Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Birthday

Today is your birthday.  I know you'd love to be up north relaxing by the water, enjoying a fire, maybe doing a little fishing. Instead you are using your vacation time to fulfill your children's wants and wishes. Your birthday will be full of penguins at aquariums, dinosaurs at museums, and restaurants that cater to kids.  And you won't even complain. You'll be excited, and grateful.  Because that is the kind of man you are. The kind of husband you are.  The kind of father you are.

And we are grateful for you.

Happy Birthday to the best man I know.

We love you!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Much Needed

Life has been busy, busy, busy around here and this past weekend was just what we needed to slow down and relax a bit.  

On Saturday Todd and I had the rare and elusive "date night".  And man, it was a good one.  

We started out with dinner.  On the drive to Green Bay I was checking for restaurants on Todd's phone. We had planned on going to Olive Garden but I was really hoping to find a non-chain restaurant.  We have so many great restaurants in our city that people don't know about so I wanted to find something like that in Green Bay.  Of course, I knew there were plenty around I just needed to find them.  And boy, did I ever find a good one!

If you live in the Green Bay area and haven't gone to Kaleidoscope you need to get there ASAP.  It is a swanky lounge type of restaurant and immediately made me think of the movie Swingers.  The service was top notch.  The owner, Kathy, made our experience unforgetable.  Kathy is a total foodie and delighted in bringing dishes out from the kitchen for us to try at the bar as we were having some drinks. And our entrees.  Oh. My. Word.  I had a spice encrusted scallop and Todd had a parmesan crusted steak.  AMAZING. It was a fabulous dinner with great drinks, a chill atmosphere, and great people.  A wonderful way to start out the night.  It made me feel so much cooler than I actually am.  See?

 This is me lounging.

After dinner we were off to see a show.  We were able to snag some prime seats to one of our very favorite comedians.  Jim Gaffigan, baby!

It was such a hilarious show. I can't tell you how good it feels to laugh for almost two hours straight. What a great night.   

Needless to say, we were out late that night.  But that didn't stop us from enjoying the next day as well. After church we took the kids out to our local (small) airport where the planes were practicing their drills for the big EAA AirVenture  show in Oshkosh.  Since Joey (and then by default, Tommy and Ben) is obsessed with airplanes we thought it would be fun to watch the planes take off and do stunts right above us.  
To say the kids were excited would be a massive understatement.  They were thrilled.  And I have to admit, I was pretty excited watching it as well. The weather was cool (58 degrees in July? What is going on?) but we still had fun.  Even after we got home we saw 12 of the planes flying over our house in various formations.  It was pretty exciting.  I suppose we'll have to go to the actual EAA AirVenture show sometime.

The fun doesn't stop around here.  Soon we will be leaving to take the kids to Chicago.  We are planning on visiting the Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, take a tour on the ONLY German submarine in the US, and maybe to a riverboat tour and eat at the Rainforest Cafe.  We are talking FUN, people.  And then after that it is back up north to the cabin.  Whew!  I may need another rejuvenating date night when all is said and done.

It looks like this summer is shaping up to be a great one!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Best Summer Salad

I am a huge fan of salads and this one may be the best salad ever.  And I invented it! HA!  I'm a genius!

I could eat this salad every single day of my life and never get tired of it.  Seriously.  Best. Ever.  And I'm gonna share it with you.  'Cause I love you.

I'll tell you the ingredients but I won't tell you how much of anything because it is entirely up to you.

Bag of baby spinach or 50/50 baby spinach/spring mix
Purple onion
5oz tub of crumbled Gorganzola cheese (I never use the whole container)
Green beans
Slivered almonds
Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette

I always blanch my green beans before adding them to the salad but the rest of the ingredients you really don't have to do any prep work (besides making sure the bacon is cooked and chopped into bits). Just toss them all in a bowl and mix gently with a very light coating of the vinaigrette.

If you want to make the salad a meal then you could add some strips of steak or grilled chicken.  Even some hard boiled egg slices or little wedges of cooked red potatoes would be a great addition.  Mmm. My mouth is watering!


Friday, July 19, 2013


"Summertime and the livin' is easy..."

The hot weather is here and we are taking full advantage.  Our favorite swimming hole has provided hours and hours of fun.  The baseball games at night are a little less comfortable to play (and to watch) but it is a trade-off we are willing to make.  Yay for summer!

