my kids get is having a few minutes on Todd's phone a few times a week.

So, when I approached Todd about us, possibly, getting the kids an iPad to share and play video games on he was in total shock. I explained that we would still have control of it, but instead of the kids going on his phone they would go on the shared iPad. Todd said he had actually seen a huge sale on Kindle Fires ($40!!!) and it would probably amount to the same amount of money to get each kid their own and that way they wouldn't "wreck" each others' worlds that they set up on their games. I thought about it and agreed. I would still keep the Fires in my possession and the kids would have limited time on them maybe just a few times a week.

The past few weeks the kids have been gently asking for video games and promising that they wouldn't play them often and would still be outdoorsy kids. I told them to forget it. When we went to see Santa the kids all asked Santa for video games. I told Santa I wasn't a fan. Each time the subject came up I told the kids that I hoped they wouldn't be too disappointed on Christmas morning when they didn't get them because it wasn't happening.

When all the presents were opened on Christmas morning and my kids were happy and thankful for the LEGOS and toys they received I let them know that there was one more little thing we forgot to give them.

I went to the closet and hauled out the wrapped Kindles and handed them out to the kids. To say they were shocked would be an understatement. They were stunned. They didn't even know what to do. They were flabbergasted. The surprised looks didn't come off of their faces for hours. When Joey got up from his seat to give me a hug I could feel him shaking. They just couldn't believe their good fortune. I have photo after photo of their mouths hanging open. For the rest of the day their mouths hung open. I can't tell you how many times they thanked us for the Kindles. It was hilarious. All week long they have been thanking us for the Kindles. They said that we had better get used to all the "thank you"s because they will never stop thanking us. They just were besides themselves with glee.
It was "the best Christmas EVER" according to the kids. And I really couldn't argue. We had a wonderful time at my mom's on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning was SO much fun, Christmas mass was beautiful, and Christmas at Todd's mom's house was fantastic. It was fabulous all around.

The next day was spent relaxing and doing very little. Just as it should be. 

Sunday after church we packed up (no video games allowed along up north) and headed up north to the cabin. It felt like a long time since I'd been there. And since there was still no snow at our house it was fun to see a bit of snow up north. Monday the kids played around in the snow all day. And on Tuesday we headed out to Ski Brule for a fun family ski outing. 
The weather was absolutely perfect for a day of skiing. It was 28 degrees, no wind, fresh snow, and overcast (no squinting!). Just a few trips down the bunny hill and the boys were ready to tackle bigger hills. Joey and Tommy took off together, Ben and Todd went their own way, and Grace and I practiced her turns and stops on the bunny hill. When Grace felt confident we went up the ski lift and down the backside of the hill to our favorite little rest stop halfway down the hill.
We all warmed up and refueled with burgers and hot dogs, hot cider and hot chocolate, and brownies and rice krispies. 
Then it was back out on the hill for another few hours before we called it quits for the day. We had a few more treats back at the main lodge and the kids posed for a picture by the same bear they posed with over 5 years ago. My how they've grown!
It was a fantastic day. And it was the first time I've taken my kids skiing without getting a migraine at the end of the day. Success!

It was a great time relaxing up at the cabin. It was a great week.

Tomorrow we will prep for a little New Year's Eve fun. The kids are already lamenting the fact that 2015 is over. It was a pretty good year for our family. And this was the perfect week to send it out in style.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Leaving you all with some of my favorite images from Christmases past.

Wishing a very blessed and Merry Christmas and a holy and Happy Holiday season! Peace, love, and joy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Sweet Spot

After a long, crazy few weeks we are finally here. I've dreamed about this moment. 

This past weekend was the perfect lead in to this week. Friday night Todd and I went out to dinner with friends we hadn't seen in a long time. It was a great night at a wonderful restaurant with fantastic food and fabulous people. It was a long overdue reunion.

On Saturday Todd, the kids, and I all watched the Star Wars trilogy (the original) in preparation for The Force Awakens on Sunday. It was so fun watching those movies from my childhood with my own children. They loved it just as much as I did. They had seen all 6 of the Star Wars movies before but it had been a very long time. It was a fun family movie day and a great way to gear up for the new movie the next day. 

