Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Our house looks like a funeral parlor. We received so many flowers this past week that we are literally running out of room for them. 

My body is rebelling. My muscles are all tensed up, stiff neck, sore back, and no matter what time I get to bed I still feel exhausted. Four out of the six of us have sore throats, and I really just think our bodies are trying to come down from being busy for so long. We are in recovery.

We are recovering from our crazy, busy, fantastic, and amazing weekend. Not only did we have the musical on Thursday and Friday, complete with a surprise visit from my best friend from Oklahoma and subsequent staying up 
(and out) 
far too late, we also had some other pretty special events happen as well.

This weekend Ben received his very First Holy Communion.
Ben was beyond excited. He kept saying, "I have been waiting my whole life for this day!" It truly was a special occasion. It was a little different from our past experiences where the children process down the aisle with a partner and meet up with the parents in the pew. This year the priest wanted the parents to follow behind the child as they walked down the aisle. At first I was a little disappointed I would be able to get a nice pic of Ben walking down the aisle but it turned out I liked it better. It made it more special to escort Ben down the aisle on his holy day. And Joey managed to get a picture of the three of us (although a little blurry).
Ben couldn't stop smiling all day. He said he felt so much different after receiving his First Communion. And now he can't wait to receive his 2nd, and 3rd, and 4th, and 400th! And that is what it's all about.
After the ceremony we went back to our house for a little party and some pizza and cake.
Ben received some very beautiful gifts and gorged himself on cake and ice cream. Before we knew it we had to kick everyone out so that we could get to our next special event. Grace's first ballet recital.

Grace was in tap and ballet this year so she was in a couple of different dances. The tap was a little iffy but the girl is a natural at ballet. It was pretty fun to watch. The way she holds her frame and moves through the positions is pretty impressive. 
 Grace is definitely aptly named. She is full of grace.
By Sunday evening we were all pretty wiped out. The exhaustion had definitely set it. It was a majorly hectic weekend. Hectic but wonderful. And one not soon forgotten.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Magic. Pure magic.

(practice, practice!)
After two months of rehearsing and memorizing and singing we were finally ready for opening night on Thursday. To say it went well would be an understatement. 

Before the show began I gathered my boys and told them how proud their theater loving grandpa is of them and how much fun he was probably having watch them. Right after I said that Tommy pointed out my dad's name (John R.) printed mysteriously beside us on a piece of masking tape. Magic. I couldn't stop the tears.

The show was magic, pure and simple. These kids had worked so hard and were so focused that everything went pretty well as planned. 
Everyone was on their A game.

Tommy was a fantastic munchkin and Joey was an amazing Tinman. I was such a proud mama. And so grateful to be able to have the once in a lifetime opportunity to share the stage with my talented kids and all the other wonderfully talented kids at this small school.
The comments from the audience afterward confirmed the performance. No one could believe that THIS MUCH talent could all come from such a small school.
It wasn't easy. The long, late nights of rehearsal. The lack of time. Joey's very difficult costume constantly cutting into his shoulders, my two sizes too small costume, the lion and the scarecrow sweating to bits in their costumes. But it was all worth it.
The kids were TROOPERS. They had to exit singing through the back of the auditorium, and then run up a back secret staircase, through the gym, and back down another staircase next to the stage in time to make their next entrance. And they did this multiple times. It was not easy for Joey, who could not bend his legs up and down the stairs, or for the other characters who were roasting, but they didn't complain.

The kids who weren't on stage waited patiently upstairs in the gym for their parts to come up and I helped keep everyone ready and prepped. There was a lot going on. As a matter of fact I started to get a migraine right after intermission BOTH NIGHTS. I quick took some Excedrin and pleaded with my father to help me through the show. I asked for Jesus to take my migraine away so that I wouldn't ruin the show (I usually get nauseous, can't speak, or see properly) and miracle of all miracles, I was fine. It never turned into a full blown migraine. I just had the auras and that was it. That NEVER happens. More magic. I was so grateful. 
The audience laughed and cried and gave us a standing ovation at the end. The kids were so thoroughly proud of themselves and gained so much confidence. I know this will be something they NEVER forget.
I was honored to be able to be a part of it.

