Thursday, January 21, 2016

Like A Lion

January came in like a lion, fiercely roaring with wickedly cold weather and hectic schedules and new worries. It took us a little while to adjust and focus and we are finally getting into the swing of things again after the long holiday break. And thankfully the weather is finally giving us a little break and warming up. Things are looking up.

We started out the month with some stressful extended family problems (which aren't even worth getting into but caused me a great deal of angst) but even more worrisome was a sudden medical issue. As most of you probably remember Ben had eye surgery a few years ago to straighten out his eyes. The surgery was fairly successful in straightening out his eyes but the left eye has an almost undetectable tilt to it yet. You wouldn't notice in real life but you can sometimes see it in pictures. His left eye often has red eye while the other eye does not (because it is slightly turned it may catch the light from the flash differently than his right eye). Anyway, recently I noticed that the left eye was showing up white in pictures.
(if you click to enlarge the picture you can see the white eye)

A few weeks ago I read a post on Facebook saying that if you see that in your child you should immediately get him to an eye doctor because it is the number one indicator for cancer of the eye. Eye tilting is another indicator.

Of course I was alarmed. I reasoned that it is most likely just a coincidence from the eye's slight inward tilt and that Ben's eyes have been thoroughly checked and they were healthy. But the cautious side of me decided to set up an appointment with the doctor who did his eye surgery, just in case. When I called for an appointment I was told appointments were booking a month and a half out. When I explained the situation the receptionist called the doctor (she wasn't in that day) and they set up an appointment for me to bring Ben in the very next day. That was a little unnerving. The doc assured me that it was probably nothing but she didn't want me to sit around worrying.

The next day I took Ben in for his appointment (he thought it was just a routine eye check). I am VERY grateful to announce that his eyes are perfectly healthy and his vision is still better than 20/20. I can't tell you the relief. It was a stressful few days but it all turned out well. I am so glad I made the appointment just for our peace of mind. The whole situation helped me to put the rest of my "worries" in perspective.

The rest of the month has been less worrisome. We have been crazy busy but it is all good stuff.

Grace has been pestering me to cut her hair. Her hair is SO long that I thought maybe she could grow it out just a little more and then donate the hair we cut to Children With Hair Loss. She liked that idea but just didn't have the patience to wait for her haircut. So, I finally gave in and cut her hair.
It turns out we probably could have donated her hair if I had just cut a little more off. I ended up cutting about 6 inches off but by the time I evened everything up all the way around it was closer to a total of 8 inches off. And she still has plenty of hair to put in a ponytail or to make a braid. I must admit, I was skeptical of cutting it, but it really is adorable. And so much easier to brush through! No more tears over snarly hair! Grace also decided she wants to try and grow her bangs out so we are training her bangs to part off to the side. We'll see how long this lasts. I have a feeling she is gonna get real sick of the midlength bangs getting in her face as they grow out. For now, however, her hair looks really cute.

Speaking of really cute. Grace is on the junior cheerleading team at school and their uniforms have finally come in. I had to get pics of Grace's first time cheering in her new uniform. Have mercy she looked adorable!!!!
She just loves being a cheerleader and cheering on her brothers at their basketball games. Too cute.

As if we aren't busy enough with basketball and cheerleading and Boy Scouts and school work and Science Fair projects (don't even get me started on this one), Joey and Tommy and I tried out for the school musical again. This year the school will be performing The Lion King Jr.
As I mentioned last year, these are not typical school plays. These are theater company quality shows. We are so lucky to have a director and producer who have majors in theater and amazing theater backgrounds and who are willing to donate their time to our little school. They really know what they are doing. Over the years (I think this is the 6th?? show) the shows have gotten bigger and better every year. This year over 60 kids tried out and I'm sure they would have had more kids willing to try out but it is only open to kids in grades 4-8 (much to my Ben's dismay).

Joe and Tommy did a great job practicing the songs. The Lion King is not one of the movies we are very familiar with. I had to rent it again just to refresh the kids' memory of what it was about. Tommy took auditioning VERY seriously and practiced over and over and over and over. He thought he would be a good fit for the role of Pumba. And I have to admit, he really cracked me up when he read the part. He did a great job. But part of the reason he wanted that part was because Pumba doesn't sing much. Tommy always told me, "singing isn't my thing". Though I tried to tell him that he has a wonderful voice and his nerves just get in the way, he didn't believe me. I think he kinda stayed in his brother Joey's shadow with singing as Joey is always singing in front of church and had a lead in the musical last year.