I had not read anything about the new movie. I didn't even know the plotline. But after watching the trilogy the day before we were all VERY excited to see The Force Awakens.
I must admit we were all a geeking out a little bit. When the music begins at the start of the film it just transports me back to when I was a kid. What a nostalgic sound! And seeing it and hearing it in the theater is just so overwhelming. It helps that our theater in town is completely amazing. It has cushy recliner seats and huge massive screens. It was quite the experience. 
I won't give anything away about the movie other than to say that it did not disappoint. I was extremely pleased. It fit right in with the feel of the original movies and the characters were fantastic. I LOVED it. And so did the kiddos. If you enjoyed the original Star Wars movies then you MUST see The Force Awakens.  

Yes, we had a fantastic weekend but Monday came in like a hurricane. Complete with grocery shopping, a chiro appointment, a run, the dog vomiting seven times on my carpet (our 1st floor is 90% tile but the dog apparently prefers to vomit on the carpeting instead), Christmas parties at school, including the delivery of the teachers' gifts, the secret santa gifts, and the treats for the parties. Then there was the Nativity play and the talent show at school. And then Joey broke a bracket off of his braces so we had to squeeze in a run to the ortho before we then dropped him off at basketball. Yes, Monday was crazy. But we made it through.

We made it to the sweet spot of the holiday. At times I thought we'd never make it.

Today was heaven. I've never really experienced this before because I am normally still running around like a chicken with my head cut off. But not this year. Even though I started way later than normal I am completely done with my Christmas to-do list. All of the presents have been purchased and wrapped. All school functions and concerts are done. Now I can just sit back and soak in the goodness of the season. 

Tomorrow treats will be made. Fudge and peppermint bark and little candies. The kids will play outside. I will most likely read a book or two. Later in the evening we will make a fire, watch A Christmas Story, eat a few of our treats, and soak in all the sweetness of the season. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Almost There

One week until Christmas and we are making our final push. It has been another hectic week but we have almost made it to the sweet spot. Soon everything on our "To Do" lists will be done. School will be out, class parties will be done, Secret Santas presents and teachers' gifts will have been handed out, Christmas plays and talent shows will have been viewed, the mailman and newspaper man and trash collector will have received their holiday gifts, presents will all be wrapped and in their hiding places, and special Christmas cookies and treats will have been baked and decorated and eaten.

Soon there will be nothing left to do but sit back and enjoy a few peaceful days leading up to Christmas.

But not this week.

This week we are still in the midst of madness.

The week we had four basketball games (and cheering) to play in and to watch, two Boy Scout meetings for Ben, ALL of the Christmas shopping to do (and on this one when I saw "we" I mean "me"), and one school Christmas concert to attend.

The kids Christmas concert was on Wednesday night. They each got spiffed up in festive clothes and sang their little hearts out in front of a packed church.
I tell ya, there is something about a schoolful of children singing about God that makes me bawl my brains out. It was a lovely and touching and special concert.

This time last year Grace was at a different school so she had to sit in the pews and watch her brothers and her friends sing in the concert. It was hard on her. I can't tell you how excited she was to be in the concert this year.
All of the kids did a great job, from the singing, to the bells and chimes, to sitting quietly in the pews while they waited their turns to sing, to Joey and his friend on the sound equipment. The concert was definitely a success and put me in an even more festive mood than I already was.

It has been a busy but productive week. Many of you were freaking out on me when I mentioned in my last post that I hadn't even BEGUN to Christmas shop yet and it was pretty crazy. I didn't even have ONE present. But! I managed to get all the shopping done in a matter of days. And I am very excited about the gifts I purchased. There are not a ton of gifts but they are good ones. The kids are going to be shocked. This is going to be fun.

And not only did I get the Christmas shopping done but I have even WRAPPED them all. Yesterday I spent all day long wrapping gifts. I wrapped the kids' gifts, Todd's gifts, the Secret Santa gifts for the kids' parties, and the teachers' gifts. And, oh yeah, 44 small gifts that I always bring for the favorite dice game played each year at both of the grandmas' houses.  I am ON THE BALL, PEOPLE!!!

