Friday, December 30, 2016

That's A Wrap

Christmas was a whirlwind. Just when you think you've got everything done and it is time to relax a wrench is thrown into the plans. 

On the last day of school before Christmas break Grace was in a nativity play. Every year the second grade class presents the play to the school and this was the last time our kids would get to be a part of it. Grace was an angel. She read her lines very well and she definitely looked like an angel.
She had fun directing her choir of angles too. The angels were adorable and the nativity play was precious.

This year I busted my butt so that by the time the kids were out of school I was done with all the Christmas prep.  All the presents had been wrapped, all the treats had been made, all the last minute errands had been run. It was great! I actually felt fairly calm.

Enter the wrench. On Christmas Eve we went over to Todd's mom's house and Ben's godmother got him the exact present that he asked for from Santa (a big Nerf gun).  Panic!!!!  It just would not do to have Ben get such an anticlimactic gift from Santa. This is the last year Ben will have the fun of Santa (I'm sure he is already privy to Santa but didn't want to give up the act before the big day). I had to figure out something, and quick.

Cute part of the story is how my two older boys, Joe and Tommy, (who have been helping me figure out what Santa should get for Grace and Ben) reacted when they saw the Nerf gun Ben had gotten from his godmother. They tried to hide it but they were so upset. They both pulled me aside and told me how upset they were. There were actually worried for me. Tommy told me that he was just sick about it. It was actually kind of sweet, them being so worried about me having to figure something out. I kept telling them it was not a big deal but they were stressed. Made me giggle and definitely helped me to keep my calm over the silly little situation.

I ended up running out to the store on Christmas Eve and getting Ben something that he had asked for last minute (a camera). When we got home I unwrapped the original present and wrapped the replacement present. It was all a little crazy but it did work out in the end.

The stage was set and now we were truly ready for Christmas.
(I swear I did not make the dog sit there. The minute she saw my camera and me focused on the tree she went and sat down in front of it. This crazy dog LOVES the camera!)

Christmas morning was a lot of fun. There were fun surprises all around. I love surprising the kids with things they think they could never have. It worked last year with the Kindles and I actually managed to find some stuff for this year too. Not as exciting as Kindles, but the kids loved it. I even managed a surprise for Todd. He is usually the worst to shop for because all he really wants is hunting stuff or tractor stuff. Nothing I can pick out or get for him. This year I blew up a gorgeous pic (my current header pic) of the kids up north in front of the lake and put it on a canvas for him to hang in his office. Honestly, I think I was more excited to give this gift than anything else. It was a lot of fun. He loved it.
Christmas morning we went to mass, came home to relax a little bit, and then went over to my mom's house for another lovely get together. Overall, Christmas was pretty darn nice.

The day after Christmas we packed everything up and went up north to the cabin. I haven't been there in a couple months and I was really looking forward to getting away. I took 4 books up with me and finished them all. Okay, I was mostly done with the first one and when I began reading the next I figured out that I had already read it. But still. Lots of good reading.

The highlight of the week was our ski trip to Ski Brule. It was so much fun. It was the most relaxed I've ever been skiing since we've had kids. It is really all falling into place now. Grace and I spent the morning on the bunny hill, working on turning and stopping, and Todd and the boys hit the hill. We met for lunch and then all went on the big hill together. Grace was having a little bit of trouble on the bigger hills so after we had some hot chocolate she and Todd went back to the bunny hill and the boys and I skied together. Joe actually asked to ride up the lift with me. Yay! My teenager wants to hang with me! 💗
With some prodding I convinced the boys to run some tougher trails with me. This is the first time in a long time that I've been able to ski something other than a green. I forgot how much fun skiing (actual skiing, not just the bunny hill) can be. Especially with my boys! They did really well. I was so proud of all my kids and how brave they were and how much they pushed themselves. It was a great day.

A couple more days to relax, a little party with our up north neighbors, and before we knew it it was time to come home. When I told Grace it was time to go home she yelled, "WHAT? I thought you said we were gonna stay up here all week?"  I explained that Monday through Friday was a full week. Time flies when you're having fun!

When we got home it was a flurry of unpacking and putting everything in its place, laundry, grocery shopping, and a million errands (library, bank, 4 different stores to return things that weren't working). I was glad that we had decided to just hang at the house for a very laid back New Year's Eve.

Unfortunately for Todd he came down with a peach of a cold. Luckily, we had enough food to temporarily distract him.  Yum!

We all made it to midnight (except for Todd- poor guy) and welcomed the New Year in properly. I am so happy to be able to start another year with these amazing people in my life. I am so grateful.  
It was the perfect way to wrap up a beautiful holiday and a wonderful year.

Hope you all have a blessed, healthy, and happy 2017!

Friday, December 23, 2016


Here we are. The golden "hour". The craziness of the holidays has subsided. The presents are wrapped and treats have been made. Snow is falling, fire in the fireplace, and a cocktail in hand. Now we sit back and soak in all the Christmas goodness. 🎄

Hoping you can find a little quiet time to bask in the goodness of the season amid all the hustle and bustle.

