Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's Gettin' Good

For so many years we've been telling each other how it would all be worth it. Every time we were sweating and stressing and exhausted we would remind each other how it would pay off in the end. Teaching four small kids to ski was never easy. It was always hard. But in the midst of all the insanity Todd and I reminded each other that some day it would all be worth it. 

When Gracie was a baby I brought tiny shovels and buckets so that she could play at the top of the bunny hill as Todd and I chased the three boys up and down the hill. We would bounce from child to child, helping them stand back up, wiping their tears after a huge wipeout, putting skis back on, getting snow out of gloves, and helping them up the tow rope, while also keeping Grace close and occupied and happy(ish). 

When Grace was just over two Todd and I began taking her down the hill with us (and back up the tow rope as well). So, we were still chasing and helping three boys on the bunny hill, but this time we also had a small child between our legs or in our arms as we raced from boy to boy. 

Teaching our kids to ski was a workout, I tell you. Todd and I wouldn't even need winter jackets because we would be sweating just trying to keep the kids going. I think we both lost a couple of pounds on those days. And I don't think there was one time when I didn't leave the ski hill without a migraine. Migraines were inevitable on those ski days.

But we knew they would pay off. All the migraines, sweat, and tears would be worth it when, years down the road, our whole family would be able to enjoy family ski trips. Then Todd and I would sit back and enjoy all our hard work and know we did the right thing in teaching four small children to ski.

Well, it is not quite that time yet, but at least I can see it coming now.
The kids are ready to go!

The kids are ready to go home!
(skiing is exhausting work sometimes)

Once again we hit the ski hill with the kids. There is still a fair amount of madness involved in taking four kids skiing, even though they are all a bit older now. There are still four sets of skis, poles, helmets, and boots to rent. That in itself can make you a bit crazy. And then there is ALL the winter gear to get them into and out of. It is surprising the amount of help the two older boys still need with some of this, but ah well. I can not tell you how long it takes to get 6 people into the winter clothes and ski equipment. Let's just say it is excruciatingly long.

Nevertheless, eventually we are out on the bunny hill. The boys catch on fairly well, Ben needs a refresher on how to turn, and Ben and Joey work on quick stops, while I give Grace the basics again. The snow was very packy and slow and soon the boys are bored on the bunny hill and want to take off on their own. 
The boys were able to wait just a  little while longer on the bunny hill until Todd and I decided Grace could handle the ski lift. Now we could all tackle the hill together and Grace could get some real ski experience. Yeah!

Joey and Tommy partnered up on the first ski lift. Ben was my ski lift buddy. And Grace partnered up with Todd. Poor little Grace was actually pretty terrified and all of the riders on the lift could hear her screams for the first 15 seconds or so. Todd held her tightly and whispered encouraging words to her and I turned around to take a pic and tell her what a great job she was doing. She didn't want to talk about it.
We were all waiting for Grace as she and Todd exited the lift (fairly smoothly, I might add) and we all rushed over to tell her what a good job she did. The boys patted her on the back and told her how brave she was as I gave her hugs and kisses and high fives.When we were finally done lavishing her with praise, she looked up at me, with tears in her eyes, and said, "Can I have a hot chocolate now?" Todd and I burst out laughing and immediately led her down the hill to the Homestead lodge she had heard so much about. Grace was getting her hot chocolate.

It was pretty special to be back at the Homestead Lodge with Todd and all of our kids. Todd and I (and many times a big group of our friends) spent a lot of time there when we were first dating, engaged, and early in our marriage. Many good memories. And now here we were with our four children. Pretty amazing.

I hadn't been to the Homestead Lodge in over 7 years. Normally I would be back on the bunny hill teaching the basics to our littles, but Grace is now able to take the lift and here we all are. So good.
We all enjoyed our hot chocolate, hot cider, hot dogs, burgers, cookies, brownies, and rice krispie treats, and warmed ourselves by the wood stove. It was the first time I could begin to enjoy the fun of skiing again.

When we were all sufficiently full and warmed up, we bundled back up and hit the hill again. Soon Todd and the boys were off on the hill and Grace and I were back on the bunny hill. Grace got a little bored with the slow hill and decided she wanted to try another lift. So, up my girl and I went to the top of the hill again. 
We took a long trail back down the hill, Grace tucked safely between my legs. Once we got to the bottom our faces were frozen and Grace was ready to call it a day. We made our way over to the ski lodge and soon Todd and Ben came in as well (one of Ben's ski's broke on the hill- a binding just busted off out of nowhere and Ben went flying- thankfully he wasn't hurt and said it was actually really fun). It was a good thing we were wrapping it up a little early since I was getting a migraine. By the time we got back to the cabin it was a full blown nasty-laid-me-out kind of a migraine. Ugh.

So, though it may still be hectic, crazy, and migraine inducing, it is starting to be fun. We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It's getting good.

Friday, December 26, 2014

All Is Bright

We made it. Oh, there were glitches. A quick trip to the doctor, an hour wait in the pharmacy, two missing santa gifts (which finally showed up the day AFTER Christmas) and two very hasty replacements, last minute treats to make and presents to wrap, and two Christmas celebrations, and all was still jolly and bright. 

