Thursday, July 31, 2014

Birthday Boy

He will spend his birthday at work. He will leave work early and rush home so that I can get a haircut. Then he is off to a two hour informational meeting regarding our boys' upcoming football season. Tonight and this weekend will be spent hosting a few of my friends at our house because of my 20th reunion this weekend. And he is completely fine with all of it. Happy, as a matter of fact. He works hard. He prays hard. He loves hard. He is the rock of our family. Our "go-to" guy. And my absolute favorite.

Happy Birthday, honey!

Thursday, July 24, 2014


My kids have guts. They are brave. They have confidence. They are strong in who they are and what they want to do.

I hope they never lose that. 

Last night as I was driving to yet another baseball game Tommy informed me that coach was going to let him try pitching this game. Immediately I went into panic mode. Tommy is already the youngest on his "advanced" team and the team already has 3 very good pitchers. Tommy has NEVER pitched before nor has he practiced for it very much. What if he fails? Will that hurt his confidence? What if his team isn't supportive of his effort? What if the parents get mad? What if? What if? What if????

Of course I didn't voice my concern that way. Instead I asked him why he wanted to switch from 2nd base. "You're so good on second!" I complimented him. He didn't take the bait. He wanted to try pitching. "But you haven't really practiced pitching, hon." I warned. He told me he had practiced (when?) and coach said he could. That was the end of that conversation.

I dropped Tommy off at his pregame practice and then ran back to another ballpark to watch the remainder of Ben's baseball game. When Ben's game wrapped up we all jumped in the van and headed over to Tommy's game. 

Right as we were walking up to the ballpark Tommy was taking the field. As the pitcher. 

"Umm... Tommy's pitching." Todd said to me. 

"He told me he was going to pitch. Man, that kid has guts." I responded.

Todd walked up to the fence to shout encouragement to Tommy. Joey perched himself on top of the slide to get an optimal view and shouted "atta boy"s at him for every throw. Me? I think I held my breath the entire time Tommy pitched.  
Tommy did well. He walked a few of the batters but he didn't get flustered and proceeded to strike out two batters in a row and then caught a fly ball for the third out.
As Tommy hustled off the field I ran over to the bench.

"Woah. Where did that come from, Tommy? Good job!" I congratulated him.

"See! I told you I wanted to pitch!" Tommy said with pride.

"You were right! You definitely have more guts than I ever did when I was a kid. I'm impressed! Good for you!" I admitted.

Tommy, still small enough to hug me around the waist, squeezed me, smiled, grabbed his bat and took off to practice his swing.

As I walked back to my seat I thought about his courage. All of my kids' courage. How confident they are. How sure they are of themselves. Always willing to try new things. No fear. No worries about all eyes being on them. And I thought about my role in that. In supporting that. How careful I have to be not to put my fears onto them. How I have to applaud fearlessly whenever they want to step up, not come up with reasons they might not want to do it. I always tell my kids not to worry about failure (the biggest failure is not trying at all), but do I really support that as much as I should? Am I backing my words up with actions?

If I'm honest I was a little disappointed in myself last night. I was being a coward. And for no reason. I was so worried about my tender kids when they really are much stronger than I.

Tommy tried pitching.
Joey sings in front of the whole school.
Ben stands up to a bully on the playground.
Grace volunteers to dance in front of her class.

My kids are brave. They are confident. They are strong.

I could learn a thing or two from them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WW- Beauty

"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." 
-Anne Frank

"The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely."
-Louisa May Alcott

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Just The Ladies

The ladies had the run of the house this past weekend. The gents packed it up and went up north while Grace, Molly, and I stayed back at the house since Grace had a birthday party to attend on Saturday. It turned out to be a wonderful ladies' weekend.  
We started out the weekend in the backyard playing, reading, and hanging out in the sunshine. A good, relaxing time was had by all.

Next we made some cookies.  PINK cookies, thank you very much. I found a recipe for strawberry chocolate chip cookies and Grace and I thought we'd try them out. Let's just say they were a hit. The boys are lucky we were able to restrain ourselves enough and not eat the whole batch before they got back home. 
Grace was thrilled with the results. They were pink AND tasty. She had a difficult time waiting for the cookies to cool. She tried to be patient but eventually she started to get a little anxious. Give me a cookie, woman!