From our family to all of you, we wish you a blessed, peaceful, and Merry Christmas, a very Happy Hanukkah, and a lovely and Happy Holidays!

**Photobomber, Molly, would also like to wish you Seasons Greetings! **

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Catch Up

Once again it has been a long time since I've posted on my blog. It is not for lack of desire but rather a lack of time. Right around Thanksgiving time life got crazy busy and it hasn't slowed down yet. I'll just give a quick summary of our regular week schedule, if you'll humor me.

Mondays- Joey band at 3:30-4:30 then basketball practice from 4:30-6:30, Tommy basketball practice from 6:30-8, Ben basketball practice 6:30-8 (different location than Tommy), Me- Symphony Choir rehearsal 7-9:30

Tuesday- Two basketball games (Joey and Tommy) between 5:00 and 8:00

Wednesday- Ben band at 3:30-4:30, Tommy basketball from 5-6:30, Ben basketball from 6:30-8

Thursday- Two basketball games (Joey and Tommy) between 5 and 8

Friday- Joe basketball 4:30-6:30

Saturday- Ben basketball games between 8 and 11 in the morning.  

Two weekends ago we also had FOUR basketball games for a tournament that Joey was in, Grace's 1st Reconciliation, Ben's basketball game, church, and then a meeting with a couple Todd and I are preparing for marriage in the church.

Last week also had a band concert during the week, I had two extra Symphony rehearsals (on Tuesday and Friday) and then my concert on Saturday night. 

There have been plenty of meetings and ortho appointments, and sicknesses, and volunteering, and snow storms thrown in there too.  

Don't even get me started on all the Christmas prep. But I am close to getting a handle on all of that now so I finally have a moment to sit and write it all down. 

I can't possible recap the last month so I won't even try. As a matter of fact, I don't think I ever even posted pics about the boys' football season. So, excuse me while I sneak a bit in here now.
 All of the boys really enjoyed football this year. Joey had some nice plays and was able to play both offense and defense. The highlight of his season was getting an interception on the 2 yard line and saving the day. Very exciting. Tommy's team was unstoppable. The defense (coached by Todd) allowed only one touchdown all season. Very impressive. Ben had his first season on tackle football. It was a big adjustment but by the end of the season he was really getting the hang of it. He is already looking forward to next year.
Okay. That's all I have to say about that.  :)

This year Joe was the only one to go up to deer camp with Todd. Tommy had gone up for the youth hunt but decided to stay home for the regular deer camp because he was concerned about keeping up with his homework from the days he would have to miss school. It was a very wise decision on his part, I thought.

To make the most of his time at home with us I took all three of my homies (kids at home with me) to The Milwaukee Museum. I forgot how awesome it was.  It has been a while since we've been there and Grace didn't even remember her first visit since she was only about two years old. I was SO excited for her to see the butterfly exhibit. It is my heaven.
I had butterflies landing all over me. I honestly could have stayed there all day long. Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes Tommy started to get a little antsy. I can't say I blame him but Grace and I really didn't want to leave. Maybe I could plan a girls' trip there sometime.

Anyway, there was tons left to see. We love the dinosaur exhibit and of course Old Milwaukee. Tommy was studying ancient Egypt in school so he really enjoyed that portion of the museum. It was a really fun day and we finished up with some yummy food at La Fuente. A family favorite.
Strangely enough, neither Todd nor Joe even saw deer this year (and we are sadly out of venison now). It was a very good decision for Tommy to stay home. He would have been very bored. And I certainly enjoyed having him hang back with us.

Thanksgiving was lovely. We hosted my family on Thanksgiving and then we hosted Todd's family on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We had a lot of food and a lot of fun. Saturday ended up being so unseasonally warm that after dinner we all went outside and played basketball in the dark. We played "lightening" and I'm amazed to say that my boys and I ran the court and won the majority of the games. It was a lot of fun.

As I mentioned the boys (Joey and Ben) have been taking band lessons. This was their first time in band and I was excited that they both wanted to learn an instrument. A little while ago they had their first band concert. I'm sorry to say it will also be their last band concert. I think right now there is just too much going on. Both boys decided not to keep up with their instruments because they just feel overwhelmed. While I completely understand, and think it is wise of them at this point, I'm also a little sad. Joey is quite a natural in music and was able to play the clarinet and make up his own songs and keep up with the kids who have been in band for years. It was pretty amazing. And Ben really struggled with the sax but made huge strides and enjoyed being in the concert. Perhaps when summer rolls around I can convince them to start up again if we are not too busy then. 
The first and last band concert

I also had a concert. The Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performed Handel's Messiah. It was a fantastic concert. A great way to get into the Christmas spirit. 
I got my 5 year service pin! Wow, time flies by.

All three of my boys are now in basketball. Joe and Tommy play for school and Ben plays on a YMCA team. They are all having a great time. Ben is doing amazingly well for his first year of basketball. Watching his first game was so much fun. I was shocked at how well he handled the ball and his shooting. I had no idea he had gotten that good. I usually just see him shooting around in the driveway and he doesn't get much opportunity to dribble with two older brothers. I guess playing with the older boys pays off.  