I have taken so many pics that sum up summer to me and I decided to post them all in one post (minus the pics that have already made it into previous posts). Hang on to your hats!

So many water pictures but it has reached 100 degrees here (with LOTS of humidity) for the last three days so we've been hanging in the water.  Personally, I like the hot weather.  Certainly makes for a fun summer.

Give me your best shot at Better in BulkPhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Lolli

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Magic Moments

Baseball season is quickly coming to an end around here.  A few more games and we will be all done. For the past six weeks four nights out of the week have been dedicated to baseball.  I don't know what we will do with all of our evenings free.

This was our boys' first year playing baseball and I'd call it a success.  The boys had fun, improved, made friends, and truly enjoyed themselves.  You can't ask for more than that.  And yet, more is what we got.

There are moments in life that help define us.  Last night had one of those moments.

Tommy had an early game and Joe had a late game so, for once, the whole family was able to watch both games.

The evening started out at Tommy's baseball game. The kid hit well, as usual, and had a running snag of a foul ball off of third that was out of this world. "Wow!" went around the entire bleacher section. No matter where the coach put Tommy, his go-to guy, he made some plays.  The kid is a natural athlete.

I watched Joey during Tommy's game.  He cheered his brother on and was supportive, but he was also quiet. Thinking, thinking, thinking.  You could see the wheels turning.  Always comparing himself to others, especially his younger brother.

After Tommy's game was done we packed up and headed over to our second baseball game of the 90 degree day.  

Coach Todd (dad) started the game by giving his timid players the same speech he gives before every game. Swing away. Have fun! Don't be afraid to swing. Remember, even professionals strike out 7 out of 10 times! (and looking right at Joey) Better to strike out than to be too scared to swing. You will never hit the ball if you don't swing. Have fun! Go team!

Joey started out as catcher.  It was a tough position to play in the heat and Coach Todd (dad) swapped out catchers for each inning.  After playing catcher Joey moved on to third base for the next inning.  The opposing team was good and had hit after hit. I could feel Joey's morale start to sag.

Suddenly, "Whack!" The batter hit a foul ball headed for third base.  Joey ran, stretched his glove out with all his might, and snagged the foul ball getting the batter out.  He quickly glanced around and saw the second baseman running to third.  Knowing the runner had to go back to second Joey threw the ball to the second baseman.  It was a great throw but the second baseman missed it and the ball rolled into the outfield. That gave the runner enough time to advance to third base.  Joey, even though he made an amazing catch and a great throw, was now miffed that the double play didn't work out.  The kid holds himself to impossibly high standards.

When the inning was over Joey walked over to the bench and I hollered out, "Nice catch, Joe!"  He looked at me and gave me a thumbs down. "Positive attitude, Joe!" I tried to remind him.

Somehow we managed to get three guys across home plate (I think our team has scored MAYBE four times all season) in the next inning making the score somewhere around 7-3.  Then the opposing team got a couple more runs in their next time at bat increasing their lead even more.

The last inning and we are up to bat. Our players were hot and tired and ready to go home. Coach Todd (dad) reminds the batters, once again, to have fun and swing away! The first batter up struck out. Second batter up struck out. At least they're swinging!

Joey is up next.  The first couple of pitches are balls. Then Joey racks up two strikes.  The pitcher winds up, throws the ball, and "WHACK!" Joey sends a line drive down past third base and out into the outfield where it zings past the outfielder.  Joey runs past first and on to second base.  The outfielder finally gets the ball and throws it to second.  The second baseman misses the ball and it flies past him into the outfield.  Joey takes off from second to third as the entire stands full of parents are cheering. Coach Todd (dad) is telling Joe to stay on third but through the excitement of it all Joey can't hear him. Joey glances at the kid now holding the ball and makes the decision to go for home.  Joe rounds third and runs full speed ahead to home base.  SAFE!



Joey's team rushes the field hooting and hollering and chanting Joey's name.  "That was our first home run of the season, Joe!"  "Way to go, Joey!" they all say.  You'd think they had just won the game.

Joey's smile was radiant.  Put tears in my eyes.  He was so PROUD of himself.

The next batter up struck out but it didn't matter.  Everyone was still cheering over Joey's home run. Joey's team may not have won the game but it felt like a win to them.

"I can't believe I got a home run!" Joey admitted to us on the way home, all smiles.

"That was awesome, Joe!" younger brother Tommy said with admiration.