After Grace and I got back from the doctor's office and the pharmacy we got busy making treats. She helped me make the applesauce and while that was on the stove the kids and I got started on the second treat. 
The kids unrolled the Rolos while I laid out the pretzels. Before we knew it all the treats were made. While I cleaned up the house the boys went outside to enjoy the 45 degree Christmas Eve weather with a game of basketball. I think that was a first.
Soon it was time to go to Todd's mom's house for our Christmas Eve celebration. We all enjoyed gorging ourselves on appetizers and had fun exchanging gifts. Grandma made each of the grandkids their own monogrammed pillow cases. Very cool.
Then it was time for our famous dice game. We went down to the basement to begin the madness and good time was had by all.
By the time we got home it was way past the kids' bedtime and we quickly ushered them off to bed so that we could get to work.
I didn't even feel like I got any sleep. The next thing I knew it was time to get up. No sleeping in on Christmas Day no matter how late we got to bed.

The first thing we did when we got up was open the best, and most important, gift first. Baby Jesus. Joey had the honor of opening the gift and Grace had the honor of placing Baby Jesus in his manger.
The kids had waited as long as they could (just long enough for me to grab a cup of coffee- which I never actually had a chance to drink) and then dove into the presents. 
It was a good year. The kids really raked it in. Ski jackets, and LEGOS, and Nerf guns, and an Easy Bake oven, and an Anna doll, and handheld old school video games, and a football helmet, and watches, and a Red Ryder BB gun. Wow. Even Molly got in on the action and received presents. It was a very exciting morning.

There was only a couple short hours of play before we had to get ready for Christmas mass. Overtired and overexcited as they were, the kids were still very good in church. It was a lovely mass.

Soon we were back home, eating a quick lunch, playing with toys, giving Gracie a nap, and making more snacks for our next gathering. Then it was over to my mom's house for our Christmas get together.

Silly me, I forgot to take any pictures until after the dinner, and after the dice game, when a few people had already gone home. I think the exhaustion was setting in because I had forgotten to do a lot of things (taking pictures was just one of those things) and Todd had to run back to our house twice (good thing we only live a couple of miles away). Oh well. It all turned out in the end.
Tired as we were we still stopped by the house with the dancing lights and watched the goodness for a few minutes. It was a great way to wrap up a fantastic Christmas.

By the time we got home we were all exhausted. Happy and exhausted. The kids went to bed and Todd and I vegged out for a bit before we passed out too.

And today is always one of my favorite days. A day when I sit around and do as little as I possibly can. I try to move as little as possible the day after Christmas and it is lovely. Today I read my book and drank my coffee as the kids played with all their loot. Then I took a shower and read my book some more. I went to the library (I left the house!) and picked up more books, came back home, shot a few hoops outside (man, I am LOVING this warm 50 degree weather!), read some more books, and chilled out some more. It was just what I needed to refuel from the frantic Christmas pace.

Tonight I plan to sleep like the dead and recoup all the energy I lost this past week month. And I'll need it. Tomorrow I'll pack up the kids and meet Todd up north at the cabin (he went up today) where we will once again attempt to take the four kids skiing. Energy will be needed.

How did you spend your Christmas? And what do you do the day after? Are you a shopper looking for bargains? Do you like to take the day off to recover, like me? Or do you have some other tradition for the day after Christmas? Whatever your tradition, I hope your holiday was merry and bright, and I hope you are recovering nicely.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Final Push

It's the final push. The last rush. Things are hectic. Frantic, even.

It wouldn't be quite so bad if last minute problems didn't keep popping up. Things like having to run Gracie into the clinic to check on a possible ear infection (and possibly a bit of strep throat) and then having to sit in the pharmacy for 45 minutes waiting for antibiotics. 

Or the fact that I am STILL waiting on two presents for Tommy and Ben that I ordered three weeks ago yet the company can't seem to figure out where they are. The two things that Ben and Tommy really wanted. From Santa. You catch my drift here, right? Needless to say I had to run out to 8 different stores for replacements just in case the ones I ordered did not get here in time to wrap. Ugh. 

And we just decided to get Grace signed back up at her old school for the second semester. So, there is a lot of running around, paperwork to fill out, and uniforms to order, quickly, so that come January everything is taken care of. Switching schools isn't something I thought we would be doing right now but we added it to the list anyway. We are so happy to be able to switch back. Grace has never stopped asking if she can go back to her old school (she misses her friends and going to school with her brothers) , and even though her current school is a good school it made Todd and I realize just how much we value our parochial school. So, we are very excited, but it is adding a bit more busy work to this already busy time of year.

Then, genius that I am, I received a call that the blood bank is in desperate need this time of year and a plea for a donation. So, when Todd came home last night I rushed out (in between wrapping 40 gag gifts for our games, and 3 loads of laundry) and donated blood. Not the smartest thing to do when you are already run ragged, but I did it. 

I still have wrapping to do too, though I do not fault myself for that. I only had small windows of time to wrap before I had to run out again for Ben's Nativity play, or Grace's holiday concert, or early release from school, or, or, or...

It is amazing how quickly Christmas snuck up on me this year. You prepare and rush and plan and decorate and then just like that Christmas is here. It comes faster than you expect. Faster every year. 

And here we are. Christmas Eve.