Tommy continues to do well and his sixth grade team is pretty talented. They struggled together last year through an up and down season but they are tough to beat this year. Tommy has become a great ball handler and his shot has really improved too. He is having a lot of fun on basketball this year.

As for Joe, he has been playing with the kids on his team for four years. They've never had a winning season. They've played against tough teams and were always quite a bit shorter than the other teams. Something happened over the summer. The boys shot up and grew overnight and polished up on their basketball skills. They have become a competitive team for the first time. Their first game they did not play well and they got handily beat by a school rival. The next games were in a tournament of very good basketball teams. Our boys ended up losing the very first game (against the team that made it to the finals) but won the rest of their games and took first place in the Silver bracket. It was a huge lift for our boys who have always played hard but never really had the success they wanted. 
I'm proud of this group of boys who have worked so hard and always had a great attitude whether they won or lost. This is a great bunch of kids.

Last night we had the kids' school Christmas concert. It is the last Christmas concert Joey will ever have at that school and with his siblings. Made me a little emotional, if I'm honest. Joey did a great job on his solo as the singing shepherd and he played one of the wise men too. Tommy, Ben, and Grace did a great job singing with their classes too. It was a beautiful concert.

With most of the concerts out of the way we now just have to get through the next week of preChristmas madness and then we will eventually get a rest. A few more basketball games and practices, wrapping presents, getting the teachers gifts and wrapping them, the kids' secret santas, Christmas treats, and one more Christmas play. Yikes. That sounds like a lot. 

Breathe. Just breathe. 

It's a hectic time of year but a wonderful time of year. 

I hope you are all keeping up with the craziness of the season and finding moments of complete peace and joy as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I am exhausted. Weary and worn. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I am tired.

Weeks of being sick, having Todd gone, and then this horrendous turmoil our country is in and all the constant bickering has left me drained. I just want it all to stop.

This past weekend the kids had off of school on Friday and we decided to join Todd up north at the cabin. It was a good recharge. I needed it. We all did.

We arrived around noon on Friday and Todd was still out in the woods hunting. The kids and I set about making a fire in the fireplace and then settled in to relax. The kids spent their time outside and I read by the fire. It was just what I needed.

It's funny. Todd used to tell me how much he would love to live up at the cabin someday. The idea terrified me. I thought that perhaps Todd married the wrong girl. The cabin is just so isolated. I guess I always thought of myself as needing to at least be near a larger city. However, the older I get the more appealing the idea of living at the cabin becomes. There is something to be said for solitude.

Just as the sun began to set the kids came running in to tell me that there were a couple pairs of swans on the lake. I grabbed my camera and headed out to take a look.
The swans were a bit too far out to get a decent picture of them but I did manage to catch this beauty of my kids. I love it. I'm thinking this one may get blown up and put on my wall at some point.

As the sun set lower and lower the sky just kept getting more and more beautiful. And once the kids ventured over to the other side of the cabin the swans gathered a little closer so that my zoom lens could capture them.

In a matter of minutes the sky turned from a hazy pinkish peach to a brazen orange. It was an absolutely gorgeous sunset.

And I was reminded of God's glory. And I was comforted. And once again I called to mind my very favorite Psalm, "Be still, and know that I am God."  I will not put my faith in man. I will trust in God. And I will not fear tomorrow because I know that God is already there.

These are troubling times. And the only way we can turn it around is to do good, to love one another, be kind, and have courage. It's going to be okay.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Today Was A Good Day

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. It was the kind of day that we don't see that often in November in Wisconsin. The temperature hovered around 70 degrees and the sky was a brilliant blue. Even though I still wasn't feeling 100% (I was VERY sick the last few days with hot/cold sweats and extreme achiness but now I just have chest congestion and a nasty cough) I knew the day couldn't be wasted inside. 

My plan was to take the kids to Parnell Tower in the Kettle Moraine. I hadn't been there in over twenty years but I always enjoyed it as a kid. Todd and I always planned on taking the kids and I wasn't sure I should do it without him (Todd needed a break from his work and has cleared his schedule for most of November and is spending much of it up north) since I know it is something he would enjoy doing with us. But, with a day like this I had to pull the trigger and do it.

After a crazy long car ride that took an hour instead of the 25 minutes it should have taken (I had gotten the wrong directions) we finally arrived and the kids and I were miraculously still in good spirits. The hike through the woods to the tower cheered us up even more. It was such a gorgeous day to be in the woods.  

When we got to the tower we were all a little out of breath. I forgot how steep that hill was! I suppose being sick (and 20 years older) didn't help much either. The tower looked smaller than I remembered it but it must have looked gigantic to my kids because they were all pretty nervous. I wasn't sure I would be able to get Joey up the tower at all. He has quite the fear of heights but if he could force himself up there I knew he would enjoy the view.

We began climbing and Molly even came up to the first level with us. Then she stopped. She decided that was as high as she wanted to go and then wouldn't go anymore. Smart dog. I took her back down and tied her at the bottom of the tower and began to climb back up. By the time I caught up to Joey and Tommy on the third level they were already saying they wanted to go back down. It is a little spooky because it is a wooden tower and the stairs are the type you can see through. Something about that just makes it creepier. 

