Monday, October 27, 2014

Flying Through Fall

We are quickly making our way through October. Before you know it Halloween will be over and November will be upon us.

Here we are, almost to Halloween, and we haven't had one opportunity to get to the pumpkin farm. If our schedule wasn't keeping us away it was the weather. There just was never a good moment to enjoy one of our favorite fall activities.

This weekend was our last chance to get in some pumpkin farm fun and this time we were granted the most perfect fall weather. Saturday was warm and sunny with just enough wind to cause the remaining orange and yellow leaves to cascade out of the trees in huge luminous sheets.

Even this weekend proved to be a challenge in getting to the pumpkin farm. Todd was up north, Joey had a football awards ceremony, the kids had homework. Still, we managed to make it work.
It was a long awards ceremony (2 hours) but it was fun seeing Joey up there with his coaches and teammates one last time and listening to them all hoot and holler for Joe when his name was called. Plus, it was kind of neat being in my old high school again and pointing out to my kids where my dad's photo hung in the school. They thought it was pretty cool to see their grandpa up on the wall of fame, too.

Still, once the ceremony was done the kids were more than ready to leave. We did not stop at home. We did not pass go. We went straight to the pumpkin farm. We had waited long enough.

Fun was had, people. Fun was had.
The kids obliged me and sat for a few seconds so that I could get our annual family pumpkin patch picture. Unfortunately, because Todd was up north it was not really our whole family, just the kids. But, beggars can't be choosers, right?

The kids ran around picking out pumpkins, apples, pies, and cider. They pet all the animals and played in the haystack maze for hours (I should have brought a book). By the end of the day the kids were tuckered out. Still, we went back home, picked up our Molly, and took her to the dog park for a bit of exercise.

We rounded out the night with pizza and a nice warm fire as we watched Halloween themed cartoons. It was a fantastic fall day.

The next day Todd came back home, heard all about our fun at the pumpkin farm, and decided the weather was so wonderful another trip back to the pumpkin farm was a great idea. Besides, he knew how much I wanted to get my family picture.

Needless to say, the kids were thrilled to be going to the pumpkin farm two days in a row.

There was more feeding of animals, more haystack maze, more apple goodies (pie!!), and more pictures.
 We even managed to get our annual family pumpkin patch picture.

As I placed our new family picture over the top of last year's picture in the frame I couldn't help but look back at past years' photos. Ten years worth of fall family photos taken at this orchard. I saw just how fast each of those years came and went. Amazing how quickly the falls flew by.

It may seem silly to make such a big deal out of getting this picture every year but I just feel like I have a limited amount of years left when the kids will happily go along on little family trips. Soon the family outing to the pumpkin farm won't sound so appealing to my kids. Soon they will forgo the pictures and trips and opt for hanging out with their friends instead. It is the order of things. The way it goes.

But for now, I'm going to enjoy it. I'm going to capture it. I'm going to remember it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Party Time

Each year the kids' school puts on a Halloween party complete with tasty food, sweet treats, a dj, a haunted house, pumpkin contest, games, crafts, and a costume contest. Last year my little stinkers took home first prize for the best group contest. You may remember me posting the pics...
I knew that there was pretty much no way we could do better than those costumes from last year so the pressure was off. This year the kids just dug through our huge bucket of costumes and picked out something that suited them.

Grace ended up being Belle (and really, she did look so much like Belle. I wish I would have gotten a good shot of her hair all done up in a bun with curls coming down- she was THRILLED), Ben was Harry Potter (even though there were three other Harry Potters at the party and some of them with authentic ties and scarves and cloaks, ah well- Ben was the only one with the SCAR!), Tommy went as a creepy ghost, and Joe went as Jason (even though he has never seen the movies). 
Joey had planned on going as a bumblebee as a joke. He put on this bumblebee costume (toddler sized) and it made us laugh so hard. He was really excited to wear it until he told his friends at school about it and they didn't really get it. Dang. I still got a couple of funny pics of him in the costume, though. Possible blackmail? 

Of course I had to dress up because I am a gigantic nerd and I love Halloween. This year I decided to pick a costume that would be a bit like therapy for me.
I decided to be a clown.

When I was a kid my mom made me wear a clown costume (it was my brother's hand me down) on Halloween for approximately 4 years in a row until my bff stepped in and offered me one of her extra costumes. I hated that clown costume. Mostly because I was terrified of clowns and it seemed like a cruel joke to make me dress up as one.

I hate clowns. I mean hate. There are very few things I am afraid of and clowns are definitely on that short list. I am terrified of clowns.

It started in Kindergarten when Ronald McDonald came to visit our class. He was enormously tall and I was sitting on the floor in the front row. He kept bending down putting his makeup caked face right in my face and talking to me. He smelled like sausage. And looking back now I think he was drunk. He kept saying things that didn't make sense ("Promise me, kids, that when you are old enough to drive and you see a yellow light you will SLOW DOWN!!!"). Even the teachers were looking at each other wondering what he was doing. He scared the crap out of me and thus began my fear of clowns.

Stephen King did not help my fear either, if it needs to be said.

So, anyway, I decided to dress up as a clown this year and see if that would have any affect on my silly fear of clowns.