Grace can hardly contain her excitement. She talks a mile a minute and I can barely keep up with the conversation. When we come back from the doctor's appointment we listen to Christmas music as she helps me make the applesauce for grandma's house. She tells me all about Santa and his reindeer and the elves that help Santa get everything ready. I don't even have time to respond since she is already on to her next story. I nod my head and keep peeling the apples.

The boys are strangely grumpy. Or maybe just feisty. They are fighting with each other too often so we send them outside so we don't have to listen to it. They take advantage of the unseasonally warm Christmas weather and bike around the neighborhood. They are thrilled when I tell them to bike over to their grandma's house and deliver her Christmas card. It is the furthest they have ever biked and strict instructions are given for safety. After they leave Todd paces back and forth and finally decides to take a trip "to the store". Of course when he gets home he tells me how he spied on the boys and watched them as they biked back from grandma's. They were, indeed, following all the rules (helmets on, single file, Ben in the middle, on the sidewalk, stopping at each corner before crossing the street) trying to prove to us just how trustworthy they are.

Soon we'll be leaving for grandma's house and then the other grandma's house tomorrow. Before you know it Christmas will be over. Just like that. 

For now I'm treasuring the craziness. I'm trying to practice patience reminding myself that these times are fleeting. I remind my children of what is really important. What the best gift of Christmas really is. 

Wishing you all a peaceful and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014

In My Village

Christmas came early for me this year. I bought myself a gift that I have always wanted. A village.

Okay, not a real village. A little Lemax light up village. I always thought they were so charming and I just loved them, but I never wanted to pay the hefty pricetag to get a village started. When I saw a few stores in my area were having huge sales on their village pieces (I'm talking 50 and 60% off!) I decided to bite the bullet and start my own. I'm so glad I did. I can't tell you how much I am enjoying it.

Welcome to my village.
Since we are a skiing family I decided to make my village as if it were a tiny little skiing village in the mountains.

The farthest building is atop the big hill. It is a ski chalet, complete with skiers coming down the hill. This is one of the kids' favorites and it makes them so excited to go skiing.
True to life, at the bottom of the ski hill is a little pub. I always ski better when I have a little drink so a pub on the hill is a must.
Next to the pub is a waffle hut and hot chocolate stand. I love how there are three boys standing in line for treats because when my boys go off skiing by themselves we can always find them on the back of the hill in the Homestead Lodge drinking hot chocolate.
Next to the waffle stand is a cafe. I love the tin roof and the bear-proof storage. Reminds me of being up north. Back in our prekids days when Todd and I would go skiing with a group of friends we would always stop for breakfast before we hit the hill. Many of the places were little mom and pop restaurants that looked much like this and served breakfast platters with names like "The Paul Bunyan". We never left hungry. 
In the center of the village is an ice skating rink with three boys and a girl skating together. Perfect, no?
Next up is a quant little cider and candy shop. I knew the kids would love this one. They especially like the dog lying on the front stoop and the treats you can see through the window.
Next up the road is our little cabin. This is my favorite. I love seeing the Christmas tree and the fireplace through the windows.  There are fishing rods and a boat leaned up against the house and a little stack of wood around the back. I would love to live in a cabin like this.

Once again we have three kids playing in the snow and a father and kid hauling wood, just like up north. The yard is complete with a birdhouse, birdbath, and a snowman. 
Next to our cabin is a bakery, because who doesn't love fresh bakery in the morning? You can see the baked goods inside the store and the baker hard at work. Out front is a little girl sitting on a bench with a puppy tucked into her jacket. Guess who that is.
And of course, my village would not be complete without a chapel. The Hillside Chapel is indeed up on a little hill looking so charming and welcoming.
There you have it, folks. My little village. I think I may have to sneak a few more buildings in there as the years go on (I saw an adorable library and a toy store that would be perfect) but for now I think my village is looking good. I am honestly like a little kid with this. It was so fun designing a little village that I would love to live in. I sit in front of the display with a cup of coffee and just stare. I don't know why I love it so much, I just do.

The kids are ga-ga over it too. You should have seen them the day they came home from school and saw it all set up. You should have heard them oohing and aahing over every last detail. They were so excited. So often I'll walk into the room and catch one of the kids sitting in the dark in front of the village. Maybe we all would like to live there.

It is a lovely little winter ski village.

I think this will be one of those decorations that everyone looks forward to setting up each year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Keeping On

Life continues to whiz by with not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Still, I am determined not to get overwhelmed or bogged down with duties. I WILL keep my sense of humor.

Even when I realized last week that I really hadn't even BEGUN (seriously. I hadn't even BEGUN, people!) the Christmas shopping I still remained calm.  Sure, I had less than two weeks to figure out what the kids wanted, try and find it, order it, and get it to the house. But big deal, right? Right.

I didn't even freak out when we figured out that the ONLY day Joey and his science partner could work on their Science Fair Project (don'tevengetmestartedonthis) just so happened to be sandwiched between after school on Wednesday and before their school Christmas concert that very same Wednesday night. Sure I had to run around all day editing and developing the pictures that were taken for the project. And yes, I had to run Grace to dance class, then race over to school to pick up the boys (including Joey's partner) and bring them back to the house to get started on the project ASAP. And sure, I had to leave the boys at home for a bit (hoping they were working on the project without me) while I ran back to pick up Grace from dance. And yes, it was a bit of a rush getting the entire project done, written out, and pasted onto the triboard, but we (yes, I said "WE") did it! And it may have been a little crazy trying to jam food down the kids' throats before getting them dressed up all pretty for their concert but we did that too. And yes, it was another late night but that is O-KAY. No big deal.