Ben and Grace, who were already at the top (brave little turkeys) were encouraging Joey and Tommy to come up. Tommy and I headed up to the top and Joey slowly made it another level up. I stopped to wait for Joey one floor below the top deck. Tommy had made it to the top and was telling Joey that it was definitely worth it. I went up above to the top deck and told Joey that he could stay in the center of the deck and there was even a look-out scope for him to try out. That seemed to do the trick. 

And there we all were at the top. I had already explained to the kids earlier that they needed to be very good to their mama when we were on that top deck. No running or jumping around and no leaning over the railings. If they did any of those things I would most certainly have a heart attack and die and then they wouldn't have a ride home. Luckily for me, and for them, they all behaved and we had a nice time taking in the gorgeous view. 

After we'd had our fill of the view we went back down and walked Molly on the hiking trail for a while. Then we turned around to go back to the car. When we passed the tower again Joey actually wanted to go back up to the top. I was very surprised. I'm so glad he was able to push himself out of his comfort zone and enjoy the experience.

It really was a wonderful time and I'm so glad we went. 

It was early afternoon and we were all getting hungry for lunch so we stopped at a new soup/sandwich shop on the way home. It was delicious. I know we will be back. And the chicken dumpling soup was just what I needed for my raw throat.  But the best part was the love in that little restaurant. The owner and her husband and daughter run it and they are just lovely people. Right next to the cash register is a sandwich board that says "Pay it forward" with little notes attached all over it offering various menu options.  "Large soup", "Sandwich and soup", "Small soup", "Specialty sandwich" and so on and so forth. I asked the owner if that was for homeless people who couldn't afford a meal and she confirmed my hunch. Customers add something extra to their order and leave a note of what they paid for on the board. When someone comes in and can't afford a meal they can pick a note off the board and choose a meal. I LOVE THAT SO MUCH. It almost made me cry. I asked the owner what the most popular menu option was and we added that to our order. I was told to fill out the note with the menu option and any other message we would like to leave the person. I asked my kids what we should write and they thought about it and said, "How about, 'God Bless You!' and a heart and a smiley face?" Loved it. I wrote it down and posted the note on the board. Just knowing someone would be able to enjoy a hot, hearty meal seemed to make our food taste even better. It was a great lunch. I know we'll be back.  

After our lunch we got ice cream cones and walked down to the river. It isn't too often you can walk around outside in November eating ice cream so we thought we'd take advantage.   
You'll be happy to know that Grace was very full and couldn't finish her ice cream cone so Molly even got a bit of ice cream.  Everyone wins!
The leaves on the trees were so beautiful. And a few flowers were still blooming as well. It was a heavenly day all around. We watched a young man fly fishing in the river and then walked to a nearby toy store. I think we were all starting to feel a little tired, and I was starting to get a little achy again (maybe I overdid it a smidge), so our browsing was cut shorter than normal. Now we are back home, relaxing, reading, and sitting by a roaring fire.
Today was a good day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Morning After

 The morning after Halloween is always an interesting experience. Any holiday, actually. It usually involves crankiness, tiredness, whining, and maybe even some tears. Me. Not the kids.  (I jest- kind of) But it certainly doesn't help that I still haven't kicked this cold (or whatever it is) and now I have a horrible cough. I have also had an awful stiff neck for 5 days in a row now. Each night I go to bed thinking that I will wake up and it will be better but it just keeps getting worse. I may have been tempted to cry a little bit this morning at one point.

Yesterday started out a bit rough too but luckily it ended well. I received a phone call from school yesterday afternoon saying that Grace wasn't feeling good and wanted to come home. I was out running errands when I got the call (trying to find last minute costume pieces) and ran over to school to get Grace. She came home, had some medicine, took a long nap, and then woke up feeling great. I was relieved. I didn't want her to miss out on the Halloween fun.
The boys came home from school and quickly changed into their costumes. It was cold and windy so I had the kids dress in three layers. They looked pretty cute. Even with all the layers. 
This was one of the first years that Todd couldn't get out of work and come trick or treating with us. By the time he got out of work I knew Grace would be getting tired soon so I just told him to stay put.

The kids and I hit up our neighborhood first and then drove back to our old neighborhood (and my mom's house) where the houses are closer together.  It is always a bit melancholy taking my kids trick or treating to the same houses I used to trick or treat at. Wow. Time flies.
Grace hung in there for a while and then decided she'd had enough. I know the boys try to hide it but they really look forward to trick or treating by themselves. Every once in a while they will say, "Grace, are you tired yet? Do you want mom to take you home?" It cracks me up. Grace and I don't take it personally. I'm surprised they are still willing to let me come along at all. I'm just glad that I could convince Joey to come trick or treating with us again. He has been wary ever since a lady made a comment about him being too old (he was 11 at the time) for trick or treating. I'm glad he could shake that off and have some good old fashioned innocent fun. I want my kids to have that feeling as long as possible. And I'm glad that all of the grown ups were accepting and fun this year and Joey had a good time.