The rest of the weekend flew by. Grace went to the birthday party and had a blast and I was able to go for a run while she was there. Then we went to the farmer's market for some flowers and afterwards stopped over at my mom's house. My poor mother had yet another frightening health scare. She suffered a seizure in the middle of the night and ended up in the ER (thank goodness for her precious little dog who alerted my brother that something was wrong with mom). By Saturday morning mom was back home. Grace and I brought her flowers, cookies, and a few dog treats for her hero doggy.  

My mom has really been through it. One thing after the next. Multiple Myeloma, pericarditis, open heart surgery and valve replacement, a broken vertebrae (from her cancer meds) and cement injection to build the bone back up, and now seizures. If you could please keep her in your prayers I would very much appreciate it.  

Thankfully, my mother was feeling well after the ordeal. She is a tough cookie and has the best attitude. I just want her to catch a break here and be able to just be for a while without having to worry about any more medical emergencies and all the bills that come with it. 

Anyway, Grace and I visited with my mom for quite a while until my mom started to get tired. We left so she could catch a nap. By that time it was close to dinner so Grace and I went out to eat. We had such a nice time just the two of us. It felt really special. 

After that we went back home, snuggled up, and watch Frozen together.  Good times. 

The next morning Grace and I picked up my mom and took her to church. Afterwards we treated her to lunch. We were so glad she was feeling well enough to be out and about and joining us for part of our ladies' weekend. 

Medical emergency aside, it was a very good ladies' weekend.

All the menfolk are back home now and we are happy to have our family together under one roof again. A ladies' weekend is fun but we missed our stinky boys.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tiny Dancer

She bounds into the room, far too early for the late bedtime she'd had the night before, a bundle of energy.

"Why are you up so early? You should still be sleeping!" I tell her quietly so as not to wake her brothers.

"I am just so 'cited for my dance class today! I'm so so 'cited!" she tells me as she bounces up and down.

After traipsing all around town with us to support her brothers in their endless baseball games this summer (not to mention the basketball games in winter and the football games in fall) Grace finally has something of her own to look forward to.

Last summer Grace was in the Itty Bitty Ballet class. Each week she would try her best not to cry as I dropped her off at her dance class but she would be happy and excited again by the time I picked her up at the end of class. She really enjoyed her dance class.

This year I tried to sign her up for the same class but all of the classes were in the evening (when the plethora of baseball games were clogging up our schedule) so I knew that wouldn't work. Instead I found a tap/ballet class on Tuesday mornings. I wasn't sure how she would feel about tap but I figured tap/ballet was better than no dance at all.

The minute we got to dance class we had to buy Grace some tap shoes. Turns out new shoes that make a click clacky sound when you walk were just the thing to get Grace excited about tap. It helped that her big brothers were very impressed with the cool new shoes and slathered her with compliments and praise. Such supportive boys.

Grace took to the floor and click-clacked away with the rest of the class. It was so stinking cute. Unfortunately, the teacher asked that we not stay and watch so I only caught the very beginning. After a few minutes the boys and I waved to Grace and made our way out the door. Grace smiled, waved back, and went back to tapping. What a difference from the tears that used to accompany our good-byes last year.
The boys and I walked over to a nearby park and waited our time out there. As the boys played I read my book and thought back to last year and this very same scenario. I even wrote about it in one of my favorite posts.

Time flew by and soon it was time to get Grace. I went early so that I had a chance of sneaking in and watching a bit of the ballet part of class. I caught the last 5 minutes and watched as Grace listened intently and copied exactly what the teacher was doing. I was amazed at her posture and the grace with which she moved. She was definitely aptly named.
As soon as class was over Grace ran to me and gave me a big hug. She was so happy to be back in dance class. I told her how proud I was that she was working so hard, listening so well, and really trying her best. 

Grace clutched her tap shoes and ballet shoes to her chest with her right hand, grabbed my hand with her left hand, and together we skipped out of dance class, down the stairs, and out into the sunshine.
Way to go, my tiny dancer!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Start Again

Well, I'm glad that's over.