I was able to get a bunch of really great pics with some of the cast as we waited backstage (in the gym, actually) before the show and at intermission.
(Glinda and Ms. Gulch)

(Munchkin #1, Glinda, Hickory)

(Dorothy and Glinda)

(Lion, Scarecrow, Dorothy, Tinman)

(Tinman, Glinda, Emerald City Chorus)

And just when I didn't think things could get any better, we came home from the play to find that my best friend (since 1st grade- that I've done a million plays/musicals with) drove 12 hours from Oklahoma to see us in the show. I was so shocked and moved that I nearly couldn't see through my tears. I was blown away. My BFF came all this way to see our school play. AH-mazing. 
(BFF and Me)
Friday night went just as good (if not better) than the first night. The audience was on fire hooting and laughing at every line and sniffing at the end when Dorothy had to say goodbye to her friends.
We were definitely riding a high after that performance.
(Joey and Wally-director)

And the night wasn't over yet. As if the fabulous directors (a husband and wife team) hadn't done enough for us already they also had planned a cast party after the show (families too). We stayed up far too late soaking in the last of the musical magic.
It was an absolutely fabulous experience. And one that I will always treasure.

(Hopefully I will have video soon to follow)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Just Another Manic Monday

And now is about the time when I start to freak out.

The past few weeks have been so busy and it all culminates this week.

Our kids' school had their big fundraising gala this past weekend. It is a major event which requires many hours of volunteer time in selling raffle tickets, getting donations, making class baskets to be auctioned off, selling admission tickets, securing food/entertainment/sponsors, securing more volunteers for the gala itself, and of course, decorations. I spent all of Friday morning helping to set up and decorate for the event and then I volunteered to work at the gala as well. Funny side note- the gala is always a costume-type party. Last year the theme was roaring 20s and Todd and I gussied ourselves all up and looked the part. This year is was Alice in Wonderland. I am not an Alice fan, and I didn't feel like trying to get my hands on some kind of elaborate costume, so Todd and I went as Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum. It was pretty funny because all of the ladies looked so fantastic in their dresses and fancy hats and I was in a yellow t-shirt, red suspenders, a blue bow tie, a spinny hat, and jeans. Ha! I'm such a dork.


Along with the preparation for that big event we are also preparing for Grandparents' Day at the school which is also a big deal and will occur on Friday the 24th. More volunteering as well.

Then, of course, we have Ben who will be receiving his First Communion on Sunday the 26th. I have yet to start making his banner with him or to even check and see if the suit that Tommy and Joe both wore for First Communion fits Ben. I suppose I should do that sooner than later.

Also on Sunday the 26th is Grace's ballet recital. So after church, and a party for Ben, we will all be heading back out to watch Grace in her first recital. Both the recital and the First Communion also have scheduled rehearsals on Saturday the 25th as well.

I also just found out that on Saturday Joey also has a major football meeting for the upcoming fall football season and he needs to be fitted for a uniform. So we have to get to that somehow as well.

None of this would be that big of a deal if we didn't ALSO have the musical going on. I don't know if you remember, but Joey and Tommy and I are all in the musical The Wizard of Oz. Rehearsals are from 6:30 until about 9:30 every night. This coming week rehearsals will begin at 5:30 because we are adding in costumes and makeup because the play will ALSO be this weekend on Thursday the 23rd and Friday the 24th.

Do you see what I'm saying here people?

Rehearsals every night until almost 10.
The play opens on Thursday the 23rd at 7. Cast needs to report at 5.
Grandparents Day at school (volunteer) Friday the 24th.
The play runs again on Friday the 24th at 7. Cast needs to report at 5. Cast party to follow performance.
Saturday the 25th Ben has practice at 10 in the morning for First Communion.
Saturday the 25th Joey has a meeting for football from 11-2
Saturday the 25th Grace has dress rehearsal for her ballet recital at 2 in the afternoon.
Sunday the 26th Ben has his First Communion at 10:30 and then a party.
Sunday the 26th Grace has her first ballet recital at 3.

Did you notice I didn't even mention homework in there? Because, yeah, there is a bunch of homework every day too. It is homework, quick eat, and then off to rehearsal. I am also a little panicked that the kids are going to get sick this week because Tommy had a nasty stomach bug last week that took him out for three days. We CAN NOT afford to be sick this week!