It was a big moment for a boy who too often makes himself feel like he isn't good enough. It was a lesson in trying.  A lesson in not being afraid. A lesson to keep at it. A lesson, a feeling, that I pray stays with him his entire life. Try. Possible failure be damned. Try. Don't give up.

You'll never hit a home run if you don't swing.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Good Medicine

It is hard to remain in a weird place when there is goodness and light happening all around you.  

This weekend was just what I needed.  

The chaos that always ensues as we are packing for a weekend up north happened as usual but quickly gave way to a relaxing three hour ride to the cabin.  The trip was broken up nicely with a stop at one of our favorite supper clubs known for making some of the strongest Old Fashioneds around.
(Finally able to relax)

I hadn't been there since before we had kids and it turns out it was even nicer than I remembered. The kids had a blast playing games and drinking their kiddie cocktails before dinner, everyone enjoyed their meal, and we had many compliments on our fabulous kiddos.  An all around good time.

The rest of the weekend followed suit.

The kids were in the water early on Saturday and stayed there for the majority of the day. It gave me plenty of time to read my book (something funny this time- Dad is Fat- Jim Gaffegan) and soak up some sun.
The kids got to try tubing for the first time. Safe to say they loved it. Even Grace got on (with Joey as her safety blanket) and was hooting and hollering and smiling. Such a brave little thing.  Tubing was a hit! Molly was jealous and tried to swim out after the boat a few times until Todd let her join him in the boat.
Evenings were reserved for campfires and smores.  Just a little extra sugar to help the exhausted kids make it until bedtime.
It was a perfect weekend to solve my weirdness.  I'm sure more weirdness will creep in now and then but I think sunshine and fun can serve as my medicine.

The weather will hover around the nineties this week.  Perfect for more swimming, sprinklers, ice cream, and memory making.  No weirdness allowed.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Weird Stuff

I feel like I've been away for a long time.  The truth is I have had too much weird stuff floating around in my head to write about but here it comes.

I already wrote about my best friend and her family visiting and what a wonderful time we had together, but I omitted quite a bit of information from that post. The major event I left out was my mom's health emergency.

In the middle of the night (3 a.m. to be exact) I received a call from my brother that an ambulance was called for my mother.  Apparently, she had such horrible back and chest pain that she couldn't breath. She couldn't even move.  I, of course, threw on some clothes and rushed out the door and even beat the ambulance to the hospital. Not wanting to wait around I then drove to my mom's house and watched as the EMTs worked on my mom in the ambulance.  I followed them to the hospital and stayed with her in the ER.  Of course we all (doctors included) thought she was having a heart attack.  Bad news considering she had open heart surgery less than two hears ago and we recently found out that her replaced valve has not been doing as good a job as we hoped.

After a little wait we found out she was not having a heart attack.  The doctors then looked into a possible blood clot.  More waiting and we found out it wasn't that either.  After many hours in the hospital, tons of tests, and lots of anxiety, we found out that she had broken three vertebrae in her back. My mom has to take steroids for her cancer and a side affect is that it can make bones more brittle and the result this time was worn down vertebrae.  Luckily, it was a somewhat easy fix (injecting liquid cement onto the vertebrae) and she was released from the hospital a couple of days later.

All of this while I had five guests staying at my house.  There was a lot of back and forth to the hospital and very little sleep on my part.  The day my houseguests left I was able to take my mom home from the hospital and she has been doing fairly well.

However, it has kind of made me... searching for the right word here... cautious? Cynical?  A bit morbid, perhaps?

My mom is doing okay right now, but how long is this going to go on?  She has a terminal cancer. Granted, it is in remission (though Multiple Myeloma doesn't go into remission this is as close as she can get, she is doing so well), but the meds she is on take a toll.  She had to have open heart surgery to repair damage done by the cancer.  Now she had to have another procedure to repair what the meds for the cancer are doing to the rest of her body.  I'm just wondering how much more her body can handle.

I think about how my grandma died at 79.  My mom is going to be 74 in a few months and she has a serious illnesses (not that you could tell by looking at her- the woman walks miles everyday, volunteers for everything, is very active,  and still does all of her own yard work, etc.).  How much longer does she have?  Honestly, I am lucky I have had her these last 8 years as we were told she had no more than a few months when she was first diagnosed.  But, truthfully, that doesn't make me feel any better.  I can not imagine my mom not being here.  I can't even grasp that.