I knew it would all pay off when Joey and I dragged that Science Fair Project into school the next morning and finally would be rid of that responsibility. And maybe at first, at FIRST, I wasn't laughing when the teacher told us that the project wasn't due until January. At first I didn't find it funny when she said that only the questions were due. At first I was a little shocked as I walked the triboard back to my car and drove it back to our house.  But later, much later, I could see the humor in the situation. And I laughed. Later.

The rest of the week went much the same way. Rush, rush, rush. But that's how it goes, right? At least my crazy stories provided good fodder at Todd's Christmas party on Friday night.

Have you noticed I didn't include any pictures? Cause, yeah, who has time for pictures these days? Not me. I mean, I may have taken some of the kids at their concert, but who can say? I definitely didn't take any of Todd and I on Friday night even though we both looked pretty spiffed up. I will definitely have to take pictures at Grace's school's holiday concert on Thursday because it is in the middle of the day (actually twice- once at 9:30 and once at 2) and Todd will be in court all day and the boys are obviously in school. But I won't sweat it. It will be fine. Pictures and video. No big deal.

See how well I'm doing?

Perhaps I haven't made any cookies or treats or candies yet. There is still time! And sure, my Christmas cards JUST made it into the mail but as long as they get to their destinations before Christmas it's all good, right? And maybe I have no idea what to get anyone for Christmas but it is the thought that counts. So, there's that.

Oh. And just this very second I forgot about the 40 small presents I get and wrap every year for our family's dice game we play at the grandmas' houses. I still have to get those. Oh, and the teacher's gifts. I kinda forgot about those too.

Maybe I should make a list.

I remember at the very start of December the kids were saying how excited they were for Christmas and they asked me if I was excited too. I told them that I was but that Christmas can be a lot of work. They couldn't fathom what I meant. I tried to explain a little but it just wasn't sinking in. And really, for the boys, it probably never will sink in. They will never really know the kind of work mommies put in to making holidays special. I guess it isn't worth explaining.

Funny enough, there was just a The Middle episode about the work of the holidays and how much the moms have to do. Frankie, the mom, decided not to do ANY of it and everyone freaked out. It was a pretty funny show and it illustrated my point perfectly. I think my kids understood what I was talking about a little better after watching it.

However, just yesterday Todd was commenting that he is just not in the Christmas mood. He is just tired of it all and wishes he could skip over the whole production of it just like on The Middle. I couldn't help but laugh out loud and say, "I'm sorry, but what exactly have you done in preparation for Christmas so far?" I think even he had to laugh when he thought about it.

The funny thing is that I really don't want to skip over it. Even if it makes me a bit crazy. This is the stuff kids live for. I want to make it special for them. How many more years do I have to really make Christmas magical? Four years? Five? These are memories in the making. Traditions. The warm, fuzzy, good stuff. I wouldn't skip over it if I could.

So instead, I am just gonna keep on keeping on. I'm maintaining my sense of humor and keeping a positive attitude. And when all else fails I take a good long run to get my stress out. And maybe have a glass of wine. Or two. Nevermind.

I hope you are all well, enjoying the season, and maintaining your sense of humor.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ho, Ho, Holy Cow!

Wow. What a weekend. I don't think we could have fit anything else into this weekend if we tried. 

While the kids were at school on Friday I rushed around getting all the outdoor Christmas decorations set up. It was a warmer day (around 40 degrees) and I figured it may be the last chance I have to put up the decorations without freezing. It took me most of the morning and when I was done I realized that I wanted to add a bit more. Since I had to run to the grocery store anyway I decided to stop at a few nearby stores to add to our decoration collection. 

After I found what I was looking for I rushed back home to get Grace from school and then resumed the decorating. When Grace went down for her nap the decorating continued. When the boys came home from school Todd and I were hanging the lights on the roof. It was nonstop decorating all day long. As Todd finished off the highest part of the roof I went back inside and dragged the Christmas tree up from the basement. It was starting to get late so we stopped for dinner and then began decorating the Christmas trees. 

First the kids put up their trees in their rooms and decorated them with their ornaments. Then we all pitched in and decorated the two trees (one in the front hallway, one in the family room) together. Most of us were decorating the big tree in the hallway and Ben ended up decorating the family tree pretty much all by himself. I was amazed at the good job he did. I only snuck around briefly to rehang a few jumbled ornaments (holy cow, I am really getting good at letting go and not worrying about everything being perfect) but I was thoroughly impressed with Ben's work. 

Much to Todd's dismay, when we were finally done decorating the trees, I wanted to try and get a couple of Christmas card pics. It was past bedtime and the kids were tired but I managed to get a few cute shots.
 I think I may like the outtake shots even better. This one may be one of my favs.
I let the kids off the hook as quickly as possible and let them stay up for a few more minutes before bed. 