I have also been trying to destress by getting back into running and yet at the same time trying to find time for a run is just one more thing to add my schedule. And, I also will be turning another year older this week, so we can throw that in there too. And, to make me feel older, the pinched nerve in my back (although MUCH better thanks to my chiropractor) is not helping me at this busy time and is also making it very difficult to get any sleep at night.

So. Yes. It is a manic Monday today. I am working on deep breaths. And I keep reminding myself that at least all this madness is all FUN stuff. The musical is turning out to be pretty freaking fantastic. If I can get my hands on a video (it is supposed to be video taped at dress rehearsal on Wednesday) perhaps I will post a bit of it here for you all. For now, I'll tease you with a few photos.

Dorothy, the Tinman (my Joe), and Scarecrow

 Advertising (before Joey had the whole Tinman costume)

The Tinman costume. Not the easiest thing to move around in but it looks GREAT!

 See? Doesn't he look great? Once the makeup goes on it will really be fantastic.

No hair or makeup yet, but we're getting there!

Now if you'll excuse me I just remembered a few more things to add to my week's checklist. 

Hope your Monday isn't too manic!

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Week of Magic

A few years ago I made a shocking confession in one of my blog posts. The gist of the post was that I had little to no desire to take my kids to Disney World. Disney always seemed like a big commercial money suckhole for people who were suckered into thinking it was a MUST to be a good parent. I could think of so many more fun family vacations that I would rather spend my money on than Disney. Basically, I was bucky because I don't like being told I must to anything. 

Long story short, Todd's mom rented a 3 bedroom condo in Florida this year (where a bunch of her siblings also stay in winter) and wanted us to come down and visit her during our spring break. Seeing as how that would take care of our lodging Todd and I figured that if we were ever going to take the kids to Disney now would be the time to do it. This way, instead of spending thousands of dollars on a week-long trip we could just buy a day pass and find out if it would be worth another trip back.

We looked into all the nearby attractions (the condo was located a half an hour from pretty much EVERYTHING- it was perfect) and the kids were most excited about Legoland and Universal's Harry Potter World and were just moderately excited about Disney. We ended up purchasing a one day pass for each of those three places figuring this would be the best way to take the kids without having to remortgage our house (although the day passes were fairly insane on their own).

We decided to drive down so that the kids could see and visit a few other states. We took the kids out of school on Friday and left at about 4:00 in the morning. The kids are very good travelers and save for an upset stomach (Tommy had to stop to use the bathroom three separate times for tummy issues, and vomited in the car once as well) there were no issues. The traffic was INSANE around Atlanta and we got to our hotel a bit later than we had planned but we were all in good spirits. The hotel was fantastic (kids eat FREE, people!) and we all got some much needed rest. The next day was more of the same (with less vomit and poo) and we finally got to our destination at 4:55 in the evening. By 5:10 the kids were in the pool finally able to get their energy out.
The condo was lovely, right in front of the pool, with plenty of room for everyone. We all slept soundly and woke the next morning, Palm Sunday, to get ready for church. We just had to take a picture of us in front of palm trees right before Palm Sunday mass.
After church we took the opportunity to relax for the rest of the day. The kids (and Todd and I too) swam the entire day until it began to get dark. Yay! for hot weather and a swimming pool.
The next morning we were up early again to make our way to Disney World. I'll admit it was pretty exciting walking into the park with my family. I was excited for them and hopeful that it would be something magical that they'd always remember.

We got to Disney just after the gates opened and were able to get on a few rides right away. We saw three parades, rode as many rides as we could, and took in the sights. By midafternoon to evening it was so crowded we could barely move. And hot. Very hot. By the end of the day we had rode every ride we could manage (the favorites were Space Mountain, Great Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Speedway, and the Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin) and everyone was exhausted. The kids enjoyed themselves and I would call it a success.

However, I still think it is overrated. I was pretty shocked at how unfriendly all the workers there were. At one point, while we were in line for Space Mountain, I had asked a worker if there was a bathroom Tommy could use. She said no but said he could get out of line and sent him down a hallway. When I stepped out of line to wait for him I was told that she had sent him outside into the park to look for a bathroom by himself. I had assumed she was letting him use an employee bathroom nearby. I ran out to try and catch up with him and was lucky enough to find him wandering around lost. It was INSANE. Of course he had no idea where a bathroom would be and he asked multiple workers who ignored him. Sending a 10 year old out into the park, no idea of where he is going or how to get back to his family still inside in line seems wreckless. Nuts, man. The people serving food weren't friendly, the workers on the rides weren't friendly. It really was a surprise. I thought it was supposed to be "the happiest place on earth". It was bizarre.