Grace and I went home halfway through trick or treating and the boys went off on their own. When Grace and I got home Todd had a fire going in the fireplace and a pizza in the oven. A little over an hour later and the boys were home too. It was a nice night. We didn't get to bed too late and we didn't have TOO much candy.

Yet this morning was still rough. Happens every time. And this morning was a busy one. I was running around trying to get everybody motivated and moving, getting school projects into the car, and getting ready for mass. It is a holy day today and Joey had a very large reading. Somehow we managed to get everyone to school on time and when I finally sat down in the pew at church I felt like I could finally take a breath. 

It was kind of an emotional moment watching Joey read the first reading at mass. In my mind I was looking at Joey as a two year old and yet he is so tall now and his voice is so low. It was surreal. Another moment that makes me realize how fleeting this time with my kids really is.

They are still so much my babies but they are growing up so quickly. Getting more independent all the time. Stepping out on their own. 
Honestly, I'm just grateful they let me tag along.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Right Now

Last night I had a dream I was holding a tiny baby. I don't believe it was my baby. I think I was just holding the baby for someone else. But I loved that little baby. So small and sweet and precious. I could even smell that new baby smell. My heart was melting.

When I woke up I expected to feel the familiar pangs of longing that usually accompany that dream, but I didn't. It was just a nice dream. It seems, though I still love babies, I am really enjoying my kids and where we are at right now.

The other day as I was dropping the kids off at school Tommy gave me a little wink and said, "Enjoy your surprise!" and then ran off into school.  I wasn't sure what he was talking about but chuckled and went on my way. Later that morning as I was unloading groceries into the fridge I saw a note that Tommy had taped on one of the fridge shelves. It said, "Love you mom. Have a great day - Tommy"
I'll tell you, it made my day. When the kids got home from school I told Tommy how much the note meant to me. Ben must have been listening because the next day I found a similar note from him on my computer. God, I love these kids.

Yesterday, I told Joey that we needed to head out to look for some basketball shoes for him after school. Kohls was having a massive sale and if we could find some shoes on sale that would be great. These stupid basketball shoes average around $100 and I just find that absurd. Anyway, Tommy started to plead his case for a new pair of basketball shoes but I told him it was a no go. Not only do his shoes from last year still fit but we also have another pair (Joey's shoes from last year that are like new) that are the next size up. No new shoes required for Tommy. Tommy lamented that all his friends get new shoes all the time but I reminded him he wasn't born into that kind of family. Tommy acquiesced and went about his homework on the computer. Since Tommy was on the computer Joe asked if he could use my phone to look up basketball shoes. It wasn't until later that evening when I was using my phone that I noticed the search Joey had done for his new basketball shoes, "cool cheap basketball shoes". Aww. Something about that just got me. It seemed so thoughtful. I never told him his shoes had to be under a certain dollar amount. I didn't even really complain about the price of the shoes at all. And yet secretly Joey was trying to do his part. It warmed my heart.

Lately we have taken to playing a little "game" at dinner. We used to do "high/low" where we would tell about our high and low of the day. However, I recently changed it to focus on the positive. Now we pick out our favorite, or high, part of the day, and then we also name something we did that day to show kindness for someone else.  The kids have taken this pretty seriously and really give their answers a lot of thought. I am so delighted to hear how often they stick up for someone who is getting teased and how often they play with the kid who was standing alone. Love my kids.

Grace loves to point out how she and I have so much in common. When I am reading she always grabs her books and comes to snuggle in next to me to read. I even find her off in a corner or alone in her room with her books. She has already read Anne of Green Gables and just finished The Secret Garden. She is a reading machine. She is so smart. When I marvel at her reading she says to me, "I'm definitely your daughter!" It is just so precious. And yet she is completely comfortable being her own person too. If she doesn't like something (regardless of if I like it) she will let me know. I love that. Yesterday Grace mentioned she would love another "ladies weekend" with me. Last time we went shopping (mostly a bookstore), to lunch, and then to a theater performance of Ella Enchanted. It was so much fun. And I am so glad she loved it as much as I did.

This morning the kids and I quoted The Holy Grail all the way to school and when they got out of the car they galloped into school complete with coconut/galloping noises. I must have looked like a lunatic as I laughed like crazy exiting the parking lot and drove home. These kids of mine are seriously hilarious. It made my day. Man, I love those kids.

So, yes, while I still love babies, I am so incredibly happy with my kids and where we are at as a family right now. And though they are more apt to talk back, be cranky, sass talk, and misbehave at this age than they were as babies, I still am loving this. This crazy, fun, exhausting, hysterical, trying, loving time in our lives is pretty great. I love right now.

***Disclaimer-  Sorry if this seems like a braggy post about my kids. I really do need to write down all the times they do something sweet, funny, loving so that when they are acting like turds I can go back and remember how much I really do like them. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Falling Short

It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining, the breeze was light, and the temperature was just right. It was the kind of day that promises all kinds of warm, lovely, wonderful things. 

It was also my mom's birthday and I had all sorts of lovely visions of us with my mom at the pumpkin farm. Unfortunately, instead of all those warm, lovely moments we ended up with grumpy, sassy, yuck instead. 