Anyway, the auditions went really well. I thought it would be hilarious if Joey and Tommy got Timon and Pumba because they have a natural rapport and were really funny reading the lines together. They ended up getting call backs for not only Timon and Pumba but for Young Simba and Adult Simba. The night of the callbacks I was shocked to see about 15 boys reading and singing for the same parts. There were a lot of good boys! But I will admit that every time my boys read or sang I was completely blown away. My boys are naturals. It was so fun to watch. I was so happy for my boys and after the call backs I told them how well they did. Tommy, for some reason thought he really messed up his singing audition. I tried to reassure him but he would not be comforted.

The audition list came out after school this past Tuesday and it turns out that Tommy will be playing Young Simba and Joey will be playing Adult Simba. They were both SO happy. Especially Tommy. He just couldn't believe it. He said, "Maybe I can sing, mom!" It is so awesome watching your kids try something they never thought they could do and then succeed! What a rush!

When I went into the school office yesterday the receptionist had to stop and tell me what wonderful kids I have. She is always telling me sweet little stories about my kids but this one really took my breath away. She said that Joey was in the office and one of the moms was congratulating him on his role in the musical.

The woman said, "You must be so excited!"
Joey said, "Yeah! I am. But honestly I'm much more excited for my brother Tommy. I'm just so happy for him."

Hearing that brought tears to my eyes. Joey and Tommy are so competitive and for Joey to be so happy for Tommy just melted my heart. Joey normally likes to be the head of everything, the boss, the leader, and the fact that he is so happy for Tommy just fills me up. No jealousy at all. Not even when Tommy said to me, "Mom! I have a bigger part than Joey cause I am in more scenes than he is!" Right away I tried to smooth things over and I said, "Well, I think it is pretty even. You are the first half of the show and Joey is the second half." Joey pipped up and said, "No! Tommy's right. He does have more lines and songs than me." And there wasn't a hint of jealousy or malice from Joey. He sounded proud. I tell ya, it makes this mama want to cry just thinking about it.

So, we have some very excited kids here. And I'm just happy to be able to be on stage with them again. Parents and teachers were again encouraged to try out for the musical. We are really just the backdrop characters because there were plenty of talented kids to fill all of the roles but I am happy to be part of it. I will be a song leader in the lioness pack. Tommy thought it was cool that all three of us were going to be lions on stage.  I agree.

January came in like a lion and now we are leaving January AS lions.  How do you like that?

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Brand New Year

Last night as we prepared to say goodbye to 2015 the kids and I reflected on all that happened to us during this past year and we couldn't help but notice the overwhelming good year we'd had. It really was one of our best as a family. After reminiscing about all of the trips and fun times and adventures we'd had in one short year the kids were reluctant to say goodbye. And, I admit, I was as well.  

In 2015 we:

-Took a road trip to Florida and visited Disney, Legoland, Universal, and Cocoa Beach where the      kids swam in the ocean for the first time.
-Took a trip to Oklahoma to visit dear friends and swim and play and do some sight seeing.
-We took many trips up north for hunting, fishing, swimming, skiing, hiking, playing, and relaxing.
-Grace transferred back to her beloved school to finish out the school year and then started full time  for 1st grade  this school year.
-Ben had his First Reconciliation and First Communion.
-Tommy had his 10th birthday at a water park.
-Grace learned to ride her bike.
-Joey won the Coach's Award for basketball and got on the honor roll for the first time.
-Ben went to Boy Scout camp for the first time.
-Joey, Tommy, and I were in a musical together for the first time and Joey had a lead.
-Grace had her first ballet recital.
-Todd took an amazing fishing trip in Canada.
-Tommy went to deer camp for the first time and Joey got his first buck.
-Ben excelled in baseball and hit his first grand slam.
-I beat my personal best in a 10K and ran a 5K color run as I'd always wanted.
-Todd and I went to a Packer game with our best friends.

That is quite a list. And that isn't even mentioning the small adventures we had along the way like Bay Beach, or the zoo, or all the times we went swimming or biking. There was an amazing blood moon eclipse! There were football games and baseball games and basketball games. There were fun birthdays, and Easter, the 4th of July, and Halloween. There were bonfires and movies and water fights and hot air balloon shows and bike rides and day trips. And Christmas! Oh what a Christmas! We didn't have any major illnesses (or even minor, now that I'm thinking about it) this past year. We cried far less than we laughed. Of course there were some tough times but somehow we can't recall those quite as easily as the good times. And man. It was just an amazing year. 

A lucky year. 
One that will be difficult to duplicate or compete with.
And it is difficult to say goodbye. 

We may be reluctant to let go of 2015 but we are hopeful for 2016.

Wishing you and your loved ones a 2016 that you will always treasure. The kind of year you don't want to end. Wishing you a happy, healthy, peaceful, joy-filled 2016.

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