When the kids were finally fast asleep in their beds I still had to set off to work on some stockings. Everything had to be set for St. Nick's big arrival the next day.

Even though the kids went to bed late the night before they just couldn't stay in bed the next day. Everyone was up bright and early to see what kind of goodies St. Nick had left.
 Notebooks, cookies, pez dispensers, light up ornaments, and candies were soon being spread out across the floor. St. Nick even left a special little treat for Molly which Tommy happily gave her.
There was not much time to rest and enjoy the treats. We had another busy day ahead of us. Joey was in a basketball tournament and Ben had his very first Reconciliation. Our crew all got ready and went to watch Joey's game. We couldn't stay to watch the entire game because we had to run across the street for Ben's special sacrament.

Ben was so excited, and not at all nervous, to go to his first confession. He was so excited, in fact, that when the kids were given the go ahead to pick a priest and line up for confession Ben was the very first one in line. Benny gave his confession, came back in the pew to say his penance prayers, and then went up and lit his candle at the alter. He was just so excited he could hardly contain himself. He said he felt so good.
It was a great day for him and he didn't even know he was going to be getting any presents. He was shocked when we got home later that day and gave him his very first bible, a Jesus bookmark, and a little medallion. He was just so precious with how excited and thankful he was. He sat and read that Bible for over an hour and carries the medallion everywhere with him. Such a good and sweet boy.

So anyway, after Ben's reconciliation we quick went back to school to pick up Joey (they won their game) and take everyone back home for lunch. Instead of relaxing before his next game Joey went outside and played basketball with Tommy (while Ben read his bible and Grace took a nap). Todd and I put up more lights. Egad.

I had to run back to school early because I was working at the tournament. I ended up working a double shift since no one else had signed up and I was there for Joey's game at that point anyway.
It was so fun watching Joey play basketball again. The growth he has shown from last year to this year is outstanding. His confidence has grown tremendously. He was always a good defensive player but his improvement in dribbling and shooting is apparent. Joey hit a really nice shot out by the three point line that he would have never thought to attempt last year. I just love seeing him gain confidence and courage. Really fun to watch.

Once the tournament games were over we decided to go out to dinner. It was another late night and once we got home we were all pretty exhausted.

This morning we got up and got ready for church. After church it was a quick lunch, the boys played basketball again, and then we were off to Cabela's to get pictures taken with Santa. Now, it is kind of silly really, because we don't have a Cabela's near us. We actually had to drive over an hour to get there but the kids love that store and we can usually make a nice trip out of it. I was beginning to get nervous because we didn't know what time Santa would be at the store. It was just after two when we got there and instead of hitting the bathrooms right away like we normally do I told everyone that we were going to make a beeline to the back of the store to see Santa right away. THANK GOODNESS we did that. We were able to walk right up to Santa (no line!) and then I heard the woman behind the camera say, "Okay. But this is the last one."  I asked her if she said we were the last and she informed me that they were actually supposed to be done a while ago. I apologized and told her I had no idea what time they were here. She let us know that there was a line all the way from the back of the store to the front of the store and out the doors all day. They had to cut the line off an hour ago. How we were able to just walk up right at the end and still see Santa, I don't know. It was a Christmas miracle.
 Santa was so sweet and jolly we all thought he was definitely the real thing. The kids all made their pleas and said their "thank you"s for last year's toys and we quickly let Santa go on his merry way.
And we even got this free picture out of it! So nice!

The rest of the day was spent checking out the tents, the mountain of animals, the aquarium, looking at toys, playing the shoot out game, and going to the candy store. It was a lucky day.

The kids are now finally in bed and I am busy editing pictures, picking out Christmas cards, going over paperwork to be handed in to school, and updating my calendar.

This is such a wonderful time of year, and at the same time, it is always jam packed with far too much. Big school projects are due, Kris Kringles are in progress, school concerts are on the schedule, along with plays and talent shows, and work Christmas parties too. I actually had to back out of my Symphony Christmas concert because I just couldn't get to the practices with everything else going on. And to be honest, I haven't really started the Christmas shopping yet. I feel pretty far behind but I'm trying to relax and keep my focus. It is not easy to do and that makes me sad. I've already cut out everything I can, and there is still so much. Ah well. Such is life.

'Tis the season to be jolly... FA-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WW- My Little Friend

Black-capped Chickadee

Monday, December 1, 2014

On To The Next

Here we are again. Another holiday passing in the blink of an eye. Now we are cruising on to the next holiday. And before you know it that too will be over. Unbelievable how quickly time is going by.

I'll spare you all the gory details of our Thanksgiving. It was much the same as years past, we had two Thanksgivings, except this year we didn't have to host both of them at our house. It was quite the break for me and made for a very relaxing (save for one incident in which I nearly scalped and decapitated myself with the kids' ceiling fan as I was jumping down from their bunkbeds. I now have a gigantic egg on the back of my head and won't be able to sleep on my back, wear a hat, or lean my head back against ANYTHING for quite a while.) four day weekend.

In between the two Thanksgiving celebrations (one on Thursday and one on Saturday) Todd and I took the opportunity to take the kids to see the new Penguins of Madagascar movie. It was quite a treat.