It started when my mom got lost on the way to the pumpkin farm/orchard. It continued as I attempted to get our name on the waiting list at the cafe and was told the wait would be 2 hours. It went further downhill as my "starving" children complained and whined. Things really went to crap when we attempted a quick photo shoot for our fall family picture and the sun was apparently frying everyone's eyeballs out. It was sunny, I will admit but nothing a little squinting couldn't handle. Even when we moved into a shady spot a couple of us could no longer fake a smile. I was not happy at this point. I was done. And I was disappointed.  I had such high hopes for the day and for my mom's birthday lunch. 

You'd think by now, after so many years of having children, I'd know how to manage my expectations. I am usually so good at keeping them low. But today seemed such a recipe for a lovely time. 

Ah well.

We did manage to turn the day around a bit with some apple cider and cute baby animals. It got a bit better still when we found another restaurant to treat my mother to lunch. And it was a delicious lunch. Overall, we pulled through.

Still, when I look at this photo it just reminds me of the struggles of the day. And now that I look at it closer I also notice it is off center. Ha! Had I not been in such a hurry to get the picture taken I would have moved that hay bale over and centered the bench. Oh well. It's not perfect and neither was the day. But we made it through and eventually turned it around. I bet someday when I look back on this picture it will give me a chuckle.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

There Is Hope

This past week my boys have been all aflutter about trying to get onto the student counsel at their school. Joey (8th grade) is running for vice president of the school and Tommy and Ben are both running for their class's representative (6th grade and 4th grade, respectively). All three boys needed to write speeches. The candidates for representatives would give their speeches to their respective class and the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer candidates would give their speeches in front of the whole school.

For days the boys worked on their speeches. I stayed out of it only stepping in to correct Ben's grammar in a few spots after he asked me to look it over. Other than that I felt it was the boys' responsibility to write their own speeches. I hadn't even read Tommy or Joe's speeches.

Yesterday, the morning of the speeches, Tommy came up to me and asked me if we could bring cupcakes into his class. I asked him why he wanted to bring in cupcakes. He said, "I want to tell my class that if they vote for me I will bring in cupcakes."  Oh boy. Bribery at its finest.  I asked Tommy if he was buying the cupcakes with his money and he assured me that he would. I shrugged my shoulders and told him to do what he wants.

I thought of the boys often throughout the day knowing how nervous they had been to give their speeches. Towards the end of the day the school posted the speeches (for Pres, VP, Treasurer, and Secretary) on Facebook. I watched and listened to the young candidates make their cases and then it was Joey's turn. Joey got up in front of his school and gave his speech and it brought me to tears. He began his speech saying how he wanted to make this year a great one for everyone. He gave his ideas for fun events and field trips. He spoke about working hard for his fellow school mates and being a friend to all. And then towards the end of his speech he praised the other candidates running for vice president. He told all the students that the other candidates were smart and had great ideas too. In fact, he said, they may be better than him but he would work very hard to make his school proud. He went on to say that in the 10 years he has been at that school (since 4K) he has been given so much that he wanted to give back to the school. He ended with thanking everyone and saying, "God bless everyone!"

I am not lying when I say I was not the only one in tears. I am told that the principal was welling up along with a few teachers and parents. To say I am proud would be a severe understatement. If only our current candidates for president could carry themselves with such grace and humility.

I couldn't wait until Joey got home so that I could tell him how much his speech meant to me. I walked down to the bus stop to meet the kids as they were walking down the street. Tommy excitedly ran up to me and announced that he was chosen to be his class's representative by a landslide. I congratulated him and chuckled to myself thinking that the cupcakes probably had a little bit to do with that.

Joey and Ben still weren't sure of their fates, as the votes hadn't been tallied for them yet, but I let them know how proud I was regardless of the outcome.

That evening, our one free evening without football practice, was spent stacking wood and playing basketball. I'd made a fire in our fireplace and we had the kids' favorite taco dinner. I made them a special strawberry shortcake dessert too. It was a special night.

As Tommy and I sat by the fire I asked him when he needed to bring the cupcakes in to his class.

He said, "Oh, I didn't put that part in my speech."

Surprised, I asked, "You didn't? Why not?"

Tommy replied, "Well, there were a couple of kids running for representative who don't have a lot of money so they wouldn't be able to offer something like that. I didn't think it would be fair if I said that."

And with that my heart melted. How on earth had I gotten such amazingly kind and compassionate children?

I gave Tommy a big hug, thanked him, and told him that that was a very loving and wise decision.

This year's political mess has really gotten to me. It is just so sickening. But listening to my kids I know there is hope for this world yet.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Waiting Patiently

Molly really looks forward to 3:15 every day. She loves greeting her kids.  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

That Old Melancholy

Here we are at the first day of school again and I am feeling that old familiar melancholy. 
(I am loving the reflection of the American flag)

I was doing well this morning. We had our ducks all in a row and everything ran very smoothly. We even arrived at school early and had plenty of time for extra photos. The kids were thrilled with the extra photos part. I jest.