I still have to purchase a few snacks for each of the kids' Christmas parties they will be having on Monday at school but that is easy enough. Other than that, I am done. DONE!  

Well, maybe not done. All that will be left is making cookies and treats. And I still have to buy the ingredients. But that is fun! And I am waiting until next week to do that because the kids will be out of school on Tuesday and I know they are looking forward to helping me with the baking. That's the good stuff! 

Yes, the hectic holiday rush is winding down. Soon the sweet spot will be here.   

 Wishing you a lovely sweet spot amid the holiday hustle!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


It's that time of year again.

Tis the season to lose my mind.

It hasn't really begun yet. The true Christmas dash. The madness of trying to fit in all the activities and concerts and plays and talent shows and secret santas and last minute gifts has not even started. And yet, I've already lost my mind.

I have a symphony concert this weekend and we are in overtime with our rehearsals. Last night I had to chauffeur my boys to their basketball practices after school (one practice from 4:30 to 6:30 and the other from 6:30-8) and then hustle out to my own rehearsal. I didn't even get a chance to eat before I left and I didn't get home from rehearsal until almost 10:00. Tonight's rehearsal will go even later. I'm sure the dress rehearsal on Friday will be just as late. It is one of those weeks that I will be thankful to be done with.

This morning I received a phone call from my chiropractor letting me know that I missed my appointment. Again. This is the third chiro appointment in a row that I have missed. They must think I am insane. I have rescheduled this same appointment so many times and each time I missed the rescheduled appointment. Each time I reschedule the appointment I just KNOW I won't forget because I have nothing else going on at that time. And then, of course, a million things pop up at one time and I completely forget to go to my appointment anyway.

The Christmas decorations are up. That was enough to drive me bonkers. Half strings of lights not working, broken Christmas trees (yes, our huge hallway Christmas tree BROKE), favorite decorations not working. UGH! It reminded me of one of my favorite holiday songs. The Twelve Pains of Christmas:

I am happy to announce that I sent out my Christmas cards yesterday, however, I am NOT happy to report that it had a typo on it. Normally I am a perfectionist at editing things like this but this year I let a big mistake slip through. I had uploaded all my pics online, arranged them in a card just the way I wanted them and then wrote, "Merry Christmas from the Smiths" (not our real last name btw- for security purposes). Then when I went to order the cards I couldn't pull it up. So I redid the entire card and forgot the message I originally wrote and instead put "Love, The Smiths".  Except I didn't write "Smiths". I wrote "Smith". As in, "Love, The Smith". So, yeah. That's awesome. I noticed the mistake before I mailed the cards out but I am trying not to stress about silly things (and I'm too cheap to reorder all those cards) so the cards went out as is. *sigh*

And I haven't even really starting shopping for Christmas presents yet. Can you believe that crap? Two weeks left and I haven't started shopping yet! I really have no idea where to even begin. I have no clue what to get the kids. And they don't really know what to ask for either. I'm at a loss.

And yet for some reason I am filled with surprisingly good Christmas cheer. I feel peaceful. I feel joyful. I feel grateful. I went to my kids' school mass this morning and was rejuvenated all over again. The priest told a lovely story and wrapped it in so beautifully to this season that it brought tears to my eyes.

This is such a crazy world we are living in. So many awful, horrible things happen every day. It is depressing. And yet there is hope. I believe in good. I trust that there are more good people in this world than bad. We will never have a peaceful world but we will have moments of love and peace and kindness and we can all do our part to create as many of those moments as possible.

This is such a hopeful time of year. A time to focus on what is truly important.

Love. Hope. Peace, Kindness. Compassion.

Whatever is getting you down this busy, hectic season, I hope you are able to see and feel peace and joy and love.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Playing Catch Up

And another month is gone. Apparently I am only able to post once a month now. Yay me.