I look at everyone's lovely, happy, smiling pictures on Facebook and I can't help but wonder what their 4th of July was really like. Was it all sunshine and rainbows as it was portrayed? Or were the good moments captured on film and the rest swept under the carpet? I'm not gonna do that. We've got some jolly, happy pictures too, but they don't tell the whole story.

Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. And maybe that's the problem. Maybe I expect too much.

I've spent the last couple of weeks planning out activities and buying fun treats, glow sticks, fireworks, and making desserts to ensure we have the optimal amount of fun possible for the big day. But, and I'm sure you've already got this figured out, the optimal amount of fun was not had. It was not a great day.

It started out pleasantly enough. Todd headed out early to play golf with his uncles who were in town for the holiday. Seeing as how Todd enjoys a 3 hour parade as much as he enjoys getting punched in the gonads a dozen times I was happy to give him an out. I told Todd to go and have fun and I would take the kids to the parade.

The kids and I dressed up in red, white, and blue and took off for the parade. We were thrilled to find a prime spot sitting on the curb in the shade so that we wouldn't be squinting and sweating the whole time but we soon changed our minds. It was only about 62 degrees outside and a breeze was coming off the lake. We were freezing. I even had to run back to the car to get another blanket to cover up with. It was pretty ridiculous. The kids were whiny, Joey was being greedy and mean, Ben was annoying with his 18 billion questions a minute, Tommy was a grumpy pants, Grace was speaking at a DEFCON 1 level (why are you SO LOUD, little girl?), and I was super short on patience and barking at everyone. Snarl, snap, gripe, zing! Add to that the sassy little girls that were sitting next to us standing in front of us the ENTIRE time, and standing so far out into the street at times I was afraid they'd get hit by the cars and trucks going by, and it made for an iffy parade. My kids tried to be good but they were getting very frustrated with the girls stealing their candy and blocking their view the whole time. Even after I repeatedly asked the girls to step back so we could see it really didn't help much (and the parents seemed to think I was being rude). Ah well.
(The only way I could get any pictures was to get up, sidestep the little girls, and stand in the middle of the street.)

We ended up leaving the parade a little early (two plus hours was enough). We ran back to our house, grabbed a bunch of snacks, had a potty break, and dashed back out to our next activity, the cardboard boat regatta on the riverfront.

The kids were in a great mood because I was trying to be as fun as possible and I let them gorge themselves on their parade candy. They couldn't believe their good fortune as I usually limit the candy intake to just a few pieces. And, as luck would have it, because we left the parade a little early we got a fantastic parking spot and great seats on the boardwalk to watch the races.
The kids had never seen the cardboard boat regatta before and they really enjoyed it. It was a great show. Add in the snacks and they were happy little campers. Although we did have another odd incident with other people's kids again (like I don't already have enough incidents with my own kids). There was a boy (who kept giving everyone around him heart attacks because he was climbing all over the railing and almost falling in the water over and over again) sitting a ways away from Joey who kept coming over to us asking for food. I, of course, gave him the snacks (but I insisted he sit nicely if he was going to eat the snacks-which he would do for approximately 10 seconds), and then he came back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths. He had way more of our snacks than my kids did. Again, the parents were right there. So odd.

Anywho, oddness aside, it all went pretty well. We went home and had lunch and because of too many late baseball games and too many early mornings the kids were beat. I suggested we all lie down for a little bit since we were going to be up so late at night watching fireworks. The kids were surprisingly obliging and we all took little naps.

And then all hell broke loose.

I won't get into all of it (it was mostly feeling like I have to be on constant alert and can't trust the household to run without me for 15 minutes without everything and everyone going down in flames) but the end result was me throwing my hands up in the air, quitting, and leaving. For all of an hour. I felt like getting a few drinks in a bar but instead I went and sat in the cemetery at my dad's grave and then vacuumed out my van. I'm a rebel, people! Don't push me over the edge. I might just go sit in a cemetery and then clean when I'm done.