But they did oblige me with more than a fair share of pictures. I just had this urge to take as many pictures as I could. After all, this is the last first day of school with ALL of my kids at the same school. It was kind of a big deal. 
The last year all of my kids will ever go to the same school together. Wow. That really hit home. My kids really do enjoy each other so much. They hang with each other at lunch. They play together at recess. They are always searching each other out. I used to worry about it. I wondered if they would ever form strong enough bonds with friends their own age if they constantly stayed within their sibling group. I don't really think about that anymore. They have friends, but honestly? I think they still prefer each other's company.  I wonder if they will ever know how lucky they are to have that. And I hope and pray it stays that way.

One by one I followed the kids to their classrooms. I watched Joey and Tommy set their backpacks in their lockers and head into their classrooms. Moments later a nervous Tommy came out and asked me what I thought he should do. I told him that maybe he could organize his books into the order of his classes. Or maybe ask the teacher. Tommy marched up to his new middle school teacher and said, "Excuse me, what would you suggest I be doing right now?" I had to turn away quickly to stifle my giggle. It was adorable. 

As Tommy and Joe organized their books I walked Ben and Grace downstairs to their classrooms. More pictures were taken and good-bye hugs and kisses were given. Though the kids seemed fine I had a hard time pulling myself away from their classrooms. 

I hung around in the hallways at school far longer than I needed to. I kept peeking into classrooms. Checking in. Tommy caught my eye and came out to show me how he had arranged his notebook for optimum organization. The kid was nervous for his first day of middle school. So many changes. "It's a little overwhelming, actually." he told me in the hallway before heading back into the class room. 

For me too, Tommy. Me too. It is all just overwhelming. Watching these little people grow by leaps and bounds every day. It is overwhelming how my love for them just continues to multiply. It is overwhelming trying to learn to let go little by little. Wanting to hold on tight but knowing this is what is right. What is meant to be. It is overwhelming watching them be brave and independent and strong and kind. It is all just overwhelming.
Dear God in heaven,
please be with my children as they start a new year.
Help them to work hard and do their best.
Keep them safe, happy, and healthy.

Give them a love for learning.
Help them to grow in confidence and independence. 
Show them how to be compassionate.
Let them be a friend to all, kind, and loving.
Let their failures motivate them to try harder.
Let their successes humble them.
Help me, Lord, to be patient, understanding, loving, and wise
in guiding them through this school year.
Be with my children, Lord.
Let your light shine in them and through them
and keep them close to You.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Full Circle

Summer has, once again, flown by way too quickly.  And this time it comes as somewhat of a surprise. The last few summers we traveled and jammed our summer full so it made sense that the time sped by. However, this summer has been fairly relaxing with no major travels or trips. And yet still, here we are, the last day of summer already.

It truly has been a summer of growth. The kids have not only grown physically but mentally and emotionally as well.  This summer the kids learned and honed a few new skills. Not only have they been helping me cut my mom's grass every week but they have also been a big help in maintaining our yard and garden. I am very comfortable asking the boys to cut the grass and know that it will be done well.

The kids have also expressed an interest in cooking this past summer. Ben has been especially obsessed with making his own food. Omelets have become his specialty. It has been fun watching the kids become more comfortable in the kitchen and more self sufficient. Now if I could only get them to clean everything up when they are done.

This summer the boys enjoyed a bit more freedom from me as well. The three boys hop on their bikes and take off for a couple of hours on their own adventures. It does make me a bit nervous but knowing the three boys are together makes me feel better.  

Recently, we were on our way home from running some errands when the boys begged me to stop at the lake by our house so that they could show me what they have been up to on their biking adventures all summer. I parked the car, walked across the field, and followed the kids down the path to the lake. It was a spot I was very familiar with. Not only had I been taking the kids here since they were tiny but I also came to this spot when I was a kid.
The kids led me to the fort that they had built in the trees. Little rocks were gathered around a "fireplace". They even had a spot to put their bikes.
It was a pretty amazing thing to see my boys had discovered the very same spot that I used to play in as a child. The same gathering of trees, though much better built up than when I was a kid, was now their shelter.
We walked on, winding through a path in the woods to another outcropping of rocks.  The kids were kind enough to oblige me with a few pictures. On our way back to the fort Joey found a little buddy.
Back on the beach side of the lake we decided to search for rocks like we used to do when they were little. Grace and I were very successful and soon our pockets were full of smooth colorful rocks.
The boys found smooth, flat rocks and skipped them into the water.
Clearly they spent a lot of time doing this during their biking adventures. They had gotten good! I couldn't help but join in. It had been a while since I'd last skipped stones but it didn't take long to remember the skill.
We stayed far longer than I'd planned but it was hard to leave.  It was so nice to be back at this beautiful spot. It was the perfect way to round out our summer.
Yes, this summer has flown by quickly.  Again. But we will have plenty of warm memories to carry with us as we start another school year.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Celebrating 40

For the last two years my best friend has been talking about doing something special to celebrate her 40th birthday. She REALLY wanted to do something big. Las Vegas was mentioned. Neither one of us had ever been to Vegas and it seemed like a great place to blast in her 40s.  

This past spring Todd and I stopped in Vegas with the kids for a couple of days when we were visiting The Grand Canyon. The entire time we were there we did not have one drink or place one bet. It was a strange way to visit Vegas for the first time, but we didn't even notice that phenomenon until we were leaving.  