Honestly, I have been avoiding the computer. The world just feels like a dark place lately and the internet just makes it even worse. Sometimes I just want to avoid it all. All the nasty comments, all the negativity, all the political garbage, all the violence, the war. Sometimes it is just all too much. And I guess that is what I've been doing. Avoiding it. But I really shouldn't be avoiding blogging. That is actually a bright spot. I miss writing down my thoughts and the happenings in our family and I miss all of my bloggy friends as well. It is time I step back into this world. I think I could use a little bit of bloggy sunshine.

So, in the spirit of positivity I am doing an abridge version of all the highpoints from this past month.

November came in slowly. Football ended and there was one whole week where we didn't have any sports practices, boy scouts, meetings, or anything going on. It was relaxing and rejuvenating. The weather was far warmer than normal. We spent our warm and free time up north preparing for the upcoming hunting season.

This hunting season was momentous because it was Tommy's first time going up to deer camp and Joey's first time hunting all on his own. Both of the boys were VERY excited.

My sweet Ben was not quite as excited to be the only boy not able to go hunting, but he was a good sport and I tried to make our time together as fun as possible. On opening day Joey got his first buck. He was very proud of himself. Since he had already gotten a doe during the youth hunt Joey decided to give the deer to our local food bank. Each year the butchers in the area process deer for free that are then given to the food banks for those in need. It is a great cause and I'm proud that Joey wanted to take part.
On Sunday I met Todd at the halfway point to the cabin and picked up the boys to bring them home. A few short days later and Todd was home. Just in time for Thanksgiving. 

This Thanksgiving was very unusual. Normally we host my side of the family on Thanksgiving and then we host Todd's side of the family on Saturday. However, a few weeks earlier I had bought raffle tickets from the kids' school and I ending up winning 4 Packer tickets for the Thanksgiving game. I was SO excited. Since I wasn't about to choose between my kids Todd invited his best friend to come with us and I invited mine. 

So, on Wednesday night my bff arrived (she drove up from Oklahoma for this game, btw). Since we never get to see each other we stayed up way too late and had WAY too many drinks (honestly, it doesn't take much these days). I wasn't going to have any drinks since I was planning on running the 10K Turkey Trot the next day but I can't let my bestie drink alone, right? 

Anyway, I hardly slept at all that night and when I finally turned over to look at the clock the next morning I realized I only had 30 minutes to get up, get dressed, grab a banana and some water, and fly down to the YMCA to register for the race. I briefly considered staying home and skipping the run but it was 48 degrees outside (balmy for late November in WI) and I didn't have to host a Thanksgiving dinner. I knew I had better take advantage. The problem was that I had a massive headache and was very much dehydrated. Can you say hangover? Blech. 

Regardless, I booked it out of the house and rushed down to register in time. I just made it, lined up, and took off for the race. I was going to try and get a really good time but considering the hangover I opted to just finish without giving myself a migraine. Besides, there were SO many people (there was also a 2 mile run and a 2 mile walk that families do together) that for the first half mile or so I was barely jogging.   
After the first mile I finally found my stride. I was feeling surprisingly okay. The very cool thing about this race is that the halfway point is right at the end of my street.
I gave my family an estimate of when I would be there and they came down to the end of the street to cheer me on.
 It was so sweet seeing them all standing there holding signs and cheering me on. It gave me a little extra spring in my step for sure.

I definitely did NOT run at my fastest pace. But considering how I felt, how little sleep I'd had, and the alcohol, I did fairly well. The last time I ran this 10K (3 years ago when I thought I was in such great shape) I finished in 59 minutes. This time I finished in 54 minutes. I beat my old time by 5 minutes and I came in 8th in my age group (just over 30 people). I was happy with that.

It is funny how sometimes working out will make you feel better and sure enough I felt great after the race. I showered, we got all decked out in Packer gear, took the kids to grandma's for their Thanksgiving celebration, and Todd, Sarah, and I headed up to Green Bay to meet Todd's best friend and go to the game.

Thank goodness we bought tickets to a pregame party (held inside the Resch) because it was pissing rain and cold. All November it has been balmy and sunny and the one day when we have to spend it outside it is freezing (33 degrees actually) rain.