The movie theater in our town recently went through major renovations and now every theater in the cinema has big, huge, Lazy-boy type recliners with reserved seating, a pizza parlor inside the cinema (with very good bruschetta with grape tomatoes and mozzarella), and they also serve beer and wine. Recliners, popcorn, beer, movie. Not too shabby.
(Enjoying the 3D flick with our stylin' glasses)

It was a very good experience. So good, in fact, that Todd and I decided to go to the movies again on Sunday to see Mockingjay Part 1. I think we may be having more date nights in our future.

The wonderful day date was followed up with taking down the fall decorations and watching the Packers eek out a win over the Patriots. I think we could call that a great Thanksgiving weekend.

Now we are getting back into the swing of things again. Life is back to it's normal frenetic pace. The winter decorations have replaced the fall decorations and we are just waiting for another "warmer" day (something over 32 degrees perhaps?) to set up the outside decorations. It will be a bit longer before we tackle the Christmas trees (yes, trees) but we'll get there.

In the meantime, we are overdosing on snowmen and Christmas tv specials. And I'm trying to soak up every single minute of it. Christmas will be here before we know it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Heroes

It's not the first time this has happened. Todd leaves for deer hunting and in comes a snowstorm. 

It usually isn't a huge deal. It's a pain in the butt, but not a big deal. I have gotten pretty good with the snowblower and when the snow isn't heavy or wet it is a fairly easy job. However, said snowblower has a broken handle and I have not yet gotten comfortable using the plow that Todd uses to get the job done.  

So, when I heard reports that we would be getting 4-6 inches of snow I was a little annoyed. Not only that but it was a real wet and heavy snow and most of it would be dumped in the middle of the night. I would probably have to get up an hour earlier to make sure I gave myself enough time to shovel the driveway (only the portion leading down from the garage, not the entire drive) so that the minivan could make it out in time to get the kids to school.

The snow began falling around 2 in the afternoon and kept steady throughout the evening. When we dropped Joey off at basketball practice at 6 there was already a good inch or two of snow. We got back home and Tommy and Ben volunteered to go outside and clear the driveway for me. I was thrilled because I had pulled my shoulder earlier in the day and I was having a hard time lifting my right arm. I was not looking forward to shoveling heavy snow. With the boys clearing some of the snow away at night at least that would be a little less snow for me to shovel in the morning.  

Knowing how heavy the snow was I told the boys not to do the entire driveway (it is a big U shaped driveway) but just the part that leads down from the garage. The boys only had a small window of time before we had to go back out and pick up Joey again and it would have been a bit much.

Tommy and Ben worked together and did a great job. I was very thankful I had such willing volunteers. I made sure to give them extra cookies when they came inside and let them know exactly how thankful I was. When we went to pick Joey up from basketball the boys were proud of themselves for giving me a clear driveway to back out of.

As the evening wore on the snow kept up. I checked out the window one last time before bed and the boys' wonderful shoveling job was completely snowed over. I guess it was going to be an early morning for me.

Morning came much too quickly (as it always does) and I woke up extra early. I grumbled down the stairs, fixed myself a cup of coffee, and noticed that my shoulder was still a problem. I had a hard time lifting the coffee pot to pour my coffee. Shoveling was going to be a real pain. Literally.

I quickly slugged down my coffee and began to get ready to do some shoveling. Just then my boys came bounding down the stairs. Immediately, they threw on their snow pants, jackets, boots, hats, and gloves, and took off outside to clear the driveway for me. WITHOUT ME EVEN ASKING. WITHOUT ME EVEN ASKING, PEOPLE!!!!

Even as I was telling them that they didn't have to help, and that maybe they should just relax before school, they insisted that they wanted to do it and took off outside before I could say anymore. It was enough to make this mama cry. I sat inside my nice warm house with a cup of coffee in my hand and watched as my three boys made their mama's morning.
With the three of them working together the job was done in a half an hour. They cleared the driveway and the big pile at the end of the driveway. And just as they were finishing up the snow plow came through and deposited another big pile of heavy, wet snow at the end of our driveway. The boys went to work and cleared it for me once again.
The boys came back in the house to a breakfast of champions. They quickly ate, changed into their school clothes, and got their snowpants, hats, mittens, and boots packed into their backpacks, grabbed their lunches, and we were out the door without any time for my boys to relax.

I am so grateful for these wonderful helpers of mine. So thankful that my fine young men didn't mind waking up and immediately jumping outside into the cold to do some heavy lifting, because I sure did. They saved me from the tedious chore AND from further injuring my wounded shoulder. My little heroes.

What a lucky mama.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Every Year

It gets easier and then it gets harder.

The week before Thanksgiving is always the same. Baking, cooking, arranging, packing. And this isn't even for Thanksgiving. It is for deer hunting. Every year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving Todd packs up and heads to the cabin for a week for gun deer season. Every year I spend a whole lot of time helping him prepare the food for the deer camp. This year I made 150 cookies and a massive batch of applesauce. It was one of my lighter cooking years since I didn't make and soup or a main dishes.

It always makes me laugh how much effort it takes to help Todd leave me for a week. Honestly, I don't mind doing it (most of the time). It is the one thing that Todd really looks forward to every year and I'm happy he can have a little getaway with his friends. I knew this was the deal when I met him and I was prepared for it. My dad had the same tradition and I was used to it.