With Sarah's 40th birthday quickly approaching we had to get something planned quickly before school started. The chance of me leaving the kids during school is always nil. Too much going on and too much I don't want to miss. It turns out the only time that would work for me was for a couple of days in the middle of the week in August. I would leave on a Tuesday morning and be back on Thursday evening in time to watch football practice. Perfect! Or not.

As it turns out Grace got sick right before I left. No!!!! I can't leave my child when she is sick! I also discovered that the kids' open house for school (bring all your supplies, set up your lockers and desks, meet teachers) was scheduled for the Wednesday I would be gone. UGH! I don't want to miss that!  I am loathe to miss ANYTHING. I was not pleased. But my kids were more than gracious. Joey told me not to worry, he would take care of Grace (Todd would still have to work these three days but stop home often) if she was still sick. All the kids assured me that they would miss me but they'd be just fine at the open house. Hubby said he would handle it all. I have a very sweet family.  

So, despite Grace being sick and me missing out on open house I left very early on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday afternoon Sarah and I were poolside enjoying the heat and the view. 

Right about that time I received a text from Todd telling me that when he came home for lunch he discovered that the boys had cut the grass in the front and back yard (and did the trimming), cleaned up their rooms, vacuumed the living room, and took care of Grace who still wasn't 100% recovered. He said you could have knocked him over with a feather. Amazing. My sweet boys. I was feeling pretty lucky.

That evening Sarah and I got dressed up and hit the buffet at Caesars Palace. It was a wonderful buffet but it may not have been the best decision we've ever made because afterwards we really couldn't move. We went outside and sat by the pool for at least an hour or so until we felt we could function again. 
Finally, we were able to drag ourselves up off the lawn chairs and wander around outside by the Bellagio fountains. Eventually we made our way into the Bellagio and walked through the casino. A gentleman in a suit asked us if we'd like to come to a brand new club. He said he would get us to the front of the line and would give us 4 free drink tickets each. We were wondering what the catch was but there was no catch. We got into the club free, no line, and free drinks. Suckers! We couldn't help but laugh. They had no idea what they had just done, letting two 40 year old HUGE nerds with no shame into their brand new club. It was hilarious. We spent the entire time out on the dance floor laughing our butts off as we danced like morons in front of kids that could have literally been our kids.  HA!!!  It was awesome. 

Much of the time in the club was spent with Sarah and I watching this group of young ladies sit in the corner and take selfies. It was highly amusing. The beautiful young girls never danced or appeared to have any fun, they just sat there making duck lips at their phones all night. Later that evening we discovered that selfies are truly an art and Sarah and I just can not master it. We attempted quite a few selfies during our trip and they were all pretty much hideous. I think we got one good one. This one.

And it's not even that good. Perhaps those girls in the club really were talented and not just self involved. Regardless, Sarah and I had a great time laughing and being goofy and getting a good many blisters on our feet.

The next morning as I logged on to Facebook I found out that the kids' school pictures would be taken at the Open House that day. Ohlordhavemercy!!!!!!  This may not seem like a big deal to anyone else but it is to me. I hate to miss ANYTHING, remember? Plus, one more thing for Todd to take care of. PLUS, Grace is growing her bangs out and they are at a horribly awkward phase and Todd doesn't exactly know how to fix Grace's hair. Drama!!!!  I called Todd asap and they were just walking out the door to the Open House. They had to turn around, change clothes, and fix hair. They all were champions about it (including Todd) and it all turned out to be fine. But it was one more thing to make me feel guilty for being gone. Now we wait and see how the pictures turn out. hehe

After that mini drama Sarah and I wandered over the the attached hotel (the Paris hotel is attached to Bally's so it is kind of a two for one). It was so charming! So many cute shops and cafes and the casino was lovely too. We decided to hang by the Paris pool for the majority of the day. It was perfection. We attempted another selfie. It was so-so. But I did get another text from Todd telling me that the kids had cleaned out the entire garage and vacuumed the whole house while he was at work. The kids were killing it!
With that lovely news I was able to sit and enjoy the gorgeous view at the pool. It was outstanding. Beautiful pool and the Eiffel Tower in the background. Nice. 
That evening was our gambling night. Sarah deals cards in Oklahoma and has never been to Vegas to play her favorite game, Craps. It was a very exciting night for her and it was super fun for me to watch her in action. It was a blasty blast. And by the end of the night I had even won $100 on poker. Score! (ok, it was video poker, but that sounds so much less cool)
The next morning I was up bright and early to catch my 10 o'clock flight. It had been an amazing little vacation but I was very much anxious to get home to my family.  I am not used to being away from them. It rarely happens. As a matter of fact in the 35 years that Sarah and I have been best friends this was our very first vacation together (without kids). What? Long overdue and much enjoyed. But it is good to be back with the family.

And I must have brought a little Vegas craziness back with me because the day after I got home I decided to go out and get my nose pierced. It is something I have wanted to do for a while and I figured that now that I am 40 I can do whatever I want without caring if people think it is crazy or not.

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