We had a few hours of food and fun and music before the game, all warm and dry.
Then, right before the game we put on all 800 layers of clothing and our rain ponchos. Don't we look cool?  ;)
Honestly, I was SWEATING. I sweat through the entire first half. I didn't even wear my gloves. I was too freaking warm. 
Very cool pic of the flag and USA for national anthem. We were supposed to hold up another sign for the Brett Favre moment but the signs were made out of paper and had all melted in the rain by halftime.
 Love this dude behind us photobombing. Good one.
We won't speak of the actual game. I'm still trying to recover. It was brutal. We'll just say it was a LONG ride home.

It was an eye opening Thanksgiving. While I am so thankful I won the tickets and we had such a great time I really did miss my family. It didn't feel like Thanksgiving. I didn't like not being with them on a holiday. While it was a good experience I can honestly say I won't be away from my family on a holiday again. I missed my kiddos. I think this Thanksgiving definitely made me aware of how much I am thankful for.

We are now onto the next holiday season. It is hard to imagine that Christmas is just around the corner. The weather is so unusually mild. The grass is still green. There are still a few leaves on the trees. It is bizarre.

The other night while Todd and Tommy were playing basketball a hawk buzzed right by them and flew to our backyard. I was able to snap a picture of the beautiful bird sitting on our fence.  I was wondering why the birdseed had not been completely eaten up after two days. Now I know. The birds were in hiding because this guy was hanging around.
The other morning I got up early and looked out the window to the most beautiful sunrise. It was a gorgeous way to wake up and of course I had to grab my camera. Looking at this picture you would never know it is December in Wisconsin. But I am loving it. Believe it or not it is actually putting me in more of a Christmassy mood than ever. I know that doesn't make much sense but I think the warm weather just makes me happy. I was super excited to set up my Christmas village and all of our other decorations. Even when I had to cut all of the lights off of our prelit Christmas tree (it took me over 3 hours and was similar to this experience- whoever the sadistic hog is that zip strips all of the lights, I mean EVERY light, on the prelit trees deserves a special place in a fiery abyss) and then our other prelit Christmas tree broke I was STILL in a good mood. Crazy.
Anyway, our house is all festive and warm and glowy with Christmas lights. Our nights are back to being busy with basketball and cheerleading and boy scouts.

Tuesday night was the first basketball game of the season. It was fun watching how much Joey has grown since last year. He looked really good and was proud of how he played.
His form is night and day from when he first started. He is a pretty good shot now.
Tuesday was not only Tommy's first game of the season but his first basketball game EVER. The kids is a natural athlete and not afraid to handle the ball and take shots.
He played conservatively and I could tell he was a little unsure of himself. Once he gets used to the game I know he will be good. He is comfortable with the ball already. It will be fun to watch him grow this season.
The boys had their first basketball games which means that Grace had her first games to cheer for. At the kids' school there is a junior cheerleading group for kids from 1-4 grades. This is Grace's first time cheering. She was SO nervous. 

She was also a little miffed that the cheerleading uniforms hadn't come in yet (she REALLY loves her uniform) but she was very excited about the pom-pons. The kids were just too cute. 
 "Oh, I think I've found myself a cheerleader!" 

Lots of firsts around here on Tuesday night. As a matter of fact Ben said to me, "Am I the only one who doesn't get to do something exciting tonight? Sheesh!!!!" Poor Ben. Don't feel too badly for him though. I bought him some popcorn and he felt much better.

Another first happened yesterday. A few months ago Joey and Tommy started going to the orthodontist. Joey got his upper braces on and Tommy got headgear. Yesterday Joey got his bottom braces added and Tommy got the top braces on.

Such a handsome little squirt.

So anyway, that is our last month. So much going on and I really need to get better at getting it all down in writing. There are so many things I don't want to forget.

Alright my dear bloggy friends. Leave me a comment and let me know what is going on in your lives. My google reader has been down and out so I've been missing out on all of your adventures. I'll have to find some other way to keep up with my bloggy friends. What readers do you use? I wish blogger would go back to having readers. That was my favorite.

Hope all is well with you lovely people and that you are all enjoying this festive season. 

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