I also wonder how it feels.  How does it feel to be 75 or 80 and think, "Well, if all goes well I probably have 5 years or so left."  What does that feel like?

Dark thoughts.  They are in my head.

And I tried not to let it affect me but it did.  Our whole 4th of July (usually my favorite) just seemed off. I'm sure it was a combination of stress, lack of sleep, coming off of a great visit with friends, not feeling well physically, and Todd and I constantly butting heads (don't get me started on that one, it had been going on for far too long) but I just wasn't feeling it. I even stayed home while Todd took the kids up north for the weekend.  That is the first time I've done that in forever.  It turns out that was what Todd and I needed to get back on track.  Just a little separation. However, I still am in this weird place.

It is fitting that I took the opportunity while feeling weird to read Under The Dome by Stephen King.  A weird book, indeed.  I used to be a huge Stephen King fan but then drifted off for a long time.  This is the first King book I've read in a long time. It was great until the end.  The end was very, very lame.  So weak.  And that kind of stinks because when you read a 1074 page book you like the ending to be satisfying. But it wasn't.  So many parts of the book would get to me.  I'd lie awake at night and stew over the antagonist but I knew King would handle him in the end.  The antagonist always got their due in King's books.  But he didn't. Not enough to satisfy me, anyway. And it miffed me. I feel like I was just left hanging.

So, I continue to go on feeling weird.  Stephen King only made it worse. Imagine that.

I'm not sleeping at night.  And it is weird.  First, it was because I wasn't feeling well. But the past week I have been awoken from a deep sleep by a loud banging or smashing noise.  Around 2 in the morning every night for almost a week I have been jolted awake.  I don't know if it is my crazy dog banging into my table or chair next to me as she stretches out, or if I have a certifiable ghost that likes to wake me up. Either way, it is freaking me out and exhausting me.  It is LOUD, people. I mean loud! I can't believe the hubby can sleep through it.  He did wake up one time but that was because the bang was against the foot of the bed on his side (I'm almost certain that one was the dog's big block head hitting the bed as she got up).

Last night I was having a dream that I was getting my picture taken with Clay Matthews and Todd was getting his picture with Aaron Rodgers (seriously, the only way that dream could have gotten more Wisconsinite is if we were eating brats and cheese while drinking a  Miller Lite), and just as my mom was snapping my picture there was a big *SMASH* that sounded like the toilet seat had been slammed down.  I was jolted awake once again.  The only reasonable explanation is that my dog (she moves around a lot at night) went to lay back down in her bed and banged my chair against the wall as she did it.  But it didn't really sound like that.  Whatever.

Weird stuff.  I told you.

I'm tired.

Maybe some time up north hanging by the lake will help me shake this weirdness off. A light, funny book.  Fishing.  Bonfires.

And, hopefully when we go up north this weekend there won't be any crazy ghosts or clumsy, obnoxious Goldendoodles that like to wake me up.  I need some rest.

 Sweet pictures help to shake the weirdness too.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Party Week

When you have four adults and seven children in one house for five days it has the potential for disaster.  Or at the very least annoyance, fights, and weakened friendships.  Thank heavens our week was none of the above.  It was fabulous!
The kids all got along so well and enjoyed playing with each other.  There were no fights, very minimal whining, and lots of sharing and laughter.  I am really proud of the way all seven of the kids behaved with each other.  Even running on a lack of sleep the kids were all amazing.

And let's just say the adults had some fun as well.  This was the first time, EVER, that my best friend and I actually got to watch our mindless Monday night television (The Bachelorette- don't judge me) together instead of texting each other throughout the whole show.  Yes, it took us three and a half hours to watch the entire show because we couldn't stop laughing and talking, but it made the show so much more fun.  The hubbies were free to go out on the town and enjoy their hot wings and didn't even have to witness our ridiculousness.  And the next night Sarah and I relived our high school days and went to see our old boyfriends (nkotb) perform at Summerfest.  It was a great show.

This morning my oldest and dearest friend and her family packed up their family and headed back home to Oklahoma.  We miss them already.  I guess the idea of starting our own commune didn't really sound as good to them as it did to us.  Ah well.  It was fun while it lasted.

Next up the 4th of July!  One of my very favorite days of the year.  Celebrating our fabulous country with noodle salads, sprinklers, picnics, and fireworks. Life is good.

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