I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't admit that I used to love having that week to myself as well. I'd have the house to myself, watch as many chic flicks as I could, take long baths, eat all my favorite foods, hog the bed, sleep extra late (Todd is such a morning person), and be as lazy as I wanted. Many times I would have my friends over and we'd have a girls weekend. Sometimes I would drive to Minnesota to visit my best friend for the week. Basically, the week was a win/win.

Things changed a bit when Todd and I had kids. All of a sudden the week he was gone became a bit harder, especially when we had multiple children. I will never forget the year that Ben was just 6 months old. I had a 4 year old, a 2 year old and a little baby and all THREE of the kids were sick. And Todd was gone. For a week. After I had just spent days baking and cooking for him to leave I was stuck in the house with three small sick children. It was rough.

The first year we moved into our new house stands out in my mind as well. Joey was 6, Tommy was 4, Ben was 2 and Grace was just 3 months old. Wouldn't you know it 3 of the 4 kids were sick. We were in a new house. A big house. In a new neighborhood. My father had just died a few months earlier. I was feeling a bit lost. Displaced. It was not a great time. It was tough.

There were times when all the kids were healthy and it was still hard. The kids missed Todd. They wanted to go up north too. To keep everyone in good spirits I worked extra hard to make the week special. Most of the time it was little things. I'd change the kids' sheets to their fun flannel sheets and buy them special new jammies. We'd make blanket forts and rent kids movies to watch with bowls of popcorn. We would help pack and deliver Thanksgiving boxes to those in need. We'd take trips to the free zoo nearby. We'd play outside, go for long walks, buy a few dollar store toys. Basically, anything I could think of to keep the mood happy and light. Needless to say, it was exhausting. And there were certainly tough years. Years when Todd would come home and immediately I would want to run away. Run away from the kids, run away from myself and how poorly I "handled" them, run away from the boys telling me that they wished I would go away and daddy could stay. Yep. That one was probably the worst.

And then, slowly but surely, deer hunting week started to get easier again. As the kids got a little bit older we were able to do more and it was less stressful. And just as I was beginning to look forward to the week of deer hunting it changed again. Last year Joey went to deer camp for the first time and we were thrown out of whack once again. We were missing one of our crew. It felt off. And Tommy and Ben had a hard time thinking of Joey up there enjoying what they couldn't yet. I once again had to work harder to make the week special.

This year was Joey's second year at deer camp and Tommy's last year staying home with us. And it kind of hit me all over again. Just as this tradition became fun and easy it began to get difficult again. This time the difficulty comes in realizing that this time does not last. The time with the kids young and with me and HERE is fleeting. And it's going too fast.

Todd and Joey call to tell us how they are doing. As we wrap up our conversation Joey asks to talk to his siblings and I overhear him telling each of them that he misses them and loves them. He listens patiently to Grace as she tells him about her new LEGOS and he feigns enthusiasm at her stories. As I listen to the conversations I can hear a new maturity in Joey's voice and it makes me ache. I long for those crazy, hectic, awful, difficult, magical weeks with all four of my kids.

Today we are meeting at the halfway point to pick up Joey and bring him back home. Todd will stay for the rest of the week and come home the day before Thanksgiving (just in time for me to cram in some grocery shopping and cooking for the Thanksgiving we always host) but Joey needs to get back to school.

The kids are excited to see their big brother and I'm excited to have all four of my kids with me again. I'll do my best to make the next few days fun and magical because I know how quickly it goes by. I'll remind myself of this very thing when patience is short and my temper threatens. I'll remember that I only have a few years left before they will all be gone for the week.

Yes, I'll be happy to have my crew back. This is the easy part.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Another Last "First"

I am feeling rather melancholy as we experienced yet another last "first" in our house tonight.

Tonight Grace lost her first tooth. It is the last time we will have a child lose a first tooth in our house. It is a small thing, but life is made up on small things and so it feels like a big thing. And I tend to make big things out of small things, so there's that. 

The tooth had been loose for a week. I was relieved at the wiggling because Grace already had two big teeth coming in behind her baby teeth on the bottom. She had two rows of teeth! My little shark girl. It was time a few started to loosen. At first, the thought of losing a tooth terrified Grace. Then she remembered the Tooth Fairy and that helped a bit. But still, would it hurt? 

It turns out the tooth just popped out as she was wiggling it with her tongue. No pain whatsoever. Perfect! 
Grace was so excited and I was equally excited for her. The boys rallied around her and cheered and clapped for her first tooth, adding to her excitement.

Grace immediately went to work on her Tooth Fairy envelope. Yes, the Tooth Fairy is rather lazy around these parts and instead of leaving the tooth under a pillow it is put in and envelop on and hung on a door where the Tooth Fairy leaves the money. Genius. And lazy. Whatever.

Gracie decorated her envelope and was so excited to tape it to her door.
Before bed Gracie excitedly told me that she didn't think she'd be able to sleep tonight. She was so "cited"! She just knew she would see the Tooth Fairy's sparkly wings glowing beneath her door. "They sparkle, you know!" she said.

I hope the fairy can find some glitter to leave at the door so that Grace can see traces of the magic left behind.

Yes. Another last first. Our baby took yet another step away from babyhood. And meanwhile, I'm holding on for dear life.