I never saw the big deal of Disney when I went as a teenager but everyone told me that going with my kids and watching their faces light up would make it more special. However, their faces didn't really light up. Grace liked seeing the princesses in the parade and the kids liked the rides a lot but this wasn't something that blew their minds. I definitely had more fun this time around, with my family, than I did when I had gone before. And, we were all happy we went, but it isn't something we feel the need to do again. We went into it hopeful and excited but my initial feelings about it were confirmed. Overrated. For our family, anyway. We were all satisfied with just our one day there.
By the time we left Disney World we were all exhausted. Our feet were practically swollen and poor Grace had fresh blisters. It was a long day. 

But no rest for the weary!

The next morning (this time we got to sleep in a little) we went to Legoland. I swear the kids were more excited about Legoland than they were about Disney. I didn't think it would be a big deal but the park was pretty amazing. It was MUCH bigger than I had expected and had far more rides and roller coasters than I had anticipated. And the lines were cake! We only had to wait for about 20 minutes, many times less than that. 
There was so much to see and do. The roller coasters were pretty impressive. The displays blew our minds. The kids got to ride their own Lego cars on a cool driving course and then got their Lego drivers licenses. 
In Lego Miniland there were replicas of famous cities and building from around the US. I have to say, this was one of my favorite parts. I think I spent far more time here than my family wanted me to but I was blown away. It was pretty amazing what was made out of Legos and how much the buildings looked like the real things.
By the end of the day the kids were very sad to leave. They all loved Legoland. And so did I.
The next day was what I had been looking forward to. Universal. I had never been to Universal before and being a huge Harry Potter fan made this a very exciting day.
Universal proved to be worth the wait. And it turns out, we didn't even get to 90% of the park. But, Todd and I did manage to get on one of the biggest roller coasters in the park, The Hulk. We had just entered the park and saw that the line was only 10 minutes. We couldn't pass it up. We took the "single riders" line which got us through even faster. Our kids chickened out on this one but Tommy did spot us and snapped a picture of Todd and I on the roller coaster with my camera that I left in his care. Nicely done, Tommy! I am in the third row far right. And Todd is in the sixth row far right. I can tell by the clothes we wore.  
It was probably a wise decision for the kids not to go on this one. It was pretty wicked. But it was awesome.

Next up, Harry Potter World.

It. Was. Amazing. 

I could not believe the scale of Hogwarts. It was incredible. And the ride inside was fan-freaking-tastic. Unfortunately, Grace wasn't tall enough to ride but she had a lot of fun waiting in line inside the castle. They had so many cool things to see and watch while in line. Dumbledore, at the balcony in his room, spoke to us. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were in one of the classrooms talking to us. There were the talking paintings, the Sorting Hat. All kinds of cool stuff. It definitely made waiting more fun.
After that we took the Hogwarts Express to London and then entered the brick wall to Diagon Alley. It was so freaking cool, I can't even tell you. I was geeking out. We all were. We went into Ollivander's and we each picked out our own wands. Or rather, they picked us. ;)  We walked around for quite a while and then decided to eat at the Leaky Cauldron. It was fantastic. Very cool atmosphere and delicious food. The best fish and chips ever. And the butterbeer? Wow. So good.

Every single person at Universal was so amazingly friendly. The workers were fantastic. They had us laughing and smiling the whole time. They bent over backwards to make sure we had a great time. When Joey had left his sunglasses on the Hogwarts train they went out of their way to find them and return them to us. They were terrific! And they were all so into playing their roles. I had set my video camera on a tray that a worker was going to take for us and he handed it to me saying, "Is this one of your muggle devices?" Cracked me up.
We had a wonderful time. It was the best. We all agreed that Universal was definitely our favorite place we had visited and that we would love to go back again and spend more time there. We bought plenty of souvenirs to remind us of our time at Universal and Harry Potter World. This is one of my favs:
After I got home I realized it was even a more relevant mug for me because of my current role as Glinda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz.  Ha!