Nope. No affect. As a matter of fact, as I was putting on my makeup I was trying to make it more cutsey and yet every time I stood back and took a look I thought, "Nope. Still creepy." Ugh. Stupid clowns. Stupid costume.

Despite our less than thrilling costumes we still managed to have a good time at the party. Joey disappeared to hang with his friends and Tommy, Ben, and Grace made approximately eighteen thousand crafts for me to carry home. The kids stuffed their faces with spookey treats, screamed through the haunted house, danced up a storm, and ran around after their friends.

Overall, I'd say the party was a success.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WW- Fans

 Annual Packer Pics 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WW- The View

A bench with a view.
(This one is for Betty)

A tree with a view.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Hunter's Heart

(Caution: There is a sensitive hunting picture at the end of this post.)

I know many people don't understand hunting. I know the negative connotation that comes with it. I know there are a few hunters out there (kill for sport types) that give the rest of the hunters a bad name.

Having grown up around hunters, and marrying into a hunting family as well, I know what really lies in a hunter's heart.

True hunters are conservationists. They take care of the land, tend the land. They make sure the land is healthy and the animals in it thriving because they know how delicate an ecosystem can be.

When I am describing hunters to someone who is not familiar with the way of life I often bring up the American Indians. They were the ultimate hunters and yet they worshiped the land and the animals in it. The land and animals were sacred to them. True hunters are the same way.

My whole family is full of animal lovers. And hunters as well. I have spoken with many people who are opposed to hunting and they just can't understand how a person can be both, but it is true. I have so many memories of my father saving baby birds or squirrels or a baby deer. I know Todd and his father have always done the same. I love seeing videos of hunters saving animals in a river or caught in a trap. True hunters appreciate animals and nature and want to see them thrive. Population numbers are carefully watched (and also regulated by the DNR who only give out so many hunting tags per season according to the numbers) to ensure the species remains strong.

It is not easy to kill an animal. Todd has told me numerous times that the older he gets the more he appreciates the animal's sacrifice and it makes him teary eyed every time. The animal's life is a gift to us and we are thankful. It is not taken lightly.

Many people say we should just go to the store and buy our meat like everyone else. But I feel that now, more than ever because of all the hormones and fillers in meat, hunting is a healthier way to eat. Last year Todd did not get a deer and we definitely missed that meat.

For Todd hunting is his zen. He can get up at 4:30 in the morning when it is still dark, climb up in his tree stand, and sit there all day until it is dark once again. He listens to the wind sifting through the leaves, he watches the raccoon and turkeys pass by underneath him, he silently chuckles as the chickadees and gray jays get closer and closer to him, checking him out. He is happy seeing the mother doe with her fawn and watches the young yearling scamper by him, unaware of his presence above them. He is content to let them pass. He feels one with nature. Just sitting. Even if he doesn't see a deer all day he comes home with a lightness to him and a calm smile on his face.

Hunting is a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation as well. Skills, information, stories are all transferred to the up and coming hunters. It is a father/son bonding (although in my family it isn't just sons, there are many, MANY mothers and daughters that are skilled hunters as well). Father passes on information and skills to his son (or daughter) that he received from his father who received that same information from his father as well. It is a history.

This past weekend Joey and Todd packed up the truck and went up north for the youth hunt (an opportunity for kids to hunt with an adult). This is Joey's second year participating and though he didn't see any deer last year he had such a great time that he knew he wanted to go again.

This year Joey saw a deer.

The first thing Joey did was pray over the deer and thank God for the animal. I could not be any prouder.

Hunting is not for everyone. I don't feel the need to try it. I like shooting guns but the only thing I could shoot an animal with is my camera. I wouldn't want to be a hunter, but I'm thankful for the hunters in my life. I'm thankful that they know the responsibility they have in being a hunter and that they take it seriously. I'm thankful Todd is the type of outdoorsman and hunter who can show our children the respect, responsibility, and gratitude nature deserves. And I'm thankful that my son is now yet another example to me of a grateful and respectful hunter's heart.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seek Joy

I drove down the road through a car wash of honey and rust colored falling leaves. The light seeped through the tunnel of trees and reflected off the fluttering leaves as they danced across my windshield spilling onto the road. It was a moment of pure joy.

A smile spread across my face and I just couldn't help but gasp at the beauty unfolding in front of me.

I had a moment.


I have been actively seeking joy lately. Seeking joy in all things. 

Sometimes that is easier said than done.

Recently I realized I had been suffering a hormonal imbalance for the last few years. This past summer it came to a head in both physical and emotional ways. Weight gain, horrible skin, sleepless nights, feelings of anxiety, extreme moodiness, grouchiness, and quick temper all seemed to plague me and wore themselves on me like a heavy cloak. Like depression. 

Todd noticed. I'm sure the kids noticed. And eventually I noticed. 

I had previously attributed my exhaustion and moods to motherhood (not to mention the last few years have been tough ones for our family). Taking care of a family of six is not easy. It can wear on a person. But I wondered when I began feeling like my life was more of a chore than a blessing. When did I become a person who is always noticing the bad and overlooking the good?