Monday, November 17, 2014


I was not looking forward to the weekend, especially after the week that I'd had. What I wanted to do was run away from home, not pack up everyone's bags and hole up in the cabin together for the entire weekend. I wanted to get away. AWAY. I didn't want to be around anyone. Instead, I packed everyone's bags, got all the food together, got all the kids snowpants/hats/mittens/gloves/boots/coats together, and drove to the northwoods. It was probably a bad idea.

The week had been filled, and I mean FILLED, with errands, and meetings, and boy scouts, and basketball practices, and choir practice, and tons of homework, and 9 parent teacher conferences at two different schools, and more meetings, and dance class, and haircut appointments (one for the dog and one for me), and Ben's 1st Reconciliation preparation meetings, and Todd gone bow hunting, and me with a sinus cold. There was so much stuff I had to write hourly lists just to make sure I didn't miss a meeting or a pick up or drop off, or my mind. 

By the end of the week I was spent and I did not want to drive my 4 obnoxious children 3 hours to the cabin surrounded by 18 inches of freshly dumped snow. Kids. Snow. Cold. Trapped. Not great. Alas, that was the plan. 

Todd left early on Friday so that he could plow out the driveway before we got there. It was a smart idea seeing as how it took him 3 hours to plow out the driveway with the tractor. I can not imagine the kids waiting for 3 hours in the car, after the 3 hour car ride to get there, as Todd plowed a path to the cabin. 

Still, I was dreading the drive (actually the whole weekend). I normally like driving, but just that morning Tommy and I  had another huge blow out (man, that kid has got to be going through a phase because we have had our fair share of blow outs lately) and it put me in a foul mood the rest of the day. It was also my dad's birthday (he would have been 83) and I was feeling a bit melancholy and sad. Basically, I was in a mood. 

When the kids finally got home from school they sensed my mood.  They tried their best to listen and behave and soon after we got on the road all of the boys feel asleep. Grace was quiet for the boys and it was a peaceful ride for almost 2 hours until we stopped for dinner. The kids continued their good behavior at the restaurant and my mood started to turn around. 

By the time we got back in the car we were happily telling stories about grandpa and, as a tribute to him, listened to Frank Sinatra the rest of the way up north. These same little people that had me at my wit's end all week had managed to turn my nasty mood around. 

We finally arrived at the cabin just as Todd was finishing up the driveway. We dragged all of our stuff inside, turned on the heat, unpacked, got into our jammies, and relaxed for the first time in over a week. And despite my snuffy, phlegmy nose I slept great that night. 

The next morning I awoke to a crackling fire and a hot, steaming cup of coffee. The kids excitedly dragged me to the picture window to show me the fresh snow, and even though I wasn't ready to embrace winter just yet I had to admit it made a beautiful picture.
The kids rushed through breakfast and were begging to go and play out in the snow. Though it wasn't even 8 o'clock yet I bundled them up and sent them outside.
Hours passed and the kids finally came in for a warm up. It was 8 degrees outside and there were plenty of red cheeks and cold fingers to thaw. The snow clothes went into the dryer and the kids sat in front of the fire.

After an early lunch (we forgot to turn the clocks back since last we'd been there and I thought it was 11:30 but actually it was 10:30- which also means I got up at 6:30 instead of 7:30 like I thought-boo) I helped the kids back into their snow clothes and sent them back outside.
When I wasn't outside taking pictures, or handing out drinks of water, or adjusting mittens, or checking up on behavior, I was inside by the fire with a book. I only had a few minutes of peace at a time before another little voice would be calling from the back stairs for more water, or more help, or more shovels and sleds, but it was enough.

As I watched Tommy help his little sister it reminded me that even though he has had quite a few trying moments lately, he really is a great kid.
It reminded me to put aside the craziness and focus on the facts. Through the madness of all 9 parent/teacher conferences we did not have one teacher bring up any problems. Each teacher had nothing but positive things to say about my kids.
Joey, who has really struggled to adjust to the expectations and demands of middle school still managed to pull off all As and Bs on his report card. No small feat considering how challenging his classes are and what is expected of him. And all of his teachers praised his work ethic and his drive while laughing at his goofy personality.

My kids are thriving. They are learning. They are trying their best. And even when they are driving me crazy I need to remind myself just how lucky I am. Even in the difficult days/weeks, even through the tantrums and the sass, at the heart of it I really couldn't ask for more.
Though I was surrounded by freezing temps and mounds of snow I was toasty warm on the inside. Just like the grinch, my grumpy heart had grown three sizes that day.

The kids came in for the final time that afternoon and were treated to hot chocolate and cheese and crackers. We snuggled by the fire, we watched movies, and we played games.
After church on Sunday morning we packed up and drove back home. The ride back was just as peaceful as the ride up, perfectly rounding out our refreshing weekend.

I guess sometimes peace comes when you are least expecting it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WW- His Time To Shine

After years of watching his older brothers Ben finally got a shot at the Boy Scout boat regatta. The kid is full of hot air. He finished 4th in the race. Needless to say, he was thrilled to get his very own trophy. The kid has been in one pinewood derby and one boat regatta and got a trophy both times. How's that for lucky? Way to go, Ben!

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