Anyway, we were sad to leave Universal but there was more fun to be had. 

The next day we drove to Cocoa Beach. We wanted to have a nice relaxing day for our last day in Florida but we just couldn't leave without letting the kids see and play in the ocean, so off we went. It was a little further away than we would have liked (about an hour) but it was worth it.
It was a gorgeous beach with clean, soft sand, and plenty of seashells for the kids to harvest. We had a blast diving into the waves and playing in the water. It was the kids' first time seeing and playing in the ocean and they had more fun than they thought they would. The loved it. They were a little apprehensive at first, thinking of sharks, but they braved their initial fear and ended up falling in love with the ocean.

I, of course, do have a fear of sharks, and was constantly scanning the horizon. At one point I saw a fin. I froze for a second, wondering if that was indeed what I saw, and then saw a swarm of fins. It was a POD OF DOLPHINS. I couldn't believe it. And they weren't far from us. It was so bizarre. Especially since the whole car ride to Florida Grace talked about how she wanted to see dolphins when we went to the ocean. I kept telling her that you don't really see them from the beach but she just kept saying, "Well, maybe we'll see them jumping out of the water!" And we did! Awesome.
When we got back from swimming in the ocean that afternoon the kids went swimming in the pool. Little water bugs. And, oh by the way, Grace taught herself how to swim. She had forgotten her lifevest in the condo and didn't feel like getting out of the pool to go get it so she stayed in the shallow end. Next thing you know she is running over to me saying, "Hey mom! I can swim without my floatie! Watch this!!!!" And sure enough. She is doing the front crawl. ALL. THE. WAY. ACROSS. THE. POOL. I couldn't believe it. She has amazing breath support. I jumped in the pool with her and showed her how to swim under water and the next thing you know she is doing the breast stroke under water. Dang. These kids are growing up SO FAST!
It was a long day but we had decided to leave that night instead of very early the next morning to head for home. We figured it might be better to drive all night when the kids could sleep (and we could avoid Atlanta traffic) and then just drive all 20 hours in a row to get home Friday evening. It was difficult. Todd and I were exhausted. And I ended up getting a pinched nerve by my shoulder blade (that for about an hour I thought was actually me having a heart attack- the pain was so bad and I couldn't catch my breath) which made it impossible to sit for the last 5 hours, but we made it. And leaving at night and driving straight through turned out to be the best decision. The kids slept through the whole night while we drove and we were home by 3:30 on Friday afternoon.That gave us a lot more time to rest up and relax before Easter. I immediately unpacked everyone when we got home (I need order, people), made a run to the grocery store, fed the kids dinner, got our animals back from Todd's sister who was watching them, and then proceeded to crash. I couldn't even get through some of my shows I was so eager to watch.

Friday night I went to bed at 8:30 and got up the next morning around 9. Trying to make up for lost sleep, I'm sure. Saturday the kids played outside while I did not much of anything at all. I tried to move as little as possible, both from my sore shoulder and the remaining exhaustion. In the afternoon the whole family sat down to watch Harry Potter and remarked how we felt like we were really part of the movie now that we had "been there". 

Saturday night we managed to dye some eggs. That was a major feat for me. I was thinking of skipping it this year. I had so little energy to be excited about eggs, but we did it nonetheless. After the eggs we watched the Badgers' victory over Kentucky and the night was satisfyingly complete.

The next morning the kids were up bright and early searching for Easter baskets. Candy was gorged on, even Molly got a treat, and then it was off to church. It was a beautiful mass. After church we went to brunch with my side of the family. 
A good and silly and yummy time was had by all. It was a very Happy Easter.
Today poor Todd returned to work and the kids spent the day outside. I edited all of our pics from vacation and drank far too much coffee in my new Witch mug. Tonight I will attend choir rehearsal (which was rescheduled because of the big game) and then rush home to watch the Badgers in the National Championship game. We are filled with nervous energy.

Tomorrow it is back to the real world. School, and musical practices, and boy scouts, and homework, and ballet classes, and First Communion, and recitals, and meetings. But, thankfully, we will have enough warm memories (and pictures and videos, of course) to remind us of our magical week.

It was a great spring break.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

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