I used to be a very joyful person. I used to be a very upbeat. I always had boundless energy. I was quick to make a joke, always ready to laugh. I was always busy and I thrived on it. I was spontaneous and, to be honest, I was a blast. I was always able to find joy in simple things and have fun at any moment.

I wanted to get that back again. I wanted my kids to know that person better. I wanted to be more like the person Todd first fell in love with. I didn't want to feel like I was faking my way through the "fun" days or having to try so hard to be happy and relaxed.  I didn't want it to feel like such work.

I researched how to balance hormones naturally and started taking supplements. It has only been a month and I can definitely feel the difference. I am already more relaxed, more energetic, more patient, and more myself.

I wouldn't say I'm back to the old me yet but, hopefully, I am on my way. Once the physical issues resolve themselves there is still work to be done. Life is not easy. There will always be worries and issues.

Being joyful and happy takes practice. I think it needs to be pursued. I think a conscious effort needs to be made. Negative thoughts need to be quickly stamped out and replaced with the positive. The more I think it the more it will happen. I'm working on it.

I am seeking joy in all things.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Surf City?

In the small little county where I live we are known for our brats, cheese, and toilets. What people may not know is that my tiny midwestern city is also known as the #1 fresh water surfing site in the world.
Just a few miles down the road from my house is a beach where surfers like to catch some waves.
I drive by the beach pretty much every day as I take Grace to and from her ballet class, go to a yoga class, drop the boys at school, or even just run errands.
Most mornings Grace and I sit at the lake and read in between the boys' school drop off and her school drop off.
No matter what the weather, how early or late in the day, if there are waves there are surfers.
The kids and I comment how we would like to learn to surf. So far the cold water has kept me away. Cold water, but no sharks, so I guess that is a pretty good trade off.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Randomly We Go

-I went outside to the backyard to check on the kiddos and found them stalking around their fort with long pointy sticks in their hands. And no shirts on. I asked them why, in 60 degree weather, no one had their shirt on and Grace told me, "We are playing 'Naked and Afraid'!" Hmm... I suppose I should be grateful they still had their shorts and shoes on.

-Is anyone else super spooked out by the fact that Facebook automatically tags everyone in a group picture? That completely freaks me out. How on earth do they know who the people are simply by the images? And all the of the names on the tags were correct! CREEPY!

-It is pretty funny how much time Todd spends going hunting and seeing NOTHING when every night we come home there are deer eating my flowers in our front yard. Last week I looked out the front door and saw approximately 20 huge, big, fat turkeys walking across our lawn. The other day it was geese. I feel like we are living in a wildlife reserve or something. All these animals seem to KNOW they are protected and they aren't even afraid of us. They actually look indignant when we walk by them.

-We finally broke down and turned the heat on this morning. I almost turned it on yesterday when the inside temperature read 63 degrees but I made a fire instead. It worked. However, the husband, being the smart man that he is, knew I wouldn't be able to get out of bed this morning without the furnace kicking in. I guess this clinches it. Crisp fall weather is here.

-Life is moving faster than I can keep up with. Tommy just wrapped up his last football game on Saturday (an undefeated season!) and though Joey and Ben still have a few weeks of football left I can almost feel our schedule easing up. Just in time for my choir rehearsals to begin. And basketball season. And Boy Scouts (anyone need popcorn?). And deer hunting. And... oh just nevermind.

-I have been avoiding cyberland lately. There always seems to be such negativity swirling around. You can't read a silly article without someone making a nasty comment or people exploding into political arguments and such. It is exhausting. I have such little free time lately that I don't want to waste it on the computer. It seems the more time I spend away from the computer the happier I am. Coincidence? I think not.

-Yoga, yogalates, and running take up a bit of my mornings now, then errands (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning) and before I know what happened it is time to pick Grace up from school. If I have any spare time while Grace is napping (usually scarf down lunch, yard maintenance, clean up some more, and take a shower) I grab a book and read for a little while until the boys get home. Once the boys get home it is homework palooza around here. Helping three boys simultaneously takes every bit of energy and patience and understanding and strength I have in my body. The homework is not easy and there is always plenty of it. For now I'm just glad I can still help the 6th grader with his math. Soon enough that won't be the case. By the time we are done with all the homework it is a quick dinner and then off to football practice/games. Run, run, run. And people wonder why I never look forward to school starting. Ugh.

-As I mentioned, I've been reading a lot lately. I just finished Gone Girl. Interesting book, but I have to say, the ending ruined it for me. I hated the ending. Loathed the ending. I would really like to see the movie but I'm afraid of the ending. I've heard the ending in the movie is different from the book but I don't know if it is different enough to satisfy me. What did you think of the book? Loved it? Hated it? Indifferent? What about the movie? Have you seen it?

-I am nearing the end of my list of "must reads". I need to make a new list. Any suggestions for me? What have you been reading lately?

-The kids were eating some leftover fortune cookies and Todd read Grace her fortune.  "You will be unexpectedly successful in business." Todd recited. Grace worriedly complained, "Is this for real? So, I have to go into business now?"

And this concludes my strange and random rambling. For now.

So, what is randomly going on with you?

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