I was still angry when I got home that I gave everyone the silent treatment. And when we went to the fireworks I didn't even take my camera. That'll show 'em!

As it turns out it may have been one of the better times we've had at the fireworks. And I have zero pictures to document it because I was too busy punishing everyone. Punishing them by not talking and not taking pictures. I sure know how to stick it to 'em, don't I? Actually, I think they were all in heaven. Mom's not nagging or taking pictures? Awesome! I am so smart sometimes.

By the time the fireworks were over I was in a much better mood. I think it may have had to do with the cocktail I made myself beforehand and took to the fireworks with me in my travel mug (the travel mug my bff gave me that says, "Today I shall think evil thoughts and try not to say them out loud"). Might have been one of the smarter moves I'd made all day.

Everyone was happy and back on track when we got home and I even let the kids have treats and set off some fireworks of our own outside.

Kisses and hugs were given at bedtime and all was peaceful. All's well that ends well, right?

And that is how life is.  Yin and yang.  Good and bad. Push and pull. Happy and crappy.

We get up in the morning and we try it all over again. We try to have a fun day. We try to speak with kindness. We try to be examples. We try not to drive each other crazy. It isn't always easy. Many times it is really hard. You have in your mind this vision of how it is going to go. How grateful they will be for all the hard work you do and all the ways you show them you love them. But often it goes unnoticed. It is typical. It shouldn't be taken personally but I guess sometimes I just can't help myself.

I'm learning.

Today we tried again.

Today we went to the batting cages and then played mini golf. Half the time I was having a blast and half the time I was pulling my hair out. The kids waffled between being sweet and supportive of each other and whining and fighting and not listening.  It is what it is. These mini people are just trying to figure it all out too so I guess we'll have the back and forth. It isn't all roses and sunshine. It's hard work.

But we just keep trying.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Brotherhood And Baseball

A heart-melting moment for sure.

Joey had a baseball game tonight and because it fell on the eve of the 4th of July many of Joey's teammates were unable to make the game. The coach sent out an email letting us know the team was short a few players but the opposition was willing to lend us a few of their players, unless we could find a few subs on our own. I casually mentioned to Todd that maybe Tommy, though two years younger than Joey and his teammates, could sub in on Joey's team for the night.

Joey immediately bristled at the idea and voiced his objection. I think in the back of his mind (maybe so far back he didn't even know why he was objecting) he didn't want his younger brother to be on his level or even have a possibility of showing him up. Tommy, however, was thrilled at the idea of playing with the big boys.

All day long the discussion went back and forth between Tommy and Joey. They talked privately behind closed doors time and again. Finally, an hour or so before the game, Joey decided he really wanted Tommy on his team. You can imagine the pride Tommy felt in his big brother's acceptance.

The boys suited up and we all headed over to the ballpark. Joey and Tommy marched over to the coach and Tommy was welcomed on to the team for the night. The boys followed their teammates out on the field for a few pregame drills, took the outfield together, and caught pop-up after pop-up. Neither one of them missing a beat. They looked great.

I watched as they exited the field, talking and laughing with each other. True friends.

All throughout the game the boys were shouting words of encouragement to each other. Joey did a great job at catcher and Tommy was the first one off the field patting Joey on the back and telling him what a good job he did. Every time they walked by each other there was a high five or a pat on the back. It was true brotherhood, just the way every parent hopes and dreams it will be for their boys.

I'm sure Tommy must have been very nervous walking up to bat for the first time but his brother's shouts of support had to feel good. At their first at bat both of the boys made it on base. The player in between them got out on second and when Joey stole second on the next play I was able to get a great shot of the dynamic duo with Joey on 2nd base and Tommy on 3rd base.
The celebration after they both made it over home plate was so sweet and sincere it put a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

I have no doubt that if Ben were old enough to play, instead of cheering from the sidelines, all three bases would have been loaded with my boys and even more high fives, praise, and pats on the back would have been given on the sidelines.

I was so proud of my boys. Not only did they both play a heck of a game but their support and encouragement of each other was more than I could have imagined. The entire ride home was filled with kudos for each other. It was awesome. This mama's heart melted.

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